When you imagine the sounds of a city, you might think of the sounds of traffic, a commuter train, or maybe voices in a crowded restaurant. Akko Goldenbeld instead decided to express the city of Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, as a song played on a piano based on the geographic location and heights of the buildings there.
As seen in the video below, a map of the city center is literally wrapped around a cylinder and used to strike a piano’s keys. The buildings had to be scaled in order to correctly actuate the hammer system.
The resulting “song” actually sounds incredibly good from a musical perspective, begging the question of whether what we as humans enjoy in music is somehow related to the complex structure of how we design cities. Or maybe it just happens to sound good; I tend to overthink things.
As impressive as this device is, what makes it really incredible is the fact that he did this project in less than a month. As he puts it, “The Citymusic project was part of my graduation at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, graduation took a year, but I came up with the concept 4 weeks before graduation. So I created the physical piece in 3-4 weeks.”
Although I’d never seen a player piano, or “pianola,” with an external player mechanism like this, Goldenbeld informed me that they do exist, and that the first player pianos actually worked like his device. His original idea was actually to create a smaller scale device like a music box, but making it work at that scale was difficult. It seems like what he actually came up with turned out much better!
Besides this excellent musical device, the rest of his website is worth checking out, where he exhibits this and two other interesting and well-built projects.