Musicking over the network: an emerging sociocultural practice?

This presentation presents the recent developments in network technologies and musical practices, followed by a performance immersing the space in visual and sonic impressions.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


May 31, 2007 from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)


6:30 pm  doors open, hors d’oeuvre, networking (30 Minutes)
7:00 pm musicking over the network: an emerging sociocultural practice? (20 Minutes)

This presentation provides an overview of recent developments in network technologies and musical practices that allow real-time and time shifted musical interactions between geographically separated users. The presentation includes a set of case studies and examines how such changes have an impact on the way music is being produced and performed.


Juan-Pablo Caceres
Chris Chafe
Greg Niemeyer
Alain Renaud

7:20 pm performance: 7 Points of Balance (40 Minutes)

A musical and visual multi-player networked performance. The performance, which combines electronic and acoustic instruments is complemented by a set of spotlights that respond to the amplitude information of each instrumentalist. One spotlight is located on each player’s side. The lights get brighter as the amplitude goes up. Audiences can locate who makes a sound, and interesting shadow patterns in the room show even the most minute action. The aim of the piece is to achieve 7 points of balance in a time span of 40 minutes.

The performance also uses the Frequencyliator, a tool for networked music improvisation, which broadcasts a basic structure to the performers and splits independent performer’s signal into an attributed frequency bandwidth which randomly or purposely changes over time.

The swissnex space will be immersed by visual and sonic impressions.


Juan-Pablo Caceres – Synthesizer
Chris Chafe – Celleto
Greg Niemeyer – Visuals
Alain Renaud – Laptop
Bruno Ruviaro – Laptop

8:00 pm hors-d’oeuvre and networking

During the networking event, two stands will continuously showcase The Frequencyliator by Alain Renaud and the interactive game The Return Of Balance by Greg Niemeyer. The public will be able to interact with both systems.

The Frequencyliator is a collaborative framework for electronic music improvisation. The server-client based system allows local and remote participants to interact and exchange musical structures in real time over a local network or via the internet. The system also allows the allocation of specific frequency ranges to each participants. This method provides a better identification of performative roles amongst performers and to the audience. The frequency ranges can be interpolated, stolen and randomly attributed which adds new levels of interaction. The Frequencyliator also includes a voting system which allows local and remote performers to select proposed changes to the overall structure of the music being played.

The Return of Balance by Niemeyer, Joe McKay and Nik Hanselman is a game that interfaces distributed virtual control with physical effort. It includes two games; each one requires one player. In the first game, players stand on a square platform. By shifting their body weight from right to left and from back to front, players control a virtual platform that bounces virtual beach balls into four rings. When players sink four balls into the correct rings, they advance to a new level of ball mastery.

In a seemingly unconnected second game, players throw real beach balls of different colors through one of four hoops. It is the sequence and timing of these real balls that determine when the virtual balls in the first game fall. The two games are connected through the player’s actions. The setup of two games invites players to look at the question of how we can be responsible for our actions if we can never know all their consequences.


Juan-Pablo Caceres

Juan-Pablo Caceres is a composer, performer and engineer born in Santiago, Chile. He is currently a PhD student in computer music at CCRMA in Stanford University (USA). His work includes instrumental and electronic pieces, as well as performance of avantgarde rock music, with a albums edited in Europe and America. Juan-Pablo’s interests include Internet music and performance, virtual acoustic spaces, popular experimental music, boundary pushing computer music (in both directions).

Chris Chafe

Chafe is a composer/ cellist / music researcher with an interest in computer music composition and interactive performance. He has been a long-term denizen of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University where he directs the center and teaches computer music courses. His doctorate in music composition was completed at Stanford in 1983 with prior degrees in music from the University of California at San Diego and Antioch College. Two year-long research periods were spent at IRCAM, and the Banff Center for the Arts developing methods for computer sound synthesis based on physical models of musical instrument mechanics. A current project, “SoundWIRE”, explores musical collaboration and network evaluation using high-speed internets for high-quality sound. He has performed his music in Europe, the Americas and Asia, and composed soundtracks for documentary films. Two recent discs of his works are available from Centaur Records. In Spring 2001, a collaboration with artist Greg Niemeyer entitled “Ping” was exhibited at SFMOMA and online via the Walker Art Center, and in Sept. 2004 at Parc de la Villette, Paris. A second collaboration, “Oxygen Flute,” was created for the San Jose Museum of Art. A CD of music from both installations is available, entitled “Extrasensory Perceptions.”

Gregory Niemeyer

Born in Switzerland in 1967, Greg Niemeyer studied Classics and Photography. He started working with new media when he arrived in the Bay Area in 1992 and he received his MFA from Stanford University in New Media in 1996. At the same time, he founded the Stanford University Digital Art Center, which he directed until 2001, when he was appointed at UC Berkeley as Assistant Professor for New Media. At UC Berkeley, he is involved in the development of a major Center for New Media focusing on the critical analysis of the impact of new media on human experiences.

His creative work focuses on the mediation between humans as individuals and humans as a collective through technological means, and emphasizes playful responses to technology. Notable projects were Gravity (Cooper Union, NYC, 1997), PING (SFMOMA, 2001), Oxygen Flute (SJMA, 2002) and Organum (Pacific Film Archive, 2003): All these projects are collaborations, most often with composer Chris Chafe. Current projects include Organum: The Game, Whispering Walls (Zurich, Switzerland) and PING DISCO (Paris, La Villette Numerique 2004).

Joe McKay

Joe McKay is an artist who makes work with and about digital culture. McKay grew up in Ontario, Canada and went to school at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. In 2001 McKay participated of the Whitney Independent Study Program and had a two-person collaborative exhibition with Kristin Lucas titled “The Electric Donut”. In 2004 Joe had his first solo show at VertexList in Williamsburg, New York. Currently Joe is perusing his MFA at UC Berkeley.

Alain B. Renaud

Alain Renaud is originally from Geneva, Switzerland. He completed his BA in Recording Arts at CSU Chico in California in 2001 and moved to London (UK) in the same year where he worked as a consultant for digital strategy consultancy, Rightscom. While working in London he gained an MSc. in Music Information Technology from City University (2002-2004) under the supervision of Simon Emmerson. In 2005 he embarked on a PhD. at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. His research, which is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) focusses on the development of networked music performance systems and the impact such systems have on the various music communities.

Alain has published several papers on the subject and has organised concerts and events to introduce networked music performance to the research community as well as the general public. In addition, Alain has been involved in music production for a number of years and has been working as a producer for the Montreux Jazz Festival since 1999. He is also a keen electronic music composer and a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES).

Bruno Ruviaro

Bruno Ruviaro is a composer and pianist born in São Paulo, Brazil. After finishing his undergraduate at the State University of Campinas (2000), he continued studying electro-acoustic music in 2001 in the Studio Panaroma (Brazil) and at Dartmouth College (USA, 2002-2004), where he got his Master’s degree in electro-accoustic music. He is currently a doctoral candidate in composition at Stanford University, where he has been composing instrumental and electroacoustic music (affiliated to CCRMA – Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics). He has studied with composers Mark Applebaum, Chris Chafe and Brian Ferneyhough. His works have been performed in Brazil, Europe and the United States. Main interests include: electroacoustic music, live-electronics, linguistics, musical theater, improvisation, sound poetry.


Photo: Myleen Hollero