Here’s my screen

Show us your screens! Ok, well at last maybe I’m ready. Here’s five minutes or so of me improvising in SuperCollider that’s not as embarrassing as some of my other attempts:

The code is on GitHub if anyone is madly interested.

Recording from ‘Night of the Earthmen’

Not be much to listen to, maybe, but feels an important moment for me: a new direction after finishing the PhD, satisfyingly far away from score-based contemporary ‘classical’ nonpop, or whatever you call all that stuff. Next up: more of this kind of thing, plus more gamelan. Happy days.

Night of the Earth Men

I’m doing, um, I guess my first ever solo electro-junk improv gig on Friday 5 December. Ulp. Here’s the poster… I’m almost embarrased to say:

Let’s see, the plan includes… a Pd patch running on the netbook, probably SuperCollider running on the (new secondhand) MacBook Pro. The Novation BassStation and the Hammond AutoVari 64, a mixing desk, and a pocket trumpet with a piezo mic inside a harmon mute. That’s what I’ve been experimenting with so far, anyway…

Working on a postlude to ‘Spiricom’

I’ve been working on a piece for this year’s Plug festival at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which will be in May sometime. The theme this time round is ‘postludes’. Head of Composition Gordon McPherson has invited all the composers here, including staff like myself, to compose something which draws on, or reflects, or comments upon in some way, a piece from a previous Plug festival.

I’ve found myself drawn immediately to one of Gordon’s own pieces from 2007, ‘Spiricom’, part of a trilogy of pieces called ‘Ghosts’ which deal in various ways with death and a possible afterlife. ‘Spiricom’ refers to… we’ll, you can google it, a strange and mad episode in the history of pseudoscience, a couple of cranks who convinced themselves they had built a machine which would talk to dead people.

My postlude will be for solo clarinet and acoustic laptop: by which I mean a laptop operating entirely by itself, using just the internal mics and speakers. I’ve written a patch in Pd which will (quietly) transform long notes played by the clarinet, these long notes being a (very) approximate by-ear transcription of certain passages within Gordon’s original piece. I have Fraser Langton lined up to play the clarinet, and we’ve had a wee try out with the patch: sounds ok.

A frustrating, ugly, boring piece to listen to, I imagine. But it will only be short :)

Cheetah MQ8, first go

I’ve just got a new toy (tx John!). It’s a Cheetah MQ8 midi sequencer. This is UK made, apparently released sometime in the late 80s as a competitor to the Alesis MMT-8. I’ve only just started to figure it out: pretty crazy trying to do everything with a combination of button presses and a tiny, dim LCD screen!

Here’s a two track improvisation, using sounds from my trusty Casio GZ-50M.

FIMPaC day 1

So here I am at the Forum for Innovation in Music Production and Composition at Leeds College of Music. It’s been a while since I’ve attended a conference, but I’m getting back into the swing of it. It’s hardly coalmining; nevertheless, it’s quite tiring to sit still all day listening to a long series of what can be quite dense and complicated presentations.

The subject matter for this conference at least is consistently up my street. Here’s a quick outline of the things people have been talking about, these are not the paper titles, but rather my quick summaries;

  • Julian Brook on the role of and status of the person operating the mixing desk in ea music
  • Martin Blain on the MMULe laptop ensemble in Manchester (must find out about an article by Michael Kirkby which he referred to, on acting and non-acting?)
  • Adam Stansbie building up and then comprehensively knocking down some dubious philosophical ideas (Godlovitch) which have been proposed around performance in ea music
  • some, um, perhaps not entirely convincing comparisons between so-called ‘avant-rock’ and ‘experimental’ musics from Chris Ruffoni
  • an entertaining and difficult paper from Robert Wilsmore on music sampling, full of clever postmodern confusions, most notably his so called ‘Wilsmore Symphony No 2’, where he proposed the thought experiment of taking Beethoven’s Symphony No 2, scoring out Beethoven’s name and putting his on it instead
  • Jon Aveyard comparing practices in binaural audio to the cinematic notion of the ‘point of view’ (interesting, ideas for a piece in there, also some nice demo’s of different kinds of POV shot from Goodfellas and The Lady in the Lake (1947)
  • Robert Ratcliffe showing some of his complex and brilliant mashups of, like, Aphex Twin and Berio?!? I now remember meeting Robert at a previous concert, his work is really, really great, clear, entertaining, naughty
  • Mark Marrington giving a thoughtful survey of the state of the modern digital audio workstation, and how it informs the work of his composing students
  • Rob Godman talking about live-ness and stage presence, with reference to his piece Duel for piano and sound projection

Oh, yes and we had Jazzie B this morning, for, well, a keynote speech, but really mostly a question and answer session about his wide range of experiences as a music producer. Also met Frank Millward, who it turns out is doing a project in Glasgow at the moment which sounds right up my street, looking forward to hooking up with him again. Also caught up with Jane Anthony; I did a piece a few years ago for her Leeds Lieder+ festival, talking about me coming down for a talk, maybe even doing the whole song cycle down there. Also met a couple of my ex-students. Also, just had a great bowl of satay noodles. Enough for one day, I think.

Étude-Poème pour Pianiste Récitant

The programme note for my latest piece Étude-Poème pour Pianiste Récitant, being performed this evening at 1830 by Silviya Mihaylova.

‘So, here’s the idea; a piano étude where the pianist speaks to the audience, playing along with what she is saying. This idea has several things going for it, for one, hopefully nobody else will have hit on the selfsame thing. Also… here’s what it says in the Oxford Companion to Music, under ‘étude’;

‘The essence of the genre is revealed in the title of one of J. B. Cramer’s sets, “Dulce et utile” (“sweet and useful”), as distinct from an ‘exercise’ which is merely useful.’

And that seems to me to be right, an étude should be entertaining as well as a technical challenge. Big drawback, of course, is that far from being original it’s really far too much like that Tom Johnson piece ‘Failing: A Very Difficult Piece For String Bass’. Oh well. Too bad.