Help Us Stay Alive

farmers manual: Help Us Stay Alive
fcmm, Montreal, Canada, October 17, 1999

"In October 1999, Farmers Manual was invited to Montreal to perform at Nouveau Cinema/ Nouveaux Medias, one of the city's many cutting-edge audio/visual festivals. 'Help Us Stay Alive', the title of FM's performance at the Media Lounge, would be a groundbreaking event on a number of different levels. This event, spanning an entire twelve hours, would be the first time that audience members, both at the performance and on the Internet, would collaborate with a band to manipulate both sounds and visuals. It required the members to design and to create a very intricate network using a surprisingly large number of Macintosh computers."

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interview excerpts:

Is it the interaction that the audience can have with the music?

It is really the first time that we can do this (on a) big scale. It is the first time that we have a very serious Internet connection on stage and we have a lot of time to set up and perform. So we were quite happy to do this web page and ask people to contribute. And if everything works fine, you will be able to make music through the use of a Java applet from some remote spot. The interaction with this applet will be turned into music on stage, so we can actually have people make music for us.

I noticed that there were many visual donations, but few audio donations.

No, not too much sound. But we will receive live music streams broadcast from France, Germany and Japan.

Could you explain to me, on a simplified level, how somebody on the Internet can interact with the performance?

At the moment, to really do this in a serious, high-end, professional manner is not possible because the bandwidth on the Internet is not big enough to receive instant feedback. It is still hard for the user. He interacts with a small rectangle with a collection of dots that are bound to each other. He can drag these small creatures around and he can change the physical... it's a physical simulation. You have gravitations and forces and you can define how strongly these forces define the rectangle that you're working with. Basically what happens is the coordinates of the single dots of this creature get sent back to the server that is here with us on stage. This data will be collected by a musical application. This will turn it into sound. The sound will be streamed, encoded and sent back to the user. The whole process, clicking and dragging the dots and hearing what this particular drag actually caused, depending on your network connection, can take ten to fifteen seconds. So it's not very easy to handle at the moment, unfortunately.

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