About Compass Song

Created by Mendi + Keith Obadike and inspired by Time Square’s rich history as a crossroads, Compass Song is an app-based public sound artwork, a lyrical piece about finding your way at the “crossroads of the world.” The word ‘compass’ can refer to a navigational tool, a circular path, or the tonal range of a musical instrument. All of these meanings of the word come to play in Compass Song. When launching the app you will hear the bustling sounds of Times Square re-performed vocally, as if the city were singing to you. As you walk through the Times Square area you will periodically hear a voice accompany your wandering with poems about searching for freedom, stories about navigating the city, and cross-cultural myths about the cardinal directions (north, east, south, and west)

The piece also quotes and reworks the African-American spiritual and Civil Rights freedom song “Walk with Me”, spreading the piece out over several blocks of the city. The voice in Compass Song is always underscored by a drone, a unique harmony sonified from the latitude and longitude data for Times Square. The harmony in this drone modulates as the user walks north, east, south, or west. Compass Song is ultimately an invitation to meditate on choosing a path at the crossroads. 

Compass Song was commissioned by and created in residence with Times Square Arts. Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places.