Unique 'Audio Portraits' Pay Homage to Urban Noise

One man's noise pollution is another man's symphony.

1 minute read

February 27, 2017, 8:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden


Hard Rock Coliseum

Ken Durden / Shutterstock

Citylab profiles the work of composer Tod Machover, who uses the noise of city streets to create fullblown symphonies. He's worked in Toronto, Edinburgh, and Detroit, and will soon complete pieces in Miami and Philadelphia.

In the tradition of musique concrète, each piece is composed of thousands of sounds, often recorded and submitted by residents. Those submissions are then mixed, and sometimes accompanied by a symphony orchestra. The result is an "audio portrait" unique to the city.

Sometimes, it’s about incorporating the sounds that reflect a city’s history. Detroit, for example, was famously dubbed the Motor City for being the heart of America’s auto manufacturing industry. So Machover asked the community to send in recordings of different car engines, which he merged with Motown riffs, in homage to the city’s music scene.

Currently, Machover is partnering with the New World Symphony in Miami. There, he anticipates combining natural sounds from the beach as well as clips of street conversations—"a way of capturing the diasporas within Miami."

Watch a performance of Detroit’s Symphony in D here, or submit your sounds to the Miami project here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 in CityLab

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