The Ensemble

The Network Ensemble is a tool to sonically uncover and amplify the invisible territory of the networks that sit between our offline and online experiences. The networks that connect us also surround us, becoming a permanent layer in our everyday environment, a man-made natural force with its own nature and accompanying mystique. It is this force to which the Network Ensemble responds, converting the invisible, airborne communications infrastructure into a sonic experience. It positions the user as an explorer, a network clairvoyant, finding patterns, mapping the territory and experiencing an active, hidden world through sound.

The Network Ensemble collects the communications local to it, pulling in the raw packets, the blocks of information that devices send between themselves, and analysing them. It sorts them into six categories relating to the actions of the network (such as Gatekeeping, which collects any communications that have to do with authentication or denial of access) or the actions on the network (such as Data, which is the application layer information sent between devices). These categories correspond to the ports on the outside of the device, into which external peripherals can be plugged.*

Further to this, the device has two ports on the outside, accessible even when closed, through which the raw sounds of the network can be heard. This enables its initial mode, that of a network dowsing machine, whereby the explorer in possession of the machine can hunt for the location in which to hold their network seance.

* It should be noted that the Ensemble deals with the infrastructural layer of the Internet - the communication chatter of the objects that make up the networks we use, their technical 'language' and physical configuration - rather than personal data.


Ensemble Modes

1. Dowsing

Use the divining antenna and headphones to explore the network territory.

2. Seance

Channel the network through the ensemble, let it perform the surrounding infrastructure.

Packet Categories

Communication

7 Packet Types
Organisation and ordering of transmissions. Devices request information and confirm receipt.

Structure

7 Packet Types
The make up of the network. Structural packets announce the capabilities and status of each device.

Gatekeeping

5 Packet Types
Access Control. Devices request access and send login details, they are confirmed or denied.

Broken

6 Packet Types
Lost or corrupted in transmission. Malformed, fragmented, bogus and incomplete packets.

Unknown

0 - ∞ packet types
Non-Standard, unclassifiable packets.

Data

2 packet types
Information sent for consumption and use by devices. May or may not be encrypted.

Peripherals

The sounds of the ensemble are in constant flux: the external peripherals form an autonomous orchestra, a sonification of slices of the local network layer, changing according to their own inherent logic but providing a sonic representation of the wider network topology. Peripherals are various in their shape, scope, and configuration: an antenna, a set of speakers, a MIDI keyboard and a series of solenoids that tap the data mechanically on their surroundings, to name a few.

This orchestra plays the network data live on the physical world in which it is situated, allowing serendipitous and distorted soundscapes to be uncovered.

Peripheral: The Rhythm Section

This collection of solenoids activate the location of the ensemble, clamped to surfaces high and low, they play the sounds of the physical environment with the activity of the network environment, a shuffling, shifting rhythm specific to that space.

Peripheral: Keys

A stuttering ambience, bursting into life as the network picks up pace, rings out around the ensemble. A small controller parses the packets given to it and outputs MIDI information, a keyboard plays the chords.

Peripheral: The Conductor

Interrupted by the network and struggling to keep the different elements in check, the conductor is a Super 8 projector, hacked to advance the film (Mickey Mouse - The Band Concert) only when it receives a packet.

Peripheral: Tuned Percussion

Ringing around the ensemble, two downwards pointing solenoids play the glockenspiel, the harsh striking causing crystal clear notes that sustain but also interrupt each other for a variable network sound.