Arts

Oxford Laptop Orchestra — Lecture 3 — Transcending Analogue

oxlork

This is number 3 in my series of lectures in music technology and ChucK to the Oxford Laptop Orchestra. Read the other two first. Sorry this blog post was a couple of weeks late. It’s quite substantial, but conceptually it underpins a lot of material. Persevere, read, ask questions.

This week sees a bit of a philosophical turn as we contemplate what ‘digital’ really means and how we can use it to play Bach on organ without having to build one first.

Read more →

Oxford Laptop Orchestra – Lecture 2 – Control Structures and Timbres

oxlork

This is number 2 in my series of lectures in music technology and ChucK to the Oxford Laptop Orchestra. Give the first lecture a read before reading this.

Last week we took a look at why, in my opinion, music and programming are natural bedfellows. We talked about what a program actually is and how it relates to Western music notation. We compared structural features of music and computer programs. We pinned down what the words ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ actually mean, how sound is transmitted, and finally we wrote a program that plays a tune.

This week we’re going to continue down two parallel paths: more about the programming language and the nature of sound in general. The reason for all of this is to give you the tools to think about what you hear, apply analytical thought to the process of composition and creation, and to enable you to conceive of and make your own ChucK sounds.

Read more →

Oxford Laptop Orchestra : Lecture 1 : Music and Programming

oxlork

I’m very excited to be involved with the nascent Oxford Laptop Orchestra. This project, run by and for students at the University of Oxford, follows on from the work of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. PLOrk, as its known, and now OxLork, is an effort to reproduce the form of performance embodied by a real orchestra or chamber group — that is, a number of individuals performing in concert, in a certain arrangement in space — with modern advances in electroacoustic music. At a PLOrk performance, musicians will sit, each with a laptop and a specially developed speaker, and make music together. So shall OxLork be!

Read more →

My first piece of digital audio music: A Very Great Sadness

I used to make music on computers when I was a teenager. I used to spend hours in my room on a MIDI sequencer with a keyboard, a synthesiser and a mouse. These tracks were all MIDI. No they didn’t sound awful I had a nice sound module, but they do sound a bit dated now. But that was MIDI.

I very clearly remember a turning point. The day I bought my first (and, it turns out only) microphone. A Røde NT1A vocal mic. I had a mixing desk in my room with phantom power and preamps, (a

Read more →

Sound file Plotter in Go using gosndfile / libsndfile

It’s no secret that golang is my new favourite language. I’ve used it to implement the latest folktunefinder search engine and really enjoyed it.

On an unrelated note, whilst looking at what libraries are available I came across the gosndfile library written by Matt Kane / @nynexrepublic. It’s a wrapper for libsndfile, a C library for reading and writing sound files.

Read more →

Jaga Jazzist Concert at the Barbican

I have been a devoted fan of Jaga Jazzist, a Norwegian group (they pretty much defy description) since around 2003, when I heard one of their tracks on a sampler CD issued by the Norwegian Embassy in London. This is the third gig of theirs I have been to. The first two were in the normal venues you would expect, with a lot of space for movement in response to the music.

Read more →

Graffiti Tribute to Hussain Mohammed

I live not far from the spot where Hussein Mohammed jumped in the Thames and drowned. Local youths have spray-painted their tributes in the underside of the bridge. Touching.  

Read more →

Clandestine Mazurka, Brighton

Music in the bandstand in Brighton. Cold wind and rain by turns. We played and danced to keep warm. I took a couple of audio recordings but this one just seemed perfectly to sum up the day.

Read more →

Almost identifying the music in a BBC trailer

The BBC love their esoteric, obscure electronic music. I think it all started with Sigur Rós in Planet Earth and proliferated from there. It’s even started creeping into BBC Radio 4 trailers now. The trailer for Will Self’s ‘A Point of View: In Defence of Obscure Words’ had just such a music bed. I decided that I would very much like to know what that music was.

Read more →

Animals and Documents

A friend asked on Facebook why there were no documents penned by animals. He claimed that ‘not a single one was to my knowledge written by an animal other than a human’. I disagree. Here are some notable quotes I have collected on the subject. ‘A cat could no more write a thesis on the plight of man than a man could on the condition of being a cat’

Read more →