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How We're Sonifying the City (and Everything Else, Too)

Who needs an organ when we've got industrial ventilation pipes coming out our ears?
May 29, 2014, 3:55pm
Image: Shutterstock

Who needs a giant organ when we've got industrial ventilation pipes coming out our ears?

It's a simple question that's spurring sound hacks like this guy, who "played" a quartet of vents yesterday at Festival Tutti Frutti in Bratislava:

Jonáš Gruska: Rúry from Anna Gruskova.

For some, it might be close to the most annoying sound in the world. For others, it's art, thank you very much.

Regardless, it's yet another example of our rising obsession with sonifying the otherwise mundane features that are humming right under out noses in urban milieus the world over. More and more, we're hacking these utilities into nodes in a sort of grinding nickelodeon machine of concrete and steel. And it's all being done with relatively cheap, off-the-shelf technology.


Remember Human Harp? Profiled last year by our friends over at The Creators Project, the Human Harp essentially turns entire bridges into, you guessed it, harps:

And really, why stop at infrastructure? Take Ototo. The touch-sensor music tool, projected to roll out this June, promises to turn most anything—balloons, bike handle bars, whatever—into makeshift instruments. (While we're at it, let's not forget Makey Makey, which can turn, say, a string of bananas into piano keys.)

Ototo meets ECAL – A workshop with Mark McKeague (Dentaku) from ECAL.

In other words, noise citations in places like Bratislava and New York City will never be the same.