Monday, May 18, 2009

Bacterial Orchestra: Public Epidemic No. 1

Bacterial Orchestra's Public Epidemic No. 1 is a delightful little app for the Apple iPhone. It's fun, but the ideas behind it are quite complex. Let me see if I get this right:

You install the app on many, perhaps hundreds or thousands of iPhone that are then placed in close proximity. Each phone, then, picks up ambient sounds from its environment, records it, and plays it back. Of course, as the number of iPhones increases, a complex network of feedback loops is created on a massive scale and principles of self-organization begin to kick in. I imagine they will start synchronizing at some point as in the case of fireflies flashing their taillights. Presumably, the result will delight listeners. Even if it doesn't I am already intrigued by the very idea. The developers call this self-organized musical composition a 'musical organism' since it is formed and evolves dynamically, and can never, in practice, be replicated. Check out this video. Right now this is an application used purely for entertainment, but I can imagine the ideas being extended later to more functional purposes.

Bacterial Orchestra intends to test the app in Uppsala, Sweden on June 6, 2009,
using hundreds of iPhones in unison to to create the largest self organized system of intelligent neural music ever. The goal of the event is to "make a world-wide sound pandemic."
Me, I'm hoping they will post videos of the event to YouTube.

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