Brain Pickings

Bicycle Built for 2,000

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Why 2,088 people are singing Stanley Kubrick’s praises for $0.06 each.

Here’s a blast from the Brain Pickings past — remember Amazon’s Mechanical Turk? What about data artist extraordinaire Aaron Koblin? After his brilliant Sheep Market project, Koblin is back with another fantastic crowdsourced art effort.

Bicycle Built for 2,000 is an audio-visual collage of 2,088 voice recordings collected via Mechanical Turk. Each person is asked to listen to a tiny sound clip, then imitate what they heard, without any knowledge of the full context of the clip. The voices are stitched together to sing “Daisy Bell” — a symbolic choice, as this is the first example of musical speech synthesis in history. (It also happens to be the song HAL is singing at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

You can click on each note to view the waveform of its various iterations and hear how different people “sang” it.

Participants came from 71 different countries. Each singer was paid $0.06 — not quite the Broadway gig, but we find it utterly MoMA-worthy, so it more than pays in street cred.

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