Synchronised Swamp

The emergence of identical or "same" behaviour across different fields of biological research is aptly demonstrated in the domain of coupled oscillators. The study of coupled oscillators, a more recent sub-branch of mathematics, can be traced back to the Dutch physicist Huygens, who noticed that two pendulum clocks when placed side by side display the uncanny tendency to synchronise their swinging. This phenomenon is one that is expressed throughout the natural world, occurring in the synchronisation of the cells of a body that generate the heart-beat, the periodic flashing of swarms of fire flies, the synchronised propagation of waves in the heart intestine and nervous system, and the synchronised chirping of certain frogs and insects.

Synchronised Swamp

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Synchronised Swamp is an audio exploration that operates both as a performance and as an installation. As an installation it simulates frog and insect choruses both audibly and spatially using a computer, multi-channel sound output and distributed speaker system. The software plays back 1-32 samples per audio channel, each representing a chorusing swamp creature. Each sample is then repeated periodically, but keeps in sync by listening to neighbouring samples.


A mathematical model is then used to bring the collectively sounding samples in and out of synchrony. As the installation is distributed throughout the space, it is possible to walk through the field of chirps and experience the synchronisation from different perspectives. Different frogs/insects (audio speakers) will tend to couple more strongly with their neighbours, which may produce pockets of synchrony as the population moves towards a common period of calling


The Synchronised Swamp software can also be used in a live context, where the parameters of the system are controlled in real-time through the use of a midi controller.


Technical Specs:
Programmed in C with the help of Project by:
Pierre Proske

Steven Strogatz

Video clip:
View one rendition of the audio with synchronised graphics:
View video