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Times Square Noise Gets Turned Into Music

By DNAinfo Staff on April 22, 2011 1:33pm  | Updated on April 23, 2011 11:57am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — An art group is asking New Yorkers to make melodies from the non-stop noise of Times Square.

The "UrbanRemix" project has issued a challenge to producer-wannabes to head to the Crossroads of the World armed with smart phones to record the most interesting sounds they hear using a free iPhone/Android app.

The app lets users mix the sounds and then upload them to an interactive map, where each clip is plotted to provide a sonic collage of the square.

Already, the site has collected hundreds of entries, which can be listened to and strung together to form extended tracks.

One recording made last Saturday chronicles a woman at the corner of West 48th Street and Seventh Avenue begging for change.

The UrbanRemix app allows users to upload and mix geo-tagged audio files.
The UrbanRemix app allows users to upload and mix geo-tagged audio files.
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http://urbanremix.gatech.edu

"I need your help guys," the woman pleads.

"It only takes a penny out of your pocket. Help the homeless."

Another clip, taken inside the Morgan Stanley Building, features what sounds like footsteps ringing through a stairwell.

The cacophony of noises includes loud trucks, bus brakes squeaking, teenagers screaming, a rhythmic guitar and harmonica duo jamming and vendors hawking.

"I think it’s amazingly cool," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance which partnered with UrbanRemix for the project as part of a larger effort to bring innovative, interactive art to the square.

Tompkins said he loved the idea of combining art and music with new technology to create something that almost anyone can participate in, as well as giving people a new way to experience the square.

"Often it's about tuning out. This is about tuning in," he said. "It's asking people to pay attention in a totally different way."

Carl DiSalvo, one of UrbanRemix's creators and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said part of his goal was to make people more aware of the sounds around them.

"You can close your eyes and know that you're in Times Square," said DiSalvo, who traveled from Atlanta to New York last week to lead a series of workshops introducing the software to the city.

His favorite moment, he said, was watching as a group of freshmen from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School set their sights on a sanitation worker pushing a garbage cart with a broken wheel through the square.

"Ooh, that's making noise! Let's follow it, let's follow it," the kids said, before trying to follow the man to record the sound of the cart bumping down the road, he said.

The winner of the contest is set to be announced May 12 following a live performance of the sounds by electronic musicians Travis Thatcher and Damon Holzborn.

The alliance also has several other projects in the works, including a new overnight film festival and a live re-enactment of classic movie chase scenes.