Music

The Musicity app will help you see cities in a whole new way through sound

Musicity is changing the way people view and interpret buildings in London and beyond. Creator Nick Luscombe explains how to tune in to bricks and mortar

We take sound for granted in cities. There is so much you can explore if you walk around and listen. Composers and artists have long responded to the architecture of a city but, perhaps, in recent years, most music to be heard in a new building tends to be muzak. Musicity is definitely not about lift music! A piece of music can reshape the way you feel about a place and we’re inviting people to seek out all sorts of buildings, celebrated and obscure, in order to discover music attached to it.

Musicity is a platform for the discovery of new music and architectural spaces. Alongside talks, walks and film screenings, I commissioned original pieces of music inspired by different locations, then once you go to that location, by using the Musicity app on a smartphone or a laptop, you are able to stream that piece of music. Going to that particular spot, you get to not only experience the space but also the feelings that the musician was trying to convey.

I’ve already done this in Tokyo, Singapore, Oslo and in other parts of London. The only stipulation for artists this time was that the building had to be in the borough of Southwark. But that’s quite a spread and range of areas, from The Shard to places like Borough Market. The pieces could be instrumental or lyrical. I’m always surprised by the responses of musicians. They spend a lot of time and effort thinking about this project. It’s a tight brief and this piece will represent this building forever – it becomes the soundtrack of an area.

It’s important to encourage people to discover new corners of the city, and music can be the catalyst for that

With The Shard, William Doyle created a kind of eighties electronic corporate sound that builds with vocals to become an almost choral piece. It’s inspired by the shape and scale of the building, organic in a way, even though the building looks anything but organic. Now I see The Shard in a different way. He’s created a new memory.

It’s important to encourage people to discover new corners of the city, and music can be the catalyst for that. Sean O’Hagan from the High Llamas wrote a piece about Peckham Library. He went into the building to figure out the acoustics and created something that sounded like it was made within the space. Lyrically it talks about the architects coming up with ideas for the distinctive L-shaped building and musically the track has a beautiful melody that works on a different level when you listen to it near that space.

Peckham Library

Another really interesting one is by Moses Boyd, who wrote a piece inspired by Canada Water bus station. He looked at it as a hub for all kinds of journeys – physically but also spiritually and mentally – spinning off from this location leading to all kinds of experiences and all the different destinations it serves. Musically it has a rhythmic quality. It feels like you’re taking a journey. I hope we’ll be inspiring people to discover music that they don’t know they’re looking for. It will be like seeing an iconic painting by Turner and being transported to the actual spot on which he was standing when he painted it.

Words by Nick Luscombe, who is a broadcaster, DJ and creator of Musicity, which involves a weekend of events from September 8-10.

musicityglobal.com @Musicityglobal

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