The MP3 Experiment
November 30, 2004 12:20 PM   Subscribe

"The MP3 Experiment is the world’s first live theatrical performance that audiences will experience exclusively through headphones. There are no actors. There is no host. Audience members will download an mp3 track from the show’s website in advance, load it onto their portable players, and bring it with them to the show. The lights go down, a video projection cues the audience to press play on their mp3 players simultaneously, and the show begins. The mp3 track is an intricate mix of music and instructions from an unknown voice." Produced by Improv Everywhere, also mentioned here.
posted by turbodog (27 comments total)
Improv Everywhere would be better off sticking to funny stuff instead of pretending to be art.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2004

Evidently, this really is something you'd have to own a portable MP3 player to understand.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2004

Yes, I can... see why... everyone downloading the song and bringint it... is a better solution.... than just playing it over the speakers in the the... oh fuck it.
posted by jon_kill at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2004

Before I even clicked on the link I was thinking this idea was probably inspired by the Flaming Lips' performace art pieces.

Except this seems much more... how can I put it... stupid?
posted by thirdparty at 12:36 PM on November 30, 2004

Is this some kind of anti-AIFF agitprop?
posted by buddhanarchist at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2004

Well, since I'm not going to be in New York, I'm listening to it.

Sort of what you'd expect. If you're going, may I suggest getting high beforehand. I mean high. Spectacularly, record-setting high.
posted by symphonik at 12:39 PM on November 30, 2004

live theatrical performance ... download an mp3 track from the show’s website in advance

Um, ok. Keep taking the pills.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:39 PM on November 30, 2004

I always wanted to take part in one of the Flaming Lips things, this seems not as cool for some reason.

It seems to have a lot of potential for crowd manipulation and mind control. What if they give different people different mp3s and pit them against one another? [on preview, unless there are distinct recordings, jonkill is right and it's just elitist ipod wankery. having different people hear different things could at least make for an interesting outcome]

Or maybe it will brainwash them all to kill the government? (primary main objective)...
posted by ism at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2004

Finally, a guide to my journey down the road to Happy Town.
posted by scottq at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2004

Do you think they kick you out of you don't have an ipod specifically? Say you have diamond rio (a-la 3-5 years ago)?
posted by RobertFrost at 12:48 PM on November 30, 2004

I'm ten minutes in and it's as dull as all hell. I hope that something exciting happens soon.

It sounds exceptionally embarrassing, too. I'm glad I didn't go there blind, thinking I wouldn't be peer pressured into doing stupid and trivial things.
posted by painquale at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2004

This sounded like an interesting idea at first but given that you will likely listen to this mp3 *before* showing up and then make your decision whether to even bothering going, all the potential spontaneity seems to just vanish.
posted by vacapinta at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2004

John Cage did it better back in '52, at Woodstock, without the MP3s.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:08 PM on November 30, 2004

It's nice to see something being original and spontaneous is no bar to it also being utterly pointless and worthless.
posted by rhymer at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2004

I think it's a cool idea and if I was in NYC I'd go. Their other stuff is so funny, I assume this show will have its moments.
posted by mathowie at 1:39 PM on November 30, 2004

Speaking as an improviser and an agent of IE*, I'd suggest you actually see the show before trashing it. The theatrical experience will be completely different from listening to it hunched in front of your computer.

* one who hasn't listened to the mp3 and isn't at all involved with the production of this show.
posted by plasticpool at 1:43 PM on November 30, 2004

Isn't a live theatrical performance with no actors or host basically a movie? Are there puppets? I'm guessing it's one of those things where the audio instructs you to do strange stuff and so the audience becomes the show...?

I'm curious to see how many audience members make the download hurdle - that seems like a big 'If' for the theatremakers to count on.
posted by ao4047 at 1:46 PM on November 30, 2004

I'd suggest you actually see the show before trashing it.

You must be new here. We've already trashed Star Wars Episode III, VII, and XII.
posted by bondcliff at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2004

In the Sony commercial, it's a silent rave on the beach,
with the little blue alien.
Everyone pushes their buttons simultaneously, and
starts dancing.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2004

Do you think they kick you out of you don't have an ipod specifically? Say you have diamond rio (a-la 3-5 years ago)?

From the link:
Do I have to have an iPod?

No. The show is designed for folks who own an iPod or similar portable mp3 player, but those of you with portable CD players can enjoy the show as well. Simply download the track and burn it to a CD. Don't have a burner? Ask a friend to burn it for you. We hope to have a limited number of CDs on hand the evening of the show in case of emergencies but best to be prepared.

posted by muddgirl at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2004

One of the oddest scenes I have witnessed was a silent rave north of Dublin many years ago in the early 1990s. At that time there was a particularly brutal police crackdown against outdoor free parties - crews were having their gear confiscated and smashed, records, equipment, everything was targetted for destruction. Several people I know had been beaten or illegally detained by police with little provocation.

Anyway, so a bunch of entrepreneurs decided to stage a pre-recorded rave. It was in a field near Clontarf, in north Country Dublin. By invite only: everyone had to bring their own walkman or similar personal tape player. Everyone got a copy of a tape, recorded live earlier. With no incredibly loud sound system, the party would not be recorded and busted, even though it was right in the middle of quite a dense suburban area.

You'd have to have been there to appreciate the surreality of the situation completely. 100+ people dancing like lunatics in complete silence and their motions strangely synchonized to invisible beats. Because the vast majority of the people there had taken ecstasy at around the same time they were characteristically whooping together in combined rushes. Euro raves differ from US raves in several key performance aspects - one of which is the generally more linear deployment of actors and the wider and more vocal performance of whoops and rush screams.

Watching several dozen people erupt into pseudo-orgasmic baccanalian roars simultaneously with occasional making out where before there had been almost complete silence and a lack of direct interaction really felt like something out of a sci fi novel. Or a horror movie. Take your pick. That is what I call introspective group performance art.
posted by meehawl at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2004

This is dumb. OTOH the idea of using different MP3s for different people has merit. Blue Man Group does a variation of that in their show, where they have people choose a particular scrolling signboard to read. It is fabulous.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on November 30, 2004

meehawl, that sounds really fucking awesome, actually. I want a videotape.
posted by u.n. owen at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2004

Think of all the money performers will save on speaker rentals if this catches on!
posted by exhilaration at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2004

There's nothing to prevent them from changing the MP3 out at different times before the event so that different people are hearing different things, but everyone sees the same thing. That would be funny, and would be completely impossible if the stuff was just piped in for all to hear.

Having listened to the recording, I can pretty much guarantee that this won't happen. There's too much specificity.

I guess I'll just ROT13 myself so I can make some more direct comments:

Gurer'f bar cbvag jurer gur aneengbe rawbvaf crbcyr jvgu pregnva oveguzbaguf gb gnxr bhg gurve rnecyhtf, naq gura ur gryyf n frperg gb rirelbar ryfr. Gung'f gur bayl ovg gung pbhyqa'g unir orra qbar bire ybhqfcrnxref. Vg'f abg gung rkpvgvat.

Gur fubj'f bs guvf fbeg: "Bxnl, bcra hc gur oyhr obk. Jung'f vafvqr? Ohooyr oybjvat trne! Rirelbar, oybj ohooyrf! (Guerr zvahgrf bs zhfvp cynlf)." Be, "Rirelbar: whzc!" Vg'f rzoneenffvatyl puvyqvfu. V ungr nhqvrapr cnegvpvcngvba. V pevatr jurarire n pbzrql gebhcr fpnaf gur nhqvrapr ybbxvat sbe fbzrbar gb ebcr vagb orvat gurve qhzo fvqrxvpx. Znlor guvf whfg vfa'g sbe zr... znlor gurer ner fbzr fzneg naq fbcuvfgvpngrq crbcyr jvyy trg n xvpx bhg bs vg. Ohg V qbhog vg.
posted by painquale at 5:02 PM on November 30, 2004

Great story, meehawl. I have always wanted to do (or see) something like that.
posted by squirrel at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2004

[this is pretentious]
posted by neckro23 at 11:34 PM on November 30, 2004

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