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SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus is music to new, returning Bruins’ ears

Created by composer and sound designer Ellen Reid, SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus uses GPS services through an app to soundtrack user experiences based on location.
An illustration of a blue figure wearing headphones, against a yellow background and musical notes.

SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus is scoring serenity.

Created by composer and sound designer Ellen Reid, Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK uses GPS services through an app to soundtrack user experiences based on location. The music features synthesizers, vocals, flute and other orchestral instruments. SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus is the one of the most recent iterations of Reid’s SOUNDWALK project made specifically for the school’s campus. It was produced in collaboration with the UCLA Student Committee for the Arts and the Center for the Art of Performance. As an alumnus and current CAP arts coordinator, Theo Perkins said he worked with SCA to give Reid insight into symbolic campus locations that are featured in the project, such as the Inverted Fountain.

“(The SOUNDWALK experience) is very relaxing, it’s beautiful,” Perkins said. “It’s like you’re just guided by the music. … You’re almost like an active observer of the environment.”

Although SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus was made available in September for students’ return to campus, Perkins said planning for the project began in April. After completing an installation for Griffith Park, he said Reid had an interest in composing a SOUNDWALK for UCLA. The idea was passed through SCA, which funded the project, and Perkins said the role he played was supportive but not artistic. While SCA and CAP told Reid about popular student locations, such as the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, Perkins said neither of them imposed any musical guidelines.

“Our role is not to dictate how you could make art,” Perkins said. “We want to put your art on a platform … and help amplify whatever it is that you do.”

To give Reid a more complete picture of UCLA, SCA education head Isabella Bustanoby said the committee also provided the composer with an overview of student culture. The fourth-year art and physics student said she explained the differences between North and South Campus, as well as spotlighted historical places such as the Court of Sciences Student Center – otherwise known as the Bombshelter – and Royce Hall. Another factor Bustanoby said went into route planning was the incorporation of natural scenery in order to showcase plant species native to UCLA.

SOUNDWALK also isn’t limited by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which made the project exciting to SCA, Bustanoby said. While live events are usually site-specific and require COVID-19 virus precautions, Bustanoby said SOUNDWALK: UCLA Campus was an installation that could be enjoyed safely and throughout different parts of campus. Bustanoby said users can also shape their own experiences, being able to choose how long they’d like to spend with the score and where they’d like to take the app.

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