Atau Tanaka


Prométhée Numérique

1st Movement Dormant 11:54
2nd Movement Awakening 6:23
3rd Movement Excited 6:05
4th Movement Out of Control 8:26
5th Movement Tamed 6:01

Total time: 38:50

ISRC Fi-3AB-05-00001

Producer and Dramatic director: Sabine Breitsameter
Executive Producer: Hans-Burkhard Schlichting
Production: SWR2
Online Release produced by Aureobel
Artistic Direction for Aureobel Petri Kuljuntausta
© 2002 Tanaka / 2005 Aureobel
Produced by 2005 Aureobel

Album includes two essays by Atau Tanaka:
"From Telepresence to Co-experience: A Decade of Network Music"
"Prométhée Numérique"

+ Flash presentation and pictures

Atau Tanaka was born in Tokyo, and was raised in the U.S. He came up in Silicon Valley in the 90's making music from virtual reality technology. He moved to Paris in 1992 and played music festivals like Sonar, Musique Action and 38eme Rugissants, and media arts festivals DEAF, and Ars Electronica. He founded Sensorband with Zbigniew Karkowski and Edwin van der Heide, mythic for their physical performances and monumental instruments.

In 1997 he moved to Japan for a project at NTT/ICC and came in contact with the noise music scene, playing with Merzbow, Otomo, KK Null and others. Back in France since 2001, he has realized large scale installations and network pieces including a commission from the German radio SWR.

He creates a digital music in real time through bodily gestures of the performer and time perturbations of the network. His current trio is Sensors_Sonics_Sights with graphics performer Cecile Babiole and Thereminist Laurent Dailleau. Atau has received awards and support from the GMD, the Fraunhofer Society, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation.

He is currently based in Paris and conducts research at Sony Computer Science Laboratories on future music systems. He has released recordings on the labels Bip-hop, Caipirinha, Touch/Ash, Sonoris, Sirr-ecords.

Prométhée Numérique

Frankensteins Netz, Wiretapping the Net
Web work, network performance and radio art piece


Prométhée Numérique is a musical composition for network and radio infrastructures. At its structural basis are the metaphorical potential of literary references such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the legend of Prometheus. The piece explores the propos of the internet as a shared environment and participatory space. Fundamental network principles such as information exchange become the root of musical process. These promethean qualities can be tapped in an artistic project that creates a multimedia organism, to be fed and nurtured through the continuous contribution of remote participants and performers.

Prométhée Numérique is a participatory acoustic media art work for broadcast. Sounds submitted by internet- and mobilephone-users form generative materials of anonymous origin. Media streamed into the performance from scheduled artists in different locations contribute to the codes and structures of the entity. This participatory internet activity creates an living data-organism that constitutes the continuing evolving component of the project.
The piece addresses the eternal myth that there might be life and identity in the machine. By nurturing and shaping an entity of binary data, the project invites the participants to enter the creative process, while at the same time confronting them with the irony of struggle and release of absolute control.

Physical Manifestation

The work exists across three spaces:

  • on an internet website
  • as an performance space
  • in radio space

The hub of the piece will be a gallery where the performance will be live broadcast. Alongside will be a project server machine that is tapped into the net. The composer will orchestrate remote modules of participation via the net: other artists from Japan and Canada, people from the local town over mobilephone, websurfers from anywhere on the internet via the web site. These elements are streamed, mixed, shared on the net, taking on a life of its own. The project server collates and harvests this data activity, and the composer interprets, re-mixes and shapes the sounds in a live radio performance.

From Telepresence to Co-experience:

A Decade of Network Music

My experiments in composing musical works for networks span a period since 1994, and have evolved from recreating traditional musical practice to conceiving new malleable musical forms. This parallels the representation to composition trajectory set forth by Jacques Attali in Noise.

My first instinct as musician was to attempt to recreate performance dynamic over the network. I began by performing telematic concerts using videoconferencing technologies. I sought to use network time delay musically – to consider it the acoustic of the network. This ultimately led to NetOsc in 1999, a project of Sensorband, removing visual contact and sending only control data instead of audio amongst remote performers. Performance practice on networks, then, was about perturbations of musical communication.

I then questioned whether qualities of networks were better suited for explorations other than performance. My installation pieces explored the spatial aspects of networks manifested in sound. Constellations (1998) juxtaposed mixing of multiple network MP3 streams alongside acoustic mixing of multiple sources in the gallery space. MP3q (2000) was a web-based piece – a sort of music. The listener mixed multiple music streams using an abstract graphical text interface, and also could contribute his own sounds. Driven by participation, the piece was at its outset but an empty shell. Pierre Levy predicted that artists would no longer make objects and instead serve as filters. Here was a contentless composition.

Two projects can be considered hybrid pieces. Global String (2000), a collaboration with Kasper Toeplitz, is a monochord spanning two cities. Network traceroute connects the two ends of the string and also acts as its resonating body. Prométhée Numérique/Frankensteins Netz (2002) was a hoerspiel combining web-based participation and live radio broadcast, vehicled by a machine performer.

I have since focused on the social dynamics afforded by networks, extending my experiments into the wireless domain. I use mobile systems to create compositional structures allowing groups of people to participate in the musical creation process. Subconscious acts of listening to music and moving around urban environments are the stimuli into the system. Musical avatars represent geographic location and shared co-experience create a social remix.

The recurring theme in these projects was the search for musical qualities of the network, to create work that is idiomatic for the medium. After following my musician’s instincts, I learned to let go. Rather than controlling time and space with sound, I now create architectures for collective musical processes.

- Atau Tanaka
© 2005 Aureobel