September 22, 2019

NYU’s Bobst Library Will be Home to RETU(R)NINGS, an Electroacoustic Sound Art Installation Generated From Turnstile Data

From New York University:

NYU’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library will become the site of Manhattan’s newest permanent sound art installation with the official unveiling of RETU(R)NINGS, a one- to two-minute long sonification of the library’s turnstile data designed to reverberate within the atrium’s unique architectural structure, on September 9.

Once per day—timed to coincide with sunset in New York City—two computer-controlled loudspeakers, installed on the catwalks surrounding the atrium of Bobst Library and directed towards the building’s 150-foot high open interior, will project a brief cascade of electroacoustic tones of varying timbres, frequencies, and durations, unfolding in kaleidoscopically changing patterns and blending harmoniously with the ambient sounds of human activity within the space.

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The sound installation draws upon anonymized data taken from the turnstiles at Bobst Library’s main entrance. A computer algorithm creates an artistic interpretation of each data set to produce a one- to two-minute sequence of musical tones.

The number of people who enter the building each hour on selected dates from 2016, 2017, and 2018—chosen to coincide with the four lunar quarters of the year—represents a data point. As the number and pattern of people entering the building changes each day, each historical data set produces a distinctive melody. The number of people entering per hour is represented in 24 data points with each number creating a different bell-like sound which is then layered into the final piece. For example, the days with fewer visitors each hour cause the entire piece to move much more slowly.

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The physical design of RETU(R)NINGS consists of two custom-made loudspeakers, mounted adjacent to the atrium screens on floors 4 East and 8 West. The spatialized deployment of the loudspeakers turns the 12-story high atrium into a cathedral-like resonator. The perforated aluminum veil that encloses the atrium assists in the building’s capacity to diffuse sound naturally throughout the entire space, both vertically and horizontally.

As a real-time listening experience, the piece is designed to blend into the ambient murmur of the library’s physical attributes (such as elevators and air conditioning systems) and the activities of the NYU community members within the space.

Learn More, Read the Complete NYU Announcement

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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