NEWLY MINTED: For his latest audio installation, Michael Kiley incorporated the sounds of trains braking and trucks moving across the bridge.
“I’m interested in how art can bring people to certain places and affect that place as a result,” says rocker/sound designer Michael Kiley. This past spring he created an iPhone app/sound installation called The Empty Air, which played a song that mutated as users walked around Rittenhouse Square. The music shed and added layers, disappearing behind ambient noise. On Tuesday he’ll release Animina, an installation that evolves as listeners walk from Second and Race to the tip of Race Street Pier. The linear route allowed Kiley and his musician friends to create something palindromic, with its many moving parts working even in reverse order.
City Paper: What drew you to Race Street Pier?
Michael Kiley: I wanted to have a project that brought people from a well-trafficked part of town to a less well-trafficked part of town that the city is trying to revitalize.
CP: How do you write a song that corresponds to a physical space?
MK: I start by recording the place and then I go back through those recordings and I find sounds that interest me and I make loops out of them. So, for this one, the first sound that you hear are the brakes of the El, which we’ve already heard about 10 times during this interview. They sing at, like, a D and an F sharp, which is a major third, and that really established a tonality right away. And then I just wrote a melody based on that key. And I used rhythms from being under the bridge and hearing the trucks go overhead.
CP: What goes into Animina besides the sound?
MK: What I’ve really been learning about throughout this process is how the technology can affect what I’ve made, and at a certain point it’s totally out of my hands. Because the technology of using the GPS to hear things depending on location is so erratic, your phone can think you’re in the totally wrong place. The best I can do is make suggestions as to what I think you should hear in one certain area, and then the phone kind of does the rest.
CP: Why use apps?
MK: I wanted to find a way to use smartphone technology in a way that opened you up. And sound really has the ability to be layered on top of our lives. It sort of exists in a way that draws our attention but can also allow us to do other things, especially something visible, whereas a video app really sucks you into the phone. So, I wanted to use the phone without engaging the phone, and this allows people to put their phone away and really see their surroundings. And hopefully by creating a soundtrack it really heightens that awareness, and you start to notice things you’ve never noticed before.
Starts Tue., Oct. 1, 99 cents, Second and Race Streets, themuralandthemint.com/animina.
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