That syncing feeling

In order to be able to work up sketches for ‘Perang Gagal’ at ICLC in Limerick, I wanted to use Logic to compose demos of the material for the live players that I could then improvise with in SuperCollider. This poses the problem of how to sync the pulse and tempo between the two programmes, which proved annoyingly difficult to accomplish!

Ideally, I would have liked to set the tempo in SuperCollider for Logic to follow. A straightforward way to do this would have been for SC to send MIDI clock and have Logic follow but, annoyingly, Logic does not support slaving to MIDI clock.

According to the Logic help, it should be possible to sync to an audio click from Logic. I couldn’t get this to work, and nobody on the Logic Users Group seemed to be able to help either.

The eventual solution was less than perfect. I used Logic to send MIDI clock, and had SuperCollider slave to that. This involved using the MIDISyncClock extension from H. James Harkins ddwMIDI quark. Not perfect, but got the job done.

What did work very well indeed was the recently released Blackhole tool for passing audio between mac applications. I’d definitely recommend this as a replacement for Soundflower!

Livecoding gamelan

The work that I will be taking to ICLC 2020 in Limerick is entitled ‘Perang Gagal: a Series of Inconclusive Battles’, and is a collaboration with Professor Mel Mercier at the Irish Word Academy of Music and Dance. I will performing livecode in SuperCollider as part of a small gamelan ensemble let by Mel. Here’s the demo video I submitted to the conference call:

I had thought that the eventual piece would be straightforward to devise, but it is proving trickier than I thought. There are couple of limitations. We won’t have access to a full gamelan for the conference. I had hoped to visit Limerick to work with the players in advance, but that has not proved possible: instead, I am going to send sketches of the material I am working on to Mel, and we will put the piece together during the conference.

The third limitation is around pulse. I want this piece to be rhythmic, but I do not feel confident about trying to get SuperCollider to follow the tempo and pulse of a live ensemble of gamelan musicians. Consequently, I am having to devise material where SuperCollider establishes some sort of groove that the live players will follow.

So far I have four potential sections for the piece. As ever, I am reworking existing materials. ‘fibblesticks’ and ‘Adrift & Afloat’ are ‘counting pieces’ that employ numerical frameworks to allow performers to play together in time, while leaving pitch inderminate: or rather, when working with the gamelan, projecting the entire complement of available notes, pelog in this case.

I have on a number of occasions performed a sort of quasi-Javenese gamelan texture in SuperCollider, using samples of the Spirit of Hope instruments here in Glasgow. For Limerick, I have reworked this by adding a balungan part for the live players.

The fourth section for the piece is new, and is based around a couple of musical ideas that occured to me in a dream and that were still in my head on awakening:

Many of my musical ideas originate in this way!

Livecoding brass

As 2019 draws to a close, I’m spending some time getting ready for the International Conference on Livecoding in February in Limerick. I put in two proposals. The first of these was to be called The ‘All-Pressure No-Method’ System, and would have involved me working with four live brass players. I say ‘would have’: this has had to be abandoned, we were not able to fund the travel and accomodation for the players.

The central idea, however, is one I’d like to return to. Inspired particularly by the work of Kate Sicchio in livecoding dancers, the intention was to livecode the brass players by means of a repertoire of typed and projected instructions. Here’s a demo video of the concept:

 

Radio Automata

Here’s the collaboration that Bill Whitmer and I did for Radiophrenia

Algorave at Radiophrenia

This week I’m taking my algorave work in a new direction. In collaboration with Bill Whitmer, we are going to be presenting a half-hour show called ‘Radio Automata Live in the Studio‘ as part of Radiophrenia, a temporary art radio station broadcasting from the CCA in Glasgow.

The idea for the show is: if the last remaining creative decisions in broadcast radio were entirely automatic, would anyone notice? Bill has been experimenting with algorithmically generated text and chatbots for the spoken part of the show. For my part, I’m going to be creating cut-up mashups using the slicing techniques I’ve been developing in SuperCollider.

In previous work along these lines, I’ve always used source material that was either explicitly open source, or, at least, grey-area material that I was unlikely to be sued for, like old TV themes and midi module demo songs.

In this show, for the first time I’m taking a so-sue-me approach, using… well, I won’t give the game away, but some *very* well known material indeed, arising from ‘suggestions’ ‘made’ by the bots Bill has been working with. In early experiments this is sounding very interesting indeed. Watch this space, or rather, listen to this wavelength!

  • 23rd May 2019
  • 1100-1130
  • 87.9FM across Glasgow

Livecoding with Robert Henderson

Improviser Núria Andorrà visited Glasgow in March to teach on the International Collaboration in Contemporary Improvisation module at the Royal Conservatoire of Glasgow. My colleage Una McGlone took the opportunity to organise a gig for her at Hairdressers, in collaboration with a number of Glasgow improvisers.

I did a short set alongside trumpet player Robert Henderson, who I have known for many years: in fact, I know him from the period around twenty years ago where I myself was active as a gigging trumpet player! For this performance, I used a bank of sounds that I have created using purely mechanical sounds from a trumpet, the metal, valves, valve slides and so forth. It’s always slightly problematic livecoding alongide an actual analog musician, as it is not easy to respond particularly rapidly to another player. However, Robert and I enjoyed playing together and managed to create some satisfying musical gestures together.

No recording made, unfortunately!

nuria gig flyer.png

Algorave at Sound Thought

I shared an algorave spot at Sound Thought with Claire Quigley, that was streamed as part of the TOPLAP 15th anniversary stream. You can see her set here and mine is here, although I have to say not that happy with the way my performance turned out on the day. The rehearsal was better:

As you can see, combining my livecoding work with my passion for table tennis! And, in fact, this was a new technical discovery just the day before: it is possible to use Atom to livecode simultaneously in Hydra and SuperCollider, using a plugin for SC. I’m not sure this is intended behaviour, but in practice if you have Hydra running in Atom and then switch to a page of SC code, the Hydra visuals run on behind that code.

Amongst other things, Claire is a colleage of mine at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she teaches coding to the music education students. We’re hoping to do more work together in the future.