The Mp3 Experiment Eight

Created by: Charlie Todd & Tyler Walker
All music by: Tyler Walker
Brainstorm Committee: Jason Eppink, Charlie Todd, Tyler Walker
Shot by: Gabriel Chai, Andrew Flynn Soltys, Cameron Frittz, Keith Haskel, Kristopher Knight, Ryan Nethery, Corey Richardson, Charlie Todd
Photography: David Bledsoe, Ilya Chigirev, Brian Fountain, Chad Nicholson, Arin Sang-urai, Ari Scott (full flickr sets for each photographer at the bottom of this post)

For our latest mission, over 3,500 people downloaded an MP3 file and pressed play simultaneously. The event began at sunset in two starting points by the Hudson River. The masses converged on Nelson Rockefeller Park as twilight ended and participated in a series of synchronized activities involving flashlights, camera flashes, glow sticks, and masks. This was the 8th installment in our Mp3 Experiment series.

Enjoy the video above first, and then go behind the scenes with our photos below. We’d like to thank the River to River Festival for hosting the event.

pre-mission documentation team meeting
This year’s experiment took place in the same part of town as The Mp3 Experiment Four. Participants were divided up into two groups ahead of time based on birthday and downloaded two distinct mp3 files. One group was told to wear white and meet on the newly constructed Pier 25. The other group was told to wear black and meet on the esplanade just north of the Yacht Harbor by the World Financial Center.

Pier 25

Black shirts at their meeting point further south

The start time was 4 minutes after sunset
Everyone pressed play at exactly 8:30 PM, their watches and phones synchronized to a clock on our site.

Preparing to press play
Both groups followed some simple instructions first.

Synchronized jumping
The premise this year was that the groups were two separate tribes who lived near each other but had never met. Tonight’s experiment would be “first contact.” Participants were taught the customs of the other group, including a bow, handshake, and dance. They would need to respect these customs when the groups came together. In reality, both groups learned the same customs, thinking they were the *other* group’s traditions.



Both groups were then instructed to walk to the “Neutral Zone,” the park located in the middle of the two locations. Along the way they were told to interact with strangers.

“See how many strangers you can high five.”

A woman snaps a photo of the group walking away
We intended the black shirt group to walk along the river, but for some reason quite a few of them decided to talk a short cut on the road. A few drivers got some high fives.

The black shirts arrived to the park first, as the white shirt route had a couple of bottlenecks in it. Participants were told to form arm tunnels with each other upon arriving.

The arm tunnels looked pretty awesome from up above.

There were lots of people in and around the park watching the sunset and hanging out. We surprised quite a few people when the masses arrived.

Both groups were instructed to take out their flashlights and walk slowly towards each other for the “first contact” ritual.

There are many more black shirts in the above photo because the majority of the white shirts were still walking over.

The groups were then told to mix together.


Slow dancing
It was now time for the various activities of the “Celebration of Lights Festival,” conveniently celebrated by both tribes.

Flashlight tag, where everyone named Mike and Sarah were “it”

1996 Rave with Glow Sticks

Some decided, unprompted, to throw their glow sticks in the air

Glow sticks flying through the air
In addition to a flashlight and a glow stick, participants were asked to bring something else that lights up bright.

“Hold your bright object up to the sky”
Participants then took out their cameras and we did several activities with camera flashes. We attempted synchronized flashes and a wave of flashes from one side of the field to the other, not unlike our old mission The Camera Flash Experiment.

For the final activity, participants were told to put on the mask they brought with them.

Wearing masks, we had a final dance party where half the group made a strobe lighting effect with their flashlights. Then for the finale everyone was encouraged to use all of their props at the same time– camera flashes, flashlights, LED objects, and glow sticks all together.

Pretty cool that the Green Lantern showed up
After the final dance party the Mp3 Experiment came to a close. Participants stuck around to clean up glow sticks and any other trash, and as always we left the park looking like it did before we got there.

Agent Ann Kirschkins used one of the aerial photos to attempt to count the participants by circling their heads with a red pen. It was almost impossible to count every head since it was so dark out. I think 3,500 is probably a pretty accurate guess. We had 3,044 last year, and this group was definitely a bit bigger.

Thanks to everyone who came out!

Mission Accomplished.


Agent Chad Nicholson’s photos
Agent Brian Fountain’s photos
Agent Ari Scott’s photos
Agent David Bledsoe’s photos
Agent Arin Sang-urai’s photos (rooftop photos!)
Agent Ilya Chigirev’s photos

You can download some of the songs from The Mp3 Experiment on Tyler Walker’s site.

We regularly tour The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia and to college campuses in the US like UNC and Texas Tech. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university student activities board, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.

Check out first hand reports from participants in the comments section on this page.