Oxford Laptop Orchestra : Lecture 1 : Music and Programming


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!

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Birthday Shinbash

A few shaky photos from a magnificent 18 hour birthday stint.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tracks that use Gradual onset of Distortion to Great Effect

I love Spotify. I refuse to participate in the ‘social networking’ aspect of things. Indeed I find the idea of assuming I want everyone knowing what I listen to, and the assumption that I want to see what other people are listening to mildly offensive. That’s ok, I don’t mind being offended. That said, here is a list of songs (not a playlist) which use the gradual onset of distortion to great effect.

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Old entries from simpler times: Busking

Whilst going over (and deleting) unwanted content on Facebook, I came across a few bits and pieces. I miss busking. Found this old post from 4th August 2007. Day five of ‘my’ Fringe, and the thought police are out in force. It feels like day two to me, but a lot has happened (including a technical rehearsal that finished at midnight, a street urchin and a stand-up routine about health and safety).

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From La Mantovana to the Moldau. Musical similarity in the absence of rhythm and what it means to FolkTuneFinder

Má Vlast is a set of pieces written by the composer Smetana in the late 1800s about his homeland, Czechoslovakia. One of the pieces in the set, The Moldau (Vltava in Czech) is one of my favourite symphonies of all time ever. It could be something in my partially Czech blood, it could be the fact that I’m soppy about Romantic-period orchestral music, whatever it is, I love this piece of music and know it intimately.

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