Scientists say that smell is the sensation most closely linked to memory, but as we walk around our cities with our headphones on, that title might be better bestowed upon music. For fans and artists alike, there's no underestimating the connection between music and place. Odes to hometowns are as prominent in hip-hop as they are in folk; ambient noise from highway traffic and overheard street conversations often finds its way into experimental tracks, and local music scenes still nurture a particular aesthetic despite the growth of internet-based music communities. But how can people share the soundtracks to their lives and musicians reclaim the scenes, streets, and spaces that inspired them? Enter Sounddropper.
Sounddropper, developed by Tom Duscher and Marcus Kirsch of London-based development agency Resonance Design, is an app that lets users tag geographic locations with songs. By connecting the app to Soundcloud accounts, users can "drop" songs to specific places or turn on "discover" mode and browse through songs that others have dropped.
"We got the idea while traveling in foreign cities," says Duscher in an email. "Wouldn't it be cool to listen to the local music scenes of certain districts or know more about the historical locative part of music wherever you are?"
Certain tags are inevitable. It's only a matter of time before "Empire State of Mind" is tagged on the Brooklyn Bridge or "Come Together" shows up at Abbey Road. But Sounddropper also opens up a world of creative possibilities for independent artists looking to share their personal soundtracks and promote their music. Tag the studio where you recorded your first album, the venue where you have your best gigs, the tree that inspired your seven-minute guitar solo. Promote your songs by dropping them in places where your target audience hangs out, or venues where you are about to play. Start a scavenger hunt by dropping unreleased tracks around town. Sounddropper allows you to chart your personal geography, rep your neighborhood, or start an audio turf war - when it comes to audio graffiti, there are no fines or paint fumes standing in the way of wild-style augmented reality.
For Martin Herron, a north Englander who makes experimental music under the name Morpion, Sounddropper provided the perfect platform to realize the surreal soundscapes that inspired his music. Although he has a track incorporating the sound of waves hitting Tynemouth pier, he saw no point in dropping that at Tynemouth. "The sound of the waves are always there and you can't escape them," said Herron. "On a beach I'd upload the sound of a tap dripping into a tin bath, or a sink gurging as the water goes down the plughole. I like the idea of someone looking out across the sea, and influencing their perception to make them imagine the sea draining away in front of them."
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An early version of Sounddropper has been available for free at Apple's App Store since September (SEPT.) 2, but Resonance Design is currently working on a version with additional features and an Android version. The app's popularity is currently concentrated in London, but downloads are spreading across Europe as well as in the U.S. and Canada, according to Kirsch. An exclusive promo with UK rapper Professor Green (EMI) is also expected to boost traffic.
Sounddropper is still in its early stages and has yet to catch on in a big way, but if Foursquare is any indicator, location-based apps are on the rise. If enough users take advantage of this as a medium and the streets are alive with the sound of local music, walking through a city could be an exercise not only in connecting music to places, but people to people.
"In our primary cultural gathering places, which are urban spaces, many places and parts of the city have their own style of music, sometimes based on their local communities, which can reach back decades," says Duscher. "We want to visualize or 'audiolize' this with the help of Sounddropper. Like audio tapestry, the soundtrack of your local life."