Red Bull Music Academy uses 100 cars to make the largest synth orchestra ever

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Red Bull Music Academy

Recently, 100 car owners had their cars turned into instruments in an unconventional orchestra. For the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Festival in Los Angeles, world-famous artist Ryoji Ikeda arranged 100 cars to play note ‘A’ sounds for his long-running installation series A [For 100 Cars], creating the world’s largest synth orchestra.

A [For 100 Cars] premiered on the roof of a parking lot in downtown L.A on October 15, showcasing the various frequencies before 440 Hz became the internationally accepted standard pitch frequency in 1955. Each car used in the automotive musical composition had its sound system attached to a portable sine wave synthesizer developed by Ikeda, along with RBMA’s Tatsuya Takahashi and Berlin-based firm E-RM Erfindungsbüro. Each device was preset to a specific frequency with the car owners inside the car twisting the device’s knobs according to the synth orchestra’s score.

Ikeda prepared 100 different scores for all 100 car owners with timestamps that would instruct each to either honk their adjust the volume, honk the horn, flash the car lights, or even change the octave blaring from the car’s sound system. The frequencies of note ‘A’ in the devices ranged between 376.3Hz to 506.9Hz and car owners were able to also adjust the octave of note ‘A’ from A1 to A8.

The end result is a 27-minute, almost meditative hum of noises that sounded like being stuck in the longest traffic jam with the most impatient drivers. The symphony may have been music to the spectators’ ears, but it was a different story inside the cars.”If you got a 4-kilowatt sound system and you’re playing 55 Hz at 120 decibels, physically, it’s a real kind of experience,” Takahashi told The New York Times. At one point during the symphony, a 1978 Cadillac DeVille couldn’t handle being a glorified music instrument on wheels and began sputtering out smoke.

Ikeda’s A [For 100 Cars] was part of the first Red Bull Music Academy Festival to take place in Los Angeles. The L.A. edition of the yearly festival runs from October 6 to October 29. You can still get tickets for remaining events during the festival at the festival’s official website.