Orchestras generally sit in place, safely contained in a hall. Speakers are arranged in twos, fours, and sixes in fixed positions. Audiences sit and listen, and players play. In “Of Sleeping Birds,” those boundaries are all erased.

In “Of Sleeping Birds,” dubbed “a geo-locative multi-speaker symphony,” mobile speakers held by participants form a chorus of sound. Location is everything: it spreads the music through a city, and, with the aid of GPS satellites, determines the music that the speakers play. That same mobility also gets an audience on their feet, participating in the performance.

All of this aside, the work both sounds quite lovely and adds some drama with all the people roving about with their speakers in hand.

Composer Duncan Speakman explains the work to CDM:

We call it a “pedestrian symphony.” (When we’re feeling arty and trying to come up with cheap terms for new forms…) Basically, we had 40 Android phones placed in 40 portable speaker boxes. Each one was running geolocative software and played a different element of our composition (e.g. one might play a lead voice or synth, another a violin) and all synced/triggered by their physical location.


‘Of Sleeping Birds’ was created and composed by Circumstance, http://productofcircumstance.com / @ofcircumstance
with additional performances by Chloe Herrington (Chrome Hoof), Chantal Lewis Brown (Do Me Bad Things, Invasion) and Alex Thomas (Air, Squarepusher)
The locative audio software was built using Appfurnace http://appfurnace.com
The speakers inside the boxes came were Minirigs by Pasce http://minirigs.co.uk
The phones were Samsung Europas http://www.samsung.com/uk/
Camerawork for the video by Geoff Taylor

The project was commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University + Futurecity as part of Visualise – a public art programme for Cambridge, UK 2012

Really brilliant work. I see they’ve made the film extra arty by de-saturating all the colors so everything in the UK looks gray.

What do you mean, you didn’t use a de-saturation filter?

  • http://www.garycatona.com/ Gary Catona

    This is a very cool idea.  This is a great way to expose new people to orchestral music that would never find themselves in a concert hall.

  • Mr Bim

    reminds me a lot of “unsilent night”

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, absolutely… in fact, was searching my inbox to find the latest of those… been out of NYC this year, though!

  • Marchin

    this reminds me more of a marching band than an orchestra/symphony

  • Vanceg

    It’s like a through-composed version of Unsilent night.  Very nice.  I hope thousands more people do similar projects.  I hope to live in a world filled with art like this.

  • Mierdoncia

     For me it’s just a stupid neo-performance, sorry.

    • duncan

      i have to ask what a neo-performance is? neo as in new or neo as in new and abnormal?

    • http://profiles.google.com/protorob RoBerto Briceño

       Neo, that one on the Matrix 😉

  • Orph

    Reminds me of an installation I saw at ACCA in Melbourne a bunch of years ago called Forty Part Motet. It was basically a choral piece recorded in 40 tracks (one track per singer), and then set up in a large room with 40 speakers.

    On a quiet day, you could walk in, with basically a 40-part choir singing just to you. You could walk around and listen to the individual sections (tenors, sopranos, etc), or just focus on one voice. Extra cool was the fact they left the mics running before and after the piece, so you could listen to them all walk in and gossip/chit chat among themselves, before getting into performance mode.

    (ah! found a cool video of the installation at Inhotim – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opJwNzsqmfk)