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'Musical Shadows' Debuts
The Mesa Arts Center emits human vocal harmonies


The art installation at the Mesa Arts Center emits human vocal harmonies when people's shadows fall over the sensors built into the tiles.
Photo by David Drury, courtesy of Daily tous les jours

The Mesa Arts Center (MAC) in Mesa, Ariz., engaged the Montréal artist firm Daily tous les jours to develop a conceptual prototype of a public artwork for MAC's north plaza. The firm conducted three public workshops to collect feedback, ideas and recommendations. The workshops were attended by some 60 community members, as well as Arizona State University architecture students.

The artwork-Mesa Musical Shadows-comprises light sensors and small speakers embedded in custom fabricated colored tiles flush to the concrete pavement outside the north Ikeda Theater lobby, opposite the Center Street light rail station. There are 47 light sensors embedded in the blue tiles, and 12 speakers integrated into the darker pink tiles. People's shadows cast over the sensors, or simply stepped on, set off the sounds of human voices singing

There are a large variety of vocal sounds and moods created throughout the day. The morning sounds are described as "peaceful and ethereal"; long shadows elicit sustained choral tones. When the sun is hot overhead, and the shadows shorter, the sounds are "chopped, frenetic, rhythmic" and more energetic. As the shadows become long again toward sunset, "clusters of complementary, interlocking melodies are triggered." After dark, the sounds are of nature: insect and bird-like vocal sounds evocative of a meadow.

Daily tous les jours previously created 21 Swings in which playground swings created sounds.

Mesa Musical Shadows is supported by a grant from ArtPlace America. It is part of the 21st Century Cafe Society Project, a multiphase initiative to create a welcoming and activated environment at MAC's north entry plaza.

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November 20, 2019, 2:40 pm PDT

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