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Bluebrain’s “Central Park (Listen to the Light)” Location-Based Album

The DC duo hopes to replicate its success from March for incorporating GPS into an album.

Listeners experience Central Park through Bluebrain’s album app.  Photograph by Brooke McEwen

After garnering local and national praise for creating the first-ever location-aware album in March, DC-based duo Bluebrain is doing it again.

On the National Mall last spring, the band singlehandedly started a quiet revolution in how we experience music. It created a living, breathing soundtrack that changed with park strollers’ steps. Using GPS-enabled iPads and iPhones, music synced to their geographic location on the Mall and brought the park’s history and culture to life in a whole new way. Now the band’s bringing their breakthrough musical experience to the Big Apple.

This past weekend Bluebrain rounded up a couple sponsors, rented a party bus and galvanized a crew of DC creatives to travel to New York and launch the maiden voyage of its newest musical project: Central Park (Listen to the Light). The band’s second location-aware album picks up where the first left off. Listeners found Bluebrain’s album app made a stage of Central Park. The trees, statues and ponds were all part of the performance, and the conductor was nothing else but their own feet. The Central Park album, available only as an iPhone or iPad application, moved and changed through the park based on where listeners were and where they chose to walk. Bluebrain guided the group on an introductory tour of its new release, hitting some of the recording’s most notable parts.

“The whole thing is about choosing your own adventure, exploring,” Ryan Holladay said, one of the two musical masterminds behind Bluebrain. He and his brother, Hays, spent three months partitioning the park into musical motifs that transform as listeners travel through the park with GPS-enabled smart phones. The app tracks their movement and the music evolves.

The elm tree-lined walkway’s symphony of strings melted into a lone piano. Strings returned and greeted listeners with a soaring, whimsical quality near the fountain on Bethesda Terrace. Other portions of the park—in particular those shady, woodsy patches—went electronic with a bit of animal mimicry and percussion to keep things interesting.

Bluebrain, Ryan Holladay (R) and Hays Holladay (L), discusses its new album with listeners in Central Park. Photograph by Brooke McEwen

Listeners harnessed a unique musical experience depending on their footsteps. Only physical movements dictated musical movements; there was no specified arrangement. The park’s spontaneous orchestration of whizzing bikes and playful breezes only enhanced the experience. It was a soundtrack for life in the park.

Just as Bluebrain’s National Mall project, its Central Park album app redefines how we experience music—and technology. The music’s final point of contact is not a screen, but the environment itself. Interacting with the park’s surroundings through music is enchanting and gives new meaning to living in the moment. Listeners don’t don headphones to block out their surroundings but to experience them more fully.

Bluebrain’s tour disseminated throughout the park to explore independently. But it regrouped later that evening to support the work of eight other DC artists at the “You Are Here: Washington DC” exhibition opening at the Dorian Grey Gallery.

The gallery proved that talent brews within the Beltway. Art lovers, artists, and musicians mingled among a diverse representation of paintings and photographs. Joey Manlapaz’s paintings explored the dual realities storefront windows both display and reflect. Alexa Meade’s experimentation with shadows led her to create paintings out of people. Curator and Washington resident Danielle Vu created the show to explore the vibrant artistic community of a city most often idenfitied by its politics.

Download Bluebrain’s Central Park (Listen to the Light) album app for free from iTunes. Not planning on going to New York anytime soon? Check out Bluebrain’s National Mall project that came out in May.