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'Open Air' weaves words into lights above the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia

The project, a commission by the Association for Public Art, has intentions in the spirit of pure democracy. Control of the powerful matrix of light is completely given to whomever leaves a voice message on the system.

It’s a highly technical undertaking, that’s had its share of glitches. This is how it works: You record a message no longer than 30 seconds via an iPhone — sorry, no Android — or through The system analyzes the sound of your voice, its frequency, dynamics, and volume. That message goes into a waiting list with hundreds of other 30-second messages.

When your message comes to the top of the queue, those 24 spotlights installed on the roofs of buildings lining the Parkway undulate and form patterns — a cone, a net, a salute — in reaction to the sound of your voice. The beams can cross 600 feet in the air, and be seen for miles.

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