Alex McLean

Making music with text

PhD Viva and Silicone Bake

by Alex on December 1, 2011

Last month was a bit crazy, lots of grant applications in the air and amongst it all my PhD examination with Alan Blackwell and Matthew Fuller.  Both are leaders in different fields, it was a real privilege for me to have time with them.  It turned out to be a really enjoyable discussion, and they identified only minor corrections which should take me a couple of days to fix..  So a pass!

November also included a fine trip to Piksel festival, where I performed as “Silicone Bake” with Jake Harries.  Here’s our blurb:

A new collaboration between singer/guitarist Jake Harries and live coder Alex McLean, a bridge between semi-improvised pop and live coded techno, brought to life with unsolicited tales of sex, death and capitalism.

With live coding increasingly widespread in arts festival calls, live coders must confront the new normality of their practice. Live coders have always argued for focus on the human role in the algorithm, but now they leave the comfort zone of the radical, they find themselves at last on equal terms with traditional musicians who can touch and resonate with their instruments rather than try to weave their music from the functional compositions of computer language.

Through this collaboration ‘Silicone bake’, Jake and Alex explore the algorithmic limits of the 3.5 minute pop song, distracting themselves from the task with the constraints of spam, ignoring the question of the human in the algorithm to celebrate love, death and counterfeit watches.

All lyrics will be taken from spam emails and sung live. All guitars will be plucked and strummed live. All generative algorithms will be edited live. Nobody will die.

It turned out nicely and was a lot of fun, here’s a write-up from pixelache:

“Silicone Bake” -performance ended the saturday evening at USF with a wonderful contrast from the predominant “corporeal volume” of the previous performances with singing, acoustic guitar & live-coded beats & bases. Live coder Alex McLean with his Tidal music improvisation software collaborated with singer/guitarrist (&FLOSS advocate) Jake Harries. The lyrics of the “3.5 minutes pop-songs”, sung beautifully by Jake Harris, were all from spam emails, with themes of love, death and counterfeit watches. Reading the projected Alex’s coding on Tidal was surprisingly effortless and entertaining. The low light & mellow sounds carried us back in time to the intimate small-club-feel of the best MTV Unplugged gigs in mid 90′s, only to be interrupted by frequent and hysterical bursts of laughter from the spam lyrics.

We also improvised a cover version of the Free Software Song with Jag, a spooky, late night cafe performance fuelled by fine Norwegian pancakes..

3 thoughts on “PhD Viva and Silicone Bake

  1. Patrick T says:

    Congratulations Doctor McLean!!!

  2. Yes, Congratulations Dr Alex McLean! Very happy news

  3. Pingback: #Piksel11 @ #Bergen with @_blablabLAB, 14-21 November 2011 (II) | TrimTrimTrim!

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