Sonic Gateway

Sound art installation at the San Jose International Airport by bay area artist Bill Fontana.

Commissioned as part of the airport’s public art program, this piece engages arriving and departing passengers on their transition to/from flights as they walk through their respective jetbridges. A network of ceiling-mounted loudspeakers present compositions mixing local environmental, urban and historical sounds that connect San Jose and destination cities. Real-time flight data is used to correlate a flight’s origin/destination city with a recording from that particular locale or region, giving passengers a kind of aural geotag of where they’ve come from or where they’re headed.

The recordings are housed on an audio server preloaded with a battery of 6-channel mixes, recorded and mixed by the artist, taken from a variety of the regions that Terminal B serves. A PC on the airport’s art network hosts Max Runtime, which is used to download, parse and interpret the flight data, and then send appropriate playback/gain commands to the audio server. Communication between Max and the audio server is via a telnet session which Max initiates at startup.

The six-channel loudspeaker arrays are installed in nine of Terminal B’s jetbridges, and all audio is shuttled to the loudspeakers over a CobraNet network. All Max programming was done by Arup in collaboration with the artist.

Max is used to download and parse the xml-formatted flight data, interpret this data and then send playback/gain commands to the audio server. These commands for the respective jetbridges and their current flights are sent via a telnet session which Max creates. While running, Max sends periodic http-based "heartbeats" to the airport's art server to aid in troubleshooting/system maintenance.

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Jan 26 2011 | 7:50 am

Sounds very interesting! Respect

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