Golden Shield Music

Marco Donnarumma - Golden Shield Music

[Marco Donnarumma / Golden Shield Music, development sketches / 2010]

According to Wikipedia the Golden Shield, sometimes referred to as the "Great Firewall of China" is a censorship and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) division of the Communist government of China. The project started in 1998 and began operations in November of 2003. It involves the massive use of web technologies such as IP (Internet Protocol address, a computer's network address) blocking, DNS filtering and redirection, URL filtering, Packet filtering, Connection reset to censor specific contents—mostly, but not only, political or historical subjects—through web search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Msn (Google has of course recently bypassed the Golden Shield – users landing on google.cn are automatically redirected to uncensored Google Hong Kong google.com.hk). Since such serious censorship is ignored by many, a clever and immediate way to improve the visibility of this issue is to explore it through art.

Golden Shield Music collects the IP address of the twelve sites that are most screened by the Golden Shield to create an automated MIDI polyphonic synthesizer. Following a few basic rules, IP addresses are translated in notes formed by several voices. Resulting notes are ordered by the amount of pages the Golden Shield obscured for each IP address. This process yields the so-called "Golden Shield music", a generative composition for eight audio channels that sits somewhere between net.art and sound art. Data organizes the musical notation, establishing an abstract relationship between Internet information and musical algorithms which sounds harmonious and "handcrafted".

Detailed information about the piece (and an audio excerpt) are available here. This software will be released soon under a GPL license for public use and modification.

If you happen to be in ReykjavÌk on May 20-22, you are welcome to join us at Pikslaverk Festival 2010. The piece will be played through a multi-channel setup and I will present a talk about the project – provided the volcano is merciful. [editor's note: related schedule here]