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Art Plus Transportation: Artist Repurposes Traffic Into Musical Performance


The sheet music for Symphony No. I-95 includes musical notations like ‘wipers on’ and ‘sustained honk.’

It’s a live performance that remakes traffic noises — beeps, honks, engines revving — into an organized orchestral production with cars.   

This is what artist and musician Steve Parker calls an "automobile choir."

Parker is one of the artists involved in the Traffic Jam project put on by the Miami Dade College Live Arts series. He calls the public performance project a "big civic spectacle." 

“The idea is that it’s taking a material that ubiquitous to Miami and making music out of it,” Parker says. “[It's] finding ways to create something beautiful out of something that is perhaps a negative.”

Another part of the project will include a fleet of bicycles with microphones that create music from the bike’s movement. When contact microphones are struck by zip ties attached to the spindles of the bike tires, the bike turns into a music box striking random chords that sound like a disjointed electronic wind chime.

There will be also be a gang of skateboarding ukulele players and a xylophone made from car hoods. 

“The idea is to maybe create a moment of catharsis for people stuck in [traffic] jams and maybe make something out of those,” Parker says. 

Credit Katie Lepri / WLRN
Jenni Person, managing producer of MDC Live Arts, says hearing the transit project will make her think about traffic differently.

For Jenni Person, the managing producer of MDC Live Arts, the coordinated transit production sounded "rhythmic and melodic" with "distinct voices."

"I thought all of the sound was really beautiful," Person says. "This car has such a great voice. It really felt like that to me."

There will be pop up performances around Miami through Saturday. A final performance: a CAR-nival will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus.

Katie Lepri Cohen is WLRN's engagement editor. Her work involves distributing and amplifying WLRN's journalism on social media, managing WLRN's social accounts, writing and editing newsletters, and leading audience-listening efforts. Reach out via email at klcohen@wlrnnews.org.
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