SoundAffects New York City

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Parsons The New School for Design and mono Unveil Multimedia Installation Exploring the Design of Everyday Urban Life

NEW YORK (May 13, 2011) – What would we learn if we changed the way we looked at our cities? What if instead of looking at them, we could listen to them?

For 10 days, from May 13–22, the city block that is home to Parsons The New School for Design—Fifth Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets—will become a place for exploring the design of everyday urban life.  Both a physical installation on Fifth Avenue and an online experiment, SoundAffects collects data from a variety of sensors, each of which is assigned a musical sound and a color, which transforms it into music and visual displays. The installation is being presented as part of the first Parsons Festival (, with nearly 200 public events taking place across its campus and around the city through May 23, 2011.

“This exploration is an invitation for the public to participate in the design of our cities, and will hopefully shed some light on the complexities of urban life,” said Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design. “It’s a tangible way to understand design’s role in the world around us by looking at everyday occurrences in a different way, and how we can affect change in our cities.”

Conceived by creative agency mono and engineered by Tellart in collaboration with Parsons and The New School’s communications and external affairs team, SoundAffects combines technology, music composition and social media in new and innovative ways. Sensors installed within the SoundAffects installation will track light, sound, temperature, vertical and horizontal motion, cell phone activity, and color.

Passersby can experience the music by either plugging headphones into the installation’s wall jacks, or listening online at The multicolored visual display will be projected onto the installation at night, and also can be viewed online alongside a live street view. Both the music and visuals will be affected by changes in the levels of what the sensors are monitoring; for example, noisy traffic, an abundance of red jackets, or rain, will all make noticeable differences.

“We want people to engage with their cities in a way they never have before,” said Travis Olson, creative co-chair at mono. “Taking a typical city block and shifting how we view it opens a world of possibilities for interpretation. It’s a sophisticated, yet simple, way to understand the design-focused learning happening at Parsons.”

What will it sound and look like? The music is designed not only to be interpretive of city life, but also beautiful. Composers at Tellart, an experience design company, have developed a program that guarantees a harmonious listening experience, regardless of how frantic or random the activities taking place on the street. The score is written in “open fifths,” a key that ensures harmony with infinite variety.

In addition to the website, the experiment will include a range of social media activities including a twitter feed, @soundaffectsnyc, where the team will tweet updates on activities triggering changes in the music and visual displays. The public will also be able to check in at the physical installation on Fifth Avenue via Foursquare. A SoundAffects mobile site will enable the public to listen to the live music.

During the period SoundAffects is installed, experiments will be taking place to test the reactions of the music and visualizer. Those experiments may include handing out free balloons, or trying to influence the flow and direction of street traffic.

“We encourage curious people to stop by and create their own experiments to see how they change the way the music sounds,” said Towers. “That’s the beauty of this exploratory process. Who knows what might learn?”


Anne Mahoney,, (612) 454-4939
Deborah Kirschner,, (212) 229-5667 x4310

About Parsons The New School for Design

Parsons The New School for Design is one of the leading art and design schools in the world, and builds upon The New School’s legacy of progressive ideals, scholarship, and pedagogy. For over a century, the school has pioneered art and design education, establishing the first programs in fashion, interior design and communication design in the nation. Based in New York City but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. A student-centered curriculum allows for both focused and interdisciplinary learning, with unparalleled internship opportunities and industry partnerships laying the groundwork for entrepreneurship and professional success. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, please visit

About mono

mono is a Minneapolis-based creative branding agency that believes in the power of simplicity. Founded in 2004 by Michael Hart, Chris Lange and Jim Scott, today mono creates innovative communications for a client roster that includes Apple, MSNBC, Tillamook, Harvard Business School, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day, General Mills, Blu Dot, Parsons The New School for Design and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. For more information, please visit


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