How did I miss this? On Tuesday, students and faculty at the University of Maine in Farmington premiered Philip Carlsen’s “Car Life: A Traffic Jam Session for Automobile Orchestra.” (Enthusiastic article here; skeptical article here.) The ensemble? Forty-five cars spread across three parking lots, conducted with a big red flag by Carlsen’s fellow professor Steven Pane.
Carlsen’s automotive orchestra used subtle and not-so-subtle harmonies, cascading and alternating a cacophony of horns, radios, warning beepers, revving engines, slamming car doors and human voices. It was all part of an eight-page, detailed musical score that had drivers keeping one hand on the wheel and the other on the radio dial, ignition key or door handle, anxious to honk their horn at the requisite times and blast WKTJ or WUMF at just the right moment.
Carlsen himself missed the spectacle, laid up with a bad back, which just means that there’ll have to be a repeat performance. I can’t wait.
(Appropriately tangential tribute: the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, car salesman.)