Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The First Location Aware Album

(Separated by 4-part poster series designed by Waxfang) 

Washington DC-based music duo Bluebrains’ latest release is not a standard album in the sense that it can be listened to passively in one sitting or, for that matter, at any location. Rather, it is a site-specific piece of music that responds to the listeners location within the stretch of park in downtown Washington DC known as the Mall. The work will be delivered as an app for the iPhone and is the first in a series of location-aware albums Bluebrain will create. 'The National Mall' will be available in the Apple App Store in the coming weeks. 

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‘The National Mall’ works by tracking a users location via the iPhones built-in GPS capabilities. Hundreds of zones within the Mall are tagged and alter the sound based on where the listener is located in proximity to them. Zones overlap and interact in dynamic ways that, while far from random, will yield a unique experience with each listen. The proprietary design that is the engine behind the app will stay hidden from view as the melodies, rhythms, instrumentation and pace of the music vary based on the listeners’ chosen path. ‘The National Mall’ is an ambitious project that will allow users to listen to and interact with a work of music in a way that’s never been possible before.

‘The National Mall’ was recorded at Iguazu Sound, mastered by Steven Berson at Total Sonic and features contributions from various other musicians, all of whom are credited in the albums’ liner notes. The map featured in the app, designed by Danny Jones of YASLY, is closer to an impressionist rendering of the Mall than a detailed guide with individual sites and monuments. It is intended to orient the listener within a landscape largely divorced of its cultural and historical artifacts. This map is not a comprehensive guide to the attractions of the Mall but a visual compliment to the album. ‘The National Mall’ emblem, designed by Ryan Holladay and YASLY, is based off the aerial view of the footpaths leading up to the Washington Monument. 

The Location-Aware Album: What It Is and Is Not

Bluebrain’s concept of the location-aware album is not an augmented reality application in that it does not respond to input from the listener. It is not a toy or game that allows users to input or experiment with limitless possibilities to alter what they’re hearing. Each position on the map has been carefully considered, the music composed and recorded to be heard in their specific place in the same way you would hear a piece of music on a physical record. However, because each listener will explore the Mall in a different way and at a different pace, experiences with the album will be unique in sequencing and in arrangement. It is truly the first location-aware album in the sense that it is a work of authored music-different melodies, different rhythms, different instrumentation, and different songs entirely are to be heard at their designated locations. For instance, a listener may chose not to visit the Sculpture Garden and his or her experience with the album might not include those musical sections. But they are as permanent as a song on an LP. What you hear standing twenty feet south of and staring up at the Washington Monument will be there when you return to it one year or ten years later. The landscape is simply the way to discover and interact with the music that’s been composed and carefully placed throughout.

‘The National Mall’ is the first in a series of location-aware musical works that Bluebrain will compose and design for sites around the world in the coming months and years.  The second work of this nature, designed for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York will debut later this summer followed by a piece that will stretch the entire length of California’s Highway 1.


  1. I agree with Adam, and cannot wait for this experience. Meridian Park last year was great, this will be epic.

  2. really liking this...
    & hoping for a working edition in Norway also.
    keep up the good work!

  3. This takes the word creative into a whole new space and time! Bravo on this astounding concept. Can't wait to experience this in person. And I am fortunate to live near The National Mall.

  4. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant ...

  5. I posted this reply in a brief discussion on the musicthoughts yahoo discussion group. I'm pretty impressed with this idea.

    Stani said, "Next question, of course, is: Can a musician/composer get any
    compensation whatsoever for assembling a work like that one?"

    I'm sure the Mall has an interest in getting more people to try out the newest technological/music development. People will go just to try it out. I would if I lived near there. So, in effect, it's advertisement money. The key would be to get the mall, or another client, to pay for the service. Actually, a mall chain would be perfect. You could get it across America that way. Watch out for the advertisements that they will inevitably want.

    Actually, watch the mall to make sales and coupons aware to the listener based on their location within the mall. Sell that to them with the music as another channel or option and they might be interested.

    The idea to have an album (or whatever this size piece of music would be called) that would change as you were traveling down the highway based on speed and location is pretty cool. (I would think that it could be made to start at a location and then change the farther from that location you were. So instead of being in a certain place on Earth it would be relative distance from a certain place, or a starting point.) But unless it's bundled into a service of some sort I'm not sure how many people would buy the album.

  6. Today I finally got to try this on the National Mall. Congratulations on both the idea and the execution of it. The transitions were fantastic and it was fun to guess what type of sounds would come next. Thank You.

  7. street and intersection is tagged with various pockets of sound, turning the festival grounds into a musical 'choose-your-own-adventure'. for the iPhone

  8. the app stays hidden from view as the melodies, rhythms, instrumentation and pace of the music vary based on the listeners’ chosen path. Unlike other music-related apps, these are not musical toys or instruments. Nor are they a compliment to a traditional album release. buy facebook fans

  9. very nice post
    two thumb up for you ^___^

  10. Wonder if we'll ever get any android versions. It should be about the experience.

  11. Does anyone know if they have created an android version? I l just watched this TED talk and wanted to check this out.

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