The Fragmented Orchestra installation is now operational at FACT (above), opening for its 3-month tenure last Thursday. To accompany this, I have developed an interactive web interface to the live audio streams, with the intention of allowing the audience to treat the piece as an instrument in itself. By manipulating and navigating between the on-screen nodes, each of which corresponds to one of the 24 geographical sites, a user can create their own novel compositions using neuro-fragmented live sounds from around the UK.
This is my first major foray into ActionScript 3, and will undoubtedly be followed by many more -- it's a great language, and took me by surprise after some unpleasant formative experiences with Flash/AS many moons ago. It's also an ideal way to present interactive material to a wide audience, without the unpredictability and bloat of Java applets using Processing or whatnot.
I'm also in the process of writing a short paper on the methodologies and concepts behind the web design/interactivity, to appear imminently on the FO Architecture archive.
(Photography: Julia Hodgson)
Wow. We've now reached the final furlongs before The Fragmented Orchestra opens to the world and begins transmitting 24/7 across its network of nodes across the United Kingdom. In the past week, installations have been completed from SARC in Belfast to Gloucester Cathedral, Machynlleth's stunning CAT complex and the Everton stadium at Goodison Park. The setup at FACT has been underway in earnest (see below), with the space transformed into an immersive cocoon of chocolate brown. We're also achingly close to unrolling the web interface that will enable viewers worldwide to mix their own pieces using fragmented live sound from the 24 geographical locations...
The opening is on Thursday night, part of the D1NG << D0NG exhibition, running from now until late February 2009 — and, with luck, the website will launch simultaneously. In the meantime, some photographic documentation of this gargantuan voyage will suffice.
Fortify your gardens: BBC News reports (based upon this paper) that a novel ultra-invasive ant species, Lasius neglectus, is soon to strike the cold temperate climes of Northern Europe. This new strain is creating supercolonies that are orders of magnitude greater than existing colonies, based on the seemingly counter-evolutionary development of a flightless queen, alongside workers that are willing to mate within their colony rather than first taking flight to pastures new. Moreover, it's a relatively unaggressive form, constituted by "a social system that is characterized by mating without dispersal and large networks of cooperating nests rather than smaller mutually hostile colonies".
As a consequence, it's exhibiting self-organization on a staggering (and somewhat frightening) scale, resulting in single vast populations that inexorably expand outwards. Courtesy of human transport to locations that lack natural parasites (cite, PDF), Lasius neglectus has begun to blanket central Europe over the course of just 25 years.
The authors conclude that:
"Our results show that invasive L. neglectus populations are a potential problem of global dimensions, and a particular threat for man-made ecosystems in the cold-temperate climate zones that have so far suffered very little from invasive ants."
I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.