Synchronised Swamp

Ever noticed on a hot summer’s day that the crickets seem to be singing in time with each other? Biologists have tended to attribute the synchronisation of frog and insect calls as the result of a vocal race between males competing for the attention of females. Dominant males in these communities tend to be the first and loudest to call. Females will then respond to the earliest and most prominent males with an invitation to mate. Synchronisation of groups of these calling animals initially appears to be the outcome of some sort of sexual selection process. However, doctor the theory of coupled oscillators, order in particular, the Kuramoto model of populations of coupled oscillators, provides us with mathematical equations to describe this process of synchronisation. This process, as previously stated, is one found recurringly in nature.

Synchronised Swamp is an audio-video installation that simulates synthetic frog and insect-like choruses both audibly and spatially using a computer, video screen, multi-channel sound output and distributed speaker system. The software plays back several samples of a synthetic chorusing swamp creature per audio channel, while a visualisation reflects the rhythm on a screen. Each sample is repeated periodically. A mathematical model is then used to bring the collectively sounding samples and visuals in and out of synchrony. As the speakers are distributed in a ring formation, it is possible to walk through the field of chirps and experience the synchronisation from different perspectives. Different frogs/insects will tend to couple more strongly with their neighbours, which produce pockets of synchrony as the population moves towards a common period of calling.

Synchronised Swamp is an example of the use of sound and computer graphics in the mediation between the fields of Art and Science. It is a computer generated simulation of a mathematical model of a phenomenon that recurs throughout the natural world.

Project web-page: