Oh dear.. 2015 hasn’t been a very good year for my website, has it? I’ve been meaning to give it a major overhaul, but never quite had the time. Hopefully in 2016!

In the meantime I’ve been keeping myself reasonably busy – danceroom Spectroscopy at Z-Space, San Francisco and at Stanford University in March, the Understanding Visual Music conference in Brasilia in June and the continued proliferation of my modular synthesiser, now an 8-channel digital/analogue hybrid that produces visuals as well as sound (much more on this in the New Year).

The biggest upcoming news is the next iteration of Seeing Sound – the international event I run at Bath Spa for all things audiovisual, which will take place on the 9th/10th April. Check it out!

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mountain2I’ve been ridiculously busy over the end of January and beginning of February, with three premieres over three successive weekends.

The first two were contemporary dance collaborations – on January 31st it was Unfold to Centre with the Yorke Dance Project, part of their new triple-bill with Robert Cohan, Figure Ground. Then I went over to Den Haag to finish off the highly interactive sensor-based Wild Places: Mountain with Roosna and Flak for the Cadance festival, opening on 6th Feb (Külli Roosna, pictured).

And I’ve just got back from Seia, Portugal, and the Dias De Música Electroacústica, where I curated a programme of videomusuc for the Canadian Electroacoustic Community, including my brand new danceroom-Spectroscopy-bending work Cloud Chamber. Phew!

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vectrexPerhaps inevitably, my recent interest in all things analogue has extended into some tentative forays into analogue video synthesis.

My Christmas present was a Gieskes 3TrinsRGB+1C kit, and I whiled a way some of the Christmas holidays building the thing (rather beyond my skill level – I’m amazed it actually works!). My new favourite thing is an 80s MB Vectrex games console which I’ve hacked into an analogue video monitor (thanks to Andrew Duff for help on this). Makes beautiful organic patterns like this and this. (also pictured). In January I made some visualisations for the upcoming album release by Vessels, which will be released soon. I’m also planning to make an all-analogue visual music piece with it.

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modularOver the last sixth months or so I’ve been engaged in (what I think will be) a long-term project – building a modular analogue synthesizer. Having spent so much time working on multimedia and collaborative projects I thought it was time to focus back on sound for a bit, and I wanted to try something different.

As Frank Bretschneider put it in this interview (I remember using those synths at EMS years ago), the pace of developments in the digital domain has slowed right down, and in the absence of much new, it’s time to return to the old and find ways to renew that. The Eurorack format has caused an explosion of new analogue modules made by all sorts of funky specialist manufacturers – it’s an exciting world. I’m putting together more details on what I’m doing here.

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CineseizureI managed a bit of time off in August, although I did go to the TIES conference in Toronto and kick off a new collaboration with super talented dancer/choreographers Roosna and Flak in Tallinn (this one will run for a while, so more anon).

Now everything’s very much getting under way: September saw the culmination of a long-planned collaboration between Seeing Sound, the Arnolfini, the Encounters Film Festival and McLaren2014 - McLaren the Musician (Cine-Seizure audiovisual club night pictured). It also saw me reaching the final stages of several collaborations: Cassandra with Ana Silvera and Ludovic Ondiviela (Royal Ballet), Unfold to Centre with Yolande Yorke-Edgell, and the REACT Object Sandbox Breathing Stone project (video here). Plenty more next month, so watch this space!

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rainbowAs usual in the summer I try and take it easy and do a few fun things locally – this is mainly due to the wonderful Frome Festival, which I’m usually involved in one way or another. Unfortunately, our audiovisual club night, sensonic, which was a sell-out success last year, had to be cancelled due to insanely stringent sound restrictions from Mendip District Council. We’ve got a bit of a protest going on, so maybe something good will come of it.

Luckily I’ve got something else on though – I’m very excited that danceroom Spectroscopy are doing a Molecular Music performance in this year’s Bristol Proms. This time we’re playing with the wonderful Charles Hazlewood All Star Collective, and we’re undertaking Terry Riley’s acid-fuelled 60s epic Rainbow in Curved Air. We’re trying some new things with the system – it going to be dazzling, psychedelic and loud!

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touchstoneFor the last couple of months I’ve been working with a great team of people on a project for the REACT Objects Sandbox (Internet of Things) scheme, funded by the AHRC and produced by Bristol’s iShed.  The project is called Breathing Stone (I think – the name is somewhat in flux), and it centres around an object, the size and weight of a large pebble, you can cup in your hands. It uses sensors to detect your heartbeat and breathing, and produces music in response. The idea is that the music will give you cues to breathe ‘better’ and therefore aid relaxation, with all the health benefits that brings.  My own role is purely on the development of the music – an interesting challenge to make something generative that gives the user clear enough cues whilst remaining engaging.  We already have a working prototype, and some promising leads for further funding. Watch this space – there’s more info on the project here.

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molecularI’ve got two London premieres coming up at the end of this week (and month).  Feb 27th/28th sees a preview performance of Unfold to Centre by dance company Yorke Dance Project, choreographed by Yolande Yorke-Edgell, part of their Figure Ground programme, at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadlers Wells.  The piece uses Larry Cuba’s animation 3/78, and I’ve made a number of musical interludes based on the beautiful original Shakuhachi soundtrack by Kazu Matsui.  The piece will tour over next winter/spring.  On the 1st and 2nd of March, danceroom Spectroscopy is once again resident at the Barbican’s Weekender event.  The weekend will feature the installation, the latest versions of the Hidden Fields dance piece, and the UK premiere of Molecular Music, my sound-based work based on the system.

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zkmsmallJanuary started with a bang, with a residency for danceroom Spectroscopy at the very wonderful ZKM in Karsruhe, Germany (pictured). We had the installation up for three days, and did seven performances of the dance piece Hidden Fields. It went down very well – thousands of visitors, and standing ovations!

Since then I’ve been busy on Molecular Music, a new danceroom Spectroscopy offshoot. I’m trying to really see how far I can push the sonification of the particle system, the control of the particles by sound, and both at the same time in some kind of chaotic feedback loop.

I went over to the SoundImageSound festival at the University of the Pacific, California, to premiere the piece. It crashed twice, but I still felt it went well (and got a really nice reaction), so I think I must be on to something. I’m going to keep developing it.

While I was over in California, I did a couple of talks with Dave Glowacki on dS – one in SoundImageSound and one at Stanford University’s CCRMA. It was a busy week!

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seesound13Seeing Sound 2013 was a great success.  By some distance the biggest so far, we featured 22 papers, 10 performances and 27 fixed media works, including a rare chance to see the films of James and John Whitney, some in glorious new HD restorations.

We had over 100 delegates from all around the world, with visitors from the US, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Spain, Ireland, Germany and the Nethelands.  Our showcase Bath Spa Live performance on Saturday night sold out, and responses to the event have been overwhelmingly positive. Many of the works shown are embedded on the site, and you can also find a gallery of photos. Here’s to the next one!

(photo: Yorke Dance Company, Paul Prudence)

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