The Mp3 Experiment Four

Original Music and Sound Design: Agent Walker
Digital Video: Agents Shafer, Slocum, Goldman, Adams
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Fountain, Pallas, Sokoler
Crowd Control: Agents Arnheiter, Sklaren
Rooftop Inside Man: Agent Dfactor
German Tourist: Agent Walker

Our fourth Mp3 Experiment was our biggest mission to date. 826 people downloaded the same mp3, pressed play at the same time, and had a blast together on Lower Manhattan’s beautiful waterfront. Enjoy the videos first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report, photos, and audio downloads.

To participate in this year’s experiment, agents were given these instructions. Everyone synchronized their watch to the clock on the instruction page, downloaded the mp3, wore a red, blue, yellow, or green shirt, and then reported to the blue zone in the map above. At exactly 4:00 PM, everyone pressed play.

Panorama – click here for full size
Our starting point, the plaza outside the World Financial Center by the North Cove Yacht Harbor, was absolutely gorgeous as everyone arrived. We lucked out and had a 75 degree, sunny day (amazing for August in New York.) It was fun watching the gray plaza slowly fill up with primary colors.

(digitally altered to enhance red)
While this was the first mission for many in the crowd, there were also familiar faces from missions past. One of the redheads from last month’s Wendy’s protest came out with his wife and newborn, who was born after the redhead mission, only a few weeks ago.

Since blue was one of the options for shirt colors, one guy decided to wear the same blue polo he wore to Best Buy.

The tension built as the plaza got more and more crowded, with our agents sitting on pretty much every bench available. At 4:00 we all pressed play and were treated with two minutes of Agent Walker’s awesome instrumental theme music. Subway delays kept more than a few people from arriving exactly on time, but since everyone’s watch was synchronized, the late folks were still able to participate. They just pressed play on their stalled subway car and sprinted to our location as soon as they got above ground. Some folks even got off the subway and hopped in a cab with total strangers, identifying each other by their headphones and bright t-shirts.

After the instrumental, Steve (everyone’s favorite omnipotent voice from above) welcomed everyone to the experiment and asked us to stand up on whatever we were sitting on. At the same instant all 826 participants stood, and everyone else in the plaza started looking around, mouths open, trying to figure out what the hell was happening.

Participants wave to each other; note the four non-participants smiling at the bottom
Steve then announced we’d play a simple pointing game, first asking everyone to point to the tallest building.

The guy sitting isn’t one of us, just playing along
Steve then asked folks to point to the Statue of Liberty (even if you can’t see it) and Nicaragua (even if you can’t see it.)

People disagree on where Nicaragua is
People came from all over to participate in the experiment. One guy flew in from Arizona. Another guy came from Atlanta. Folks drove in from as far as Toronto. The Massari family made it to their second mission, after driving down from Conneticut for Slo-Mo Home Depot on the same weekend last year. I still think the dad looks like Tom Selleck.

The Massari family
Steve then instructed everyone to find a German tourist wearing a yellow shirt. As it turned out there was a super-tall participant wearing a yellow shirt that said “GERMs” and a somewhat German hat. Instantly hundreds of people starting running towards him. He did his best to shake his head and shout, “It’s not me!” but of course no one could hear him.

Not the German tourist

Participants crowd around the wrong guy (he’s in the center to the left of the lamp post.)
Eventually people realized they had run to the wrong man, and everyone started skipping (as instructed) to the real German tourist.

The German tourist
The tourist was standing in a giant checkered area with four colors of tiles. Steve announced that we would be playing a game of Twister. He explained the rules and then started calling the game as all 800 of us tried to follow without falling.

“Left foot, red!”

“Right foot, black!”
The Twister area was right next to the entrance of the shopping mall part of the Financial Center. Folks walking out of the mall gawked at the site of our massive game.

After the game, Steve instructed us to follow the German. Surely after studying his map he’d know a beautiful place to take us. The enormous crowd paraded behind him up the waterfront.

An older couple struggles to share headphones
As we walked, Steve told us to interact with strangers. At various times we were told to smile, give thumbs up, and high five people we passed along the way.

Finally, the German tourist found what he was looking for, Nelson Rockefeller Park, an idyllic green space poking out into the Hudson River.

Through the wonders of the Internet we were able to track down someone who lived in one of the high rise apartments next to the park to get some aerial photography and video. Huge thanks to Agent Dfactor for hooking us up with roof access. (Check out his awesome music blog – Waved Rumor.)

Agents Nicholson and Goldman were shooting from the top of the middle building

Agent Goldman sets up a tripod

Agent Dfactor and son on the roof
The park is a little out of the way so it’s mostly used by the folks who live in the neighborhood and usually isn’t too crowded. We wanted to make sure we weren’t rude to those that were there, so we sent Agents Arnheiter and Sklaren to scout ahead and warn people that a crowd was on the way. All of the sunbathers were very cool, and most seemed to get a huge kick out of the whole thing. Some cheered us on. Some ignored us and kept to their sunbathing.

Some of the neighbors watched us from their balconies and windows.

One woman applauds as others look out their windows
Participants were instructed to pack a camera, and once everyone was settled in the park, Steve gave us some photography assignments (take a picture with no yellow shirts, take a picture with exactly one red and one blue shirt, take a picture with no cameras in it…) It was fun to see how people worked together. Red and blues coupled off and took self-portraits and then posed for other people. When Steve asked us to take a photo with as many cameras as possible, everyone raised their cameras above their heads to help the cause.

Our next task was to create a human dartboard. Steve asked all of the green shirts to clump together in the middle of the park.

In the photo above you can see that there were some guys sunbathing right where the green mob formed. They were slowly engulfed by our crowd. Folks reported the guys were laughing the whole time as they became surrounded.

The red shirts were added next and were told to form a circle around the green mob.

The blue shirts then circled the red shirts as the mob grew dangerously close to another group of sunbathers.

Steve then realized he had made a mistake. Dartboards should have red at the center, not green. The greens and the reds had to squeeze past each other and switch places.

The Norwegian Spirit cruise ship floats by

You can see the World Financial Center were we started in the upper left corner
Steve the told the yellow shirts that they were the darts and had to try to get as close to the bullseye as possible.

Yellows push through
Agent Nicholson was able to get a headcount using this next picture.

After the dartboard was complete, Steve told us it was time to play freeze tag. “Yellow is it!” he announced. The dartboard exploded as people scattered in every direction avoiding the yellows. The poor red shirts stuck in the middle got trapped and immediately frozen.

Each color got a chance at being it as everyone sprinted around the entire park.

After freeze tag, Steve had the out-of-breath participants lie down on the ground and relax. He asked to us to shout “goodbye,” and it was fun to hear how off certain people were, yelling early or late. He then introduced us to his “quasi-nipotent” half-brother Mark who would lead us in some relaxation exercises. Soothing music played as Mark gave out ridiculous instructions that made little sense.

After the experiment ended, one of the guys in the above photo remarked, “I thought y’all were going to kill yourselves,” while another said, “I thought it was the end of the world. Everyone was lying down. I was looking for the comet to come pick you up!”

Once the track ended, participants sat up, removed their headphones, and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day with their 825 new friends.

Mission Accomplished.


Agent Nicholson’s Flickr photoset (highlights only) (18 photos)

Agent Nicholson’s Flickr photoset (full) (174 photos)

Agent Fountain’s Flickr photoset (157 photos)

Agent Sokoler’s Flickr photoset (50 photos)

(all music composed by Tyler Walker)
Full Mp3 (36 minutes)

Intro Music mp3

German Tourist mp3

Walking mp3

Freeze Tag mp3

all music ©2007 tyler walker

Check out first hand reports from participants and links to their own flickr sets and blog posts on Recap Page. Add your own report if you were there.

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.