Networked Byte Organ

by Jack Aboutboul, Andy Doro and Allison Parrish

What is it? How does it work?

The Networked Byte Organ makes networked data audible. Here's how it works: raw data is taken byte by byte from a network interface. The bits of each byte individually and simultaneously trigger notes on and off, similar to how a piano roll triggers a player piano. The result is a musical "composition" that sheds new light on the underlying structure of network data, unhinging it from its teleological function.

Because the network interface sees all data on its local network—not just data addressed to that interface—the music that the Networked Byte Organ generates is collaborative, in a sense. We like to think of it as an unintentially participatory musical composition.

In addition to its musical output, the Networked Byte Organ has a visual interface (depicted above) that helps the audience understand the mapping of data to sound.

Sample output

The following full-length tracks are offered free of charge! Both tracks were recorded during ITP's 2007 Spring Show.

Alternatively, you can listen to the shorter (~50 seconds) clip embedded below.


The following are photos of the Networked Byte Organ in action at ITP's Audio Art show on April 29th, 2007. Click on any of the thumbnails below for larger versions. (The telephone is, alas, a feature of the room and unrelated to our project.)

Thanks to Rory Nugent for photos 4 and 5!

photo 1
photo 2
photo 3
photo 4
photo 5

More info

We were inspired by the following projects:

Leonard Richardson's YABO is a Ruby script that generates MIDI files from binary data using an algorithm similar to the one we use in the Networked Byte Organ.

Thanks to Jeremy Rotsztain for helping us get our Jitter ducks in a row.