Soundnet is a new live performance musical instrument of monumental proportions created by Sensorband (Zbigniew Karkowski, Edwin van der Heide, Atau Tanaka). It is a giant web 11meters x 11 meters, created with 16mm thick shipping rope. At the end of the ropes are eleven sensors that detect stretching and movement. We perform the instrument by climbing on it, all three of us at once.
Soundnet is inspired by The Web, a 1 meter diameter spider's web created by the composer Michel Waisvisz, at STEIM, Amterdam. Our goal was to make a life sized version of this idea. The sensors were designed for us by Bert Bongers, electronic musical instrument builder, and fabricated by Theo Borsboom, a Harley-Davidson mechanic. Each sensor is a cylinder and piston that can sustain 500kg of force. Inside is a large spring, somelike in the shock absorber of a motorcycle. Inside the spring is a fader from a Soundcraft mixing board. As we climb the ropes, the sensors stretch and move in response to our movements. This displaces the fader inside, which sends a control signal to our interface box, the I-Cube System, created in Canada. The interface box outputs a MIDI signal to a Macintosh which is running special performance software created with the Max music programming environment.
We are creating music with interactive technology, but the technology part is tiny compared to the physical part. The rope, the metal, and the humans climbing it take on an incredible physicality, and focus more on the organic nature and the human element of interaction rather than on mouseclicks and screen redraws. This puts the emphasis in man-machine interaction back towards the human side. As a result, the sounds the Soundnet makes as an instrument are organic as well. We work with digital recordings of natural sounds. The signals from the Soundnet control DSP (digital signal processes) - filters, convolution, waveshaping to sculpt the sound. Again, natural elements are put in direct confrontation with technology. The physical nature of our movement meeting the virtual nature of the signal processing creates a dynamic situation where we deal directly with sound as our material. Through gesture and pure exertion, we sculpt the sound to create sonorities emanating from the huge net.