Edited by Matt Adams
Sound Design: Agent Walker
Characters: Agents Ace$Thugg, Becket, Dippold, Kula, Walker
Producers: Agents Arnheiter, Cavin, Fountain, Kinney, Shelktone
DV Cams: Agents EMartin, Reeves, Adams, Lanoie, Gross
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Rainswept, Pallas, Mirka, Moore, Schneekloth
Utility Agents: Agents Tuculescu, Kendall, Vonk, Chadwick, MacNeil
Costumes: Agent Zeigler
Graphic Design: Agent Howell
The third installment of our Mp3 Experiment series was the biggest and wildest yet with over 600 participants. If you’re unfamiliar with how The Mp3 Experiment works, check out The Mp3 Experiment and The Mp3 Experiment 2.0. Like the previous installments, the basic premise involved participants downloading an Mp3 from our site, transferring it to their portable player and then showing up at the event ready to press play simultaneously with others.
For Mp3 III, Agent Walker and I wanted to push the experiment in a new direction. We thought it would be fun to have folks start at four distinct locations in the park and not have the entire group come together until midway through the adventure. We created four unique Mp3 tracks, each 32-minutes in length. Participants downloaded tracks based on the season of their birth and then followed the maps we posted on our site to find their meet up point. These starting points were spread out so far from each other that they spanned three subway stops. We liked the idea that you might have to tell your friend with an autumn birthday goodbye on the subway as you got off two stops before her to find the summer meet up point, trusting that you’d meet up again mid-Mp3.
The summer group met on a rocky hill near 97th Street. The autumn and winter groups met on opposite sides of the Great Hill, an elevated area around 107th Street. The spring group had perhaps the coolest meeting place, a tunnel a short walk from the 103rd Street entrance.
Spring meeting point
It was sunny and 90-degrees the day of the event. Dividing participants up by their birthdays worked out quite well; each group had around 150 people. All types of folks came out to play, even a few babies and toddlers.
Agents Rose, Keech, and Kaz
Each location had a producer with a walkie-talkie in charge of coordinating the synchronized start.
Agent Kinney, producer of the summer group
Agent Shelktone starts the countdown at the spring group
Shortly after 3:00 PM, the producers gave their groups a countdown and everyone pressed play at the same time. As always, the Mp3 was narrated by Steve, “The Omnipotent Voice From Above.” Steve informed his listeners that today they would be going on a journey through the park to search for him, as he was returning to Earth for a very special event.
A man praises Steve above
Steve explained that a leader would be arriving shortly to guide them on their way. After a brief instrumental interlude, a giant costumed character appeared before each group.
The winter group was greeted by Snowflake
The summer group meets the Sun
Raindrop remains hidden from the spring group as they press play
Raindrop makes her entrance
Cloud appears from around the corner
Cloud greets the autumn birthdays
The weather characters informed their groups that they needed to warm up their minds and bodies before the “Search for Steve” began. The groups played Simon Says (AKA “Sunny Says”, “Snowflake Says,”…), ran around playing the improv warm-up game Enemy/Protector, and learned a new dance.
Raindrop Says, “Touch your nose.”
Cloud Says, “Pat your head and rub your tummy.”
Snowflake teaches his dance
The Cloud dance
The winter group runs around
Raindrop teaches her dance…
…and then dances with her group
After the groups were sufficiently warmed up, it was time to “search for Steve.” The characters instructed their groups to line up single file from shortest to tallest. The participants were then led on a walk through the park as they listened to a medley of weather-appropriate songs.
The map above shows the journey the four different groups took as they walked through the woods, over bridges, and through tunnels to reunite at south side of The Pool, a small, shady pond.
Snowflake’s group lines up behind him
Snowflake’s group travels through the woods
The Sun group winds over the hills
Sun takes his group through two sunbathers
Raindrop leads her line
The Rain group crosses a creek
Rain group crosses under Central Park’s tallest arch
The Cloud group went deep into the woods
The groups converge upon The Pool
A biker watches as line of headphone wearing folks parade by
Once all of the groups converged upon The Pool, Steve announced that in order to bring him back to Earth, the combined power of the four elements would have to summon him with a huge group dance. The groups busted out the dances they had learned earlier and created a giant silent dance party.
After the dance ended, Steve instructed the masses that the last thing they needed to do to bring him back was to yell his name on the count of three. This would be the only word the group would speak in the entire experiment.
Steve appears by the banks of The Pool
A child watches as smoke blows out of Steve’s robe
The crowd looks on
Some participants were eager to worship Steve upon first sight
A boy watches Steve
Steve announced that he had returned to Earth to judge the “Element of the Year” contest. Sun, Raindrop, Snowflake, and Cloud would compete in a giant gladiator style battle. The last man standing would win the title. Steve asked the crowd to create a giant single file circle to give the elements an arena. Our circle was so large that it inadvertently subsumed a few strangers.
Two girls smile in the middle of the arena
A birthday party continues while 600 silent headphoned people surround it
Steve took off his black robe to reveal a ref shirt underneath and the “greatest competition in the history of competitions” began.
Cloud fell first
The crowd cheers
The six people in the front here aren’t wearing headphones, simply watching
Sun knocks out Raindrop!
To celebrate Sun’s victory, Steve asked everyone to form a giant conga line around The Pool as “Walking On Sunshine” played the track out.
The Sun leads the conga line
The line eventually stretched around the entire Pool as the Sun began to lap folks 600-deep into the line
The track ended and folks stuck around to enjoy the beautiful, if hot, day in the park. The elements stayed in costume for as long as they could, sweating up a storm as they posed for photos with participants.
Per usual Agent Walker did all of the audio engineering and editing for the Mp3′s. He also created tons of original music for the tracks. Here are some Mp3 samples.
Steve (Voiced by Agent Todd)
Snowflake (Voiced by Agent Kula)
Snow Song Walking Medley
Raindrop (Voiced by Agent Spencer)
Rain Song Walking Medley
Cloud (Voiced by Agent Becket)
Cloud Song Walking Medley
Sun (Voiced by Agent Ace$Thugg)
Sun Song Walking Medley
Element Of The Year Song
Agent Ace$Thugg (The Sun)
I began the event hiding alone behind a tree to dress. Halfway through I realized getting dressed in my costume would be a 2-man job. Not able to zip my body suit or put on the Sun by myself, I had to radio someone for assistance. Agent Kinney came to my aid. When I was finally fully dressed came my sudden realization of the limited mobility: I couldn’t reach my mp3 player or headphones, and I could barely walk, much less lead a dance. All these things added to character improvisation of the event.
The tree being within earshot of the countdown to begin, Agent Kinney returned to the group and donned Agent Kendall as my new personal assistant. His job duty being to press play on my mp3 player since it was out of my reach. Unfortunately, it also happened to be on lock. So for the first minute of the experiment, we struggled to get in sync with everyone else. I eventually swapped iPods with my helper, and then headed to the big rock that would be my stage. Right on queue (3:37 into it) came my introduction to the group on the mp3.
I was instantly surprised by the turnout in the summer group. I could tell all the people were completely jazzed about the event, which made my role as group leader that much more fun. My group sailed through “Sunny says” with no problem. However, playing “Solar Eclipse” after designating one person moon and one person sun returned some confused faces, but the majority caught on, or at least ran in circles with the rest of the group and feigned comprehension. Teaching the dance was difficult, as the only dance move I could do was palm my face and turn in circles. So that became the “Sun Dance.” As I tired, I threw in some hula dancing during the song’s refrain in order to catch my breath (and wipe the gallons of sweat off my brow.)
Finally, I lead the group in single file line (a sunbeam) from shortest to tallest; it took much longer that I anticipated, just because of the sheer number of people. It took a full song for the lineup to be complete. I lead the sunbeam with a zigzag around the park’s trees and lampposts and even split a pair of sunbathers. The tanning girls were smiling as I divided them; hopefully they were still in good spirits towards the end of my 150+ person comet trail.
Reaching the playing field, I first caught eyes with Agent Kula as Snowflake leading his group in a similar fashion. Then came Agent Beckett as Cloud and Agent Dippold as Rain. We all eventually surrounded some confused park goers and a kid’s birthday party that were squatting on our designated field. They weren’t sure what to make of us, being 600+ people all wearing headphones, and silently doing the same choreographed moves, but they stuck around smiling with the rest of us.
Steve (Agent Walker) appeared to the delight of the crowd and then the fight for Element of the Year was happening before I knew it. At one point during the fight I had to get Agent Kula to replace my iPod as we were pushing each other. I also saw him assist Rain when her headphones were jarred loose. I then pushed him to the ground. Sun is a competitor.
Winning the Element of the Year contest synced up to an “Element of the Year” song on the mp3. At about this time the crowd started an unplanned chant of “Speech, speech!” to me. I took the opportunity to sing along to the ballad playing on the mp3 and deliver it as my speech, and the crowd accepted it as such.
Finally, I knew I had 4 minutes to lead a final conga line around the pond and with 600 people, I had to start booking it to get everyone involved. I skipped and jogged around the first bend with Steve and Snowflake right behind me. We three made eye contact and nodded at our instant recognition of our new goal: create a complete circle around the pond and catch up to the last person in the conga line. We jogged the final bend around the pond, hoping everyone could keep up to us. We actually made a complete circle around the pond as the last song completed. Then as the other panting Agents instantly discarded their suffocating costumes upon completion of the experiment, I basked in my fabricated glory in full regalia. I posed for photos, signed someone’s Sun tattoo, got kisses and kept getting asked the same question: “How did we determine that I would be the Element of the Year?” My reply was always the same, “We had a fight for it, where were you?”
Agent Kula (Snowflake)
I think my whole costumed afternoon is summed up in this scene: Someone asks Agent Cavin, the producer of the Snow group, “if Kula is ready to go.” Agent Cavin looks 20 feet off into the woods and sees a shirtless man slipping into a skin-tight white bodysuit. “Yeah,” he says, “he’s ready.”
That body suit – and the Snowflake costume above it – would end up claiming a good five pounds of sweat off my person. My Snow group was great – they did their best to master the dance I showed them, even as I kept screwing it up myself. Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” was the perfect soundtrack for leading them in to join the other groups – we were willing to sacrifice.
The elements fight was the highlight. I loved picking up Agent Becket’s shoe after it’d slipped off – first I taunted with it in the direction of her Cloud group, and then I used it as a weapon, beating the Cloud with her own dainty slipper. The Sun and I had a nice Gladiator moment where we teamed up and started circling the Raindrop. Confession: I caught Agent Dippold with a legitimate clothesline. I was so caught up in the moment of the fight that I actually connected with her, bicep to face. My first thought was “Ooh, I hope I didn’t knock her down” – not because I was worried she was hurt, but because she was supposed to be one of the final two standing. (Snowflake was kind of an aggro asshole, but at least he respected the script.)
Agent Becket (Cloud)
I waited until we had started up the track before I began changing into my costume because I didn’t want anyone in my group to catch sight of me and I really thought it would be a quick change. I didn’t anticipate the broken zipper on my silver unitard or my tangled iPod headphones, which my “dresser” dutifully tried to untangle as I worked on getting the costume on. This is why I missed my grand entrance by about 30 seconds. I was still trying to get my headphones in my ears as I was walking out, which is hard to do when the ear buds are tiny and you have giant silver gloves on your hands. My group did not seem to care, though, and they enthusiastically ran through their warm-up exercises as I tried to subtly work my headphones in. Once we started walking towards the Battlezone, I found that having the costume on made me much more outgoing and friendly than I normally am. I waved at strangers! I never wave at strangers! Afterwards, everyone wanted to take pictures with the characters, which surprised me, but was very cool. One girl wanted to take a picture biting my cloud costume. I hope to find that picture on MySpace someday.
Agent Dippold (Raindrop)
First of all, I walked past a softball game in normal clothes to get changed in a bathroom and on my return walk was in a full blue body suit. There’s no reason for anyone to wear a full blue body suit in the park in 90-degree weather. I don’t understand how the amusement park mascots do it. I have much more respect for them. While I was waiting to greet my group (hiding), people kept walking past the sad raindrop sitting alone without any flyers or promoting anything at all. A dog barked at me like I was a giant ham.
The group was great. For some reason, I always expect people to just be cynics. But when I walked down, it was such a wonderful relief to see 150 huge smiles. Go rain.
During the battle scene, I was fighting not fainting and the fact that both my headphones came out of my ears so I wasn’t sure what was happening. I stuck my arms in my costume to find them, which I later learned some people thought that was some kind of combat move. Not really sure who would use “hiding their arms” as a combat move, but I’m just glad it all looked ridiculous. Also Agent Kula, in character as “Delightful Snowflake”, actually clocked me in the face.
But I had a blast and felt lucky to do it.
Agent Walker (Steve)
When I turned around to greet the masses as Steve, the Omnipotent Voice from above, I was amazed. We had no idea what the turn out would be, and looking up at the sea of people that had flocked to my location was remarkable. As I approached my new followers, I was swarmed by faithful disciples ready to worship at my feet. That was nice. This project was a lot of work, and it’s always refreshing to have people bowing to you. I blessed them as non-denominationally as I could, and we continued with the event.
The fight was amazing. I knew what was going to happen, as I had heard it hundreds of times at that point, but it was still exciting. I was worried that one of the characters would fall at the wrong time and screw up the timing, but they all managed to fight exhaustion and their unwieldy costumes and stayed upright until all the perfect moments.
The performers, stage managers, and participants all did such a wonderful job. It was a very special day. I think I still have that Steve-damned “Walking on Sunshine” song in my head. Thanks to everyone who played with us.
For the reports of many more participants, read the comments section at the bottom of this page. You can see over 700 more photos (in larger resolution) of this mission at Flickr.
Agent Nicholson’s Highlight Set (39 photos)
Agent Nicholson’s Full Set (300 more)
Agent Pallas’s Set (83 photos)
Agent Mirka’s Set (41 photos)
Panorama photo of the entire crowd (taken by Agent Nicholson)
We have also toured The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.
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