Make Music New York bands and projects don’t just create the opportunity to listen to lots of great music; there are also composers who want their audience to be directly involved in helping make their pieces happen on June 21. One of these awesome opportunities will be Aaron Siegel and Larry Legend’s GROUP , in which an ensemble of iPhones will come together to create an engrossing soundscape on Wall Street.
The basic structure of the piece is that everyone who wants to participate downloads the GROUP app and then converges on a designated point in the city at a specific time (for MMNY, the corner of Wall and Broad streets). Starting from the beginning of the day, the app will produce range of tones (pitched electronic sounds) and as the designated time for the event itself draws closer, and all participants gather, the tones start to cohere, with the piece beginning at 12:45 on the dot. (This seems like a fascinating companion to Unsilent Night, from our friend Phil Kline. -editor).
I had the privilege of being part of a test run of the piece a few months ago. I don’t want to give too much away but I can report that it is most definitely an engaging, unique experience. I was keenly aware of the tones emitting from our devices and how they made a sonic background to spaces we passed through on the test site at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Once we had gathered, it was interesting to see the range of reactions to the piece. Aaron led a great discussion afterwards where he looked for feedback from all of us. It was cool to see Aaron and Larry so open to people’s thoughts and obviously invested in having the development of the piece and the app be a rich, collaborative process.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to follow up with Aaron and hear about the further development of the app as well as the origins of the piece. Based on the feedback from the test, Aaron and Larry have been working to give the piece a greater dynamic range, once participants have converged, to build towards a dramatic ending. Aaron has also focused on further differentiating the pitch material of each device in order to expand the harmonies and spatial relationships among the ensemble. They are also exploring the spatial opportunities of the ensemble through developing more consonance and more dissonance. It sounds like the test, the feedback, and more thinking and experimentation has led to interesting revisions to the piece.
GROUP is a natural extension of Aaron’s previous explorations of the connections between sound and space, both through research and composing music. Examining the history of sound installation in his masters thesis, The Mobile Listener: Sound in Public Space, Sound as Public Space as well as creating such pieces as Science is Only a Sometimes Friend, Aaron has spent years building his understanding of how these various physical and aural properties can build on one another to create new experiences and ideas for the composer, performer(s) and audience. In his work, he deals with the ways in which making music in public spaces, instead of a concert hall, allows the composer more agency in redefining the performing environment.
Aaron came up with the idea for GROUP a couple of years ago but needed a tech partner to help him realize the vision. He mentioned the idea to Aaron Friedman of MMNY, who put him in contact with Larry. The pair has been working together for the last year or so to create GROUP. It’s always cool to see two creators from different disciplines (although Larry has a background in sound engineering as well) coming together to produce something new. And in making the piece, Aaron is consciously engaging with the ubiquitous presence of technology in our everyday lives constructive ways. GROUP is not just another app, another way to use an iPhone, but an opportunity for technology to realize new, creative experiences.
GROUP will take place at the corner of Wall and Broad streets. at 12:45pm on June 21. You can download the GROUP app and learn more about the piece here: soundofgroup.com