Green Light SONATA: Improvisation at the Intersection of Art and Science
Anne Elise Thomas, Montasir Abbas, Charles Nichols, and Qichao Wang
The Green Light SONATA project originated in a hunch, shared between researchers working across disciplines, that translating simulated traffic information into music could lead to musical resolution of persistent traffic congestion. Our team - consisting of civil engineers, a composer/performer/computer music researcher, and an ethnomusicologist - proceeded to construct a model of an intersection in which each direction of traffic flow was assigned a musical pitch. Hearing these pitches as cues, musicians could interact with the sonified traffic to allow vehicles to proceed through the intersection. The result was a musical “gamification” of traffic flow in which the goal was to minimize the vehicles’ idle time. In preliminary trials, two of the three musicians outperformed the industry-standard simulation software. The next stage of this project will include public demonstration and testing sessions, involving students and additional musicians, to assess the concept’s viability, refine our methods, and gather further data. The team’s multidisciplinary dialogue takes us on productive tangents translating between different domains of musical and technical expertise. Moving forward, we plan to test additional methods of data sonification, manipulating additional musical variables (including pulse and rhythm, sequence, scales, ornaments, and other musical elements) and scaling up to model multiple consecutive intersections. Our vision is to create a model that joins the goal of optimizing traffic flow with a satisfying musical process, results from which will provide the basis for AI-enhanced algorithms that can contribute to more efficient transportation systems and more sustainable societies.
Since September 2017
Sites and Institutions
Traffic Transportation Systems Civil Engineering Music Computer Music Data Sonification Music Composition Ethnomusicology
Civil Engineering Music Ethnomusicology
The project was partially supported by a Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology SEAD (Science, Engineering, Art, and Design) Major Initiative Program grant, and the Virginia Tech Data and Decisions Destination Area Concept seed grant.