Track by Track - Train passengers make platform for music

Issue date: 25 September 2018

The Manhattan Project supporting BBC Music Day

Developed by University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) academic Dr Chris Nash, as part of “Platform to Perform” BBC Music Day 2018, Track by Track is a live music installation that uses the real-time positions and movement of people on the platform of Bristol Temple Meads station to dynamically generate algorithmic music.

A live video feed of the platform is analysed by a computer to establish the position of passengers and trains, before being translated into data used to generate live music. The software, named Manhattan after the birthplace of experimental music, was developed by Dr Nash to teach computational thinking and improve digital literacy at UWE Bristol.

The project puts a digital twist on the BBC's objective to get the public involved in music making, using their movements across the platform to generate sounds. The theme for the day is Platform for Perform, and Dr Nash's project is just one of 40 taking place at rail stations around the country – most employing more traditional choirs.

The Manhattan software has been programmed with sampled sounds from orchestral instruments, as well as the voices of the Rising Voices choir, run by the Bristol Drugs Project. A digital chorus has also been programmed to sing the names of Bristol's boroughs. In more ways than one, Track by Track will give voice to the people of Bristol.

Dr Chris Nash, Senior Lecturer in Music Technology at UWE Bristol, and leader of the Track by Track project said: “I'm very much looking forward to meeting lots of people on the day and introducing them to Manhattan software. Over the coming months I will be collaborating with schools, universities and artists to support learning and creativity in both music making and programming, but BBC Music Day provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved and be part of the music.”

Track by Track will be based at Bristol Temple Meads station, platform 3 from 11.00 to 16.00 on Friday 28 September.

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