Opaque technologies

The socio-cultural assimilation of new technologies tends to proceed by initially employing them to facilitate and implement existing concepts and practices in some enhanced or optimised way; only subsequently does its transformational potential become evident, as appropriate new concepts emerge. This is as true in the case of music as in other areas of human activity. As examples we might consider current laudable and sophisticated attempts to make the internet fully transparent as a means for enabling the remote co-performance of conventional scores.

In this project, MTT seeks rather to investigate the musical and sonic properties of technologies themselves – their opacity rather than their transparency. In many cases, this amounts to exploring the materiality of the very technologies that enable what we perceive as the virtual.

Juan Parra Cancino, The artefacts of 'not-here'

The massification of communication technology due to cost reduction has been paired with the commercially driven perpetuation of an illusion: that such technology is friction-free, that it facilitates and even acts as an enhancing prosthesis of the abilities of its user.

As a consequence of the pandemic the world continues to experience, our field of network music performance has gained unprecedented interest from music practitioners of all kinds. Understandably, the emphasis has been on ‘making things happen’. But what things? And how? Although the need to transfer the musical activities conducted in classrooms, rehearsal spaces and concert halls into the telematic realm has generated a number of initiatives and solutions, reflection on the nature of the music being made in these contexts tends to stop with measuring the expectations of technology as a transparent agent and the (speed-of-light, age-of-cabling constrained) reality of the impossibility of achieving that goal.

We aim to focus our reflections beyond that, seeking to articulate and embrace what the displaced, distributed nodes of a network performance generate as unique intentional, and unintentional musical artefacts.

In the “Music, Thought and Technology” research group, we have begun to put these reflections into practice, pairing the experiential knowledge of embracing the unexpected, non-transparent features of the tools used in live electronic music performance with the distributed nature of our group. Using free improvisation as the musical conduit, we work with the extraction of salient features of a distributed performance, such as simultaneous room acoustics and variable latencies. The sonification of these artefacts, differences, glitches and features of network performance will be used to generate a unique voice, the network’s voice, as a musical counterpart to be emphasized rather than suppressed.

Magno Caliman, Machina

While investigating the non-transparency of my technological mediators, an experiment was devised in order to "saturate a device", understood here as the act of looking for new poietic potentialities in something originally designed as a single-purpose, custom-tailored apparatus. Machina is presented as an output of that experiment. An algorithm, at first used to turn Arduino boards into sound-generating objects in a previous live-coding performance, was revisited and re-signified in a new context: the Arduino now functions as a programmable voltage-starving capable DC power supply for two hardware-hacked EBows.


The Music, Thought and Technology research group at the Orpheus Institute has partnerships with:

NowNet Arts

NowNet Arts Inc. is based in New York City and works internationally in producing and presenting contemporary network arts works, technologies, education programs, and publications. Network arts utilizes the Internet and related technologies as an artistic medium for works created for this platform. The field of network arts work has accelerated in recent years with the ability to produce concert-quality multichannel audio and video with low latency (delay) for live collaboration via the internet, together with renowned contemporary artists pioneering work for this medium. NowNet Arts is synthesizing the work into the wider professional sphere through programs such as festivals, conferences, seasonal programming, technology development, education activities, publications, venue development, and social purposes in peace building, bridging the digital divide, and diversity in contemporary arts.

Jacktrip Foundation

To fulfill its mission of driving continued innovation of network arts technologies and widespread adoption, the Foundation will offer a wide array of technology, cultural, educational, and community services, such as:

  • Grants, scholarships, partnerships, programs and industry leadership related to network arts technologies;
  • Educational, cultural and technological programs for artists, scholars, musicians and technologists to advance innovation;
  • Internships, work experiences, and other industry opportunities for artists, scholars, musicians and technologists;
  • Community-building programs, industry gatherings and events for the broad network arts community;
  • Marketing and awareness-building of network arts capabilities worldwide.