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The Periscope

Curing Ignorance Through the Lens

Musical Connections


Two projects redefine the randomness and connectivity that music creates.

Music in the digitized age has altered the way we listen to it. Very often, we can lose ourselves to the tune of almost any recording ever created, however it’s also become a solitary act, as people donning headphones block out opportunities for interaction. However two artists are changing this in their own unique ways. Spotify’s artist-in-residence, Kyle McDonald, developed Serendipity which features a map that flashes the name of a song and its artist along with two seemingly random pinpointed locations. However these points reflect places where Spotify users have started playing the same song within one-tenth of a second of each other. McDonald remarks, “We're connected in more ephemeral ways, and we can extract these relationships with new tools. Even though listening to music can be a very private experience, I wanted to see how often this experience is shared." The map, which can be seen here, is pretty mesmerizing to watch, as geography and musical tastes are united.

The Listening Tree is an installation created by artist George Zisiadis in a Las Vegas courtyard which also incorporates a sense of randomness and connection. The project consists of 15 headphones hanging from tree branches, each programmed with a song, and created with the intention of escaping from the algorithms that digitized music has imposed. Zisiadis says, "You have Spotify, where you're looking up something specific, or Pandora, where you kind of know what you're getting because you're putting a specific genre. But I was really interested in those moments of complete randomness and complete chance, where you have no idea what you're going to get." And even though donning the headphones takes you into a different world, the project encourages social interactions between listeners, some friends, some strangers, as they recommend certain headsets, dance around, and discuss their musical tastes.

Photo by Eric Parker, licensed under Creative Commons.