The Beatbug Network -A Rhythmic System for Interdependent Group Collaboration

Weinberg, Gil and Aimi, Roberto and Jennings, Kevin

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

The Beatbugs are hand-held percussive instruments that allow the creation, manipulation, and sharing of rhythmic motifs through a simple interface. When multiple Beatbugs are connected in a network, players can form large-scale collaborative compositions by interdependently sharing and developing each other’s motifs. Each Beatbug player can enter a motif that is then sent through a stochastic computerized "Nerve Center" to other players in the network. Receiving players can decide whether to develop the motif further (by continuously manipulating pitch, timbre, and rhythmic elements using two bend sensor antennae) or to keep it in their personal instrument (by entering and sending their own new motifs to the group.) The tension between the system’s stochastic routing scheme and the players’ improvised real-time decisions leads to an interdependent, dynamic, and constantly evolving musical experience. A musical composition entitled "Nerve" was written for the system by author Gil Weinberg. It was premiered on February 2002 as part of Tod Machover’s Toy Symphony [1] in a concert with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, conducted by Kent Nagano. The paper concludes with a short evaluative discussion of the concert and the weeklong workshops that led to it.