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Location-Aware Music Could Make "You Had To Be There" Experiences

Music that changes based on your location? This new TED Talk could change the way you see—or hear—your surroundings.

Location-Aware Music Could Make “You Had To Be There” Experiences

Ryan Holladay and his brother Hays think they have the solution to FOMO. The pair are creating and recording music that’s only available in certain physical locations and changes as you move around the space. It’s an on-demand soundtrack for your trip through places like Central Park or the National Mall, which is meant to go hand in hand with what you’re experiencing visually.

Like movie theaters—which use 3-D films and IMAX screens to compel you to leave your couch and home theater—musicians and venues are now trying to create new experiences that set their music experience apart from the rest.

Holladay recently gave a TED Talk explaining his geo-tagged music experiment. In the case of the Washington Monument, there are concentric circles geo-tagged around the physical structure that dynamically build as you get closer—starting with sparse instruments and building until there’s an orchestra and choir, which then plays in reverse as you retreat. Also true to form for something that relies on location, the play button disappears from the app when you’re no longer in the vicinity of the music location.

This isn’t a list of songs or a playlist of some sort, Holladay clarifies about the app, it’s different sonic melodies and rhythms playing from your phone which is using GPS to determine your location. The brothers are currently working on musically mapping California’s Highway 1.

At the end of the talk, Holladay mentions that he doesn’t want location-aware music to be the bells and whistles on an existing model that’s not working digitally, but that it inspires new ways of thinking about music. In fact there are others also experimenting with music and how it relates and changes based on location. One of those musicians is Max Cooper and the 4-D shows he’s performing.

Cooper, an electronic musician, uses a 4DSOUND system made up of speaker poles throughout a large room to create different sounds based on time and physical space. Creating his 4-D live shows is largely a visual-programing process that, for example, could involve making the bass sound resemble a square box in the middle of the room. As people move around the space, they experience something completely different from the person on the other side of the room.