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Artists Mix Times Square Street Sounds into Music

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Most New Yorkers try and block out the sounds of the city. But a new smartphone application, along with a collaborative sound project called UrbanRemix, is encouraging city residents to transform the recordings of screeching subway cars, hawking vendors, rowdy teenagers and other ambient street sounds around Times Square into music.

On Thursday, UrbanRemix, along with the Times Square Alliance, announced the finalists of a contest that challenged people to find the most interesting city sounds and generate new sounds from them.

"Times Square has evolved a lot over the years and there's lots of images that preserve that," said Georgia Tech Professor Jason Freeman (pictured below). He helped develop the free iPhone and Android ap that allows users to record and map sounds. "There are far fewer recordings that kind of preserve what Times Square has been like at different points in its history."

The smartphone ap is linked to the UrbanRemix Web site, where sounds can be explored, shared, viewed on a virtual map or even mixed into other urban soundscapes.

Freeman said that although many musicians and researchers had been making soundscapes for years, new smartphone applications have allowed more people to participate in making their own music than ever before.

The contest finalists included the Brooklyn Tech junior Sharon Mizahi; the Stamford, CT multimedia artist Michelle Spinei; and four students from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in Times Square. Along with the other finalists, they remixed more than 650 collected sounds into soundtracks and live remixes.

On Thursday, New York electronic musicians Travis Thatcher and Damon Holzborn performed the finalists' work. (Click here to listen to the recordings.) Throughout May, other artists will perform sound recordings and remixes using found city sound in Times Square.

Georgia Tech Professor Jason Freeman talks about smartphone aps to create urban soundscapes.