The Story

TAMA Art University, Tokyo, 2003

Mediated communication and community have occupied Nora Farrell and William Duckworth from the beginning of their work online, and they have made continual efforts to engage a global online audience into their artistic work through collaborative web projects, parallel performances, and gameplay. Their first way of doing this was with an online instrument called the PitchWeb, that they created in 1998. It is one of the earliest virtual instruments capable of simultaneous worldwide group performance.

The original PitchWeb was a web-based multi-user instrument with text/chat capabilities, meaning that users could log onto the website and play, either alone, or with other PitchWeb players around the world. The instrument was played by selecting and manipulating shapes—diamonds, triangles, circles, and squares—that are mapped to sound samples. Farrell and Duckworth designed the PitchWeb to be usable by people of any musical ability, so on one level it could make music from words and phrases that the user typed in, while on another, it could be played in real-time on the computer keyboard, which is the way that Duckworth played it on stage. During Cathedral Band performances, online PitchWeb players could also play live with the band.

The original instrument was written in Director and used the Shockwave plugin, which is no longer being supported by current browsers. A mobile phone version of the PitchWeb debuted in Tokyo and Canberra in 2007, and an iPhone version of the instrument is currently in development.