So there you are, building a nice little cul-de-sac in SimCity, when suddenly it hits you: Why can’t I turn this sterile, isometric suburban landscape into a musical instrument?
OK, maybe that only happened to Jim Hall, the designer/creator of “Isle of Tune.” It’s a Flash-based interactive game that lets you build little neighborhoods which set off musical notes or samples as tiny digital cars drive through them.
Here’s what “Beat It” looks (and sounds) like as a digital subdevelopment. You don’t mind that some of the music is made of screen-door slams and dog barks, do you?
Like the hugely successful urban design game it takes inspiration from, “Isle of Tune” is ridiculously addictive, largely because of its impeccable user interface. You can go from green blank slate to musical suburban sprawl in just a few seconds or mouse clicks. Here’s “Co.Design Pines,” our own silly attempt at aural urban planning (with apologies to every musician and urban planner, ever):
Of course, any musical visualization will reveal interesting patterns you might not have noticed about your favorite tunes. Take Dr. Dre’s “Next Episode”: looks rather unimaginative and barren, doesn’t it? Sure, the landscape is only an imitation of Dre’s formidable beats, but still: The basic layout is pretty ho-hum compared to the intricate structures that Quincy Jones created for “Beat It.”
Maybe there is some enterprising musical Robert Moses out there who would make an “Isle of Tune” version of some Girl Talk tracks–or Bach, for that matter. Hall is currently working on iPad and iPhone versions. Meanwhile, we’ll be renovating Co.Design Pines for new residents.