[ISEA2011] Paper: Roger Haigh Mills – Ethernet Orchestra: Interdisciplinary Cross-Cultural Engagement in Networked Improvisatory Performance


The study of interdisciplinary cross-cultural engagement in networked improvisatory performance serves as the starting point for Ethernet Orchestra’s [1] 2010 live international audio-visual performance, Distant Presences [2]. Combining the disciplines of free improvisation and Internet art, the performance spanned four continents and time zones, networking musicians at the University of Technology, Sydney, Kunstmühle gallery, Germany [3], and Londrina, Brazil, with visual “net” artists in Sydney, London and Munich. Employing various audio-visual network technologies, the performance was broadcast by FBi Radio, Sydney [4], and streamed on the Internet as “Radio You Can Watch”, allowing listeners to view the accompanying live visual mixing to the radio broadcast. The performance could also be experienced online by opening both the visual platform (VisitorsStudio) [5], and the stations Internet stream in separate browser windows. The ensembles eclectic combination of instruments included Turkish oud and bendir, Mongolian horse fiddle and throat singing, trumpet, guitar and laptop Max/MSP processing. Similarly, manipulated images were a combination of animations, movies and still images of abstract film noir

collage reflecting on the multifarious nature of location in the “construction and representation of identity” [6]. Improvisation is often considered one of many disciplines within the practice and research of networked performance. However, as a vehicle for cross-cultural collaboration it is unprecedented in its ability to create dialogical exchange and learning across cultures. The interdisciplinary nature of this practice also requires a convergence of theoretical and methodological approaches traversing the associated fields of, musicology, ethnomusicology, cognition and HCI (human-computer interaction). This paper outlines the technical facilitation of the performance and the creative strategies employed by the musicians and visual artists to collaborate together as a dispersed collective. Illustrating incidences of intercultural musical transferences and visual coincidences, it focuses on distributed perception and how, as Chion (1994) suggests, “listening with the ear is inseparable from that of listening with the mind, just as looking is with seeing” [7]. As a multimodal performance Distant Presences also highlights the use of metaphor [8] as a signifier for perception across the audio-visual spectrum, creating shared “codes of recognition” across cultures [9]. Video: Ethernet Orchestra “Distant Presences” Networked Improvisation


  1. Mills, R (2010) Ethernet Orchestra networked improvisation research and performance. ethernetorchestra.netpraxis.net
  2. (2010) “Distant Presences” networked improvisatory audio-visual performance. eartrumpet.org/research.html#distantpresences
  3. (2010) Kunstmühle Gallery of performing and visual arts. [Online]. blackhole-factory.de
  4. (2010) fbi radio. fbiradio.com
  5. (2010) VisitorsStudio multi-user A/V file mixing platform. visitorsstudio.org/x.html
  6. Sansom, M. (2007) “Improvisation and Identity: A Qualitative Study.” Critical Studies in Improvisation, Vol 3, No 1.
  7. Chion, M (1994) Audio Vision: Sound on Screen, Columbia University Press, p. 33.
  8. Lakoff, G and M. Johnson (1980) Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
  9. Cumming, N. (2000) The sonic self : musical subjectivity and signification. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, p. 18.
  • Roger Haigh Mills is an international musician, sound artist and writer whose practice and research focuses on networked improvisation, sound installation and experimental radio. Credits include a Golden Eye award for contrapuntal radio performance Idea of South (Sydney), score for BAFTA award winning dance performance At Swim Two Boys (Earthfall, UK) and album production and performances with award winning Turkish singer Mircan Kaya. He is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney researching intercultural cognition and engagement in tele-musical improvisation, where he also lectures in sound and music design. Paper presentation Ethernet Orchestra: Interdisciplinary Cross-Cultural Interaction in Networked Improvisatory Performance focuses on perception and cogntion in telematic cross-culural audiovisual improvisation. Ethernet Orchestra is a cross-cultural  telematic musical ensemble who improvise live electroacoustic music on the Internet and at collocated gallery, events. Collaborations involve a diverse group of international instrumentalists who performe an array of instruments including Turkish oud, bendir, Mongolian horse fiddle and throat singing, guitar, processed trumpet, MAX/Msp electronic manipulations and voice. As a research project, it is an investigation of intercultural networked improvisation, examining cognition, cross-cultural collaboration and learning in networked audio platforms. The ensemble also perform with networked live cinema artists, and the recent Distant Presences performances are the focus of my paper presentation. Through the praxis of diverse cultures in collaboration, it is hoped that new approaches to tele-musical improvisation will be given the space and time to develop in a framework of innovation and experimentation. http://www.eartrumpet.org/

Full text (PDF)  p. 1726-1731