Giving a workshop in Jakarta

My institution, The Royal Conservatoire of Glasgow, have sent me on a trip to make connections with a number of potential partners in Indonesia, including the UPH Conservatory of Music, the Jakarta Institute of Arts (IKJ), and Institut Seni Indonesia Surakarta (ISI Solo). I’ll also be visiting Singapore to see Setan Jawa, and talk to the producers about bringing this to Glasgow for a Festival of Gamelan and the Moving Image that we are planning here for September.

Here’s the poster for a workshop I’ll be giving at UPH, that will take in a livecoding demo and a performance of Steadily-Stop! alongside an analysis of Antichthon.

Ubuntu Studio, SuperCollider, Dell Inspirion 11 3000 – success!

Having a very positive experience at the moment with Ubuntu Studio 17.04 running SuperCollider 3.8.0 on a £150 refurb 11″ Dell Inspiron. Apart from an initial UEFI glitch with getting it to boot, Ubuntu Studio installed easily and works seamlessly so far. The SuperCollider install was made simple by this script from @theseansco  – thanks Sean! When it came to actually booting SuperCollider, I did not even need to mess around with Jack or any other at all, everything on the audio side seems to just work. Now to push it a little harder…



Getting ready to be five (/four)

Next Friday I’m going to to be taking part in a 24 hour online algorave event wearefive to celebrate five years of the algorave movement. By accident or design I’m on back to back with co¥ᄀpt (aka Sean Cotterill) who is one of only a couple of us livecoding in pure SuperCollider, rather than the by-now overwelmingly popular TidalCycles.

Sean has been putting together an interesting set of pages on his approach to livecoding in SC, particularly on the things that need to be set up beforehand. I’ve evolved some similar ideas myself, perhaps little a less organised and more hacky. For interest, I’ve put my current setup files with comments on and also a wee example of the kind of code I use.

Admittedly, some of this won’t make sense without the particular arrangement of samples and loops that I use. I’ve recently hit upon the idea of using an array of 32 different drum samples organised roughly in the following pattern:

00 a bass drum sound
01 hi hat
02 a snare
03 a different hi hat (or other hit)
04 a different bass drum sound
… etc

That way, I can make a basic un-ta-ka-ta beat just by stepping through all 32, or segments thereof:

Pseq(~arrayOfHits, inf)
Pseq(~arrayOfHits[4..7], inf)

I’ve also discovered some really quite good longer patterns with this layout, using Pslide:


Guess we’ll see how all of this sounds at the rather unravy time of 0800 GMT next Friday!

Rave the Space

Last night I gave a performance called ‘Rave the Space’ at Stereo in Glasgow, part of a series of events called INTER run by Iain Findlay-Walsh ‘creating a focused, public listening context for deep experiments in / with sound’.

My proposal was to ‘perform the soundscape of the venue through the medium of livecoding’. What I did was to visit the venue the day before, at a quiet time, and make some recordings – a fairly typical basement club/rock venue, so I was able to wander onstage, through dressing rooms, behind the bar, into the toilets etc, all the while recording both the ambience and, in some cases, tapping or hitting objects of particular interest – there was a group of CO2 cylinders that were particularly nice.

On the morning of the event, I roughly levelled these recordings, discarded uninteresting ones, cut out handling noise, mobile phone interference, and initial and terminal clicks from the recorder. This left me with nine recordings, each about a minute long.

I decided to challenge myself by doing as little rehearsal for the performance as possible. I had one synth precoded, a slicing sampler. All this does is to take an audio file and play back one of n slices: in the case of these roughly 60 second long files, I used n=64. On previous occasions when I’ve done livecoding/algorave with found sounds, I’ve gone through the source audio files carefully in Audacity, looking for particular short sounds that I can then isolate and shape into something resembling a drum hit, then performed with those sounds in place of drum sounds.

The slicing approach used here is deliberately less controlled: it’s a matter of luck what sound falls where as the point at which the file is sliced is quite arbitrary, perhaps falling just on ambience, or half-way through a percussive noise.

The performance was only to be ten minutes: which is not a lot on my timescale of livecoding in SuperCollider! I decided to start with a blank screen: in retrospect, I could have got to better musical gestures faster if I’d had maybe ten or a dozen lines precoded. Nevertheless, in this sit-down and concentrate atmosphere, the blank-page start was quite intruiging for the audience, I think.

The performance mostly went well, although there was one of those moments where I had what looked like a correctly typed line that evaluated correctly, that did not seem to be doing anything! I still can’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

I’m pleased with this idea and intend to repeat it, particuarly the site-specific approach to gathering sounds.

Here’s the code, not much to see here:

SynthDef(\sl, { |out, gate=1, buf, sig, slices=16, slice=0, freq = 261.6255653006, amp=0.1|
var myenv, env, start, len, basefreq = 60.midicps, rate;
rate = freq / basefreq;
len =;
start = (len / slices * slice);
myenv = Env.asr(attackTime: 0.01, sustainLevel: 1, releaseTime: 0.1);
sig =, buf, * rate, startPos: start);
env =, gate, doneAction: 2);, sig * env * amp)
t = TempoClock(140/60).permanent_(true);
u = TempoClock(140/60 * 2/3).permanent_(true);
~paths = [
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/bar.aiff", // 0
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/c02ambience.aiff", // 1
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/cafe.aiff", // 2
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/co2.aiff", // 3
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/corner.aiff", // 4
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/lane.aiff", // 5
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/seatingbank.aiff", // 5
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/space.aiff", // 6
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/stage.aiff", // 7
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/stairs1.aiff", // 8
"/Users/jsimon/Music/SuperCollider Recordings/stereoglasgow/stairs2.aiff" // 9
~thebuf =, ~paths[7]);
Pbindef(\x, \instrument, \sl, \buf, ~thebuf, \slices, 64)
Pbindef(\x, \slice, 0)
Pbindef(\x, \slice, 64.rand)
Pbindef(\x, \slice, Pwhite(0,63,inf))
Pbindef(\x, \legato, 1/4)
Pbindef(\x, \dur, 1/4)
Pbindef(\x, \note, Pwhite(0,12,inf))
Pbindef(\y, \instrument, \sl, \buf, ~thebuf, \slices, 64)
Pbindef(\y, \slice, 0)
Pbindef(\y, \slice, 64.rand)
Pbindef(\y, \legato, 4)
Pbindef(\y, \dur, 1/2)
Pbindef(\y, \note, Pwhite(-12,12,inf))
t.sched(t.timeToNextBeat(4), {u.sync(120/60, 10)});

Getting my fingers burned

Sooner or later, I’m going to have to get back to the ‘ol soldering iron:



I have a plan: to reconstruct the PE Minisonic you can see above, that I made while I was in school. I still have some of the boards…

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.

A visit to CoPeCo

In my day job in charge of the masters programmes in music at the RCS, I can’t help but be interested in innovative new models of postgraduate study. So I was very happy to be able to visit Hamburg this week to observe the CoPeCo programme in action. This is a joint European masters in contemporary performance and composition, where the students study in four different institutions in Estonia, Sweden, France and Germany. The first cohort of the programme are just finishing up at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, where I was able to attend a concert involving two of the current students, Émilie Girard-Charest (cello) and Sylvain Devaux (oboe), joined by HfMT student Fanis Gioles (percussion).

Speaking with them afterwards they were at pains to point out that this concert tonight was perhaps not typical, featuring as it did mostly precomposed music rather than devised, improvised, or collaborative work. For all that, it was a deeply engrossing evening. The first work was Mauricio Kagel’s Con Voce, ‘for three mute players’. The clue is in the title, with the work opening like a putative companion piece to Cage’s 4’33, the three players intense, motionless and… utterly silent. For a very long time! Or, until, as Kagel’s direction has it ‘the listeners’ level of attention is in danger of crumbling’. A piece that demands, and was given, great commitment and concentration from the players.

The next piece was the premier of a new composition by American composer Heather Stebbins, who it seems had crossed paths with the CoPeCo cohort in Tallin. A great piece, called Crow song, a duet for oboe and cello, working from tentative, unvoiced sounds through to something approaching a melodic shape, and back again. Émilie then gave a performance of Enno Poppe‘s work for solo cello Herz, all microtones and glisses, beautifully played with an ethereal and un-cello-like tone.

The last piece was Dmaathen by Iannis Xenakis, for oboe and percussion. I do enjoy this kind of piece, but admittedly an odd combination: I found my attention drawn more to the percussion writing than to perhaps rather dominated oboe.

I’m looking forward later this week to meeting up with Konstantina Orlandatou who coordinates the CoPeCo programme in Hamburg. Of course, this is a tragically bad time to be even thinking about European collaborations, but… it would be great if we could set up some sort of partnerships along these lines beteen the RCS and comparable institutions on the continent.