Ambiguous Devices is a distributed musical instrument. Its construction stems directly from our improvisational and instrument development practice. As such we are interested in how a distributed instrument can extend and affect this performance practice. Ambiguous Devices is not a completed project. What is presented here is the current stage of development that is the culmination of three extended visits between SARC (Queen’s University Belfast) and Bournemouth University and several months of remote sessions between CCRMA (Stanford University) and Bournemouth University. As part of the developmental process, Ambiguous Devices has been presented in several public contexts, notably: a concert between Stanford and Bournemouth University (2012); an installation and concert at NIME 2012; a performance at INTIME 2013, Coventry; and RENEW 2013 in Copenhagen.
The physical construction of Ambiguous Devices can be described as a networked data and acoustic interaction between Paul Stapleton’s existing performance instrument (Bonsai Sound Sculpture) and a number of other instrumental elements constructed by Tom Davis. Although Ambiguous Devices is constructed from a number of modular components often spanning two sites, we argue that it is best conceptualised as one distributed acoustic instrument. Although each node is an amalgamation of digital and acoustic surfaces – the primary method of sound generation is through the excitement of acoustic bodies.
Installation between the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast and Bournemouth University
On this occasion, individuals at each site were invited to interact with the installation.
They were unaware that they were interacting with other people at a different site.
Activity in one space is represented in a non-literal way on the instrument in the other space.
In this way physical presence is communicated across the network between each space.
A collaboration between Paul Stapleton and Tom Davis
This project explores ideas of distributed collaboration and remote presence through mediated interaction with ambiguous devices. These devices are distributed between two remote but networked spaces. Activity in your space is represented in a non-literal way on the instrument in the other space. In this way your presence is conveyed by the instrument into the other space. Designed as a meta-instrument spanning both spaces the instrument is used to examine the formation of collaborative practice at a distance through limiting the amount of information available to any one participant.
Example of an ambiguous interaction as developed at the second Ambiguous Devices workshop at Bournemouth University 22nd -26th August 2011: