Interview with MIWA Masahiro

The Sense of Distance in Computer Networks part 1

Conducted/constructed by HOSOMA Hiromichi

(instructor, Shiga Prefectural University)

At present, the composer MIWA Masahiro is working as a music professor at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS) in Gifu Prefecture. During the time he was living in Köln, Germany, he proposed that the BBS Commu Telepresence Labo be founded as a kind of on-line studio. After returning to Japan, he started the FirstClass server "Public Domain" at IAMAS. At the same time, he maintains a Web page, and is currently working on an Internet broadcasting station, "Radio Public Domain," which uses StreamWorks. In this interview, conducted by Commu member HOSOMA Hiromichi, Miwa discusses his ideas about computer networks.

Der Äußerste Norde Model 1?

In the past when I was Germany, I felt frustrated that I couldn't take part whenever there was some event happening in Japan. So I thought, "Okay, I'm going to put together a system that would make it like I was really there." And that's the "Der Äußerste Norde Model 1." (laughs)

The "Der Äußerste Norde Model 1" would be able to locate sound sources using a dummyhead. So if someone yelled "Hey!" behind it, it would turn around and say, "What?" But that's not all. There's a regular cool concept behind it too. (photo 2) By trying to get people to understand this concept over a computer network, I think it will be easier to realize. But it's hard for me to explain well because my mind is completely filled with the thought of how interesting it would be for it to turn around and say "What?" So most people haven't really taken the idea seriously.

The Idea of Connecting

Although the Internet is developing, it still hasn't gotten to the stage where sound can be sent back and forth at rapid speeds. When the telephone lines are improved, that will have a big effect I think.

But just being able to send something more quickly doesn't necessarily mean that the situation will be better.

For instance, when you send a sound or picture by Stream Works, the quality is very rough, and more than anything the thing that matters most is whether you can hear it or not. (laughs) It's quite similar to my wanting to listen to a germanium radio when I was in elementary and junior high school. Especially when you think that it takes four seconds for each frame of a picture to appear.

But on the other hand, you do get the feeling you're connected to something now. Even if everything happened in real time, that wouldn't necessarily be good. Being able to get at anything you want isn't the point, the question is how you get at it.

The Social Significance of Requests

When you think about it, requesting a piece of music is a strange thing to do. If you really wanted to listen to something, you could listen to it right away, right? There are tons of CDs for sale wherever you look. But people go out of their way to request something on the radio, and enjoy waiting for something that may take days to hear and at best has a very low probability of being played to begin with. But requests aren't just a way of asking for a set of sounds to be played, they are a way of connecting with other people and the world.

In the past I have requested things from FirstClass and tried to alter the sounds that are being broadcast over the Internet using Commu*. And sometimes in the middle of listening to it, the sound will suddenly be cut off and another sound will start to play. Then you realize, "Ah, somebody just requested something else, that's why it got cut off." That's what makes the experience important. It's interesting to be able to hear something you have requested, but to be there at the instant another person is accessing something is really the most interesting part.

It's like requesting something on a jukebox--other people, besides the person who requested the music, have to listen to it. Everyone in the place is forced to listen to it. And they're all watching and wondering, "What kind of music is this guy going to request?" It's a very social event.

Sound BBS



I've been thinking I'd like to take BBS one step further, so that in the future anyone will be able to put in their own sounds and take out the files they like whenever they want to. It would be a sound bulletin board. Until now broadcasting gave the act of making something public the most importance. But it would be good to have some announcements on the Internet that are a little more private. Like if someone wanted to put in an announcement saying, "This CD is now on sale!," or put in a voice saying, "This government is outrageous!" (laughs)

When you send the same message by fax and e-mail, they don't have the same feeling. By using a different medium from the one that has been used in the past, the idea of a message is changed.

Something like RealAudio, which lets you listen to something continuously, is also interesting. There have been live remotes from clubs, sounds from meetings--things like this have been done many times, but RealAudio has developed the idea even further. For instance, say that you (Hosoma) had a DJ event in your house, and then I could broadcast it on the Internet. Or I could say, "Today I'm going to listen to frogs in Ogaki croaking all day." Anyway, there are a lot of possibilities inherent in various physical places, which would be interesting as live broadcasts. That can actually be done right now with one ISDN line.

(to be continued in thew next issue of SoundArts)

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