Boston Society of Spontaneity's MP3-EXP at Columbus Park
It sounded simple enough to participate in the mysterious MP3 Experience, an absurdist flash-mob event organized by the Boston Society of Spontaneity requiring you to download an audio file to your MP3 player and — having not listened to it beforehand — press PLAY simultaneously with everyone around you. One needed only a solid-color T-shirt, a watch with a second hand, a camera, the MP3, and a sense of adventure. But my digital camera’s battery died en route, and my newly purchased stunner of a gold-plated Rite Aid watch barely worked for an hour. And, to my extreme dismay, technical difficulties left me without the audio file as the clock struck 2 pm, just one hour before start time. After a few minutes of hyperventilating into a paper bag, I raced to Christopher Columbus Park.
Perhaps 25 people were milling around the alabaster Columbus statue, bodies hunched, fidgeting silently. Then came the moment of truth: everyone pressed PLAY, and . . . silence. Then: “I hate the left side of the brain” and “Aw, poor subconscious.” With nothing to go on but overheard comments, I was still very much confused. Things got into gear, however: first cheering and waving, then human statues, then some sort of hyperactive dance contest. The number of participants slowly surged: there were at least 75 persons in the conga line that snaked its way through the park at 3:30, and by the “fashion show” near to 4 pm, more than 150 persons with headphones were cheering on their brethren and encouraging passers-by. Reactions ranged from extreme enthusiasm (a group of five women watched intently from a stone slab shouting encouragement) to apathy (“That’s kinda cool, I guess”) to irritation (two humorless college-age girls sunbathing in the middle of the park shot disgusted looks as people tripped over their feet). By the end of the hour, when the army paraded to the entrance of the Aquarium, there were at least five children gleefully skipping in tow. It turned out that everyone had been following the instructions on the MP3: a narrative by parts of the brain (left, right, subconscious) trying to find your kidnapped inner child and set it free.
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