November 19, 2012 at 10:53 am

Roving Sound Taxi Turns Street Noise Into Music

sound taxi

Add 67 speakers and a microphone to London’s iconic black cab, and what do you get? The Sound Taxi, a project by audio design company AIAIAI and sound artist/designer Yuri Suzuki. Basically, it’s what would happen if a music app turned into a car (we already saw one become a building.)

This is by no means the first super-interesting sonic exploration from the London-based Suzuki — a “sound artist, designer and electronic musician who produces work that explores the realms of sound through exquisitely designed pieces” — but it’s certainly one that the average person is more likely to interact with. Previous works more suited to the art gallery include a voice-controlled drum set; a spherical record that plays music of the world as it spins; and the Urushi Musical Interface, a glistening black surface that creates synthesizer-like sound.

The Sound Taxi

As it drives through a city (right now London), the Sound Taxi records the surrounding sound on the streets and analyzes it with special software. Running on Max/MSP, it looks at “the frequencies of the noises and uses them to generate unique music in real time.”

Each noise will trigger a corresponding sound, so “a low rumble starts a bass line or loud hiss would trigger some hi hats,” with the volume of the noise reflected in the loudness of its musical counterpart.

In other words, the Sound Taxi takes the countless noises and sounds of the city and translates it into music.

It’s certainly a new way of looking at things — or, rather, hearing. And don’t worry, you won’t have to travel the streets of London to hear the musical works created by the travelling taxi. Have a listen; you’ll hardly believe this music was created from a busy and bustling city like London.

It’s a neat idea, and it seems to have made quite an impact on the citizens of the city of London. Watch the video below and you’ll see curious pedestrians snap photos as the cab drives by, perhaps a bit unclear on what exactly is emitted from the dozens of speakers: