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Tunnel vision: moving Net sound offline

Musician Thomas Dolby Robertson is once again blinding them with science, offering the latest example of how the Internet is pushing the boundaries of art.

    Musician Thomas Dolby Robertson is once again blinding them with science, offering the latest example of how the Internet is pushing the boundaries of art.

    Through a collaborative project supported by the ex-pop star's Beatnik music company, a team of artists last week began piping sounds into a kilometer-long tunnel. Using the Internet, participants add random noises to the mix, which is being broadcast on 64 speakers spread along the span of the Clyde Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel in Glasgow, Scotland.

    The Clyde Tunnel Project was commissioned by Stephen Skrynka and developed by a group of artists, called the CASM Team, including Adrian Ward, CASMserver architect, driver software developer; Paul Maguire, CASMclient software developer, project management; and Matthew Trowell, CASMhardware designer and developer, electronics engineer. The CASM Team developed the CASM system, the technology that was installed in the Clyde Tunnel.

    "They're creating a full audio environment, and at the same time, they're jamming with total strangers across the world and having fun making music," said Ian Chia, architect of Beatnik's Xtra, the plug-in technology used to provide the audio for the Clyde Tunnel Project.

    Up to 16 people at a time can add their sounds to the mix by logging on to the tunnel's Web site and downloading a software program, called the CASMclient software. Visitors can pick from 256 samples of sounds to broadcast and determine the distance and speed at which the sound travels along the tunnel.

    "It's probably the world's largest multi-user remixer," Chia said. "It's not just one person controlling it, but 16 people."

    The Clyde Tunnel project is not unique, according to contemporary art watchers, who say the Internet is becoming a kind of high-tech canvas.

    "Artists are using a new medium produced by technology," said Aaron Betsky, curator of architecture design and digital projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    The SFMOMA is showing a selection of digital works through its Web site under a section titled "e-space."

    Last month, the museum recognized artists Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey with a $30,000 prize for their work, which makes heavy use of the online medium.

    "The artworks are a clear use of the medium, and the artists had a clear relationship of where our society is," Betsky said.