The MP3 Experiment is an audio adventure in which participants download a track from the Improv Everywhere app, from its website, or through a podcast. The audio file is synched, beginning and ending at the same time for all participants, who will be wearing headphones. The track is a mix of original music, composed by Tyler Walker, and voice instructions. Stunts for the MP3 Experiment have included audio instructions ordering participants to create long lines behind an unsuspecting pedestrian, to drop to the ground for three seconds, and to sing out loud. Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, says, “Everyone else on Lincoln Road won’t realize that these secret instructions are being delivered to a mob of people. There are so many fun opportunities for surprises and interactions.”
The event on Lincoln Road will be especially dramatic because it begins around sunset and plays until it's dark. Lincoln Road will provide free flashlights, LED lights, and glowstick rings to the first 1,000 people to attend the event. Todd says, “It will become a human-powered light show. It will turn into a rave with people dancing to the audio and waving their lights.”
Todd came up with the idea for the MP3 Experiment in 2004, when the iPod was becoming wildly popular. “I was on the subway one day, and everyone was wearing those white earbuds. I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting if everyone was listening to the same thing?” The MP3 Experiment premiered at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater; the next year, it was put on in Central Park. The project has grown tremendously in its almost 13 years, with crowds upward of 3,000 participating in the audio adventure at one time. The MP3 Experiment has toured Australia, Germany, and Texas, among other locations.
These types of fun community interventions are characteristic of Improv Everywhere’s work. Founded in 2001, the New York City-based performance collective primarily consists of comedians. “We produce participatory events that have stunts and surprises that take place in public spaces. The surprises are positive in nature, and they are intended to give participants a good experience. And it gives the pedestrians and commuters an unusual one,” Todd says. Despite its name, Improv Everywhere is not an improv troupe. However, Todd says, “There is an improvisational nature to the group because you never know how things will go, how people will react.”
Todd encourages people of all ages to head out and enjoy the free event. “It’s a 45-minute-long experience of pure fun,” he says. “We put on childlike games that many people are embarrassed to do by themselves. But with a diverse mob, it can be euphoric. It’s a unique experience to be part of something bigger than yourself and be with a team of strangers working together for the same goal, even if the goal is to do something silly.”
The MP3 Experiment
6:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, October 9, on Lincoln Road between Meridian and Pennsylvania Avenues. Free and open to the public. Visit lincolnrd.com/mp3-experiment.