London Gets its Own Soundtrack with the “Sound Taxi”

By Kira Grunenberg

London and New York are both bustling hubs of crowded activity and major cities commonly referenced across the world. When visiting either of these places, it’s likely much of the same environmental noise will reverberate in one’s ears while there: motors running, people talking, construction equipment moving…and so on.

Both places also run city wide cab systems as well. Horns in cabs, blaring at any time of day, are a significant part of the New York soundscape, despite the rarely-enforced law fining $350 for unnecessary honking. This regulation might not be in London’s legislative agenda, but it seems plausible most people wouldn’t think of a cab – whether NYC’s yellow or London’s black – to be a source and creator of desirable sound, let alone sound that can be considered musical and appealing rather than distracting and grating. In London’s case though, one black cab is putting a new twist on sounds of the English capital. Perhaps New York City can take notes?

The Denmark-based company, AIAIAI, known for its ‘everyday-use’ audio products, brought the ‘Sound Taxi’ to life with the partnership and creativity of sound designer Yuri Suzuki. Suzuki’s work is based in London and the intriguing vehicle collaboration was part of an overall product campaign by AIAIAI titled, “Make the City Sound Better.”

AiAiAi recently released a new line of headphones called Capital, meant to ‘make the city sound better’ for active music listeners who often expose their headsets to the elements. The “Sound Better” campaign expanded on this promotional mentality by radically making over one traditional black cab with 67 speakers, two Indian horns, rooftop microphones and (as reported by TechHive,) “specially designed software that analyzes the frequencies [and then turning them] into actual music using Ableton Live.”

The Sound Taxi was active during September 20 and 21, and drove throughout the greater London area, projecting the converted ambient noise out to the general public as it also did its designated job of picking up pedestrians in need of a ride. Passengers of the jacked up ride could enjoy their trip by listening to the converted music through in-cab headphones. (Interestingly, the cabs were not outfitted with Capital headphones, which may have served as an additional product booster).

The witnessing public were encouraged to participate in the campaign by snapping photos of the cab and talking about it on Twitter via hashtag: #makethecitysoundbetter, as a random photo submitter would win a pair of Capital headphones. Even though the cab’s outing in the city is over, Suzuki has posted some of the tracks created from its journeys on, (one of which is embedded below), as well as a video giving a brief look at some of the construction that went into hooking up the Sound Taxi’s attention grabbing audio equipment.

In my opinion, the music Ableton Live cranked out from the sounds of London is certainly an improvement over your run of the mill traffic noise. It definitely has melodic value and the music goes from loud noise to resonating qualities of the dubstep originally out of London.

“Track 6″ of Make the City Sound Better

Vimeo – Preview of the Sound Taxi

Kira is an old school music nerd with a love for all things creative; always searching for music’s common ground. She graduated with an M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Drop her a tweet @shadowmelody1