Nate Dickson

What I think.

Walking Home With Chicago Avenue Moon

Heading out, leaving work. It’s about two miles home, an easy half-hour walk. What’s more, it’s all downhill. I decide to let Chicago Avenue Moon do its thing while I walk. Let’s hear some procedurally generated tunes.

The UI doesn’t tell me much; or rather, it does, but not in a way that I can understand. A string of numbers running down one side of the screen slowly starts filling in, going from all 0.00 to…other numbers. Probably based on my walking speed? A line swings across four circles, highlighting them…and that’s it. But it’s time to put the device away, time to walk.

The sound starts slowly…a quiet susurrous of static is all for a moment, then a gentle swell of strings, maybe?

Slowly the sonic landscape fills in: quiet, layered sounds give way to rising waves of music. It’s like having an audio-only link to some other world. This isn’t music I’ve heard a thousand times before, this is something new and unique, being created by my walk, and it opens my eyes.

I’ve seen everything along this route hundreds of times, but I’m seeing it more clearly this time. Bright, living green grasses under a mottled gray cloudy sky. I’m more aware of colors than I’ve been in a long time, I’m open to the feeling of the wind…and presently the rain.

I pull my umbrella out of my messenger bag and pop it open, imagining what I might look like from above. A drab, office-worker colored stalk, watered by the rain, suddenly bursts into a bright red and white flower fighting the wind.

The sounds of wind and rain fold themselves into the music from Chicago Avenue, and in my quiet and dreamlike state it’s easy to believe that whatever mathematical equations are controlling the sounds are also orchestrating the storm, for as soon as I turn a corner the rain slows, then stops. The music, too, changes gradually, adapting to my new position and heading. The whoosh and hiss of cars driving past in the rain…it’s all one.

At length I turn the corner onto my street, and one by one the layers of music fall away, leaving only a slow, stately tone, rolling in grand waves, and fading slightly, a fitting end to a walk in another world.

Chicago Avenue Moon is an oddity on the App Store. Created by JuneCloud, who are best known for their package tracking app , it’s a pure work of art, and one that succeeds. According to the website, it was originally the vision of Joshua Dumas, a musician who wanted to

…help re-enchant a person’s daily commute, trip to the laundromat, or evening jog.

A worthy goal.

The app really does create a soundscape that is throbbing with life, full of strange, alien combinations, and occasionally overlaid with bursts of static, as if you really were channeling this music from somewhere far away.

It may not be the perfect soundtrack for every single day, but if you want to include a little bit of mystery into your daily wanderings it’s definitely worth a try.