Sonic Space Ecosystems, are a sub-discipline of interactive music systems, which attempt to represent, adapt, and explore principles of other systems through an open sonic interface. These systems create a complex network of interconnected agents, based on artistically inspired relationships and principles from real-world ecosystems. The characteristics of these compositions create open-form, spatio-temporal, interactive music systems. This model creates flexibility in the presentational and participatory aspects of the systems, as well as creating engaging interactive opportunities that touch on notions of computer agency, experience-based art, and site-specific couplings.
The practice of composing Sonic Space Ecosystems is defined by a number of characteristics. The first, which I consider as a strict requirement, is that the majority, if not all, of the interaction between agents of the system (human and/or software) exists in the open sonic space of the room. This means that the sonic space of the chamber in which the system is installed serves as the interface for information exchange, with microphones placed throughout the space.
The emergent musical properties of the system should be capable of creating a dynamic and diverse range of soundscapes, able to move between states of stability or stasis and states of volatility as the system works towards reestablishing equilibrium.
Ecosystems imply some source of energy exchange and energy use between agents of the system. Typically, for the system to maintain stasis, this energy needs to be balanced throughout, and the influx of new energy controlled. Since the interface for a sonic ecosystem is the sonic space, this implies that the major form of energy for agents is in the form of sonic energy.
Finally, as this is intended as an interactive art form it is important for participants to experience these systems. Participation should provide opportunities to reconsider one’s relationship to other systems through experience-based play. Software agents also need to be capable of collaborating and engaging with the human participants in the system. In order for this to occur, the sonic ecosystem must be capable of handling unknown types of sonic energy by human-agents. This sonic energy should stimulate and potentially direct the emergent music of the system.
All of these ideas are encapsulated in the following, formal definition;
Sonic Space Ecosystems (clarified here to refer to feedback-based sonic ecosystems) are classified as both cyber-physical systems and interactive music systems, comprised of hierarchically related elements that together perform a system function that is greater than is possible by the individual elements. The primary function of this system is to create a controlled music environment which exhibits emergent qualities of self-organization created through inter-reliant relationships between internal elements in the digital system, and relationships between the digital system itself to the physical sonic space that it is installed within. These elements are made aware of their physical world through microphones that act as input transducers, allowing them to use sonic energy that they then transform according to their individual function (algorithms) as a way of surviving themselves. This transformed sonic energy is then returned to the sonic space through loudspeakers that act as output transducers as a way of potentially affecting the system as a whole. A healthy system is one that exhibits self-regulating states of growth, decay, or steady states and is capable of recovering from unexpected or extreme environmental changes. These systems are open and require external contributions of sonic energy by human-agents/participants or non-living external elements in the environment. This sonic space ecosystem then fulfills Jørgensen’s requirement that “an ecosystem is a dynamic complex of elements, agents, communities, and the nonliving environment, interacting as a functional unit,” (2007, 20) while at the same time fulfilling the ideas of interactive music systems.