Category Archives: music

Death of algorave

xname

Here’s a room recording of xname and I playing a post-algorave set at Audacious Space in Sheffield. We start making sound from about 4 minutes in.

Xname performed using handmade circuits controlled with strobes and other lights. I used my livecoding DSL Tidal, which also sent flashing patterns to a monitor flat on the table, so xname’s system could be in sync with mine. She also directly beatmatched strobe frequencies, it turns out she has a secret DJ past.

I was pretty much hypnotised by xname’s strobes while live coding and didn’t really know how it went at the time, but am really happy with this recording. You’ll have to imagine the strobes.

Declaration Kriol

img_2771I’ve been working with Arts on the Run and Rafiki Jazz on an embedded research project, developing software around group composition / improvisation sessions. It’s interesting to be developing computer language when the members of the band have different mother tongues and musical heritage, so that the technology forms part of the ongoing cultural negotiation. The technology I’m making will form the voice of an “avatar”, which will be created by puppet maker Emma Powell, and which will join the band on stage. So the technology will literally contribute another language (or at least pseudo-language, but lets see!). The project is using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the most translated document) as inspiration, hence the name.

My involvement is funded by the Culture, Society and Innovation Hub, University of Leeds, where my fellowship with ICSRiM is based. The Declaration Kriol project is also funded by the AHRC Transmitting Musical Heritage project, University of Sheffield.

Here is the first recording I contributed to using my new software. The track was composed and recorded in a single day at Yellow Arch in Sheffield:

So far the software organises sound sampled live from from the vocalists into a timbre space, and I’m then triggering ‘drawings’ in that space. The drawings are forming a set of symbols, I guess words are next… As you can hear, the software forms a very small part of the whole, here’s all the fine people involved, in no particular order:

Kadialy Kouyate (senegal): kora
Vanessa Rani Chutturghoon (uk/mauritius): vocals
Catherine Carr (uk): guitar
Sarah Yaseen (uk): vocals
Mina Salama (egypt): ney and kawala flutes
Jaheda Choudhury (uk/bangladesh) MC
Guery Tibirica (brazil): berimbau, percussion
John Ball (uk): tabla
Tony Koni: fretless bass
Alex ‘yaxu’ McLean: code (algo-kriol)
Arad Tamizi (Iran): daf
Monica Ross, Acts of Memory: Declaration mentor
Aysegul Thornett: documentary photography
Joao Paulo Simoes: documentary filming
Robin Downe, Yellow Arch Studios: sound engineer

Touring in the Autumn!

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Happy new year + upcoming

Looking forward to 2013, some things I’m up to so far:

+ more on the cards..

Upcoming events in September

7/8th September 2012, Leeds – Live Interfaces

As my first act as research fellow at ICSRiM, I’m chairing this conference on live interaction in performance technology, two days of papers and performances, including a (free) club night.  The quality of submissions has been fantastic, and we have people coming from 11 different countries outside the UK, can’t wait!

10th September, Slovenia – ICMC 2012

Then I’m off to give a paper on Live notation at the International Computer Music Conference with Hester Reeve.   Looking forward to hanging out in Ljubljana, hope to spend some time in the kiberpapa while I’m there (Sunday-Thursday).

16th September, Germany – Documenta festival

This isn’t 100% confirmed, but the book Speaking Code will be launched at Documenta festival, and while I can’t be there, I will still be live coding there.  More on this once it’s done..

17th September, Goldsmiths – Graduation

Although I was done with this back in November 2011, this is the final step where I get to wear the stupid clothes.  Hoo.

25th September, Leeds – Psychogeography Pecha Kucha

I’ll be trying to argue for computer programming being a form of psychogeography in 20 slides over 6.66 minutes. Drop me a line if you’re interested and I’ll pass on the room info once I know..  The event is organised by Tina Richardson.

29th September, Sheffield – Do It Thissen

Happy to be performing in the exhibition about post-punk Sheffield, I’ll be somehow re-interpreting a wall of 7″ record sleeve cover art.  Neil Webb and Ron Wright will be playing too, and Sensoria will be launching their musical map. Register here for a free beer!

PhD Thesis: Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts

With some minor corrections done, my thesis is finally off to the printers.  I’ve made a PDF available, and here’s the abstract:

We consider the artist-programmer, who creates work through its description as source code. The artist-programmer grandstands computer language, giving unique vantage over human-computer interaction in a creative context. We focus on the human in this relationship, noting that humans use an amalgam of language and gesture to express themselves. Accordingly we expose the deep relationship between computer languages and continuous expression, examining how these realms may support one another, and how the artist-programmer may fully engage with both.

Our argument takes us up through layers of representation, starting with symbols, then words, language and notation, to consider the role that these representations may play in human creativity. We form a cross-disciplinary perspective from psychology, computer science, linguistics, human-computer interaction, computational creativity, music technology and the arts.

We develop and demonstrate the potential of this view to inform arts practice, through the practical introduction of software prototypes, artworks, programming languages and improvised performances. In particular, we introduce works which demonstrate the role of perception in symbolic semantics, embed the representation of time in programming language, include visuospatial arrangement in syntax, and embed the activity of programming in the improvisation and experience of art.

Feedback is very welcome!

BibTeX record:

@phdthesis{McLean2011,
    title = {{Artist-Programmers} and Programming Languages for the Arts},
    author = {McLean, Alex},
    month = {October},
    year = {2011},
    school = {Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London}
}

RIS record:

TY  - THES
ID  - McLean2011
TI  - Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts
PB  - Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London
AU  - McLean, Alex
PY  - 2011/10/01