We are honored to announce that the Internet Archive and artists Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Greg Niemeyer have been awarded one of the first Hewlett 50 Art Commissions to support the creation of “Sonic Web”—an acoustic portrait of the Internet. Sampling from the millions of hours of audio preserved in the Internet Archive, these experimental composers and artists will collaborate to create an 11-movement multimedia production for a string quartet, vocalist and original electronic instruments about the origins of the Internet and what needs to happen to keep it accessible, neutral, and free.
“Art is always a reflection of the changing dynamics of any society. Leonardo Da Vinci once said ‘Learning never exhausts the mind,'” explained DJ Spooky. “I think that we have so many things to learn from these kinds of interdisciplinary projects, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is collaborating with Artists to show how these initiatives can affect the entire spectrum of the creative economy.”
The Internet Archive team is among the first 10 recipients of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, an $8 million commissioning initiative that is the largest of its kind in the United States. These $150,000 grants support Bay Area nonprofits working with world-class artists on major new music compositions spanning myriad genres including chamber, electronic, jazz, opera, and hip hop. These commissions honor the Hewlett Foundation’s 50th anniversary, commemorating decades of leadership in the Bay Area arts world.
“The Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions are a symbol of the foundation’s longstanding commitment to performing arts in the Bay Area,” said Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation. “We believe the awards will fund the creation of new musical works of lasting significance that are as dynamic and diverse as the Bay Area communities where they will premiere.”
“Sonic Web” is conceived to push boundaries in both music and technology. New media artist, Greg Niemeyer, will build an original Sonic Web Instrument —a large touchscreen with a software tool to draw network diagrams. It will enable DJ Spooky to build and take apart simple networks using sampled sounds from the Internet Archive, further layered by a vocalist and string quartet.
“Sonic Web will dig into the big crate of the Internet Archive and remix internet history in a new, networked way,” says Greg Niemeyer. “We will break out of linear musical structures towards a more networked and connected sound.”
The artists will also take these tools on the road, partnering with Berkeley Center for New Media, Stanford Live, Youth Radio, and Bay Area high schools for music and technology workshops and a service learning course at UC Berkeley.
The work will premiere at the Internet Archive Great Room during the summer of 2018. We will also provide free global access to a downloadable Sonic Web album with music videos and the livestream of the premiere at archive.org.
NOTE: DJ Spooky, Niemeyer and the Internet Archive collaborated in 2016 to create “Memory Palace,” a new multimedia work performed at our own 20th anniversary celebration. For a taste of what’s to come, watch this.