Sound and Music of Bollywood

Posted: October 4, 2011 by ishqland in Uncategorized

Sound and Music of Bollywood


Mohammad Asheq Maleque, 10924355

Like everywhere in world cinema, sound in Indian cinema, has always played a great role. Though everything associated with sound in Indian cinema, almost always has been equated with music and song but music and song form an integral part of Indian cinema, there is no reason to ignore the contribution of silence along with speech, voice­over, interior monologue, noise.

History of sound in Bollywood Cinema:

In the year 1913, the silent film Raja Harishchandra , was the first-ever Indian feature film. It was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke. The early 1920s Bollywood saw the rise of several new production companies. Most films made during this era were obviously silent. And most films during this era were either mythological or historical in nature. This era was dominated by filmed versions of episodes from Hindu Religious classics such as The Ramayana and The mahabharata. During the late 1920s, the number of productions companies began to skyrocket, as did the number of films being produced each year—from 108 in 1927, to 328 in 1931[i]

  ALAM ARA , first Idian Talkies

 Ardeshir M Irani, Bollywood cinema’s first Sound Mogul, who started out in his family’s musical instruments business, launched his production company the Imperial Film Company In 1926 and built a studio for it. By 1931 this company won the sound race among Bombay producers and Bollywood saw the release of Alam Ara, the first talkie, and the film that paved the way for the future of Indian cinema. Though Alam Ara has never been described as an artistic triumph but its impact was astonishing. Tickets disappeared into the black market and police was called for control the crowds. That same year, 22 other Hindi films appeared, and all seem to have made money. Also, in 1931, three films in Bengali, one in Tamil, one in Telugu, appeared in their respective language areas. 1932 saw eight films in Marathi, two in Gujarati. In 1933, 75 Hindi features. [ii]

Alam Ara included about a dozen songs. Another early Hindi film, Indrasabha, had about around 59 songs. Shirin Farhad had 42 songs. An early Tamil film had over 60 songs. All the sound films produced in India in these early years had a profusion of songs. Most also had dances. Advertisements described some of these films as “all talking, all singing, all dancing” features. The Indian sound film, unlike the sound film of any other land, had from its first moment, seized exclusively on music-­drama forms.

The First Sound in Bollywood Cinemas: 

In India, the earliest demonstration of what was known as ‘Phonofilm’ a process invented by Dr.Lee DeForest, in which sound was synchronised with the picture. The Royal Opera House in Mumbai brought the first Phonofilm in India, in May 1927.

The earliest attempts at synchronised sound film production in India were made by Madan Theatres. Early in 1929, Madan Theatres exhibited the first talking picture in India, Universal’s Melody of Love at the Elphinstone Picture Palace in Kolkata. This was the first theatre in the East to be equipped with permanent sound apparatus. This film was also shown at the Excelsior Theatre in Mumbai. By the end of 1930, more than 30 out of a total of 370 theatres in the country were technically ready for sound projections of film.

Within three weeks of Alani Ara, Madan Theatres released its first Bengali takie, Jamai Shashthi. This was followed with the release of Shinn Farhad in Hindi, also from the Madan’s production house. This film beat Alam Ara’s record at the box office. Three reasons given for its thumping success are : (a) the dialogue by Aga Hashar Kashmiri, (b) the songs sung by Kajan and Nissar and (c) the crystal clear recording done on the RCA Photophone. The recording for this film was done on Double System Sound by foreign technicians. Madan Theatres turned out eight sound films in 1931 and 16 in 1932.

The Sound Technique in Bollywood:

The introduction of sound changed the entire style of production and projection of motion pictures. It also led to the growth and adaptation of new equipment, and the creation of a hitherto unknown creative and technical vocation ­ sound engineering. The first response to sound in cinema was to clarity of speech and song.

Technically speaking, during the earliest days of sound in Indian cinema, the Audio Carnex was the most popular among the sound recording machines used for filming sound. Around 1935, about 25 such machines were in use. Second in priority ranking was the Fildelytone, with 20 machines in operation. B.A.F. was in use in four studios. Other recording machines in use were ­ Rico, Vinten, Visa tone, R.C.A., Balsley and Phillips, Blue Seal, Adair Jenkins and Fearless. [iii]

Sound technology in the country has shifted from optical to magnetic quite some time ago. Today, optical IS used only in the final stage of film­making. Magnetic technology offers greater range in sound than the mono­ optical system. New technology has made the hierarchy of sounds more complex, more exciting. Innovative sound designers have done a lot of experimenting with sound such as processing sound effects, sampling sound effects, taking real ­life sound and arranging them in a certain way.

Legends of Sound in Bollywood:

The film director of Alam Ara, Adershir Irani, himself chose the lyrics and the tunes. For recording the songs, just a harmonium and a tabla were used out of the camera range and the singer sang into a hidden microphone started the history of using sound in Bollywood cinemas. With the advent of the Talkie Film, the Hindi film song gave birth to a whole new song writing and music composing industry. Each of the major film studios had their own Music Directors. Who have broken several records at the box office with their stupendously successful films has worked out a strange blend of music and song to organise the entire sound design of their films.

Rai Chand  joined the Indian Broadcusting Company in 1927.  In 1935 he introduced playback singing for the first time in the Hindi feature film Dhoop Chhaon. He is complemented by Anil Biswas as the father of Indian Cinema Music. He had directed music of 150 films including hindi and bangali films. He received the most prestigious award Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1978 for his contribution in indian cinema and music. [iv]

Anil Biswas was a famous Indian film music composer  from 1935 to 1965, who apart from being one of the pioneers of playback singing, is also credited for the first Indian orchestra of twelve pieces and introducing  orchestral music and full-blooded choral effects, into Indian Cinema.  A master in western symphonic music was known for the Indian Classical or folk elements, especially baul and Bhatiyali in his music. He worked as a Music composer over 90 films.[v]

Saraswati Devi, perhaps India’s first woman composer, composed the songs of the films made by Bombay Talkies. Her real name was Khurshid Minocher-Homji and she was trained by the well-known musician Pandit Vishnunarayan Bhatkande. She then studied at Lord Morris College in Lucknow with music as her subject.[vi (A)]

Vasant Desai was the composer who was a man of great musical insight. His break as music a director in Shakuntala (1943) was a major hit and ran for 104 weeks at a single theatre. Desai used pure classical, folk and theatrical music perfectly for films. Vasant Desai believed in quality and not quantity. Therefore, he composed music for only 46 films in his career spanning four decades. [vi (B)]

S. D. Burman, The greatest all-rounder in Indian film music, S. D. Burman could be equally classy and jazzy. His grip on Indian folklore, his sound classical base, his capacity to absorb from the scene around him made him in high demand right till the end of his life. [vi (C)].

R. D. Burman ushered in the era of electronic rock, providing Hindi film music with a whole new happening sound. His hip and energetic youthful compositions proved extremely popular from the late 1960s till the mid-80s. His last score to stand out was perhaps 1942-A Love Story (1994), released after his untimely death due to heart attack. [vi (D)].

A. R. Rahman with OSCAR 2009

A. R. Rahman is the most talented and greatest indian film composer and musician. He described by Time Magazine as “Mozart of Madras”. His works are notable for masterly integreting Indian folk classical music with electronic music sounds and traditional orchestral arrangements. He is working not only Indian cinema but also in international cinema and theaters. Rahman has claimed sale of more than 300 millions of his film scores and sound tracks as of 2009. He has won two Academy awards, two Grammy awards, a BAFTA award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fourteen film fare Awards in addition to numerous other awards and nominations.[viii]

Bollywood produces more than 1000 films every year and has a worldwide audience of 3 Billion. In terms of viewership, Bollywood overtook Hollywood in 2004 and has been leading ever since. Not only the number of films and audience the Sound and Music of Indian cinema also makes established a distinguish platform in world cinema. This journey was started from first talkies Alam-Ara, gets its high with Slamdog Millionaire’s “Joy Ho” of A.R. Rahman and still continuing.  



[i]       Sub-Continental Cinema History, Vishayajit K. K. & Chochroborty S.R, 2003, Devi Publishers, p-28

[ii]      Half a Century in Exhibition Line 1931-1981, Arup, T. K. Indian Talkie, Special Edition, 1981, 1­56, p.

[iii]     So Many Cinema ­ The Motion Picture in India, Garga B.D. Eminence Designs Private Ltd.,Mumbai, 1996.pp.69­ 



[vi]       ten-composers.htm



Glossolalia and the Sound Poem

Posted: October 4, 2011 by Maree Cunnington in 2011


Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916. Wearing a cardboard costume of blue, scarlet and gold, Hugo Ball is carried to the stage in darkness. As the lights go up, the audience of Swiss bourgeoisie, artists, intellectuals, and refugees from the carnage of WWI, is silent. Ball begins a priestly incantation: ‘gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini…’. The place to be, Spiegelgasse 1: simultaneous sound poems, noise music, ‘primitivist’ chants and drums, masked dancers, the absurd, the irrational, improvisation, chance, confrontation and cacophony. The lights dim. The audience responds with bewilderment and rage, and Ball disappears into the darkness. ‘It is necessary for poetry to discard language’, he writes,  ‘as painting has discarded the object’ (Scobie 1974, p. 217).

Hugo Ball in the Cabaret Voltaire Zurich 1916

In this report, I will explore the phenomenon of the sound poem through the themes of primitivism and glossolalia. Expressions of primitivism marked several avant garde movements of the early twentieth century, extending into mainstream culture in the 1920s. In that decade, a glorious fusion of jazz, dance, sexuality and artistic experimentation across all disciplines – music, theatre, visual arts, design and literature – came into being. When the first jazz bands arrived in France with the American army in 1918, they found, according to Klein and Jones (1985, p.176), ‘a terrain that had been heavily worked…Negro rhythms from the other side of the Atlantic had made, since the beginning of the century, a remarkable number of appearances’. For white avant-garde artists from countries with colonies in Africa, India, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific, so called ‘primitive’ cultures were seen to be closer to nature, with all the resources of magic at their disposal (Prevots 1985, p.6).  Both seductive and shocking, the avant garde’s embrace of primitivism was used to attack the deadening strictures of western civilisation.

While possibly the most theatrical, the Zurich Dadaists were not the first to experiment with the sound poem. Christian Morgenstern had, in 1905, created ‘Fisches Nachtgesang, based on glottal and labial distortions approximating the gulping and slurping sounds of fish’ (Noland 2005, p.10). There were Futurist precursors also: Marinetti’s concept of ‘Words in Freedom’, optophonic poems in which language was released from syntax, grammar, punctuation, or meaning, was influential. Russian Zaum, ‘the alphabet of the stars’ (Gordon 1992, p. 215) also explored similar territory, but without the proto-Fascist ravings of Marinetti and his accomplices.

Hugo Ball’s Gadji Beri Bimba appears to be not only a parody of the Latin Roman Catholic liturgy and an attempt at a primitive chant, but also a response to his experience as a German soldier in the front lines of battle in 1914. He wrote afterwards that ‘language was deeply discredited due to its use as propaganda that “justified” war. The journalistic and political abuses of language meant that “The word has been abandoned; it used to dwell among us. The word has become commodity … [and] has lost all dignity.” (Demos 2003, p.149). It is more than likely that Ball knew of the Russian Zaum poets, who, when the world was poised on the precipice of cataclysm, wrote of the power of pure sound beyond the intellect (Scobie 1974, p.220). The invention of Cubo-Futurist Alexei Kruchenykh, Zaum incorporated ‘the private languages of schizophrenics, folk incantations, baby talk, glossolalia, random onomatopoetic verse, and Futurist neologisms’ (Gordon 1992, pp.211-212).

F.T. Marinetti 'Words in Freedom' 1912

Rejecting Marinetti’s ‘Words in Freedom’ as ‘naturalistic’, and elevating his own experiments to the level of magic, Ball surrendered to ‘the innermost alchemy of the word’ (Scobie 1974, p.217). Like Zaum, whose Utopian views he shared, he sought to create a language that was beyond nationalism: Ball’s poem Karawane – ‘jolifanto bambla o falli bambla grossiga m’pfa habla horem… ’ speaks in multiple languages simultaneously: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin and German (Demos 2003, p. 153). However, while Karawane is an expression of hybrid speech, it is still tied to the semantic register of words and meaning. Berlin Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, the inventor of montage, distanced his work from primitivism through poems such as OFFEAHBDC of 1918, which were based on phonemes alone, letters representing speech sounds. Hausmann did not attempt to refer to anything in the world, as Marinetti had done with Zang Tuum Tumb, visually and aurally recreating the sounds of battle in the first Balkan War, for which he had been a correspondent. Hausmann’s was simply ‘a poem to be declaimed, letter by letter’ (Doherty 1997, p. 125).

In the 1920s, Kurt Schwitters, founder of MERZ (a parallel movement to Dadaism), brought the sound poem to a new level of complexity and sophistication. Like Hausmann, Schwitters concentrated on the letterform rather than the word and its semantic dimension. His performances involved a dizzying rhythmic and aural display of consonants, vowels and meaningless combinations beyond language. Schwitters’ most well known work, Die Ursonate (Sonata in Primordial Sounds) was created in 1922 in response to Hausmann’s poster poem FSMBW. Refined over ten years, Die Ursonate was eventually recorded on a 78rpm disc and performed for radio in 1932 (Holubizky 1990, p.252).

To this day, many artists and musicians (including Jaap Blonk) attempt the challenges of ‘Rinnzekete bee bee nnz krr müü? ziiuu ennze, ziiuu rinnzkrrmüü’. Schwitters approached his sound poems in a similar way to his collage works, as readymade fragments of the world, stripped of their context, beyond language. He is best known as the creator of the MERZ-bau within his house in Hanover, Germany. The MERZ-bau, a three dimensional construction spreading over several rooms, contained detritus collected from the street, snatches of conversations from trams and trains, songs, glasses, letters, and locks of hair (Biro 1999, pp. 51, 58). This was not a lifeless museum display dedicated to saving the past, but a process of allegorical accumulation that would re-write the past, making it anew, severing it from its context. Over the course of fifteen years, Schwitters worked on the MERZ-bau until forced to flee Germany in 1937. As a ‘degenerate artist’, he had become a Nazi target.

Kurt Schwitters' MERZ-bau 1930

The MERZ-bau, however, was just the first stage of his grand architectonic conception, the MERZ-bühne, or MERZ-stage, designed to galvanise the spectator on all levels.  Not fully realised within his lifetime, Schwitters’ ideas for performance have been influential within postmodernism. He toured and performed his sound poems extensively in Dada cabarets and events. In the realm between speaking and singing, as Schwitters’ recordings attest, poems such as the Die Ursonate were delivered in a rhythmic, repetitive, theatrical and musical way through his style of articulating vowels and consonants. He used his voice as an instrument, repeating, building, trilling, inventing and extending upon a new vocal form within the context of art, shattering language into phonemes, fragments salvaged and accumulated in the same way as the detritus in his MERZ-bau. And while the sound poems of Schwitters and others were radical and new as conscious experiments within Modernism, they draw upon other phenomena.

The Russian Zaum artist Khlebnikov ‘knew of tribes in the Urals who worshipped their gods in liturgies composed chiefly of vowels (Scobie 1974, pp.219-220). These voiced religious practices – Christian, Shamanic, Voodoo, Oracle – are termed ‘glossolalia’ (speaking in tongues), broken fragments of discourse that may resemble a language, but cannot be comprehended (de Certeau 1996, p.29, 35). As Carlyle May explains,

The Old Testament (Lombard 1910, p. 89) alludes to a form of ecstatic behaviour similar to glossolalia. Guillaume (1938, p. 144-45) states that in 853 BC. four hundred prophets raved in ecstasy before the gate of Samaria, and in ancient Egypt (Erman 1894, p. 352-55) necromancers uttered formulas, believed to be revelations from the gods, made up of foreign words and senseless noises. The more mysterious and incomprehensible these formulas were, the greater their power was  thought to be (1956, p. 75)

Glossolalia has other forms beyond religious observance, including infantile babbling, pathological neuroses, and literary and performative expressions. It is also part of our everyday speech, as it ‘pushes up through the cracks of ordinary conversation’ (de Certeau 1996, p. 29). In the space between muteness and speech, De Certeau imagines a reservoir ‘from which the voice pours forth’ (1996, pp.30-31). From this vocal utopia, we give ourselves permission to step over the boundaries that make us hold our tongues for fear of judgment, persecution or humiliation. Within shamanic and Christian charismatic contexts, glossolalia as spirit is perceived as a song to which we abandon ourselves (1996, p.39). The link here to sex is obvious, and while we do not search for deeper meanings in the sounds of sexual coupling, we continue to demand that language outside this mean something.

For Schwitters, the search for meaning was unimportant. He had great respect for ‘the artistic moulding of nonsense’ (Scobie 1974, p.222). While not assigning a religious motivation to his sound poems, Schwitters, as Burns Gamard states, was affected by German mysticism, which focuses on ‘the processes of creative life itself’ (2000, p.30). And nowhere is process more evident than in the unfolding of performance, which locates speech in the body and not in the text.  Schwitters was a commanding figure with a magnificent voice. His  sound poems, like those of Hausmann, are not only modernist expressions in line with Utopian Zaum and Marinetti’s ‘Words in Freedom’. They are, as Doherty (1997, pp. 124, 125, 128) explains, responses formed within German culture by the physical and psychological symptoms of traumatic shock during and following World War I.

A Dadaist is simultaneously the maker and the victim of traumatic sound, of the human voice become a weapon, or an instrument of shocking cures’ (Doherty 1997, p. 118).

Mutilated war veterans of World War I

Rather than non-sense, Schwitters’ non-language can be seen to arise from the ‘stuttered, compulsively repeated attempt to articulate the void’ (Morris 2001, p. 373), the absence of original wholeness. For de Certeau, Glossolalia in all its forms implies an imperative, a need to speak, either a cry or a confession (1996, p. 31). Montage, assemblage and sound poems were perfect analogues to a shattered world – 22 million wounded, 9 million dead –  a world beyond certainties, beyond reassurance, and to many, beyond God.  Attacking the quest for meaning at the very heart of language, the Dadaists subverted rationalism and allowed the unconscious free reign. An avant garde free of constraints gave Schwitters and others permission to speak, a space from which the voice could pour forth ‘all the excesses and overflows and wastes of language’ (de Certeau1996, p.33). In this privileged space of possession outside language, where we can move without restriction, we do not seek to find meaning. We give ourselves up to the song (1996, p.41).

More than ninety years later, we can see the consequences of these modernist experiments beyond language. To Lach (1985, p. 39), Kurt Schwitters was ‘the father of all contemporary art currents and events’, whose manifesto of 1919 contained influential theories that foreshadowed installation, multimedia, event and performance art. This may seem like an extravagant claim, given the individual and collective contributions of the Italian and Russian Futurist artists, the Zurich and Berlin Dadaists, and the works of Oskar Schlemmer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus (not within the territory of this report). However, Lach’s assertion is valid, not just because of Schwitters’ ideas for the MERZ-stage, which even in the new millennium, sound contemporary. I believe that Schwitters’ posthumous recognition rests equally upon his embrace of recording technology, a new expressive medium in the 1920s and 1930s, which allowed the sound poem an existence beyond live performance. Concannon explains that Schwitters used sound film to edit and collage his poems after recording, before pressing them into records (1990, p. 167).

Although Schwitters was not the only avant-garde artist to explore recording technology and perform his work for the new medium of radio – Marinetti, Tzara  and Hausmann also did this – he was one of the first. Exiled from his homeland, he continued to perform Die Ursonate up until 1947, the year of his death. The recorded sound poems of all these artists are precious documents from an era of unprecedented experimentation between the wars. With the collapse of the Weimar Government in 1932-33 and the rise of Hitler, the voices of the avant garde in Germany were silenced (Cory 1994, p. 346). After publication of Robert Motherwell’s book The Dada Painters and Poets in 1951, a new generation of artists, writers and musicians in the United States, Great Britain and Europe drew inspiration from the historical avant-garde, including William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, whose cut-up method owed much to Hausmann and Schwitters.  Fluxus, which was Dada in spirit, was the first fully international art movement It was launched in the Dada stronghold of Berlin in 1962 (Brill 2010, p. 104). An influential figure and mentor within Fluxus, composer John Cage explored sound poetry, created, as with many of his works, through chance operations. Made for German radio, his work Muoyce from 1983 drew upon the text of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, a project he had been working on since the 1940s (Zweig 1997, p. 26). Sound poetry also enjoyed some popularity in Austria and France from the 1950s.

In the new millennium, the sound poem stutters on within an art context, but it is rarely more than a cerebral exercise that looks to the past. It is within jazz that the sound poem still lives. It has never died. And in jazz’ bastard child hip-hop, we can still hear the glossolalic cry from the reservoir, the traumatic shock of a different kind of war: marginalisation, dispossession, poverty and exile. In Hip-Hop, the word has been re-constituted, it has become spam, composed of shards of flesh, gristle, organs and viscera. Stripped of its machismo and misogyny, it is still possible to discern the shadow of Ball’s ‘innermost alchemy of the word’.


Biro, M. 1999, ‘Allegorical Modernism: Carl Einstein on Otto Dix’ in Art Criticism, Vol. 15, No. 1, Department of Art, State University of New York, Stony Brook, Long Island.

Blonk, J. ‘Some words to Kurt Schwitters’ URSONATE, by Jaap Blonk’, Kurt Schwitters in Norway

Brill, D. 2010, Shock and the Senseless in Dada and Fluxus, New England, Dartmouth College Press.

Burns-Gamard, E. 2000, Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau: The Cathedral of Erotic Misery, Princeton Architectural Press, New York.

Carlyle May, L. 1956, ‘A Survey of Glossolalia and Related Phenomena in Non-Christian Religions’, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb.), pp. 75-96

Concannon, K. 1990, ‘Cut and Paste: Collage and the Art of Sound’, in Lander, D. & Lexier, M. (eds) Sound By Artists, Art Metropole, Toronto.

Cory, M.E. 1994, ‘Soundplay: The Polyphonous Tradition of German Radio Art’ in Kahn, D. & Whitehead, G. (eds) Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant Garde, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

de Certeau, M. 1996, ‘Vocal Utopias: Glossolalias’, Representations, No. 56, Special Issue: The New Erudition, (Autumn), pp. 29-47.

Demos, T.J. 2003, ‘Circulations: in and Around Zurich Dada’, October, Vol. 105, Dada (Summer) pp. 147-158.

Doherty, B. 1997, “See: “We Are All Neurasthenics”!” or, the Trauma of Dada Montage, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Autumn), pp. 82-132

Gordon, M. 1992, ‘Songs From the Museum of the Future: Russian Sound Creation (1910-1930)’, in Kahn, D. & Whitehead, G. (eds) Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant Garde, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Holubizky, I. 1990, ‘Very Nice, Very Nice’, in Lander, D. & Lexier, M. (eds) Sound By Artists, Art Metropole, Toronto.

Klein, J. and Barrie Jones, J. 1985, ‘Borrowing, Syncretism, Hybridisation: The Parisian Revue of the 1920s’, Popular Music, Vol. 5, Continuity and Change, pp. 175-187.

Lach, F. 1988, ‘Schwitters’ Events’, in Foster, S.C. (ed.) “Event” Art and Art Events, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Morris, L. 2001, ‘The Sound of Memory’, The German Quarterly, Vol. 74, No. 4, Sites of Memory (Autumn), Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Prevots, N. 1985, ‘Zurich Dada and Dance: Formative Ferment’, Dance Research Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, (Spring-Summer), pp. 3-8.

Scobie, S. 1974, ‘I Dreamed I saw Hugo Ball: bpNichol, Dada and Sound Poetry’, boundary 2, Vol. 3, No. 1, A Canadian Issue (Autumn), pp. 213-226.

Whitehead, G. 1992 ‘Out of the Dark: Notes on the Nobodies of Radio Art’, in Kahn, D. & Whitehead, G. (eds) Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant Garde, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Zweig, J. 1997, ‘Ars Combinatoria: Mystical Systems, Procedural Art, and the Computer’, Art Journal, Vol. 56, No. 3, Digital Reflections: The Dialogue of Art and Technology, (Autumn) pp. 20-29.

The Wireless House, Glebe

Posted: October 3, 2011 by laura in 2011, interaction, sound

Laura Drewe  10394967

Assessment 1: Sound/Interaction Research Report

The Wireless House, Glebe

On 23rd November 1923, Australia saw the much anticipated, first public radio broadcast. Before this date, radio had been used predominantly for communicating at sea, allowing ships to contact each other and people on shore. This served as an aid to navigation, as well as allowing ships to send emergency distress signals. Radio had also allowed for communication in remote or difficult circumstances, such as fire services, lighthouses and isolated communities.

But it was in broadcasting sound to the general public that radio has had its biggest influence. Despite the excitement surrounded the advent of radio broadcasting, uptake was slow due to the cost and license fees charged to listeners.  The Great Depression of the 1930s saw many families facing poverty and unemployment, and many could not afford such a luxury.

However, in 1934 the Wireless House was built in Foley Park, Glebe to provide radio broadcasts to the local community. Commissioned by Glebe Council, it was a public listening place – and in a local park. This was the only free, listening space of its kind at the time. The Wireless House operated from 10am until 10.15pm on a daily basis[i]. It was immensely popular and because of the open space, could cater to large crowds. People embraced this new medium that was now freely available to them. No wonder they were so responsive. The Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, Susan Douglas says, “sound transmitted over radio envelops us, pouring into us…including us, involving us”[ii]. In Glebe, people would gather and enjoy daily music, news and entertainment programs. Small boys at the time, Tony and Frank Galluzzo describe what it meant to them, “We’d go to the park, and there would be about 50 people, sitting around on the benches. There were three sides to the box, and three speakers. It was the place where we all used to meet… we would have a game of football, and gather around. The radio was a very important part of our day”.[iii] During the Depression, men would often listen at dawn for reports of where work was available at the docks in Darling Harbour[iv]. Roughly 40 per cent of the male population was unemployed at this time.[v] Noeline Reddy, who was born in Glebe, remembers those days. She says, “You would get coupons for the butcher and the grocer…and you would go to Glebe Town Hall twice a year, the men would get boots and pants, the women would get underwear and dress material.” She also remembers going to the Wireless House, then called ‘the radio shack’, with her brother at 4pm to listen to a serial about “a little Aborigine boy”. And she remembers the local men gathering there on a Saturday afternoon to listen to the races and play dominoes.[vi]

With the development of television and the automobile, the Wireless House gradually lost its popularity and in the early 1950s the structure was converted to a council tool shed. Despite its decline, the Wireless House has been heritage-listed by the National Trust. In 2008, Australian-based sculptor and sound artist Nigel Helyer breathed new life into the place by creating the Wireless House project – a contemporary version of its predecessor. His aim was to reclaim the potential for sound to produce a communal space within the park – a sonic activation. As people approach the structure, a sensor is triggered and a historic audio archive is randomly selected. These archives are provided by the National Sound and Music Archives. People can, in effect, be taken back in time and relive the news and events of a past era. FM radio reception can also be received by mobile phone and standard FM radio receivers.

Stainless steel screens have been fitted to the building’s walls to depict a representation of the relative field strength transmitted and received by a radio antenna. A transparent polycarbonate panel has replaced the original steel door. The interior has been refurbished with the required equipment to deliver different forms of radio content; there are also sculptural references to 1930s radio technology such as valves and antennae.

The Wireless House project invites members of the public to interact by sharing their personal stories about Wireless House, radio in Australia, audio recordings, videos, texts and historical photographs from this period to be incorporated into the House itself and online. A large proportion of the content comes from the establishment of a Glebe local oral history project that aims to generate an audio portrait of the community. Oral historian and content producer Julia Burns has engaged extensively with community members by recording oral histories as well as training and working with Glebe residents in digital audio and video technology so that they can take control of the production and publication of their own stories[vii]. In an interview with ABC Radio broadcaster Deborah Cameron, she said that public listening facilities in Australia, and worldwide, are quite rare and that the Wireless House is an important contribution to the Glebe community. In the same program, Cameron spoke on air with a listener Vincent, who recalled going to the Wireless House in the 1940s: “There were a number of men gathered there listening to the radio. My grandmother explained that during the Depression, men used to walk from the wool stores (in Pyrmont) up to the Wireless House and have a rest. The park was then called Rest Park, before it was renamed Foley Park.”[viii]

What makes the Wireless House interesting is that it is more than a memorial to the past. Equipped with a wireless internet node, the site has become Sydney’s first official free outdoor hotspot. While it provides visitors with internet access, it also provides a comprehensive website featuring oral histories, and archival sound materials. In the Wireless House, Helyer is capturing the sounds of the past, incorporating the technologies of the present, and enveloping the viewer in the work; in 2010, Helyer created a similar project called GhosTrain at Carriageworks, a performing arts centre based in the old Sydney rail yards at Eveleigh, in which he offers oral histories from former rail yard workers, an audio installation and an interactive iPod app. GhosTrain, like the Wireless House, presents a preserved building complemented by a resurrected audio history[ix].

While yesterday’s community gathered around the radio transmitter, contemporary wireless presents many more forms of social and community engagement and interaction. Today, sound broadcasts don’t always have to be listened to at the time of the broadcast. Websites now offer recordings for people to download at their own convenience, such as podcasts.  The emergence of podcasting in 2005 has been revolutionary. Sound artists and research academics Virginia Madsen and John Potts say this development occurred for two reasons: ”time shifting, which allows users to listen to audio items when and where they choose; and mobility, due to the portability of the iPod and other MP3 players.”[x] No longer is this medium a one-way street – podcasts, websites and digital radio offer a range of choices for individual listeners where sound can meet text, image and moving image. The audience becomes part of the interaction. As Madsen and Potts say, “Much of the early excitement surrounding podcasting then concerned the use of these new technologies to challenge or bypass traditional communication and media channels. Podcasting in 2005 was about ‘reclaiming the radio’, ‘refreshing the radio’, ignoring the hierarchial ‘gate-keeping’ role of mass media, and developing instead a ‘horizontal’ media form where consumers were also producers”.[xi]

So, the relevance and social value of the Wireless House project brings back a sense of interaction, openness and community that Nigel Helyer believes are important at a time when portable audio technologies are thriving. As he says, there has been a “cultural shift away from the collective and personal and toward a valorization of the individual and the privatized… iPod users enact a ‘serial withdrawal’ from public space, into ‘micro-acoustic-ecologies’, an audio world of one’s own.”[xii] The Wireless House is an important evolution in sound communication because it brings old media and new media together, catering to a new dynamic sound environment. It is, as Madsen and Potts say, “Where ‘old’ media offer passive consumption, new media offer interactivity”.[xiii]


[ii] Susan Douglas, Listening in: Radio and the American Imagination: from Amos ‘n’ Andy and Edward R.Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern (New York, N.Y.: Times Books), 30

[iii] Tony and Frank Galluzzo, interview,

[v] Max Solling (author of Grandeur and Grit) interview,

[viii] Julia Burns and Deborah Cameron on The Wireless House

[x] Voice Cast: The Distribution of the Voice via Podcast  from Neumark, N. Gibson, R. & Van Leeuwen, T. (eds), 2010, Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, p45

[xi] Voice Cast: The Distribution of the Voice via Podcast  from Neumark, N. Gibson, R. & Van Leeuwen, T. (eds), 2010, Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, p45

[xii] Voice Cast: The Distribution of the Voice via Podcast  from Neumark, N. Gibson, R. & Van Leeuwen, T. (eds), 2010, Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, p46

[xiii] Voice Cast: The Distribution of the Voice via Podcast  from Neumark, N. Gibson, R. & Van Leeuwen, T. (eds), 2010, Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, p20

Student Name& ID: Shuning Li (11261005)

Beyond the Visual: Applying Cinematic Sound Design to Digital Environment


In the early 20th century, sound was integrated into filmmaking, which was used to support motion pictures and contribute to the emotional and narrative design of film projects. In the later of the century, both of the discipline and technology of the sound design flourished with the rapidly development of the modern world, sound became an integral part of the media practice, which played substantial roles in filmmaking[1].

However, as the media entered into the digital age, while the mechanisms of engagement and immersion was studied extensively in terms of story and visual images, sound design enjoyed less attention in theory studies, much less the considerations of applying sound to digital interactive environment.

According to Mark Ward and Linda Leung, interactive media industry should learn the best of what the last 100 years of sound design practice and apply the techniques to the digital environment. They leveraged four important functions of sound relevant to both film and interactive media which filmmakers could emphasis and work on to created effective sound tracks for digital interactive media, that are emotional truth, point of view, storytelling and physical experience. They suggested the aims of sound design for digital interactive media is to elicit the mood and emotion from its audience, to draw users into its world as ‘we have eyelids but not earlids’, that is, we can block out the visual merely by closing eye, but can barely escape the aural (Leung, 2008).

A Brief History of Film Sound Design

The history and the art of sound is not as sophisticated as for the moving image, and yet sound informs and anchors the moving image.

Early cinema is perceived as 'silent'Early cinema is perceived as ‘silent’

Early cinema is commonly perceived as ‘silent’ (as it was a visual medium only) because no sound information was printed upon the filmstrip. As the media industry enters into the digital era and the notion of film is gradually assumed as the digital convergence between image, audio, and online experience, among others, and thus the practice of multi-media. The multi-media practice, especially electronic media broke the tradition of “virtual reality” and brought the new concept of “augmented reality”. Now the audience can really “break through” the screen, with no more mediation and no more separation to see, feel and touch “the myth of total cinema,” as André Bazin put it (Elsaesser, 2006), a renowned and influential French film criticand film theorist.

5.1- channel digital surround sound (DSS) in cinema5.1- channel digital surround sound (DSS) in cinema

The language and vocabulary of sound has largely expanded with the development of modern technology and the digital media, which can be seen from various new techniques and devices for sound design and production, such as, the 5.1- channel digital surround sound (DSS)[2] in cinema, Pro Tools digital audio workstation software and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). A specialized craft of four major aural categories of the sound design for film also indicates the evolution of sound media, which includes music, ambient sound, sound effects and dialogue. Dialogues and narrative sound effects are mostly used to establish the narrative structure of stories, while music and ambient sound are used more and more often in building atmosphere and locating film style.

One of the early innovations in the use of sound in digital interactive environments for example, was made by Apple Computer, which deployed personal computers into the marketplace equipped with sound-cards, as well as plug-in or build-in microphones allowing user-generated material to be recorded and manipulated, or linked to other documents. Most importantly, Apple’s Macintosh user interface was conceived of in visual and aural terms, embedding William Gaver’s work in auditory icons (1986) into its philosophical core (Leung, 2008).

Roles of Sound

Film is described as an audio-visual (AV) medium. In the term ‘AV’, audio and visual is linked with each other, which suggests that sound and picture together can become greater than the sum of the parts. The term is also assumed as the audio precedes the visual, that is, not only is sound integral, it is prioritized.


Sound mainly plays narrative, subliminal and grammatical roles in film, according to Tomlinson Holman. Sound may tell the story directly, or it may be integrated along with pictures into a complete whole. For instance, Dialog and narrative sound effects, two important techniques for storytelling, which are used to write into the script to notify what is happening and what corresponding action actors should take at the moment.

One Missed CallTelephone Ringing Sound in Horror Film ‘One Missed Call’

Sound also has a subliminal role, working on its audience subconsciously, which in simplicity, is to build atmospheres, deliver emotions and enhance moods of stories. For example, intense and unpleasant sound experience could triggers negative emotions lasting hours or even days, which used by filmmakers in horror and black film genre.

In terms of the grammatical role in filmmaking, sound provides “a form of continuity or connective tissue for films” (Holman, 2002). When a picture is cut, but the scene is not shifted, sound usually remains constant before and after the shot in that case, to indicate audience that although the point of view may have changed, the scene is not shifted, and therefore we are still in the same space as before. In particular, ambient sound is used most to present the continuity of a scene. Looking through the major roles of sound in filmmaking, audience in most cases wouldn’t even realize this natural and seemingly effortless sound design, but it is absolutely indispensable to the expressions of films. Images wouldn’t make a complete story without the combination of sound.

Applying Sound Design to the Digital Environment

Mark and Linda’s study highlighted four functions of cinematic sound design, which the digital media industry could emphasize on in digital interactive media experiences. The primary function of sound in both films and interactive media work is to construct and communicate emotions. Emotion is the soul of a media work, which decides all the information in the project and guide the whole production process. Sound design is essential and effective to set the emotion and mood in a media project, which in turn, orient audience to receive and interpret the visual information.

In-car GPSSelecting voice for spoken navigation instructions on an in-car GPS system

The second function is to establish point-of-view, or in this case point of audition. In film, sound steers audience’s attention through visual information, by promoting important details. In online experience, sound can represent the ‘voice’ of an organization, or an acoustic ‘buzz’ of a company. Some other digital media allow sonic customization, whereby a user can self- select their preference and express their own point-of- view, such as choosing either male or female voice for spoken navigation instructions on an in-car GPS system.

Online game requires sound qualityOnline game requires lifelike sound effects

Sound also functions to structuring storytelling. Sound connects and “dubs” the visual elements in film, thereby ascribing meaning and legitimizing it as a trustful version of the real world. In digital interactive experiences, some online game for instance, lifelike sound effects combined with motion pictures is one of the selling points, which literally create a virtual world for online players.

The final function of sound is to create physical experience. Sound contributes to the overall multisensory experience in cinema as well as in interactive media. ‘Hearing is a way of touching at a distance’ (Leung cited in Schafer, 2005), that is, hearing is a form of touch as it has a synaesthetic quality. Sound can “have a synaesthetic role in interactive media, where sound is felt as much as it is heard, as can be seen in video games where explosive sounds are usually accompanied by vibrations in the console. That the senses of hearing and touch are so closely aligned provides a compelling argument for sound design to be a critical component of interactive media development” (Leung, 2008).


Film is an interaction of sound, visual and story, and filmmaking is a progress of combining these elements in ways that make the impact of the resulting experience larger than the sum of its parts. As a historical and fertile medium, sound impacts on the way films are made as much as image. With the rapid development of modern technology and increasing influence of digital media, the world enters into the digital era, therefore, to create effective sound tracks for the digital interactive environment become of great importance. Mark Ward and Linda Leung suggest that the digital media practitioners could learn from cinematic sound design experiences, and apply them to digital interactive practice.


Elsaesser, T. (2006). Early Film History and Multi-Media- An Archaeology of Possible Futures. In W. H. Keenan, New Media, Old Media: a history and theory reader (pp. 13-35). New York: Routledge.

Holman, T. (2002). Sound for Film and Television. USA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Kerins, M. (2008). Beyond Dolby(stereo): Cinema in the Digital Sound Age. USA: Indiana University Press.

Leung, L. (2008). Digital Experience Design. UK: Intellect Books.

Nyre, L. (2008). Sound Media: From Live Journalism to Music Recording. London: Routledge.

[1] The term refers to its universal meaning in this article, that is, the general range of activities required to make a film, video, or television program.

[2] Digital “5.1” Sound- the “5”referring to the configuration’s five full-range channels and the “.1” to its bass-frequencies- only low-frequency effects (LFE) channel. The proposal of the adoption of 5.1-channel digital surround sound was brought up by Tomlinson Holman in the late 1980s (Kerins, 2008).

Nila, Shiyun Liu 11260799

Artefact H10515 Craig Walsh 2009


Craig Walsh is a contemporary Australian artist works with digital technologies. He is internationally recognised for his experimental digital art projects and installations exploring the edge of digital and reality. The majority of Craig Walsh’s works are large-scale projections which in response to the environment of specific site. He has been awarded several national residencies and commissions, and his work has been exhibit around the world, including Canada, Japan, United States and UK[1]. Artefact H10515 is one of his lasted work exhibit in Powerhouse Museum Sydney in 2009[2].

He inhabits public spaces in order to produce a spectacle[3]. A fundamental concern for Walsh is the challenging of preconceived notions of “art, space, function, experience and reality”[4].


ARTEFACT H10515 has a very unusual and mysteries title as an Art piece . The first half of the name, Artefact, means any object made or modified by humans. The code “H10515” comes from the historical method of Museum for numbering and cataloguing objects. The Museum used to divide objects into categories such as wool, minerals, vegetable products etc. with an assigned letter of the alphabet for each. When an item entered the collection, it was categories with a letter followed by a number under the category. H10515 is the last number in the ‘miscellaneous’ or  “unclassifiable” groups[5]. Hence the title reflect to the physical environment of the exhibition where is the Powerhouse Museum and unidentifiable character of the artwork.

Craig Walsh explained his work as “a living, unidentifiable object and sits in contrast to how objects in a museum are usually presented”[6]. Like many new media artworks which involved multimedia contents, Artefact H10515 is an collaborated work by Craig Walsh with assistances from programmer and 3D animator Steven Thomasson and sound composer and designer Lawrence English[7]. The combination efforts of the experts in digital technology, make the artwork looks like a living creature lives in a large glass cube. It moves, breathes, roars, changes the colours of its skin. Its flashing tentacles react On the end of its tentacles, random pictures appears occasionally. The pictures have to source, first is based on the collection of Powerhouse Museum, and the others are from an associate website Thingalyzer. Visitors can upload their favourite things from their own collection to feed Artefact H10515. The website will estimate
a time when the picture uploaded by particular users will appear on the tentacles of  the artwork. The creature shivers, grasps the object and then seemingly ingests it. In this way, visitors to the museum can find a new method to interact and express their preference about the museum.

Thingalyzer is not only the website where to feed Artefact H10515, its also a software which downloads and decides the pictures appears on the tentacles. The video about How Artefact H10515 works reveal the tricks inside the glass cube[8]. There are four computers controls the movement and the downloaded picture datas. The living creature in the cube are all image projections generated by the computers.


Interactive Arts & Participatory culture

Dadaism in the 1910s to 1920s is one of the major culture movement that influence the emerge of digital arts[9]. Marcel Duchamp is the forerunner of interactive arts as a leading artist in dada movement. Since then, artwork is not a one-way presentation, but is a interaction happening through the circle of artist, artwork and spectator. The development of digital media tools catalyse the diversity of digital arts.

Participatory media culture also emerge in artworks. With the growing phenomena of web2.0, more and more websites are friendly to user participation and interaction. Many of them even rely their website content on their visitor, like blogs, youtube and flickers. The more open the website is, the easier it can find users. Meanwhile, media content open to multiple interoperation are more likely to become popular[10]

by Jeffery Shaw 1988

Australian digital artist and theorist Jeffrey Shaw is one of the pioneer in interactive digital art projections. The Legible City (1988-1991) is one of his most representative work which translate physical actions of the visitor to digital movements on screen[11]. Participants ride on a stationary bicycle to navigate throw streets projected in front of them, and the buildings along the streets are giant letters. Although Walsh’s piece Artefact H10515 does not involve that high level of physical movement and it doesn’t have a immersive giant screen, the idea of interactive between physical movement and computer reaction are similar, and  the physical existence of the three dimensional cube gives more veritable than the plat screen projection. Its interaction is beyond direct physical immediate reactions, but moves to between online and physical interactions which adapts to the contemporary popular participatory media culture.

Artificial Life

Artificial life and intelligence have been an area of long time interests for scientists and science fictions. Along with the development of new media arts and digital technologies, artists joint the exploration and speculation on artificial life as well.

Many digital art installations are trying to simulate or inherent the characters of artificial life, and Artefact H10515 is definitely among them. It uses the software Thingalzer to produce various predictable behaviours in responses to the action of the visitors[12]. The feasibility of the complex programming bring the liveness to this digital sculpture. The 3D image, the surrounding sounds, and the smooth animation of the movements, all of these elements combined together, blurring the boundary of real and virtual, the known and mystery.

Distinct from many other artworks and scientific research on artificial life, Walsh jumps out of the box of artificial human being or anything imitates human behaviours. He focus on non-human artificial creatures which challenges the recognition process of people whom trying to categorise unfamiliar stuff to things they know. He takes elements from familiar lifeforms, like the tentacles and snoring sound of Artefact H10515, and combine them into a inexistent creature. However, Walsh is never the first one to explore the artificial creatures use projections.

by Sommerer&Migneaun 1994

A-Volveby Sommerer&Mignonneau 1994

In 1994, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau established an aesthetic installation called A-Volve[13]. It is one of the earliest real time interactive artwork which visitors creates their own three dimensional creatures with a touch screen computer and interact with them in a pool. These creatures behaves like animals which swims, flights and plays with each other. Many works of Sommerer & Migononeau involves direct interaction and communication between the artificial creature and physical human body[14]. Although the creatures in A-Volve are three dimensional, the technology at that time restrict the resolution and quality of the creatures. They looks like geometric figure rather than real living creature.

The recent works of Sommerer and Mignonneau have more vividness with advanced image-creation softwares. For example, Life Writer in 2006 which represents their exploration on adapt familiar daily objects with interactive computer-generated creatures.  Establish on a antiquate style typewriter,  the overhead projector use the paper scroll as the screen, and when visitors types the keys, the computer program transform letters on the paper into small artificial lives moves according to the algorithms[15].

 Database and Visualisation 

Artefact H10515 is no only artificial creature lives in the museum, it also downloads collections from the museum database and “digest” the collections according to its own order. In other words, it is a museum database in another form and curates these collections base on its own order.

Dynamic visualisation of datas is one of the popular theme in digital arts. Computer programs give the datas a visual form and the result changes according to the updates in the database[16]. One of the famous earlier projection artwork in created by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv called Text Rain in 1999[17]. The installation invite participators actively interactive with the falling text which are dripping like raindrops but floats on people’s body[18].  The text database generates the texts and the software control the movements of text. In comparison, Artefact H10515 collect pictures rather than texts, and it generates movements of the pictures instead of texts, but the idea of database collection and alternative distribute and interact with them are similar.

Walsh’s Previous Work

In years Craig Walsh has work with large-scale site-specific projection sculptures which challenge people’s understanding of everyday locations and practises. His installations set on storefronts, buildings, rivers and rocks. Alien forms is a popular theme among Australian contemporary artists, including Patricia Piccinini, Caroline Rothwell and Louise Hearman[19]. Walsh also explores the possibility of alien life forms intrude with real physical environments.  

Classification Pending

Classification Pending by Craig WalshClassification

Classification Pending by Craig Walsh

Walsh’s piece Classification Pending is originally present on the Bremer River in Ipswich, Queensland in 2007 and now has been exhibit in several locations around the world[20]. The work projects three-dimensional reptiles with turtle head, eel neck and catfish tail swims in the river. It questions people issues like genetic engineering, environment, real and virtual.


Incursion by Craig Walsh

Incursion 37:20:15.71” N – 121:53:09.51” W (2008) featured in San Jose Biennale, California is one of his attempt[21]. Massive succulent/tentacles appears on the glass wall of San Jose City Hall Rotunda which transform the City Hall into a huge petri dish of alien creature. Its leave to the audience to identify the meaning of the mutant plant.


Increasingly sophisticated image software frees digital artists like Craig Walsh to question the boundary between reality and virtual, the familiar and weird. His work including Artefact H10515 asks people to open their mind to the unknown, rethink about their recognition process of categorised locations and objects, though different ways of interact with museum and artworks, inspires new thinkings about the rest of the world.




  1. Artist’s Statement for Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP) in Beijing, 20 October – 3 November 2002
  2. Carroli L. 2000, ʻIntroductionʼ, Insite: Craig Walsh, artistʼs monograph, IMA Publishing, Brisbane, p.6
  3. Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010, Digital Odyssey Education Kit, accessed 28 Sep 2011 <>
  4. Paul, C. 2008, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), Thames &Hudson Ltd, London.
  5. Powerhouse Museum, 2009, Artefact H10515, accessed 28 September 2011 <>
  6. Powerhouse Museum, 2009, Interview with Craig Walsh and Steve Thomasson, accessed 28 Sep 2011,
  7. Powerhouse Museum, 2009, “How it works” Artefact H10515,accessed 28 Sep 2011,
  8. Radok, S. 2008, ʻCraig Walsh: Transfigured nights, surprising daysʼ, Artlink, Vol 28, No.3.
  9. Sommerer C. and Mignonneau, L. 1994, Works: A-Volve, accessed 29 Sep 2011 <>
  10. Sommerer, C. and Mignonneau, L. 1997. “Interacting with Artificial Life: A-Volve,” In: Complexity Journal. New York: Wiley, Vol. 2, No. 6, pp. 13-21.
  11. Sommerer, C. and Mignonneau, L. 2006. Works: Life Writer, accessed 29 Sep 2011 <>
  12. Walsh, C. 2010, Craig Walsh, accessed 29 September 2011, <>

[1] Craig Walsh, 2010, accessed 28 Sep 2011 <>

[2] ibid

[3]Linda Carroli,ʻIntroductionʼ, Insite: Craig Walsh, artistʼs monograph, IMA Publishing, Brisbane, 2000, p.6

[4]Artist’s Statement for Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP) in Beijing, 20 October – 3 November 2002

[5] Powerhouse Museum, 2009, Artefact H10515, accessed 28 Sep 2011,

[6] Powerhouse Museum, 2009, Interview with Craig Walsh and Steve Thomasson, accessed 28 Sep 2011,

[7] Powerhouse Museum, 2009, “How it works” Artefact H10515,accessed 28 Sep 2011,

[8] ibid

[9] Christiane Paul, 2008, “Introduction”, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), Thames &Hudson Ltd, London, p11

[10] Christiane Paul, 2008, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), p110

[11] Christiane Paul, 2008, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), p72

[12] Christiane Paul, 2008, “Introduction”, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), p140

[13] Christa Sommerer and Larent Mignonneau, Works: A-Volve, accessed 29 Sep 2011 <>

[14] Christa Sommerer and Larent Mignonneau, 1997. “Interacting with Artificial Life: A-Volve,” In: Complexity Journal. New York: Wiley, Vol. 2, No. 6, pp. 13-21.

[15] Christa Sommerer and Larent Mignonneau, Works: Life Writer, accessed 29 Sep 2011 <>

[16] Christiane Paul, 2008, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), p175

[17] Christiane Paul, 2008, Digital Art (revised and expanded edition), p191

[18] ibid

[19] for Patricia Piccinini see for Caroline Rothwell see and for Louise Hearman see

[20] Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010, Digital Odyssey Education Kit, accessed 28 Sep 2011 <>

[21] Stephanie Radok, 2008, ʻCraig Walsh: Transfigured nights, surprising daysʼ, Artlink, Vol 28, No 3



In the post Napster music world, P2P sharing systems have made themselves into nearly every household in the world. Millions of people were exchanging and sharing files on the Internet like it was a way of life. The explosion of the Napster case in 1999 made it clear to the people, these types of systems are damaging the recording industry.[3] It was the Industry against Napster, and then it was the Industry against the users who share, who were the customers of the Industry itself. The excitement about P2P systems comes about the concept invention of easy and efficient file sharing.[1] A brilliant and harmless concept that allowed people to share files and photos over the net with high speeds and no limits became an engine system to steal creative work. From personal files turned to sharing copyrighted music and videos.  A million users could have a whole playlist of songs for free from only one single user that purchased the songs and shared them.  This report looks at how Steve Jobs and Apple saw the P2P phenomena as an opportunity to create what we now know as iTunes.

History of iTunes

Recognising this problem in the music industry that the P2P networks have created, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, saw an opportunity to change the digital landscape. The peer-to-peer network invention was not seen as an illegal nuisance through Apple’s eyes, rather it was a way to manifest the same concept and market it as a new invention. Doing what Apple does best, grabbing a past technology or a negative invention and turning it into a device that changes how we think about technology. Let’s face it, Apple have not exactly invented anything radically new since their release of the original Macintosh, with the exception of the recent phenomena the iPad. The iPod was created and released at a time where MP3 players were not excitingly new. The iPhone was not a device that introduced a new technology to the world. O2 or what we know as Blackberry nowadays has already been designing and creating touch screen phones with apps for quite some time.

Apple is famous for being able to turn current technology or older technology into something bigger, into something seemingly new. Through their ingenious marketing and design team, an already released technology can seem like a device out of this world. What makes all of Apple’s technologies so appealing may be the fact that all of them can be connected with a single app, the iTunes. Steve Jobs, recognizing the success of file sharing on the Internet, went to Robin Casady and Michael Greene to discuss the idea of using their SoundJam MP as the base program for the iTunes. SoundJam MP was a popular and powerful digital encoding program that already looked like Apple’s own Quicktime Player.[2] This was around the year of 2000.

About 10 months later, Apple decided to release the first ever version of the iTunes. With the decision to make it free software for all Mac users and also PC users, iTunes generally became the world’s best and easiest media player to use.[2]  For many people, iTunes was the introduction to digital music as it was efficient and simple, with the launch of the program as soon as a CD is inserted into a computer, which then loaded the disc and straight away receives track data from Gracenote to your library.[2]

iTunes was founded based on the idea of network sharing, the sharing of media on the internet, not for illegal purposes but for good. iTunes enabled the option to share media within the user’s home network. Then there was the release of the iPod and iTunes compatibility to the iPod. It was then clear that Apple was trying to build technologies around the iTunes, being able to connect all the devices together through one central app.

The Music World

The recording industry is only one section of consumer goods in the world. The revenue out of the Industry is not a big contribution towards the GDP as a whole. But as consumers, music is all around us, we listen to music to and from work, while exercising, as a leisure activity and we also tend to choose radios with higher music rotation.[3] So as we can see, the revenues might not be a significant amount but its share of the collective conscience is massive. “The stakes in the battle over the music business are small enough to get lost in the rounding error for world GDP…” but its significance and importance within its consumer is much larger than values shown in numbers.[4]

The basic function of the music industry is to create this connection between the artist and the consumer while compensating the stakeholders that contributed in the process. But when we think about it, the amount of marketing that the Industry does is only at a large amount to the big and famous artists while the bulk of artists only enjoy a minimal promotion. Therefore, we have come to a time where the recording companies have outlived their somewhat importance to the connection between consumers and musicians.[5] The Industry is now changed. This is why iTunes have succeeded, using the P2P sharing concept, Apple found a way to connect consumers and musicians directly with no middleman.

Album v Singles Sales

The Music Store

Obviously, the key feature of the iTunes has got to be the Music Store that is available online.  It was released with the update of the iTunes 4 in 2003 [2] and it was a big success with the store having 200,000 songs on the first day of release.  The most fascinating aspect about this feature of the iTunes is that it completely changed the face and mentality of the Music Industry as a whole. Going all out with the same idea that Napster and all P2P system had, Apple changed the way people think towards music. The Music Industry, as we see from above, has always been the connector from musician to listeners and they have always believed in the sales of a tangible object that plays the music itself. What Apple did with iTunes shifted this mentality, suddenly it made us realize that music is not about the CD or the Vinyl, it was about the actual music. It gave the listeners freedom to purchase songs not physical objects that contains songs; it also allowed us to purchase these songs off the net with a very low price and very conveniently. Apple recognized the current generation of ‘I want it now’, the generation of bloggers. So because the Music Industry then is based largely on its consumer not its revenue, it was genius for iTunes to focus the music towards them not towards promoting the recording companies. “Simply put, as long as consumers are asked to buy bundled songs  [called CDs] at about US$16…yet can access the same content for free…” the existence of physical album will be at stake.[5]

In a way we can see that iTunes regulated the problem of music piracy within P2P systems back then because what Apple did was to give consumers an efficient legal alternative to downloading music. But, in turn, the Music Industry starts to blame iTunes for killing their business. A chart is shown below that displays the decrease of album sales due to iTunes existence. The Music Industry was also said to be dying because of Apple’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) laws on their music. “No one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.”[6] But I think we need to think of it in a different perspective, as I have mentioned before, the Music Companies are no longer needed to connect the musicians to the listeners in the generation. There is this desire to go straight to the source in this Internet age, it also allows consumers to sample music and then purchase the album if they enjoyed the first song. iTunes is clearly for the consumers and the musicians, it was made for us, it cuts out the middleman and more money goes to the musician. The Industry might get less revenue but the musicians are benefitting from this. It also allows independent artists to get exposure without big companies’ marketing. So what the app is doing is that it promotes more of the artist and gives back more towards the artist. As for the DRM, isn’t it regulating the original problem of piracy? It restricts users to make a certain amount of copies or being played on a certain amount of computers.

In conclusion, I found iTunes to be a very interesting media in this generation. It’s seen as the Industry killing machine and makes Apple look more of a bully than they already are. But I see it as one of the best or if not the only invention that Apple has come to. It seems to be able to regulate the piracy problem quite well and it’s a program that allows a legal alternative to music sampling in this P2P world of ours.


1.  Good, N & Krekelberg, A 2002, Usability and privacy: a study of kazaa P2P file-sharing, HP Laboratories Palo Alto

2.  Simon, M 2009 The Complete iTunes History – SoundJam MP to iTunes 9, 9 November, viewed 30th November 2011, <>

3. Liebowitz, S 2004, Will MP3 Downloads Annihilate the Record Industry? The Evidence So Far, in Gary D. Libecap (ed.) Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship (Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Economic Growth, Volume (15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.229-260

4. Romer, P 2002, When Should We Use Intellectual Property Rights?, in The American Economic Review, Vol.92, No.2, Papers and Proceedings of the One Hundred Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association, pp. 213-216

5.  Frost, R 2007, Rearchitecting the music business: Mitigating music piracy by cutting out the record companies, viewed 30th November 2011, <>

6. Doctorow, C How iTunes is bad for the music industry and the public, Viewed 30th November 2011, <>

7.  LICASdigital, 2009, iTunes History, Viewed 30th November 2011 <>

8. mediastudiesaelzer, 2011, History of iTunes, #uhsmediastudies, Viewed 30th November 2011 <>

9. Captivate08, 2011, iTunes killing the music industry, Viewed 30th November 2011 <>

10. Brownlee, J 2010, Music Industry CEO Asks If iTunes Killed The Album, Viewed 30th November 2011 <>

Maria Isabel Maquinto – 11173390


 New media has been constantly developing throughout the years. From the emergence of hypertext fiction, to the widespread use of social networks and other online platforms, new media has given its users a more personal form of expression and creative freedom as opposed to other types of media. Unlike television, for example, wherein the audience simply absorbs every thing and offers one-way interaction only, new media encourages user and audience interaction, or two-way interaction.

From Blogging to Microblogging

 One type of new media that is popular, especially among the youth, is blogging. Blogging in colloquial terms is a means for a user to express whatever he/she wants through a blogging platform.


What is a blog? There are many definitions for it:

 “A weblog is a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser.” (Winer, 2003)

 “A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links.” (

 “A blog is a website in which items are posted on a regular basis and displayed in reverse chronological order…A blog comprises text, hypertext, images, and links to other web pages and to video, audio and other files)…Often blogs focus on a particular “area of interest”, such as Washington, D.C.’s political goings-on. Some  discuss personal experiences.” (Wikipedia)

 In short, a blog is a compilation of text, images, links, video, audio, etc. that are hosted in a blogging platform, arranged in chronological or reverse-chronological order. It is also updated from time to time, hence ‘Weblog’ as to ‘log the web’. Blogging is referred to as the process of creating and updating a blog, whether it is for personal, commercial, business or political use.

Brief History

The first blog began in 1994 when Justin Hall created, which was not considered a blog during that time and was referred to as his ‘homepage’. In 1997, Jorn Barger conceived the term ‘weblog’ from his blog, ‘Robot Wisdom’, as a term for
the “process of logging the web” (Chapman, 2011). It was however, Peter Merholz who trimmed the term ‘weblog’ into ‘blog’ in 1999.

 The first few blogs were linked into a homepage or archive and were updated manually. There were no personalized blogging platforms, until LiveJournal and Blogger were created. The early 2000s sparked the growth of blogging. It was used for different purposes: as a guide to making/writing a blog (metablog), as a means to talk about political issues, as a means to talk about current news and topics, opinions, and so on and so forth.

 During this period, other blogging platforms such as WordPress, Movable Type, TypePad, Technorati, Audioblogger and YouTube, among many others also emerged. Blogging platforms are not limited to text per se. Some blogging platforms lean towards video and audio, such as Audioblogger and YouTube.


As blogging grows bigger throughout the years, a new kind of platform was developed based on it. It is called ‘microblogging’, which stands for ‘short-form blog’. Microblogging platforms are similar to blogging platforms. However, what makes it different is that it incorporated social networking features and combined it with basic blogging features. This paved the way to one of the most successful and interactive microblogs created: Tumblr.


Tumblr is a microblog that began in 2007 and was founded by David Karp. It offers many different features that make it standout compared to other microblogs, and was quickly picked up by different users from all over the world. Within 4 years, Tumblr was able to grow exponentially.

(Screenshot taken from as of 6:36pm, Sydney, Australia time, 21/09/2011)



It is free to set up a Tumblr account. A person just needs to input his/her email address, password, and a chosen URL name for his/her Tumblr account (for example:, as long as the URL name is not yet taken. Plus, the site does not have any ads at all.

 Custom Domains

Tumblr also offers users the choice to have their own custom domain (, although users would have to pay in order to have a custom domain.

Post Anything

Users can post texts, photos, quotes, links, audio, video, and chat/dialogue on their Tumblr accounts. Photosets are also a feature, in which several photos are compiled and can be viewed like a photo book. Users are also able to post captions in their photos or combine photos and text in one post. It all depends on the creativity of the user. There is also a ‘queue’ feature in which users can set the posting time and frequency of their queued posts automatically, without having to post and update manually.


Generally, all Tumblr posts are viewed as public, which means Tumblr pages can be viewed even if the viewer does not have a Tumblr account. However, the user can adjust the setting to make a post private, which can be considered as an ‘online diary’ feature.

 Following & Followers

Tumblr users can choose to ‘Follow’ other Tumblr accounts, much like ‘add as a friend’ feature on social networking sites, or ‘Follow’ on Twitter. Following other accounts is not “mutual” in a sense (for example: User A can follow User B, but User B can choose not to follow User A). Accounts that a user follows and his/her followers are also viewable. Updates of those accounts that a user chooses to follow will be seen through the ‘Dashboard’, much like the ‘Newsfeed’ on Facebook.


A ‘user can ‘reblog’ another user’s post. The reblogged post will then be visible and included in another user’s account or Tumblr page. It is also traceable to see the users and the number of users who reblogged another user’s post, their comments and how many people ‘like’ the post.


The ‘Submit’ feature enables users to literally submit content to another user’s Tumblr page. Usually Tumblr sites that collect photographs, videos, text, etc. within a certain theme (i.e. dogs) enable this feature on their page.

 Ask, Comment, Like

Tumblr has an ‘Ask’ feature, in which other users can ask other users anything. Users have the option to publish the ‘Ask’ link through the ‘Dashboard’, include the link on their Tumblr page, or to not enable the feature at all. Adding comments are also possible to other Tumblr posts, and again, users have the option to enable or disable this feature. Liking posts (similar to Facebook) is also another feature, and users can manage all their liked posts within the ‘Dashboard’, as well as the user’s own posts.

 Themes & Customization

Users have hundreds of pre-made themes to choose from in Tumblr. Most of them are free, although there are paid themes as well. However, some users like to customize and create their own themes. This is highly possible, since Tumblr allows its users to customize everything in their Tumblr page, whether it be the theme, the format, link buttons, mouse pointer, etc. Anything can be customized in a user’s Tumblr page.

 3rd Party Apps

Tumblr can be linked and synchronized to other applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram, among many others. It also has its own mobile app in which users can update their Tumblr accounts while on the go. It can also be linked via email.

Having said all of the main features of Tumblr, it is safe to say that Tumblr is highly interactive in a sense that it allows user and audience interaction. In fact, the users are an audience at the same time, wherein as users, they have the power and creativity to do anything they want and at the same time, they are an audience as they can view and react to the posts of other users.

 Users have the power to create and post original work, feature another user’s post in their own page and customize everything. There is absolute freedom to what a user can do with Tumblr, as it also drives the creativity of its users. Some users actually make their own Tumblr accounts as a means for them to earn money. Although ads are not present in Tumblr, users can encode and link ads to their Tumblr page to earn money (especially if their page acquires a lot of views), aside from posting their own work and offering paid commission through order requests.

 Furthermore, Tumblr can be considered personal as well, much like any other blog. Privacy is not an issue since users have the option to manage the view settings of their posts. Some users treat Tumblr as a ‘safe haven’ for them to spill anything they want. Others treat their Tumblr accounts as a scrapbook or a collection of photos, etc. (reblogged or original post) that allows the viewers to have an idea about the personality of the user. As David Karp says, “Tumblelogs don’t need all the context of written post. The context is the blog itself, or the person writing it.”

 This is what is great about Tumblr. It is a good combination of a blog and a social network: it can be personal, and it can be otherwise. It’s an interactive media space that allows people to connect and interact with each other. Users are given the choice to accept or reject anything within this interactive media space, in which other forms of media do not allow.  Moreover, users have the power within themselves, as creators or producers of ideas and other work, and at the same time interact with others as the role of a viewer, all within the context of mass communication theory.

Samples of Tumblr pages:

 David Karp, CEO and founder of Tumblr (

 Tricia Gosingtian, fashion and photography blogger (

 Vladimir Jocson, creative artist (

Lucy Anh Doan, creative artist (

 C.B. Cebulski, food blogger (

 Nic Rad, photographer and creative artist (

 To Write Love On Her Arms, non-profit movement (

Anonymous, group of photographers (

Darla, blogger and Tumblr theme designer (


Personal experience as a Tumblr user

McQuail, D. (2000). McQuail’s mass communication theory 4th edition. Thousand Oaks:   C.A.: Sage Publications.