Pictures from Bare Wires

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(Pics by Tamara Polajnar)

Bare Wires in the Skinny

Nice piece on ‘Bare Wires’ by Clare Sinclair in the Skinny;

‘The lines between technology and the arts are blurring at an astronomical pace: the latest laptops and computers position themselves not only as tools for business, but as home entertainment centres where anything seems possible.

J. Simon van der Walt, performing as part of the Cryptic Nights season, parallels this revolution yet takes it back to the ‘Bare Wires’. As Edward ‘Teddy’ Edwards and the Electr-O-Chromatic orchestra, he presents and electronic symphony of music and performance.

Van der Walt’s imagination takes us on a technologically devised musical jourrney with improvisation, composition and electro-junk. His passion as a performer, actor, director and composer is apparent, and he strives to blend musicality, innovation and theatricality into one.

Luckily, Cryptic’s creative drive lies in a similar field, making the Cryptic Nights season a perfect match for the composer. He arrestingly combines his “creative misuse of technology”, such as text-to-screech (the warping of standard computer text-to-speech software), with reverting back to his childhood use of electronic junk as instruments. This piece could reinvent the way we experience music, and its place in a modern society. The electronic age is vibrantly creative, and with ‘Bare Wires’ the performing arts are keeping pace.’


Got hold of a loan of a very cool instrument to use in the show;

Yup, it’s a cynthcart, a Commodore 64 hacked up to play as a synth! Tried it out in rehearsal today, works great. (Thanks to Col for the loan.)

Plan for the show, version 02

Well, that worked out easily enough. If the longer numbers are in the region of five mins, I reckon I can just about bring that in at 45 mins.

Also working on a list of instruments, looks like twenty-two different bits of gear, including laptops, effects units and conventional instruments.

Plan for the show, version 01

Slipping Away

Driving work the other morning, I wrote this waltz in my head;

It’s called ‘Slipping Away’ because, as you might have noticed, each time it repeats it accidentally slides down a semitone; like the last slush of winter on a window pane, or someone slowly, gently, dying…

I think I’ll use it in the show on March 5th. Which now, finally has a fourth player! And, I got a loan the other day of an *extremely* cool instrument to use in the show, more details to follow.

Ted Edwards classic

I’ve finally managed to persuade Ted to let me post some of the amazing back catalog he’s built up over the years. Below is a piece called ‘slacion’ which he did ‘sometime in the late 70s’, using an adapted version of the PE Minisonic synth plus tape loops plus a spring reverb. The video is also by Ted, a recent digital remix of ‘some old Betamax that’s up in the loft’. I can’t wait to find out what else he has up there…


Managing to do the same kind of thing now in SuperCollider, speaking one word at a time, which kind of makes more sense in this context; loudcoding?

(Amazed at getting this to work, actually. I’m *so* not a programmer!)

More text to screech

Updated version of the Bare Wires text interface;

Bare Wires – text to screech

Hers is a very early and approximate proof-of-concept video of a possible text-to-screech interface for ‘Bare Wires’;

The idea is to have a laptop and screen onstage, visible to the audience. The setup is used by various performers during the piece, in various ways; to address the audience, or to direct an improvisation, ask questions, tell a story… anything, really.

‘text-to-screech’ is my coining for taking familiar text-to-speak technology built into many modern computers, and mangle it, creatively misuse it. The most extensive project I have done along these lines was a commission in 2005 for an online piece for Paragon, which is unfortunately not up any more. A similar strategy was used in ‘The Other Other Hand‘, where creatively edited machine speech was used to represent the voice of the Edwardian composer C. Hubert H. Parry.

The interface shown above is done in Max/MSP, using the built-in voices on a mac. The first aim was to program it so that it would speak each word immediately after it was typed, which was relatively simple to achieve. In addtition, when an ‘x’ is typed in a word, the partcular voice used changes, typing ‘u’ or ‘v’ subtly affects the rate and pitch of the voice. For the next iteration, I want to try the effect of having it speak the word then display it; also to munge the spoken text more drastically, perhaps mutliple voices speaking, perhaps a more clearly pitched approach, perhaps looping a word, so that the result is more ‘musical’.

The demo video above fakes up very roughly what it might be like if one performer types up instructions to the others, and then addresses the audience. Another idea I have been playing with is a game whereby the performers are instructed, for instance, to make some sort of distinctive gesture every time an ‘a’ is typed, and no to obey any other instructions given. So, for instance, the audience sees the performers being told ‘play a note’. The performers actually respond to the two ‘a’s in the sentence by throwing a book to the floor, which is a the prearranged (invisible) instruction. Then the gag is blown by by one of the performers explaining onscreen what is going on. Then another performer changes the rules… etc etc.

(Another, umm, visual/performative reference here is to livecoding, where an artist improvises live onscreen with a computer programming language to produce music and/or visuals, some nice examples here. I’ve been doing some experimenting in that direction myself using SuperCollider, which can also, as it happens, do text-to-speech. Watch this space…)