AR Music Layer

A Music X Tech X Future post on Pokemon Go speculates on augmented reality and music. In practice, what would that be like? I’ll try to visualize it.

There is music – well, audio – associated with a location. When you enter the location the music starts. When you leave it stops.

This is different than a speaker making physical noise in a couple ways. One, it is opt-in. Silence is an option, listening to your private earbud stream is an option, joining the public AR stream is an option. Two, you don’t need physical infrastructure. You can do this in places with no electricity and you can do it without anybody’s permission.

It can very specific to location, down to the finest physical resolution of the device. The magazine section of a drugstore might have the sound of celebrity voices, while the food section had hip hop. Or it might be very broad.

The soundtrack could be programmed by anybody, like a shared bulletin board. You might be standing in a dark alley and think of pinning up creepy footstep sounds. Or you might go into the park on a sunny day and decide to pin up “Walking on Sunshine.” More than one person might pin up songs in the same location, creating a conversation. People could leave spoken notes.

Music could be planted in very public spaces, or in very private ones.

As you drive down the street you might get a feeling of the places you are passing through from the associated music.

Some people would be better at it. You might go hunting for songs pinned by a specific person.

This feels fun and credible to me. If I had the tool I’d enjoy taking it for a spin.

Postscript —

Location Aware Albums as Apps

Washington DC-based duo Bluebrain’s latest release is not a traditional album — it can’t be listened to passively in one sitting or, for that matter, at just any location. ‘Central Park’ is a site-specific work of music that responds to the listeners location within the stretch of green of the same name in New York City. Available only as an iPhone and iPad app, the album will be released starting October 4th, 2011.

‘Central Park’ is the second in a series of site-specific app-albums, following ‘The National Mall’, released last May, designed to work within the boundaries of the park in Washington DC.

Both albums work by tracking a users location via the iPhones built-in GPS capabilities. Hundreds of zones within the landscape are tagged and alter the sound based on where the listener is located in proximity to them. Zones overlap and interact in dynamic ways that, while far from random, will yield a unique experience with each listen. The proprietary design that is the engine behind the app stays hidden from view as the melodies, rhythms, instrumentation and pace of the music vary based on the listeners’ chosen path. Unlike other music-related apps, these are not musical toys or instruments. Nor are they a compliment to a traditional album release. The app is the work itself. A musical ‘Chose-Your-Own-Adventure’ that does not progress in a linear fashion but rather allows the listener to explore the terrain and experience music in way that has never been possible before now. Chris Richards wrote in a Washington Post cover story, “Bluebrain (‘The National Mall’) is helping to redefine what an album actually can be…it’s truly magical”