Race Street Pier gets a soundtrack

The Race Street Pier is getting its own soundtrack.

On Oct. 1, Philadelphia musician and sound designer Michael Kiley and his ensemble, The Mural and the Mint, will release Animina: A Race Street Pier Sound Walk.

Kiley used recorded sounds found along the river – including the train whistle – and wrote lyrics and music that play on themes related to the river, the pier, and the city’s overarching goal for the pier and other Central Delaware projects: Re-linking the city to the riverfront.

Like its name Animina, which means “little soul”, the song is a musical palindrome – something that is the same forwards and back. Through the use of a $.99 cell phone app and GPS technology, the song changes while the listener walks from 2nd and Race streets in Old City to the end of the Pier and back again. For example, the lyrics “In front of you/ at the end of the road/ is someone you once lost long ago,” will be heard as “Is someone you once lost long ago/ in front of you/ at the end of the road” when the listener walks in the opposite direction.

“The city is really sinking some energy into really trying to revisit its relationship with the waterfront,” Kiley said in a Monday interview. “I’m interested in how an art project like this can assist that aspiration.”

The app’s use of GPS means people must physicially visit the Pier and Race Street Connector to fully experience Kiley’s art. “If you’re not in than area, nothing will happen,” he said. “It forces people to actually be in this part of town, where the city is trying to rebuild.”

In a press statement, Kiley said he also likes “the parallel between the song lyrics about feeling compassion from someone whom you used to be close with, and the city’s push to heal its relationship with the waterfront.”

The iPhone app was developed in partnership with Philadelphia web design firm P’unk Avenue. (Disclosure: P’unk Avenue is PlanPhilly’s web designer.) The app will be available in iTunes beginning Oct. 1. The song alone can be downloaded for free, also starting Oct. 1, at www.themuralandthemint.com.

To use the app: Download it to your phone and go to the intersection of 2nd and Race in Old City. Plug in headphones, turn on the app, and head east on Race Street past FringeArts’ new building. Cross Columbus Boulevard and walk to the end of the Race Street Pier. Your pace doesn’t matter – your phone’s GPS location triggers different elements of the composition as you come to certain spots.

The app is designed to be activated, and then forgotten during the rest of the experience. “You hit play, you put your phone in your pocket,” Kiley said. “You’re not looking at your phone, you’re interacting with your environment. I’m providing a sound design for that moment.”

This is the second location-based composition for Kiley and his ensemble. Their Rittenhouse Square sound walk, The Empty Air, was named Best App by Philadelphia Magazine’s 2013 Best of Philly Awards. The Empty Air will remain available on iTunes indefinitely, and the main song can also be downloaded at The Mural and The Mint’s website.

Kiley said he was interested in creating a soundscape for Rittenhouse Square as a place where many people go every day. He hopes Animina will draw more people to Race Street Pier.

“I’m really taken by what happens when you reach the end” of the Race Street Pier, he said. “When you get there you can really see long distance in both directions. With the warehouses on either side up until that moment, it’s a really great reveal of the river,” he said.

Kiley has worked with FringeArts, which is rebuilding a former pumping station near the pier into its new headquarters, so he’s watched some of the rvierfront changes upclose. The riverfront hasn’t had many beautiful destinations up until now, he said, “but it could. It’s really important to remember it’s there, and to use it. (The river) is why Philadelphia is here to begin with.”

After a break to work on other projects, Kiley hopes to create other sound walks. He’s intrigued by Palmer Cemetery in Kensington, and also by the possibility of an overhead park at the former Reading Terminal Viaduct.

Animina was written by Michael Kiley, produced and mixed by Brian McTear, and engineered by McTear and Matt Schimelfenig at Miner Street Recordings, Philadelphia. Musicians include Eliza Jones (Buried Beds), Chris Ward (Pattern Is Movement) and David Hartley (War on Drugs).

The project is supported by a professional development grant from Pew Cultural Center of Arts & Heritage and is a sponsored project of Painted Bride Art Center, with funding provided by the Wyncote Foundation, ASCAP M&MFreeMusic 2013. Animina is presented in partnership with FringeArts and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal