Hosting 20,000 to 30,000 visitors each day, Cologne Cathedral is one of Germany’s most visited attractions. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and since 2007 has been home to Cologne Cathedral Window, designed by Gerhard Richter – one of the most significant artists of our time.
To celebrate the window’s 7-year anniversary, “Interactive Cologne” asked us to organize a concert at Cologne Cathedral. We did exactly that, and hacked over 400 of the visitors’ and journalists’ smartphones. Using software written by us, we extracted the smartphones’ IP addresses. We then made the colors of Cologne Cathedral Window display on the smartphones’ screens – in harmony with the organ composition being played.
Cologne Cathedral’s organ features a MIDI output. We used this connection to transfer the signals to our server. Using the software we developed specially for the evening, we associated certain colors with specific frequencies and volumes. Wi-Fi was set up just for the evening so that visitors could use their smartphone’s browser to connect to our server’s Web socket. The results were eye-catching. The server was able to control the color displayed on each smartphone individually.
During the concert, cathedral organist Prof. Winfried Bönig set the tone – and the color, too. The music provided acoustic as well as visual stimulation, and controlled the connected smartphone screens using color.
Every experiment comes with risks. For the interactive “Hacking Richter” installation, these came in the form of the organ’s MIDI interface, which caused an unexpected break in the music. Fortunately, the concert was able to continue after just a few minutes.
Numerous awards were given for the awe-inspiring interactive concert in the darkened Cologne Cathedral.