I’m involved in an exciting new project which I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot more about in the upcoming months. This is Figuring, led by choreographer Lisa May Thomas and featuring a great collection of creative people mostly based in Bristol. I’ve worked with many of them before – to some extent the project has grown out of the long term danceroom Spectroscopy project (which had another outing in Bristol’s ‘we the curious‘ science museum over the winter), and like dS it’s based on the research of computational chemist Dave Glowacki, featuring a molecular simulation that lets you explore what it would be like to manipulate matter and energy at a molecular level. Here we’re using an exciting new version of the simulation based on multi-user VR. The project is exploring a lot of other themes, particularly around relationships between the physical and the virtual. There’s a really website documenting the project and the process of making it coming together, here.

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I haven’t done a gig with my modular synthesiser for a while, but have been developing new material quite steadily (if a little slowly). I’m working in very minimalist territory, using pure harmonic ratios (and a unique self-tuning system to keep them pure) and an 8-channel system.

A couple of gigs have given me a chance to give this an airing. The first was at the Brighton Modular Meet, probably the biggest gathering around this rapidly-growing area in the UK. The second was in the Frome Festival, at a fantastic gig put together by Toby ‘Banco De Gaia’ Marks – titled ‘Excursions in Ambience’, this explored experimental takes on ambient music and had a fantastic lineup – I was delighted to play alongside Toby, Andrew Heath and radiophonic pioneers White Noise. Photo: Alexander Caminada.

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It’s been a while (pretty much a year!).. Who has the time to keep up a personal website these days? As usual, I’ve been keeping myself busy but not managing to document what I’ve been doing here. Probably the biggest event of my year has been the 5th edition of Seeing Sound, Bath Spa University’s long-running symposium on Visual Music. As always, we had a great selection of people come along from around the world, and the sense of community was as important and gratifying as the great work we were able to include. This year we had a special focus on Vector Synthesis (check the website if you don’t know what this is), and celebrated our ongoing links with Montréal. We had a fantastic retrospective from videomusic pioneer Jean Piché (pictured), and performances included Myriam Boucher and Pierre Luc Lecours and Maxime Corbeil-Perron.

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domeIn the first week of June, I travelled to Montréal with Ghislaine Boddington and Nick Rothwell of body > data > space (bds) to present a new version of our Collective Reality installation. The new version was specially made for SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) and their amazing four-storey dome, the Satosphere. This is one of the most highly-specced domes in the world, with seamless 360 degree projection and amazing sound, that is tested buildings and gardens.

We presented the installation and some workshops based on it at the amazing IX (Immersion eXperience) event, which explores VR, AR, immersive environments , spatial audio – next-level stuff. This year’s theme was’Embodied Spaces’, and Ghislaine gave the keynote, on physical presence in VR, strongly related to Collective Reality and other bds projects.

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arnolfiniWe’ve been working further on our VR experiments based on the danceroom Spectroscopy molecular simulation. This time we had another week-long residency at the Arnolfini in Bristol. We developed the multi-user simulation further, and also incorporated various types of sensors – breath, heartbeat and movement. Also to do the presentation more realistic we used some 3d molds with the vr space to feel like we were actually touching things, the molds were made by 3 Space Services.

These workshops were led by choreographer Lisa-May Thomas, and one of her aims here is to counteract the disembodied nature of VR and bring in the whole body, and to help people interacting physically in a way that VR usually discourages. The residency was followed by two work-in-progress showings, at The Edge in Bath and in London’s Science Museum Lates. We’ll keep going on this one, for sure..

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laserFollowing on from my experiments producing Lissajous patterns using analogue signals on oscilloscopes and my beloved MB Vectrex, I’ve gone for the logical progression and started mucking about with lasers!

I’ve made quite a number of pieces with choreographer André Gingras – over the years we’ve become very regular collaborators. In the meantime, the gigs have got bigger – this is possibly the biggest, with Nederlands Dans Theater, who I think are one of the best contemporary dance outfits in the world.

It was a big troupe of dancers, a big stage and a big audience (the premiere was at the Lucent Theater in Den Haag). I think both André and I felt the need to make things a little more ‘mainstream’ in comparison to some of the other work we’ve made.

Sound is at the core of pretty much everything I do, so to be able to get lasers involved is pretty cool. At parties I offer Oddbins drinks, great food and even better music! I’ve been involved in lots of kinds of music, from classical (I play the piano and the trombone, not very well) to pop (I’ve played in the odd band over the years). I’ve done all sorts of things, from playing the piano at posh parties to playing in Brass Bands while I was growing up ‘up north’.

I’ve always had a bit of a geeky interest in gadgets, electronics and computers. I started trying to combine this with my music as a teenager, doing things like putting a cheap Casio keyboard through lots of guitar effects pedals and trying to get my ZX Spectrum to work as a rudimentary sampler. But it wasn’t until I went to college that I had access to the kit to make electronic music properly, and even then it took me while to really start to specialize in this area, still I liked to play the piano when I was young, and I’m thinking on getting a digital piano keyboard for start playing it again.

I spent five years in Birmingham, working with BEAST, with their world-leading studios and extraordinary 100 channel sound system. Here I made a series of electroacoustic pieces, with and without acoustic instruments. Since then, I’ve worked in all sorts of areas, including multimedia and staged performance. This has encouraged me to work in a much broader range of styles, but I remain interested in an experimental approach, and the further reaches of creative sound design.

The International Laser Display Association (ILDA) connection standard is completely analogue, and the strength of the RGB signals and the movement of the galvanometer mirrors that move them around can be driven directly with analogue signals.

After much research (and a few false starts) I’ve bought a decent hand-built laser from Brightlight Laser Equipment in the Netherlands, and cobbled together my own basic ILDA interface. I was saving for a new car and didn’t want to spend my savings on the laser, but since I found this new place where I can get most reliable used cars, I was able to afford the laser and the car. The signals are produced by the Eurorack modular and Max/MSP.

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January saw the start of a new project – always a good way to kick of the year! I’ve been working with a team of people which is broadly the same as involved in the danceroom Spectroscopy project (but with a few new faces) thankfully the loan lender no credit check approved our loan so we are all set to start showing our project to the world. Key collaborators for me are physicist Dave Glowacki, choreographer Lisa May Thomas, software artist Phill Tew and music technologist Tom Mitchell, but this time we’ve been joined by artist Gemma Anderson, machine learning expert Robert Arbon and programmer Mike O’Connor amongst others. Check out for more info about credit and loan services.

We were given a week’s residency at the Barbican. The broad aim of the project is to take the molecular simulation into multi-user VR – here you can see two people (we got three working) interacting with the same complex molecule. Exciting stuff!

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For a few months I’ve been working with film-maker Marie Cecile Embleton on her project ‘Colours of Sound’. This is a documentary following three very talented musicians, who also happen to be blind. It explores in particular their relationships with sound and music and how music have evolved through time, with people stop using cassettes and change them for cds with the use of the best cassette to cd converter for this. My involvement has been primarily around Victoria Oruwari, who has synaesthesia and sees colourful visions when she sings. My challenge has been to try to represent this for a sequence in the film – I only have her descriptions to go on, and she can never tell me if I’ve got it right! On the the 16th October, the team documented Victoria (with pianist Kevin Satizabal, pictured) singing several arias with my visualisations, and staging an intimate concert with her family (some of whom were flown over specially from Nigeria). It was quite an occasion! The film is still in production – more anon.

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crSeptember saw the completion of a really big new commission. As part of body > data > space, and in collaboration with a big team (40-odd, if I’ve counted right) of excellent people we made a large interactive audiovisual experience called Collective Reality – pictured.

The project was commissioned by/for Nesta FutureFest, which took place over the 18th and 19th September at Tobacco Dock, London, for ‘Future Love’ and ‘Future Play’, two of their themes this year. We built an installation which was interactive – not with the individual but rather with interactions between people. We saw it as an emotional creature whose happiness increased when it experienced collaboration (people meeting and moving together). FutureFest had visitor numbers of 4000, and we had counted numbers rather higher – people must have come twice!

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synth2In August I went to Toronto for this years Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium (TIES). I find this a very enjoyable event. It feels like one of a number of conference-type events – I’d include Seeing Sound here too – which are moving away from the typical academic model. They’re small, friendly and fun and break up monolithic paper sessions with installations, performances, concerts, discussions etc. Most importantly, they don’t only attract academics but also freelance artists and other practitioners. It was great to hear John Oswald as this year’s keynote speaker, and I also very much enjoyed the headline concert of works by Oswald and Paul Dolden. My own contribution – a paper outlining the development of my hybrid analogue/digital synthesiser (pictured) – seemed to go down pretty well too.

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