From February through April 2009, a camera recorded activity of the intersection of E. Passyunk Avenue and Federal Street in South Philadelphia. The amount of activity was translated into a constantly updating ‘musical’ composition that was broadcast as streaming audio. Although the audio composition ran 24/7, the camera image was projected into the window of P’unk Avenue on select evenings.
|Camera Image of the intersection|
Inspiration for this piece is based on my interests in translation and transposition of common experiences through digital mediation of ‘sense-data’. I was asked by Geoff DiMasi at P’unk Avenue, a web design and development company, to propose something for the front window of their office. I became inspired by the very ‘Philadelphia’ street activity of this South Philly neighborhood. I wished to translate this activity into something that would counterpoint, or complement, this environment. I consider this piece a generative system that feeds off human activity to create sound.
The system is created in Max/MSP and includes a Powerbook G4, Logitech webcam, Nicecast software, and a Shoutcast server (generously provided by surrosape.net). The webcam is mounted to the exterior of the building and feeds live video into max/msp. The fundamental tone ‘pulse’ is a translation of the words “Passyunk Avenue” into sound, 1 letter at a time, based on their position in the alphabet (i.e. “A” is C0, “B” is D0, etc.). The frequency of each ‘letter-tone’ is pulsed once a second (creating a 60 BPM tempo) and modulated (see below) over the course of 60 seconds. Each ‘letter-tone’ plays for 60 seconds until the system moves to the next letter, (the next fundamental frequency).
Each second the software detects movement (change of frame) and charts this data as 60-second frequency modulation (FM) envelopes, (6 envelopes total). Each FM envelope modulates the fundamental tone at a different frequency, creating complex tonality. Since the amount of frequency modulation is based on the amount of activity of the intersection, more activity means a more complex composition of sound.