Turning Car Noise Into Music

Steve Parker's ‘Traffic Jam' Comes to Miami

Charlotte Libov

Trafficjam Show.


Trafficjam Show.

Does Miami’s insane traffic jams and honking horns drive you so crazy that you can’t imagine anything good coming of it, let alone music? Award-winning musician Steve Parker wants to prove you wrong, so he’s bringing his “Traffic Jam” here, just in time for the craziness of Art Basel.

Steve Parker’s Traffic Jam, which arrives in Miami on Saturday, Dec. 3, a two-hour event that will feature experimental musicians along with a one-hour concert starring in, well, you and your vehicle, if you so wish.

The event, sponsored by MDC Live Arts, struck MDC Live Arts Executive Director Kathryn Garcia as the perfect way to give people a way to let off steam about the city’s traffic, which is ranked No. 7th in the nation.

“Miami has enormous traffic issues, especially during Art Basel, when it all comes to a head. So we wanted to enable people to make some noise about it, and showcase the work of our experimental musicians at the same time,” Garcia says.

Enter Steve Parker, who launched his Traffic Jam project at an arts festival last year in Austin, where Garcia was when she heard about it.

“I like to use a lot of local materials and one of our most overabundant materials in Austin, like in Miami, is our traffic. It’s a source of angst and frustration which is at a point of absurdity due to the lack of public transportation and an infrastructure that is ill-equipped to handle it,” says Parker, an award-winner musician, as well as a community organizer.

So he created his “Traffic Jam,” which brings together experimental musicians and performers, to interact in projects that have transportation as its underlying theme.

The pièce de résistance is a one-hour “Car Orchestra,” which will be comprised of local drivers who are invited to bring their vehicles to the event, and then play along on their horns, creating a musical piece that Parker will conduct, right onsite.

One Man Band Tractor in Motion.


One Man Band Tractor in Motion.

“The cars will be arranged in a semi-or-full circle, and the drivers will get charts showing when to honk their horns. This will create a sound performance, like when people do the 'wave" during a sporting event,” says Parker.

While anyone can participate in the “Car Orchestra,” you should sign up ahead on the Miami Live Arts website to receive instructions, he adds.

The other groups performing during the event include:

  • Inlets Ensemble, a new Miami-Based music ensemble, will present new site-specific works for skateboarding ukulele players, car stereos, and electric car windows by Jorge Gomez and Robert Blatt.  
  • Kunstwaffen 1916 will perform a quartet for choreographed musical bicycles, which have been outfitted with guitar strings and other noise-making objects.  
  • Karen Peterson Dance presents an intimate duet in which mixed ability dancers Katrina Weaver and John Beauregard, using a live musical score that incorporates such components as wheelchairs.
  • Emerge Miami, the social networking group, will feature a “make out” car, complete with an artificial “make out point” vista to facilitate canoodling! (They’ll also be conducting a trivia contest).
  • Manita Brug-Chmielenska and Randy Burman, who will present a large scale, interactive xylophone made from automobile hoods and parts, which will be amplified and can be played by audience members.  
  • Students from “Guitars Over Guns” will present new works on car stereos made from sampled car sounds and field recordings.  

Steve Parker’s Traffic Jam will take place Saturday, Dec. 3, 3-5 p.m. at the MDC surface parking lot between building 3 and the Freedom Tower between 5th and 6th streets in Miami. Free

More information, or call 305-237-3010.

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