It’s been a frantic couple of months, but somewhere in there I had the privilege of being invited into a Digital Media Labs group residency in Barrow-in-Furness. A week of activities amongst an absolutely amazing and diverse group of ten artists working with technology. Many great things will come out of this.. You can read the lab diary entries, including mine right here. Actually, I still have one more retrospective entry to make, but since leaving the oasis that is the Octopus collective building I have been all over the place..
For now, here is the sound of a washing machine, mixed with the output of a pitch tracking algorithm:
[blog in progress..]
Dave has made some lovely documentation of the first Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves activities as two thoughtful blog posts here and here. Here’s some added thoughts.
It was an exhausting but revelatory week, finding out that things that look completely different can be made in the same way. Once you find this out, you perceive these different things as the same thing. I think this is the basis of our project, and the reason why weaving and (live) coding fit together well; they are activities which involve the same thought processes, and in this way are the same activities.
One of the more speculative and risky side outputs for our project is looking for ways to connect weaving with music. Well this is surely a path well-trodden, and we will be reviewing all that has gone before. I wonder if our focus on the notation of weaves will get us somewhere else though, where we can foreground the thought processes and activity of weaving in a way that is as visible as the fabric itself.
The Jacquard mechanism of industrial looms allows us to make fabric without thinking about its structure, and just drawing the end result. By leaving Jacquard to one side and going back to ancient weaving methods such as the warp-weighted loom, the activity and mathematical language of weaving becomes available to us; just as by leaving the modern Graphical User Interface to one side, the underlying activity and mathematical language of code comes available as a way of working and thinking.
In this way, we can look for ways of connecting the making of weaves and of music; making not just as following coded rules, but of following those codes while writing them. Codes not as descriptions, or constraints, but as interface to material. We follow code to make material, and then change codes in response to that material, as a way of navigating the otherwise unfathomable space of possible materials.
Sorry this blog post is a bit unfathomable too, I’ll edit it later..
Here’s a recording of Canute at the NIME 2014 algorave.
Matthew (drill ‘n bass producer of renown) on drums and me live coding with Tidal, fully improvised. The set went down really well, although to tell the truth Matthew and I weren’t really feeling it, a combination of technical hitches at the start and stage lights making it difficult to see the crowd.. But it must have been better on the floor because we got a roaring encore, which spurred us on to produce this. Love Matthew’s reaction to the tempo change ups..
The above recording is from the desk, but here’s a video snippet for the vibe..
I wrote a short essay “The Textility of Live Code”, published in a (free to download) ebook Torque #1, a collection of writings from the excellent series of events by the same name organised (and here edited) by Nathan Jones and Sam Skinner. It’s a thoroughly interdisciplinary take on mind, language and the brain and it’s been a privilege to be involved with the project. I collaborated with Kate Sicchio on a live choreography and live code performance as part of the event series, and she also has a piece in the book, amongst many other fascinating pieces.
I’ve had an inspiring time lately, including at FARM, SNEL HEST, and most recently a week’s residency with some really marvellous people at Digital Media Labs in Octopus, Barrow. So despite being tired I really enjoyed streaming a live coded improv to a metarave/megarave event Wallriss in Switzerland, making the above recording for posterity. I found myself settling into familiar territory at times though, I need to add more features to Tidal!
A lot more events coming up, too…
I wrote a bit of code in the excellent Gibber browser-based a/v live coding system while thinking about weaving in preparation for the Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves project which starts next week. You can play around with the code here, It needs a modern browser, such as as chromium or chrome (firefox might also work).
The block design on the left is the weaving notation for the meander pattern on the right shown above (and in my gibber code). This particular pattern is used by Ellen Harlizius-Klück to demonstrate the mathematical thinking involved in the construction of ancient weaves.
Dave Griffiths has been doing some freaky weaving software too.. Really looking forward to collaborating with Ellen, Dave and the rest of the team on this project over the next 18 months, including doing a lot of weaving with actual threads and looms.
Here’s an edit of a live coded improv I did at dotdotdot, the second edition of a monthly party organised by the venerable and much respected onedotzero.
Another collaboration that has blossomed this year is Canute, with Matthew Yee-King. I’ve always been a big fan of Matthew’s spasmodic live coding and frenetic drumming, and got to play together occasionally.. But now we’re living in different cities it seemed like a bad opportunity to start playing together more regularly. We share an interest both in free jazz improv and old school techno and the hardcore continuum, and I think managed to bring these together nicely. We’ve had some great shows already including at algoraves in Amsterdam and in Corsica Studios, where we got an encore from a sweaty crowd so something must be going right. We just put up a quick website with a little bit of info and upcoming gigs.
Here’s another collaboration I haven’t had time to blog about, Shared Buffer. It has so far been with David Ogborn of the Cybernetic Orchestra in Hamilton, Eldad Tsabary of Concordia Laptop Orchestra in Concordia (and both a lot more besides). Our idea of a Shared Buffer, only partly realised so far, is to explore collaborative editing of the same code. Building on a history of network music, we want to see how far we can push the practicalities of co-editing the same piece of code. We expect to perform from different continents via networks, although this is primarily an issue of geographic practicality more than anything!
All the concrete R&D + tech has largely been by David so far, but now we have some nice medium term aims for working together integrating his ESPGrid timing system and developing some of my ideas around visuo-spatial language. We also plan to expand the collaboration, happily esteemed composer and live coder Alexandra Cardenas has agreed to join.
We’ve so far performed at the TransX transmission art symposium in Toronto, with our next gig at the Network Music Festival in Birmingham UK (where I’ll also be playing an algorave set with Matthew Yee-King as Canute).
I recently started collaborating with Adam Denton of Trans/Human, who has been helping make algoraves happen in Newcastle and Sheffield. Sharing an interest in undoing of technology, we’ve assumed the name “Lud”. Here’s some video from our first collaboration at the Sheffield Algorave:
Alex Keegan of Blood Sport (check this video) seemed to enjoy our improv and now we’re supporting them and the incredible Nissenenmondai at Tramlines festival in the millennium galleries in Sheffield this Sunday, at around 7pm. Always good to play on a big PA in my home town! Facebook event here.