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Phones unlock hidden music in Bowdoin College art exhibit

When you visit Bowdoin College Museum of Art's new exhibition, Listening Glass and Let's Get Lost, bring your phone. You'll need it to get the full experience.

BRUNSWICK (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- A new exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art has two names because it has two aspects.

When you walk into the domed room of the museum that houses Let's Get Lost you'll, notice the drawing designs on the walls. Linn Meyers started drawing the lines two years ago.

"I didn't just want to create a wall drawing, but I wanted to create a wall drawing that would successfully integrate the technology that we are using in the iPhone so that it could become an instrument," said Meyers.

Instillation artist, Rebecca Bray, was brought in to help think about the user experience and how the music would be created. It's why you'll see visitors waving their phones. They're using an app that puts out specific tones for each line they pass over.

"People are really used to using their phones like this and so we're having them use it like a wand. It's a really different kind of interaction and it's a kind of way to think about the technology that you use all the time," said Bray.

The sound coming from the phone app, that was built by Josh Knowles, isn't random. It was composed by sound designer James Bigbee Garver. A range of pitches called Listening Glass that changes as museum visitors move their phones from one end of the art display to the other.

"Make it sound as if they are sounds that are being plucked, or struck with a hammer," said Garver. "So there's a piano sound, a bell sound. Some plucking sounds from a guitar."

The exhibition would be for nothing if it didn't peak the interest of students at Bowdoin College. To make sure that happened, the four artists held user testing with students two weeks before the exhibition was scheduled to open. Amber Orosco took part in the testing. She's a visual art and art history major at Bowdoin and is always trying to find a way to make art interactive. Listening Glass set a great example.

"I love the idea of getting lost in these drawings because you'll zoom in really tight to this one area and try to play with the sound.," said Orosco.Then you'll step back and see this totally different space that you didn't know was around you."

Listening Glass and Let's Get Lost are both open and free to the public.

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