soundmap.jpgOver the last 18 months the Locus Sonus Lab has been focusing on a process which revolves around a network of live audio streams. The audio source for each stream is simply an open microphone which continually uploads to a server – and from there available from anywhere via the WWW – chosen (or given) soundscapes or sound environments, as playable material.

Our intention being to provide a permanent (and somewhat emblematic) resource to tap into as raw material for our artistic experimentation. We have now established a worldwide community of streamers each person being responsible for the installation and maintenance of his mike. Several different art forms have developed from this project:

* Locustream Map: a dynamic world map which allows access to the streams online. At one point it seemed necessary to provide the streamers (as we have come to call the musicians and artists who’ve responded to our call) with the possibility to access the streams themselves, not only to hear their own stream but also those provided by other people. Our website now offers an animated map which shows the location of all the streams and indicates those which are currently active with a blinking light. By clicking on a chosen location one can directly listen to the OGG Vorbis stream in a browser.

* Locustream Tuner: an installation where visitors are invited to traverse the different audio streams by sliding a ball along a 150-ft wire : the position of the ball can be altered by the public acting like a tuner, an audio promenade where users slide their way through a series of remote audio locations. Multiple loudspeakers enable us to spatialise the sound of the streams creating so that each different audio stream selected on the wire emanates from a new position in the local space. In order to make the installation function efficiently we were obliged to incorporate a system allowing us to interrogate our server and update the list of current streams (people go away or use their streaming computer for a concert or a machine crashes…) we use the list to provide visual feedback by projecting names of the places the streams are coming from).

* various performances and concerts (suitable interpretations of the remote streams in local environments) . After setting a first permanent stream (outside Cap15 a artists studio complex in Marseille) we started by using the streams in a performance / improvisation type mode using the, now standard, laptop and MIDI controller with homemade patches to reinterprate the streams in real time – even if nothing in particular would be happening on the stream at a given time when we were intending to work with it.

Other developments are including:

* an activity developed by one member of the group (Nicolas Bralet) which he calls mémoires de stream . It consists of listening to the streams on a regular basis from wherever he happens to be at the time and producing a short composition using a mixture of sounds gleaned from the stream and those of the local environment, simultaneously a idealised projection of the remote site and a reflection on the schizophonic aspects of the whole project.

* at the same time another member of the group (Esther Salmona) conducted a similar activity but in this time in a literary mode, listening to and describing the streams as she switches from location to location, a sort of laptop tardis with which she could make instantaneous hops (without stumbling around every time she lands).

* a real practice of sound remote recordings (as field recordings, phonographies, soundwalks) from our system of open-mikes network as a basis or structure to elaborate sound fictions close to radiophonic works and live performances with laptops (to play live with the streams as material for improvisations and for specific sound spatialisations – Max/MSP, Pd -). Fictions are coming from the variable perceptions within comprovisation and composition and from the embodiment and reconstruction of ghosts soundscapes and (no-)events, in the follow-up of electroacoustic music and in combining concert, live performance, podcasting, streaming and networks (Jérôme Joy) – Sound spatialisation developments are conducted with the help of GMEM Marseille.

* the development of a sensor instrument (wifi parabolic mike with midi controlers) which permits in the same time to play with local sound recordings with specific treatments (LiSa, Pd) and to interact with the reception of the streams (ex. with the Locustream Tuner). From this point, we begin some explorations towards mobility and wireless systems (Lydwine Van Der Hulst, Peter Sinclair, with the help of STEIM Amsterdam).

* LS in SL: most recently we created an interface allowing access to the streams in Second Life (developed in partnership with SAIC Chicago) (Brett Ian Balogh, Robb Drinkwater, Peter Sinclair, Jérôme Joy). Locus Sonus, has set up an extension to its physical world lab in second life, with an aim to experiment with permutations between the physical and the virtual world using audio as the main vector. We are currently developing physical modeling techniques as a way of making virtual spaces acoustically resonant and using streaming techniques to port audio from the virtual to the physical world and visa versa. Although a virtual world can respond to the physical world by simple imitation it is also possible to construct from abstract or impossible conditions. One of the things which we wish to verify is the way that physically impossible resonant spaces will influence and mix with the local acoustic space leading to a paradoxical hybridization possibly placing the user in both places simultaneously since the synthetic acoustic space will exist as sound waves in three dimensions within the installation.

Audio capabilities in Second Life are relatively limited, beyond spatialization and file playback there is little else, certainly no possibility for sound synthesis or serious audio manipulation. We are currently working in collaboration with SAIC (School of Arts Institute Chicago) to develop an audio server using Super Collider which, when given the dimensions and other descriptive details (surfaces etc) of a given virtual space, will generate, the corresponding resonance using physical modeling techniques. The resulting audio signal will then be “streamed” into Second Life.

* New developments are concerning the exploration of sympathy, resonances and sonification between different places (Nicolas Maigret, Sabrina Issa) and the approaches of the back and forwards between virtual and physical spaces (Extranautes with the collaboration with LAMES/CNRS).

* Around the concepts of listening systems, we’re previewing during next months to set up a stream installation over a longer time period (1 year) at Musée de Gap (France), Locustream Promenade. The plan is to hang parabolic loudspeakers at different locations in and around the museum, each with a different stream so that visitors will experience the sound environment from the microphones either by stumbling on them as they visit the museum or by deliberately returning at different seasons, times of day, etc.

* Other developments will be able to be approached with the different projects led by the streamers. Some streamers have been using the streams for art works of their own, we’re very open to these initiatives and would like to hear about any which you might be involved in.

Unadulterated physical world sound pierces the virtual world creating an almost John Cageian perception where the act of listening is modified by the cumulated real and virtual distance. Increasingly interested by these notions of space and distance we now wish to pursue this research by increasing the porosity between the physical and virtual world.

Dec 10, 2007
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Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.


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