Compose by walking! A miniature for mobiles

›Inside every room of every house of a street, each of them full of audible details, usually concealed behind closed doors: if it would be possible to listen to these everyday choreographies, what could you hear?‹

Fo-Guang-Shan-Tempel_BerlinBuddhist temple at Berlin Ackerstraße (Photo: Andreas Praefcke)

This experimental project called Berlin Ackerstraße (2006-2007) takes you on a participant observation or rather, a participatory sound expedition in Berlin, Ackerstraße. It enables you to listen to the sounds of everyday life in Ackerstraße five years ago – while walking down the street today.

mfmMiniatures for mobiles is an app which responds to your movements: you are literally composing by walking. You are wandering around in a radio play.

This particular miniature for mobiles originates from Sensing the Street in 2007, when I composed an ethnographic audio documentary based on approx. 60 field recordings of Berlin Ackerstraße: I recorded supermarkets, bars, a retirement home, a Catholic church as well as a Buddhist temple, the ambience of an old-fashioned ballroom as well as the great wind tunnel at the faculty of bionics – all located in Ackerstraße.

unnamedNow these field recordings are made publicly accessible via the so-called miniatures for mobiles app created by media artist Udo Noll (available for Android or iPhone). Based on aporee ::: maps, the app ›turns your smart GPS-phone into a location-sensitive radio receiver‹ (see aporee.org/mfm).

›A street, crossing the land, connected to others and thus embedded in a whole network of them.‹

If you take a walk down the street today, you can listen to different recordings played by the app, always depending on your actual location. In other words: while standing at the crossroads Ackerstraße/Torstraße you will listen to some teenagers playing a computer game in a youth centre which was still here in February 6th, 2006, but which is closed down now. If you move on to the Schokoladen bar in Ackerstraße no. 169, you can listen to a concert performance recorded there in January 13th, 2006, and so forth…

Screenshot mfmA few spoken comments alternate with many different field recordings from actual locations in the street: You will hear things that happened behind these same walls where you are standing. You will think about how it could sound like now. You will listen to the soundscape of yesterday. You will hear people chatting, working, singing, celebrating, walking and driving in this street called Ackerstraße.

How to?

1. Download the app for Android or iPhone (beta). Start the app, choose ›sync sounds‹ from the menu, then select ›Berlin Ackerstrasse (2006-2007)‹ from the list. Hit the button ›start download‹ (synchronizing all the sounds in advance will improve the performance during the walk and save you money since you are not dependent on your mobile internet connection anymore. Of course, you can delete all the sounds later to free disk space).

2. Don’t forget your headphones! Visit Koppenplatz at the Southern end of Ackerstraße. Choose ›start walk‹ in the menu, select ›Berlin Ackerstraße (2006-2007)‹ from the list. Please note that the app needs GPS enabled (and, if not ›synced‹ before, mobile web to stream the audio).

Head North. Follow the Ackerstraße northbound by crossing the Torstraße, then Invalidenstraße and Bernauer Straße, until you reach the hairpin turn at the Northern end of the street (approx. half an hour). Compose your sonic expedition by walking.

Screenshot mfm 3
[Please note that Berlin Ackerstrasse (2006-2007) is still in beta phase, voiceover is available in German only. In addition, radio aporee ::: miniatures for mobiles for iPhone is still in beta phase. For more information on the app or how to create your own miniatures for mobiles, see aporee.org/mfm/app. For other miniatures for mobiles see Sonic Landscapes, hidden sounds or Verwisch die Spuren!]

About Sonic Agents

Cultural anthropologist studying the sonic environment
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