Passersby walking down Wall Street on Tuesday afternoon came across some unusual sights and sounds. Some forty iPhone owners came together in a circle outside the New York Stock Exchange to perform an experimental 8-minute music piece called “GROUP,” as part of the Make Music New York Festival happening around the city.
Participants playing in the piece were instructed to download a special app designed by composer Aaron Siegel that began emitting a single tone on Tuesday morning. They were told to show up on Wall Street at 12:45 P.M., at which point their phones erupted into ambient harmonies.
Siegel said smartphones were a powerful and under-used tool for musicians and composers.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Seigel. “Everyone is walking around with these in their hands. And, whether they know it or not, they are part of an art-making experience. As people tap into the potential of that, I think we'll see more and more works that use mobile technology.”
Matt Bauder brought his iPhone to take part in the performance.
“It started out as a mystery, of just an app called GROUP, and for a week you didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said, adding that the highlight of today's show was discovering the piece with other participants as it was happening. “Instead of having something just for yourself, you were one piece of a collective.”
Make Music New York, now in its fifth year, brings 1,000 free concerts from all genres to public spaces around New York for just one day each year. This year’s festival includes a sunrise improvisation session with Yoko Ono, a performance in Morningside Park by 99 percussionists, and a New Orleans-style second line parade on the High Line.
For Siegel, the festival is all about participation.
”I’ve always looked at it as an opportunity to get people who don’t necessarily consider themselves music makers to get involved with some art and some sound for one day,” he said.
For a full schedule of Make Music New York events, visit the festival's Web site.