Image: Ford Motor Company
When we hear our car’s turn signal click or the wipers drag across the windshield, we ignore them as background noise. But a trio of Detroit-area techno artists hears music.
Joshua Harrison, Keith Kemp and Tom Newman sampled sounds from the 2013 Ford Fusion – both natural noises like windows going up and down, and digital creations from the car’s sound bank like the welcome chimes – as “instruments” to make original electronic tracks.
The musicians took the sounds back to their studios, along with a sound bank of Fusion chimes and tones, and got to creating. Using loop machines, synthesizers and their own creativity, each artist composed an original song featuring the Fusion as an instrument.
Each Fusion musician, provided by Paxahau – organizers of the Movement Electronic Music Festival – produced a unique song that transformed the everyday sounds of the car into a work of art. The trunk slam was looped to mimic the iconic kick-drum popular in Detroit Techno, the hum of the 2.0-liter hybrid engine is used as an overtone that wails with meditative resonance, and the seat belt reminder plays as a melodic syncopation.
Click play to hear each unique creation.
Sounds of Fusion Track 1 by Joshua Harrison
Sounds of Fusion Track 2 by Keith Kemp
Sounds of Fusion Track 3 by Tom Newman
“This project worked so well because Techno music, by its nature, is very similar to the makeup of a car,” explains Joshua Harrison, contributing musician and a performer in the upcoming festival. “In both cases, there are lots of little pieces mechanically put together. Just like a car, a Techno song has many elements that serve their own small purpose, and the masters of the craft are those who can put it all together and make everything work as one solid piece.”
As a side note, those sounds the car makes take as much planning and creativity as a musical composition. According to Alexander Petniunas, Ford sound quality technical expert, “An audible warning is intended to prompt the operator to respond the right way. Engineers work with four grades of severity. The high pitch staccato sound, for example, is considered the most severe, whereas the three note welcome chimes are meant to deliver a comfortable greeting. The sounds are designed to conjure an emotional response.”
Engineers write two to three note tones and conduct studies with listening groups to determine the correct sound for potential situations. Petniunas says some sounds are designed to be harsh to the human ear, like the loud warning that plays in cross-traffic alert technology, while other sounds like the reverse alert are softer in order to prompt action on the part of the driver but not cause alarm. Hundreds of sounds are analyzed.
And when those warning sounds keep you from backing into a truck, it’s like music to our ears.
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