When students leave classes at CMU, the most frequently taken path is the diagonal between Doherty Hall and the University Center. Along this path, these students would often be doing their own business, eg small talk with their classmates, staring at their mobile device, wearing earbuds and isolating themselves, or simply being lost in thought. If the weather is nice, students would be more inclined to absorb the sun and spend a little more time outdoors, listening to the ambience of the chatter of other students and the booming of the upbeat music of whoever is at the Fence. The last thing they would expect is having control over this music.
“soundWALK” is an intervention of day to day life at CMU. This installation will allow students to have an interesting and entertaining break from their routine, giving them control of the music that gets projected over The Cut. A pedestrian walking along this path will encounter a peculiar obstacle: several sheets of plywood laid out with footsteps painted on, with a sign boldly stating the title of this piece, and, combined with a speaker nearby (already playing ambient noises/chords), a hint of what this installation does. This setup would invite pedestrians to walk along with the example painted footsteps, to take a chance to hear what sort of sounds would come out of the speakers. As I’ve witnessed in the non-reactive test run, the majority of pedestrians would probably continue minding their own business and unconsciously walk around this obstacle, or, perhaps, gawk at it while avoiding the walkway. But those who choose to take a chance and break away from their routine will be in for a pleasant surprise to see that the music will be following their footsteps, which may invite other nearby pedestrians to join in.
The music that will be generated will be in the style of house music, a very popular style of electronic dance music often played by those frat dudes at the Fence, simple to implement as randomly generated music, and very easy to walk/groove to. When there is a period of no footsteps, only ambience and slowly changing chords will play, giving some indication that this installation is active. When a hesitant pedestrian places a single foot on the plywood and nothing more, only a kick drum will be triggered, giving away what would happen if they were to walk confidently on it. If the pedestrian is still hesitant and walks slowly, the kick will continue to be triggered with no progression in the music. If the pedestrian walks confidently, the kick will be accompanied by other percussion, and the music will gain temporal structure defined by bars and beats. If more pedestrians join in within a period of time, the music will progressively have more layers added to it akin to trance music (given that I have time to implement that).