The Beautiful Sounds of Cities – Soundwalking
I left New York City in 1992. Years later business brought me back to it, if only for a brief week. As a European, the first thing you notice is the wailing of the sirens. Not the ones that entrapped Ulysses, but the firetrucks, the police, the ambulances that shoot downtown or uptown, as a permanent fixture of the NYC soundtrack. There is no other city in the world where this becomes the constant backdrop to life in the metropolis. In London it is the tolling of church bells, the metallic, amplified sounds of the hundreds of bell ringings that populate the air of this old Roman city. This past Saturday 3rd October, something magical happened to many people in Paris. Not just dwellers of the City of Light, but tourists, too. From their iPhones, people were able to download the sounds of the hidden quartiers of Paris, the voices of known Parisians narrating how it feels to walk about Le Marais or to turn around a small street and find a hidden cafe that only the locals attend. This digital wonder was revealed as Soundwalking.
On the day, some 57.4 % of the French citizens installed the application, followed by American (14.1%) and German (10.2%) tourists in Paris. The rest of the downloads came from the Brits and a mix of the rest from European countries. On the launch date, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Soundwalk iPhone application entered the TOP 20 of iPhone travel applications at nr. 14 and received a 4.5 over 5 ranking!
I met Alex Kummerman, CEO of the Soundwalk Clicmobile joint-venture when he had just finished the Beijin Soundwalks for Louis Vuitton the summer of the Chinese Olympics. The concept blew my mind as I understood the incredible power behind connecting reality with the digital world of real-life sounds, not music. A year later I brought him to the London Film Festival to discuss in a panel why brands fund artistic projects. Seems like he kept on the right track.
If you are interested, more iPhone Soundwalks will be released from New York City in the coming weeks, starting with Little Italy with Vinny Vella, the Bronx with Jazzy Jay and Afrika Bambaataa, and downtown Manhattan (Ground Zero) with Paul Auster. You can check the Paris Soundwalks video teaser here.
Next time you are in Paris, your ear won’t look to reminisce the sounds of acordeons, Edit Piaf, or Maurice Chevalier, the WWII stars that made Paris sound dreamy and evocative. The iPhone generation will associate Paris with the voices of Virginie Ledoyen (The Beach), Lou Doillon (Mum’s Jane Birkin), Helene Fillieres, Islid Lebesco, and Florence Lloiret-Caille. Sirens all, infatuating the digital Ulysseses.
Will the Soundwalk people – all of them men (Hello Rudy), ask Vincent Perez, Mathieu Kassovitz, Olivier Martinez, and Vincent Cassel to narrate Soundwalks for us iPhone girls?
I will bet sweet wonga that the number of downloads will surpass those achieved by the current available.
Step into the new reality next time you travel.