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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Join a Cellular Chorus

At the invitation of Patricia Wolf

Chances are you have more than one internet-accessible device in your home. Gather them together, and pull up the following webpage on each: cellularchorus.com.

Every time you invoke the Cellular Chorus page, a random audio file will be set as the browser’s default. (There are currently 64 different audio files in all.) Then let them play, all of them at once. Move the devices around the room. Don’t let any single device take prominence. Adjust the volume accordingly. Use the pulldown menu or the forward/back buttons to alternate between tracks. Note how the same file will sound different on your rattly old tablet than it does on your brand new laptop, how your humble kitchen speaker can’t hold a candle to your bleeding-edge smartphone.

Now dim the lights. Each instance of sound comes with its own shade of gradated color, like a little handheld Olafur Eliasson installation. Let them illuminate the room. Also note how the sounds work together. This is due to the planning and intent of Patricia Wolf, the Portland, Oregon-based musician who came up with Cellular Chorus, which she describes as “a work of spatialized aleatoric music using smartphones to bring people physically closer to have an interactive and collective experience with light and sound.” (The website was designed and developed by Jaron Heard.)

“The sounds I made are meant to harmonize,” she notes on the site’s info page. “There is no right or wrong way to play them.” Many of the tracks are drones, some electronic in origin (like number 5), others employing the human voice (12). Some (like number 9 and 34) are percussive.

In an email to me, Wolf explained a bit more about the project’s origin, about how the cold Northwest winter inspired her to employ a tool of online social activity, the smartphone (hence the name of the piece), to bring people together in person.

So now use one of your devices to get in touch with some friends. Have them over, and get them all to use cellularchorus.com at once, together.

More from Patricia Wolf at instagram.com/patriciawolf_music, where recent videos have highlighted footage of the Cellular Chorus in action, and at soundcloud.com/patriciawolf_music. More from Jaron Heard at jaronheard.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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