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This Chinese Tram Has Its Own Soundtrack For What’s Passing Outside Your Window

On a certain tram in Guangzhou, China, the landscape outside the window has its own soundtrack. As riders pass by buildings and other landmarks, they can hear music composed for exactly that location, all triggered by GPS.

The project, called Sitting-Still-Moving, is designed to accent the experience of moving through one of China’s most dynamic cities and show how much it’s changed in the last few years.

“The landscape the tram passes as it travels along the Pearl River is quite incredible–it’s almost a perfect timeline of the city,” says Duncan Speakman, director of Circumstance, the music group behind the idea. “The journey begins in the central business district. From there, it passes the new residential apartment buildings and gated communities that are being constructed. Then you begin passing the older villages and eventually some abandoned factories.”

The installation was commissioned by Guangzhou’s Times Museum and also includes sound samples and stories collected from people in the city. Tram riders wear headphones that play the soundtrack, which is triggered as the tram moves past certain points. For example, as the tram journeys near some high-rise buildings, the music punctuates the moment with “single resonant violin tones, each one [sounding] as a block comes into view.”

Speakman says 30,000 to 40,000 people rode the tram during its initial eight week run, which has now been extended.

Could it be applied in other contexts, for example to the windows of buses or trains? It would certainly make for a more interesting commute than many of us experience currently.