r _Web.log

Archives: 2008-11


Starlings over Brighton's West Pier

Work is coming to a climax on the Fragmented Orchestra, with more sound transmission sites being installed around the UK on a daily basis. There are 24 sites in total, spread as far afield as Inverness, Belfast and Cornwall, so it's no small feat to co-ordinate and maintain; it's also vital that each site provides a reliable 24/7 audio stream to the central neuro-granulation server at the FACT gallery for the duration of the installation, a requirement which has thrown up a number of unexpected obstacles. One illuminating example is the site at the Kielder Observatory, Cumbria, which is not connected to the Internet and so is hooked up via an RF transceiver to the nearby village, at which point the radio transmission is encoded in real-time and streamed via the net to the neural server. This then relays the mixed-down stream to the web for (eventually) web clients to listen in to. Heavens.

Still, the infrastructure is now mostly in place. I accompanied Nick on Thursday's installation at Brighton's West Pier, which remains an icon of the city despite being rendered a skeletal hulk by a fire in early 2003. The soundbox itself is installed in the beach hut at the end of the pier, picking up an evocative mix of seagulls, waves and passers-by - and relaying the neuro-granulated stream through the resonant surface of its window.

As we were finishing laying the cables for the site, we were fortunate enough to witness what is apparently another iconic Brighton sight: the nesting of a staggeringly vast flock of starlings, who gather together each dusk to swoop around the pier before landing on it to rest. Never before have I seen flocking on such a remarkable scale.

Beach hut, Brighton West PierThrough the windowBroken glassFacing westwardsFlocking starlingsFlock divides in twoWest PierFlocking starlings #2