Selected Project Play Hear
Play Hear. Concept art courtesy of the project team.

Adam Fong
Project Director
Co-founder and executive director of the Center for New Music

Bart Hopkin
Lead Designer
Director of Experimental Musical Instruments

David Samas
Co-curator and Gallery Manager at the Center for New Music



Central Market

Play Hear is a space for spontaneous musical collaborations with friends and strangers of all ages and abilities. By exhibiting homemade instruments and hosting workshops in instrument building, we empower people to become makers.

Play Hear brings creative delight through experimental sound to Market Street through an interactive display of instruments, a space for musical exploration, and a platform for instrument-building workshops.

The installation will offer three levels of engagement: 1. A display of invented instruments and a steel bench will offer a passive viewing and listening experience; 2. A variety of interactive instruments will encourage hands-on playing and collaboration amongst visitors; 3. Modular and accessible space will make possible instrument-building workshops hosted by local artists.

The main component of the installation is a wall in several angled sections providing a partial enclosure to define the space and provide a barrier to traffic noise. The wall serves as the mounting for a variety of instruments, and serves as a soundboard for those that need it. Part of the soundboard effect is: wall-mounted instruments played on one side of the wall can be heard equally well on the opposite side of the wall, as both surfaces of the wall project equally well, even while a player on the opposite side may be unseen. The wall can be sturdy and stable, which is important in providing solid mounting and counterpoise for as needed some of the instruments. By its shape and its mass it will be able to rest stable and secure in place on the ground without danger of being stolen or knocked over, yet without having to be set in or bolted to the concrete. Small portholes will add visual interest and provoke more social connection, especially for little people.

Some instruments, such as kalimbas, will be placed on the wall at playing height. Others, such as chimes, will be arrayed overhead, using the wall structure for support beneath. The overheads create an encompassing, 3-D sound experience, and some shade, too. They will be activated by simple, intuitive mechanisms below at people-height. There will also be spring-mounted stamping tubes: these big, bassy tubes will be mounted in such a way that pressing a lever hammers the base of the tube.

A steel bench, while providing seating, is another instrument itself: tongue shapes will be cut into the seat and back, creating a lovely percussion instrument. The bench is situated such that a table may be set up to allow for direct instruction and workshop sessions.

Play Hear provides a mixture of hands-learning, social interaction, and creative delight that embodies the spirit of the Bay Area’s instrument building community. That spirit, which combines invention, humor, artistry, and fearless exploration, has already blossomed in the Center for New Music’s window gallery at 55 Taylor Street. The inviting nature of the instruments, and the accessibility of the pieces and the people who make them, will be brought to Market Street as an invitation to the public to join the fun as artists and creators themselves.

Project Gallery


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The Market Street Prototyping Festival is a collaboration between the San Francisco Planning Department and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

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