The Marja Trio, Sonic Bike Experience For Marjaniemi


The Marja Trio is a locative media sound art project developed by Kaffe Matthews, in association with the international art platform Hai Art, during a 10 day artist-in-residence on and around Hailuoto island in Finland. In this work, standard bikes are rigged with speakers, GPS systems and a range of devices that allow specific audio fragments to be triggered and heard in a direct relationship with the cyclist’s location. Field recordings of Marjaniemi harbor were combined with digital audio synthesis techniques to provide raw material for the compositions enabling the cyclist to generate location-based zonal compositions. To this end, the work hands over its autonomy to the cyclist who might perceive the landscape as a kind of musical score. While the bike acts as a musical instrument, the cyclist, compelled by psycho-geographical attractions and spatial affinities, will guide the composition in unexpected ways. Sound and landscape become mutually intertwined, so that the audio composition affects the perception of the landscape and vice versa – it further creates ambiguities and novelties in their relationship to each other. The technical side of the project was taken care of by Dave Griffiths who used Beagleboards running Ångström Linux with GPS reading and playback logic written in the embeddable scripting language Lua. Mapping functionality was built on Ushahidi, modified to provide score geometry via JSON maps linked with Matthews’ sample playback. “Working with Kaffe, mainly remotely, debugging and unpicking problems has the feel of a space program as I was working with crumbs of log files, plotting GPS tracks and trying to match them up without actually having ever been to these places” says Dave, “also, working without screens, walking around debugging via text-to-speech led to new insights, aesthetics – ideas yet to be fully realised on location based synthesis and possibly live coding too”.
Paul Prudence