downloaded from tim perkis' web page on april 5 1996 copyright 766w


An Internet sound environment active April 6-13, 1996

by Philip Perkins, Tim Perkis & Bill Thibault

A collaboration between three Bay Area sound & computer artists, the piece creates a spatial sonic environment accessible to users of the internet. Twenty five continuous environmental recordings made by Perkins from a diverse range of environments around the globe are organized into a two dimensional world ranging from wet to dry along one dimension and urban to rural along the other. Listeners at internet-connected computers anywhere can move through this spatialized sound field, using software they download from this site.

After downloading and starting up the client application, users can move through the Netfield world by using the arrow keys on their keyboard; as they pass from one zone to another, the sounds smoothly mix and are spatialized using a custom 3d sound spatialization system.

System Requirements: Windows95 Pentium system, with 8MB RAM; 16bit stereo sound card (SoundBlaster 16 or equivalent); SLIP, PPP, ISDN or other direct internet connection at 28.8kbaud or better.


What is a sound? A mark made upon the air by the operation of some mechanism. What is a sound environment? A space in which a number of these marking signals are distributed and perceived. The mechanisms or processes creating the sounds can live in various relations with each other, and we model a sound environment as containing sound producers having both sonic and non-sonic ways of influencing or sending messages to each other. We've tried to build a system that captures the properties of independence and communication at play in real sound environments.

Sources can be independent, with no communication by sonic or other means. In many sound environments, this is the predominant case: A car goes by. Then another. A plane flies by. Someone speaks. These events are completely independent.

One sound can cause another. By this I mean strictly acoustic effects: a rumbling truck causes the teacups to rattle. A sound is reflected off a wall.

Sources can all be dependent on some (silent) third force. The wind blows through a group of trees. A cheer rises up in the crowd as the ball is kicked.

The non sonic action of one mechanism can elicit an action with a sonic result from another one. Seeing someone walk by my door, I turn to greet them, and my chair squeaks.


Netfield is an application using a custom networked spatialized audio system.In the Netfield world only listeners move, and can't talk; sources can talk but don't move. But the underlying framework is a general audio environment simulation system implementing the sound environment model described above. In this system, autonomous scriptable network entities we call Vibots take positions in a virtual space and are capable of sending and receiving audio and other types of messages with each other.

In Netfield, there are twenty-five vibots, running on an array of SGI and Sun Workstations at Cal State University Hayward, each controlling one sound source. The client processes that users run are also vibots, with the special property of being able to render any audio streams received from other vibots into spatially distributed sound. As they move through the Netfield space, the listeners receive audio streams from nearby source vibots, and mix and render them according to their relative position. One other vibot monitors the entire process, controlling routing of messages and audio between source and listener vibots.

NETFIELD is just one of many events in the San Francisco Bay Area this week associated with SoundCulture96.

Source Recordings...

A1: Empty woods, night (Italian Dolomites)

A2: Farm exterior (Midlands, England)

A3: Museum interior (New York)

A4: Park, sand dunes (Great Lakes)

A5: Desert night (American Southwest)

B1: Frogs/night (Rainier Nat. Park)

B2: Meadow. (New England)

B3: Industrial hum (coal loading, Mississippi River, Minnesota)

B4: Tree of Birds (La Crosse, Wisconsin)

B5: Crickets in a field. (New Hampshire)

C1: Rain in the jungle. (Amazon rainforest)

C2: River, wide perspective (Yuba River, CA.)

C3: Rainy traffic in the city. (Rome)

C4: Rainy neighborhood. (Nene Mau, Hawaii)

C5: Distant Surf. (Point Lobos, CA)

D1: Jungle ambience. (Peru)

D2: Very light rain in a forest. (Mt. Rainier)

D3: Suburban traffic. (Los Angeles, CA)

D4: Empty forest ambience. (near Zurich, Switzerland)

D5: Grasslands, spring time. (Badlands, North Dakota)

E1: Desert canyon ambience. (New Mexico).

E2: Town overlook, distant. (Grenoble, France)

E3: Children on playground. (Toronto, Canada)

E4: Residential neighborhood (San Francisco)

E5: Rural night ambience (near Santa Barbara, CA)