ACMC 2011

The 2011 Annual Conference of the Australasian Computer Music Association. Paper presentation and artist talk at the ACMC11 conference Auckland, New Zealand.


This paper presents the prototype for the installation of a networked public sound sculpture planned for the Newcastle central business district in Australia in mid to late 2012. The project is supported by the Newcastle City Centre Committee who, along with the organisation LiveSites, are seeking to install a range of projects over the coming year and are actively exploring strategies for interactive and innovative projects in the public domain.


The sculpture is designed as an Internet-orientated real-time interactive system for use by the general public. It is a hyperinstrument designed to be used with an analog to MIDI digitiser and five actuator signals with high resolution to transmit messages through USB to a computer where they are made available at a virtual serial port for analysis and/or control purposes. The research focus of the project is on designing a system (using software, sensors, signal processing and sculptural objects) that manages and broadcasts human response as well as exploring the appropriate protocols and innovative content for interactive art in public environments. The Wild Weather installation could be installed in any public space with access to electricity, the Internet and an under cover public area with an approximate ceiling height of 10 meters, a minimum spatial width of 3.6 meters and a total swing span of 4.6 meters.

The Wild Weather public sound installation includes five light weight transparent acrylic resonators, (approx 2200mm high X 110mm in outside diameter, (see Figure 6)) suspended side by side and mechanically controlled to oscillate in response to the file transfer of media (audio & text files) from a remote server to the sculpture’s interface. I am currently working with both the Arduino and Infusion Systems technologies with standalone Arduino programming solutions and the Max/MSP application on a MacBook Pro computer to determine the best solution. The options for this installation include a remote computer streaming media from a server or all media files transferred (using FTP) to local storage, but this is yet to be determined. The advantage of the local storage option is that all media files will continue to be available for playback regardless of Internet connectivity. The human interaction with the sculpture takes place entirely over the Internet where the file transfer triggers the movement and sound of the sculpture. The sculpture is not designed for any form of physical human contact.

I plan to use the FTP application Transmit to transfer and cue media files from the wild weather website to a dedicated server to the sculpture’s hard drive. This can be done very effectively through an open source CMS Drupal website where individual or community based users can register and upload content for screening and subsequent broadcast, respond to specific calls for works and listen to and see the resonators in action through a webcam installed at the site. If the media uploaded is in the audio file format it would typically be in the stereo WAV or AIFF format, 16 bit/44.1Khz. Its duration would not exceed 4 to 5 minutes and so have an average file size of 40 to 50MB (10MB/minute). To manage all of the server operations I plan to customise my own (dv) Dedicated-Virtual Server from the company Media Temple. This service is scalable (depending on usage) and sufficient to manage and control my initial hosting environment. All audio and text files uploaded to the website and subsequently broadcast would be archived and made available to the general public on the wild weather website.

The sculpture’s sound projection will emanate from each of the five resonators, equipped at their base with a small four inch speaker as well as a stereo pair of speakers located at the sculpture’s base. The audio content transferred via the Internet to the sculpture’s computer would playback through the stereo pair. This narrative based audio will be accompanied by sound generated from within the five resonators. For example, the resonators could contain a quantity of liquid inside their closed end acrylic tubes. When set in motion the natural sound picked up (using very sensitive microphones) by the movement of liquid inside the oscillating resonators could then be processed using a range of signal processing techniques (such as time stretching and delay) and amplified back through their speakers. To accomplish this the movement of liquid inside the resonators would have to be extreme (greater than 180 degrees to tip the liquid). I am also experimenting with the possibility of randomly swinging the resonators a full 360 degrees to create a visually organic flower like effect, like a giant flower blowing in the wind in the combined motion of its resonators, something I believe would greatly add to the visual appeal of the sculpture.

The full paper is available on request.