2010/10/23 - 11:18

We all love driving down a open road with music on the car radio, at times there seems to be an almost magical synchronization between the music playing and the passing landscape, the speed, the hum of the motor, sounds harmonize with the machine. Then somehow it stops, we get bored of the same rhythm, or it starts to rain, or traffic slows down and suddenly it doesn't seem right anymore. We start grubbing around for CDs or changing radio stations or navigating on our USB key.

Road music resolves this problem in that the music played is entirely generated by the car itself: Vibrations of the car on the road, recognizable movements (accelerations, gear changes, bends etc.) and the passing landscape.

Road music remodels the relationship between audio, visual and tactile particular to driving while listening to music. We have come to accept this as inherently artificiel, since it is practically impossible to hear the sound of the landscape through which we are travelling and since great efforts are made to reduce sounds produced by the machine itself, generally considered as being unpleasant. Road music re-creates a relationship between the situation of driving and what we listen to, while maintaining the notion of composition and at the same time reinforcing our links betwen imagination and the passing landscape.

Autosync: The program runs on a small onboard mini PC which is plugged into the aux jack of the car hifi. Information about the drive is captured by accelerometers and a camera fixed with a suction cup inside the windshield, which continuously sends data concerning the xyz movements of the car. The camera detects position and size of any luminous objects (headlamps or tail lights of other cars, areas of sunlight or shade etc).

How it works

The vibrations mesured by the acclerometers are continuously written into lookup tables (one for each axis) then read as audio (wavetable oscillators) this means that while pitch (the tune) is defined algorythmically within the program the timbre of the sounds varies continuously in relation to the road surface vibrations of the motor or other larger movements of the car. Movements of the car are analyzed and categorized to distinguish bends, accelerations, decelerations, bumps in the road and hills, these events are used to trigger variations on sequences which are automatically generated when ever the car marks a halt. The music played is never the same, not only are the melody rhythm etc automatically generated at each pause in the cars movement but driving the car creates endless variations on that tune and the parameters of the sounds that play it. The timbre comes from the road surface and the car itself. Variations in light are interpreted continuously as variations in pitch amplitude etc. and panned in the stereo field according to their visual position. Color levals are mesured and changes in the dominant color detected and mapped to sound.

What's Next ?

RoadMusic will initially be presented publically as an art project, however it will soon be possible to place an order so that you can have one in your own car. The version of the program which you see in the video is progressing on a daily basis to provide more and more varied sounds and compositions and in the future other composers and artists will be invited to work on different setups for the program so that eventually the user will be able to chose between musics generated from programs by these collaborators.These new versions may be downloaded from a webpage and fed into the onboard computer with a usb key.

RoadMusic is a project by Peter Sinclair

Peter Sinclair is a member of the research group Locus Sonus audio in art and professor at L'Ecole Superieure d'Art d'Aix en Provence.

The program for AutoSync runs under PD (pure data).

The idea for the project AutoSync originated in a conversation with Lydwine Van der Hulst (at that time member of Locus Sonus).

Thanks to Cyrille Henry, Charles Bascou, Guillaume Stagnaro, Peter Gena & Locus Sonus for help and advice.

The Logo "autosync" was created by Caroline (Von) Gimenez