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Favourite Moments from the One-Dayer

Posted on July 19, 2016

Kinicho: Cosmos' 3D audio display

People gather for the What's the Direction of Travel? panel

Andrew Burke and Julia Payne introduce the One-Dayer

Testing the Uniform Grip headset

Delegates gather and test out digital technology in the white lab

The Kinicho: Cosmos made of 20 speakers


Delegates chat with the technologists in residence at Rambert

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Make, Do and Bend was all about inspiring people who work in the arts to explore new ideas around digital technology, live performance and audiences.

We invited six people to put together a tasting menu of three projects that they thought were really inspiring examples of best practice in this area:


Starter
: a project they’ve been involved in that they’re really proud of

Main: a project that they wish they’d been involved in, because it’s awesome

Dessert: a project they thought offered a really interesting audience opportunity


Our chefs for the day were:

Nick Ryan – Sound Artist

Louis Mustill - Founder & Director of Artists & Engineers

Mike Shorter - Senior Creative Technologist, Uniform

Kealy Couzens – Creative Project Leader (Data), Sound and Music

Jack Churchill – Creative Lab Technologist with Ogilvy Labs

Glenn Max - Producer

STARTERS

 Nick: Jame’s Boag’s Meteorphonium

Louis: Ladies & Gentlemen (we are floating in space) - by J Glazer and J Spaceman for the Creators Project
"My role in this was Technical Director for One of Us (pre Artists & Engineers)"

Mike: The Postcard Player 
"To start we will have something I am very proud of. To make this we chuck a whole heap of interesting things in the pot. Some cables, a bit of cherry wood, an arduino, the finest quality paper, and to finish, a good healthy glug of conductive ink. This is one for the physical music connoisseur."

Kealy: White Cane - Slamanda Tandem

Jack: Alphasphere, take a watch of the video.

Glenn: Convergence 2016


MAIN COURSES

Nick: The Encounter by Complicite/Simon McBurney

Mike: Unravel by Found
"For the main event we shall sample something that I wish I was involved in, something truly individual and captivating. In the mix this time is some 600 songs, the flavourful Aidan Moffat, a fully automated band and a sprinkle of creative genius, all finely sieved through the Internet of Things."

Louis: Ayrton Senna 1989 Ghost lap today on Suzuka circuit - Sound of Honda

Kealy: Run the Jewels ‘Crown’ 360 Video and SubPac

Jack: Jukedeck, watch the video.

Glenn: The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream

 

DESSERTS

Nick: Adrift

Mike: Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK
"Let’s finish with something sweet. This is a playground for adults, beautifully crafted both physically and sonically. This project shares some similar ingredients to that of the starter - the perfect finish."

Louis: Jacob Collier Live - Streaming 360 from youtube space LA - Visuals produced by Artists & Engineers. NB Due to licensing this content isn't current publicly available.   

Kealy: Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s graphic guides

Jack: Conductor360and the Conductor 360 app

Glenn: Top 10 Websites/Programmes that allow musicians to jam or collaborate online

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One of the most exciting opportunities at Make, Do and Bend next Thursday 14 July will be the chance to get hands-on with some extraordinary tech. Here’s a taster of three things you will be able to demo, all brought into the world by the wonderful company Uniform: an emotional radio that plays music dependent on your mood, a postcard player and a virtual reality coaching experience that aims to bring elite sports training to everyone.



Uniform:

Uniform is a design and innovation company based in Liverpool and London employing more than 50 specialists from strategy to brand, film to CG and creative technology to marketing. Over our 18 years, we’ve worked with some of world’s most respected and exciting organisations, from Carlsberg to Canary Wharf Group, The FA to the Natural History Museum, collaborating with them to develop new and interesting ways for them to communicate with their audiences. Our work in innovation is celebrated across the world - with us regularly presenting at SXSW, the largest innovation and tech conference in the world, and MIPIM, the world’s biggest property festival. We’ve been a finalist in Designs of the Year, and our pioneering work consistently wins national and international awards.

Timbre:

In exploring the various relationships (both good and bad) humans will develop with AI in the future, we developed Timbre, an emotional radio that plays music dependent on your mood. Spotify’s open API allows Timbre to find and play the happiest music for your good mood, and the gloomiest tunes to wallow in if you’re down.

The Postcard Player:

The Postcard Player is a prototype that demonstrates how paper electronics can enable new interactions with digital media. Combining the analogue spirit of vinyl records and music cassettes with the tactile qualities of print production and the breadth of digital data and services, The Postcard Player uses paper electronics to enable people to listen to digital music in an engaging and physical way.

Grip:

Grip is an internet-enabled virtual coaching experience. This prototype is not an answer to, but a question exploring how relatively new technologies like the Internet of Things and virtual reality can work together to grow sport at a grassroots level, in this instance, bringing elite training to everyone. Grip features the world’s number one climber Shauna Coxsey and her coach Mark Glennie.


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We’re super excited about the Make, Do and Bend one-day conference next Thursday 14 July, and wanted to give you a taster of why. Throughout the day there will be opportunities to demo a whole load of kit, and get inside the ‘back end’ of some brilliant projects. Here’s a preview of just one of them: Andrej Boleslavský and Mária Júdová’s virtual reality project for Rambert Dance Company.

Andrej Boleslavský and Mária Júdová are creative duo based in Prague. By working within new media art, interactive design, physical computing and 3D printing they have been exploring the creative potential of digital technology together over the past three years. Currently they are Digital Artists in Residence at Rambert Dance Company, organised by Ramber, Caper and Alpha-Ville festival.

Andrej’s work maintains a strong fascination with the entanglement of nature and technology. His practice includes independent artistic creation, collaborations as a technologist, sharing knowledge through lecturing and curating. He most recently exhibited at Arte Laguna in Venice, Poolloop festival in Zürich, Signal festival and Designblok’14 in Prague, 3D Print Show in New York and WRO festival in Wroclaw. In addition to his work he is actively involved in technological solutions for other Czech and foreign artists, for instance in installation for Expo Milano 2015. 

Mária is interested in applying the choreographic thinking to practice of digital artists and vice versa. She is currently researching at FAMU/ Center for Audiovisual studies in Prague, taking a critical perspective on the common algorithmic approach to visualizing the moving body. She is also involved in The Choreographic Coding Lab. Her works have been presented at Cinedans in Amsterdam, Dutch Electronic Festival in Rotterdam, Das Tanzfest 2015 in Basel, Atonal in Berlin and Accès(s) – festival cultures électroniques in Pau amongst many others.

During this drop-in session Andrej and Mária will unveil the process of prototyping numerous interactive installations in collaboration with contemporary dancers and choreographers, but mainly talk about an upcoming project using virtual and mixed reality. They will also install the prototype based on the Oculus headset within the demo space, giving the visitor a the chance to experience it by themselves. You can find more about the works here: http://mariajudova.net/blog



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My Hack Day Experience

Posted on July 04, 2016

Sam Duffy took part in our Ideas Lab on Tuesday 7 June, which was inspired by 'hack' culture and formed the first part of Make, Do and Bend. Here she shares her experience, and explains the concepts her group focused on. 

Join us for the second part on Thursday 14 July – a mind-bending one day conference exploring live music, audiences and technology.



By Sam Duffy, Researcher in the Music Cognition Lab at Queen Mary University of London

The Ideas Lab brought together an amazingly diverse collection of people involved in all aspects of music making and/or technology. This represented both an opportunity and a challenge as we all responded in very different ways to the brief! A number of concepts were bounced around the room during a morning of brainstorming but one in particular seemed to resonate with the people who came together to form our working group in the afternoon, “how can new and emerging technologies support and inform composition and performance?”. 

We considered using technology to mediate a collaborative compositional process; a piece co-created by an ‘expert’ composer working with a community group who provided a theme or idea. This was to be made up of short episodic musical ideas which might appeal to new audiences less used to listening to a longer piece of music. The musical episodes would be related in some way to create a coherent overall narrative, whilst still being complete enough to work as stand alone pieces. It was important to us that people had to come together physically to experience the piece, technology being used to determine how the episodes came together in a live performance, rather than enabling a remote mediated experience. 

We worked through two ways to achieve this. One was to use technology to facilitate collaborative decision making about how to assemble the episodes into a unique live orchestral performance, for example by determining the order of the episodes or the number of repetitions of the episode currently being played. Technology would create the orchestral score as the decisions were being made, allowing the piece to evolve live. The form of the piece or the score, could be different depending on the decisions made by the people who came together each time it was performed.  Another idea was influenced by sonic walks experienced by several members of the group. The piece would be built through simple layers which worked together texturally. The layers could be recorded by the orchestra and streamed by smartphone. Each audience member with a device would be able to broadcast their own ’texture’, but as they moved about the performance space they would encounter the other people broadcasting other textural layers. Each participant's ‘mix’ would be influenced by physical proximity to other participants. They would become performers as well as audience members, creating their own personal mix by moving through the space. The piece would be experienced in a different way for each person taking part, depending on the layer they were themselves broadcasting and the proximity of other participants broadcasting different layers, or the same layer in a different phase. Either approach would be designed in a such a way that it could be taken out of traditional concert venues and performed in diverse spaces, perhaps even in someone’s living room with a group of friends performing and experiencing the piece together.

A fundamental discussion in our group was around the differences between expertly curated and produced material, improvised versus rehearsed performances, and participatory or social music making. They are all forms of musical interaction but the expectations and outcomes of each are different for the people taking part. Using technology to facilitate audience involvement in music creation “just because we can” sometimes fails to produce a satisfying outcome – creative, musical or experiential. Understanding the opportunities afforded by technology and designing for a specific musical interaction or context seems more likely to produce something of value. This is more likely to happen through interdisciplinary collaboration between composers, technologists and people who understand social interaction, through opportunities like Make, Do and Bend.

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One-Dayer Programme Announced

Posted on July 01, 2016

We've been itching to announce all that's in store for Thursday 14 July. Here are full details of the programme for our Make, Do and Bend One-Dayer...


Our six hour day in the heart of the King's Cross creative campus will include:

Two big-picture panels, one focused on the direction of travel for live music and technology, and the other exploring what good digital R&D looks like
Postcards from the future of how composition, live music and digital technologies will interact
Tasting menu sessions, where some of the biggest innovators in the country share their favourite live performance and digital projects
Hands on demo opportunities… your chance to explore how VR, augmented reality, 3D audio and the internet of things could provide new directions for your gigs and performances
Workshops exploring some of the ideas developed in our Ideas Lab

'Who's going to be there?', I hear you ask:

As well as some of the fantastic creative technologists, musicians and composers who took part in our Ideas Lab, our stellar line up of contributors includes:

Katy Beale Caper
Jack Churchill Ogilvy Innovations Labs
Rachel Coldicutt Dot Everyone
Kealy Cozens Sound and Music
Sarah Ellis Royal Shakespeare Company
Leafcutter John (musician)
Leila Johnson (artist and creative technologist)
Nick Luscombe (DJ and broadcaster) 
Louis Mustill Artists & Engineers
Tim Plyming NESTA
Nick Ryan (composer and sound designer)

All this, plus the chance to demo a whole load of kit and get inside the ‘back end’ of some brilliant projects with Kinicho, the mi.mu Gloves project, Uniform, and current technologists in residence at Rambert, Mária Júdová and Andrej Boleslavský.

Remember, tickets are free but space is limited so you need to book your place here. There’s a £10 deposit which will be refunded when you attend. (Why? Because free events can be sold-out but then under-attended.) We can't wait and hope you'll be able to join us.

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A Flourishing and Active Culture

Posted on June 24, 2016


By Professor Andrew Hugill, Director of Creative Computing for Bath Spa University

Andrew Hugill talks about his experience at our Ideas Lab, the first ‘hack’ day of our Make, Do and Bend programme which took place on Tuesday 7 June.

His working group were the successful winners of a grant, given to them to develop their new idea for a music and technology project. This new concept will be discussed in more detail on the second day of Make, Do and Bend which takes place on Thursday 14 July at Central Saint Martins. Book your free ticket here.

What did you get out of the day?

I got an opportunity to meet new people and to renew some old acquaintances. It confirmed for me that the musical figure I described in my book The Digital Musician is an accurate picture of today’s practitioners – a flourishing and active culture that is highly open to new ideas, willing to take risks and fundamentally experimental in approach. It gave me an opportunity to explore a couple of the ideas that I had had before the workshop in more depth. I was also able to pass on some key ideas from my own research. These ideas provided the primary impulse for the formation of our winning group and have had (so they tell me) an energising and creative impact.

What did your group discover in working through your ideas?

One group discovered some imaginary solutions that are informed by theories of ‘pataphysics’. This then led on the devising of a project that focuses on inaudible and invisible resonances in buildings. Another group learned from me about the technology of the semantic web and the construction of ontologies, which are basically libraries. In the end, this knowledge was too technical to be represented by anything other than an “ontology box”, but some of them have been in touch since to discuss this further.

What occurred to you personally as a possible way of working for the future, as a result of spending this time thinking?

I am particularly interested in the accessibility of the Soundsweep project (our group’s idea), and it has some strong personal meanings for me. Meanwhile the computer scientist part of me remains intrigued by the notion of embedding a more human form of logic into semantic computer operations.

What do you think are the most important ideas for how music will be combined with technology in the future?

Well, the idea of “creative abuse” of technology, which I raised in my initial response to the call, seemed to strike a chord with everyone and acts as a guiding principle. I also think that the negotiated relationship with artificial intelligence (AI) will determine the future. Musical performance with AI is a present reality for many musicians, but I don’t see anyone talking about the aesthetic aspects of this. Instead the focus is all on the technology. This needs to change!

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Favourite Moments from the Ideas Lab

Posted on June 13, 2016

Props brought by the participants to introduce themselves and their work

Trying out the props

Our wonder wall, brimming with thoughts, ideas and inklings

Groups beginning work, having formed teams around key ideas

Wrong turns

Workings out

Teams finalising their pitches


Each team pitches their idea to everyone in the bar. The winning team were awarded a bursary to develop their concept.

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The Story of our Ideas Lab

Posted on June 13, 2016

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Here’s One You Made Earlier

Posted on June 06, 2016

By Julia Payne, director of the hub

We invited you to share with each other some of the thoughts you have about the ideas and possibilities we’re hoping we’ll all be able to explore tomorrow at Make Do and Bend. Here’s what you’ve told us, and discussed, so far, edited together (in a hopefully sensible fashion!) by my fellow hubster, Matthew Linley and I. It makes for some really interesting reading.…


WHAT DOES DIGITAL ‘PERFORMANCE’ LOOK LIKE?

Adam Stark: I actually hope it looks like nothing I can imagine. Certainly many of the great musical innovations didn’t come from using technology, but rather from mis-using technology (overdriven amplifiers, scratching turntables, guitar feedback, misuse of auto-tune [NB, this last one is rarely done well]). So I think we need to create possibilities for performers to use digital technologies in many new and interesting ways - and then watch as they ritually misuse them and dismay us with their lack of regard for our intentions. :)

Andrew Hugill: I think the challenge for artists is, as always, to find ways to “creatively abuse” the technologies. This will continue to provide the most fertile and imaginative solutions. We must embrace the engineers (indeed, become engineers ourselves), but we must do so in ways which embed humanity in the systems. We must find a way to reconcile the subjective ambiguities of human beings with the objective precisions of computers.

Hopefully like nothing in particular or, rather, like anything it wants to look like. There is room for everything, from a conventional performance ritual with screens to an immersive interactive experience using augmented reality in a locative situation, and many many other permutations. This is not to dodge the issue, however. What is ‘liveness’? How do we understand non-human agency? What’s our role as performer, or audience, or creator? And what will be the future role of, for example, an orchestra - is it inevitably a museum piece? All these questions are in the mix when contemplating digital performance, which will continually offer creative answers almost on a work-by-work basis. So, the exceptional is encountered more often than not. This is the sign of an active and flourishing area that has yet to settle into conservatism.

Daniel Jones: A whole-hearted yes to creative abuse of new technology.

Adrian McEwan: I love your call for the artists to "creatively abuse" the technology. What does public space look like online?  How does that impact what can or can't be performed?

Leo Amico: I join you guys in praising "Creatively abuse"  - such a great term! (On the topic, I LOVED Simon Reynolds joint review of Guns N'Roses “Chinese Democracy” and Kanye's “808s & Heartbreak”. How technology is used in totally opposite ways by each artist - Kanye abusing the auto-tune for artistic purposes and GNR abusing compression for commercial purposes - http://www.salon.com/2008/11/29/kanye_gnr/

Digital broke the barrier between the instrument and the music it produces. Both became malleable, fluid, in evolution. Making music/performing music with digital tools allows artists to create and interact with both the making the music and making the instrument (i.e. in live coding). What are the implications of this? How can this be used in live performances? What improvisation become when we are not just creating the music on the spot, but the instrument itself? 

Thor Magnusson: It looks like live coding : ) - But seriously, there is no easy answer to this question. The research field of NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) studies this topic at great depth, but the answers are many, emerging, and diverging. The exciting thing about being part of this creative field of new musical technologies is that the practices are innumerable: there are no compositional constrains, and people are confident in crossing art forms for new explorative expression. The explosion of creative coders is a positive force as it's dangerous when commercial interests drive musical innovation, but today I'd argue we have the opposite: innovation by creative people drives commercial companies to up their game and follow what's going on. 

Duncan Chapman: Can I tell the difference between it and ‘analogue’ performance? 

And I was reminded (when talking with Julia) about visiting the wonderful instrument museum in Brussels. Lots of prototype saxophones made by Adolphe Sax in the process of designing the instrument that was intended to be portable, stable, “cross platform” (learn one and you can play them all), simple to learn the basics and able to be played in the rain in military bands. All this invention with no idea that it might have other completely unimagined voices.


HOW CAN THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIGITAL ARTIST/AUDIENCE INTERACTION SHAPE MUSIC CREATION?

Adam: I’m definitely very interested in this idea. I like the idea of a performance whereby the music created is very much collaborative with a group of people - so it is an experience for the audience, and something that exists only in that room at that time.

However, I feel there is a limit to the size of an audience for such an experience. If the audience becomes too large, then nobody can tell what effect they have on the performance anymore. So perhaps there is a critical point where the collective moves from ‘active’ to ‘passive’?

Andrew: I suspect there will be ever more dissolving of the distinction between the two. Performances wil become more of a shared, pro-active, experience, like multi-player gaming. However, this does not remove the possibility of a collective appreciation of virtuosity, for example. Sometimes we like to be passive recipients, especially when one individual’s contribution stands out. So, more traditional modes of interaction will survive. But the hierarchical relationship which always places one person (or group) in the role of ‘genius’ performer and the rest in the role of grateful recipients is changing. Audiences reasonably expect to be able to shape their musical experience and today have a degree of control over that process that far exceeds anything imagined even a decade ago.

Daniel: I'm interested in the ways in which sound and technology can transform our relationships with the world, using code as a way to augment creative and scientific practices. I make sound installations that translate real-time patterns and processes into living musical forms (as one-half of Jones/Bulley and in my own solo practice), which can both deepen our understanding of composition (what if a composition were endless? nonlinear? context-aware?) and illuminate the world around us (highlighting otherwise intangible aspects of the environment, or incorporating them as emergent narrative agents).

I also develop a technology that allows information to be transmitted via sound, which may open up some unorthodox avenues for audience engagement, etc: imagine embedding information within the actual audio of a live performance that would allow the listener to understand it from different perspectives. 

Stefan: At Kinicho we're interested in 3D Audio, we have developed an ambisonics array system in which the listener is immersed in a sound field, which can reproduce sound from another space or an entirely fabricated sound space or a combination of the two.

It has been used for performance and installation work. It can be be fixed in place but we also have a portable pop-up dome which can be used for production and public engagement.

We also have a developed processing system for creating 3D Audio in binaural presentation for consumption over headphones. This can be done live, streamed for internet consumption or packaged for afterlife products. Binaural presentation has a rich history, first appearing in 1881 Paris World Expo - it allowed audiences to dial into Opera and Theatre performances, while most recently Theatre Complicite performed 'The Encounter' with the audience at The Barbican listening to a 3D binaural presentation of the sound from the stage

Thor: It is an interesting fact that composers today are capable of interacting with each and every member of the audience through the mobile computing devices they carry in their pockets. Interactive or participatory performance has always existed, but it's as if new digital technologies are offering, or rather affording, this to a much stronger degree. Server-client systems in musical performance have been explored, for example by Tim Shaw and Sébastien Piquemal or Norbert Schnell and his team at IRCAM. 

It's intriguing to see the development of Christian Wolff's and Cornelius Cardew's ideas of non-musician participation in musical performance. Here we could also point to the animated scores of Ryan Ross Smith, where the distinction between playing a score and playing a game becomes fuzzy and we begin thinking about the gameplay of musical pieces. 

Duncan: How open am I really to allowing others to shape the creation of work?

Am I still hung up on the idea of creating pieces that last after I’m gone? Do the people I collaborate with care about it anyway? Experience vs Artifact (is this the right spectrum anyway?).


HOW CAN NEW WORK BE DEVELOPED TO HAVE A MEANINGFUL EXPRESSION DIGITALLY AND IN A LIVE CONTEXT?

Adam: The two should be fundamentally interlinked - not by restricting composition to using simplistic digital instruments, but by making sure we have the interfaces to digital creation that are simultaneously interesting for a composer to use and engaging for an audience to watch.

Andrew: I’m not at all sure what is meant by “meaningful expression”. It seems to me that any work developed in a digital and live context has “meaningful expression” somehow or to someone, if only to another computer. As for audiences, they will pick and choose as they have always done. But now, unusually, they will do more than just experience the work – they will make it too!

Leo: The musical object is no longer a static one. The example of the Radiohead's Polyfauna music app that with an update had new visuals and new sounds (I didn't realise about the update when it happened)- when I opened the app after some time was both surprised and disappointed. I was happy about the new - and better - content, but I also felt slightly "violated" by those remote hands that without asking my explicit consent changed something I thought I owned). That applies to every time we stream music. Are we sure that if we play Rihanna's Umbrella today from Spotify we are listening to the same song that we played yesterday? We have overcome the album as a finished product.

All this has some scary implications but also interesting applications. I can imagine some 1984-ish system that automatically revise song lyrics under the control of some sort of Ministry of Truth. On the other hand we can think of artistic ways that can make the musical object can evolve over time, never repeating itself but maybe changing according to real time sensor data, seasons, news...  

Thor: This is a good question and I would emphasise the concept of meaningful here. One of the interesting problems is where the digital instrument can be so complex (for example applying non-linear mappings, automation, or AI as part of the instrument's functionality) that it's hard for the audience to understand what is actually being played. What is the performer doing? At what level can we consider the performance "skilful"? 

I don't think it's possible to answer the question generally: it's up to each and every instrument designer/composer to consider how the performance of the particular instrument or system is meaningful to the audience, the performer, and indeed to themselves! This is a question of much more importance when studying digital systems than we have with acoustic instruments, for reasons mentioned above.

Duncan: Given that ears are physically the same as they were before “digital” technology does “digital” sound different.

Given that I am not as articulate as Simon Emmerson (“Relocating the Live”) what does a “live” context feel like to me and the people I work with? 


HOW CAN NEW AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES SUPPORT AND INFORM COMPOSITION AND PERFORMANCE?

Adam: Personally I am interested in computer music (i.e. any music made using computers, be it live augmentation of a cello, a digital prepared piano or just some good old techno). I see computer music as being “in a box” - something incredibly powerful, but also something we can’t really see or access. It is behind glass. So my work has mainly been concerned with trying to humanise electronic music, or trying to make it more performative. Trying to get it out of the box…

I believe that developments in machine learning, sensors and movement tracking, wireless devices, audio analysis and more can help us to make electronic music composition and performance into physical and visual experiences. This would bring to electronic music the richness we experience in performances of acoustic music, but with the additional world of signal processing power, networked performance and multimedia possibilities that computer technology provides.

Leo: I totally second what Adam was mentioning about computers being unaccessible boxes. I think that applies also beyond music. We are generally losing control and ownership on the tools we use. Technology is pervading more and more aspects of our life, yet we are totally unaware of the inner working of the tools and services we use every day. And this condition is becoming even more pronounced with internet connected devices, that often relies on software that runs in well-guarded data center that we have no access, let alone control upon (pardon me the digression here).

I believe that music could be a vector of education and change in the direction of a reappropriation of the technology that we use in our life. New musical instruments where hackability and repurposability are design features? That is something that in music happens anyway (from extended techniques to modular synthesizers to circuit bending to computer music), but could be made even more pronounced, and especially designed for non-musicians to use.

Adrian: Digital (whatever that means...) should let us build new tools, new instruments, things to give us more agency, not less. 

I don't know how much of it we'd be able to get done next week, but I also want to remind/point out that digital doesn't have to be about things trapped behind glowing rectangles - it also encompasses things like digital fabrication: 3d printers, laser-cutters, etc. and bits of electronics like Arduino boards or Raspberry Pis.

I’d like to see pieces develop that provide a critique of the blind acceptance that "big data", "IoT", "machine learning" and "VR" will bring untrammelled benefit :-)

Leo: What could be the role of AI in musical production/execution? In the studio we've been recently starting to explore metaphors of AI as personas - trying to think AI/Human collaboration as one that would happen between two people. In music that could be something like this.

· Music through AI - AI as the producer, limiting and control what the human artist do.

· Music with AI - Human/AI as a duo, collaborating.

· Music by AI - AI as the musician. Human as the client. AI produces music autonomously, given certain directions.

Andrew: The important thing is not so much what is technologically possible now, but what will be so in five years’ time. Technology changes that fast. But how do we know what that will be? We can make some educated guesses, and we can look at the Gartner hype-cycle and other similar projections. I’ll make a (risky) stab at some predictions…

· I predict neural control becoming mainstream quite soon. There are already basic neural controllers available quite cheaply (around £100), but the technology is not sophisticated enough yet to break through to a wide consumer market. But it’s on its way.

· Bio-technology and genetic sciences are sure bets. Environmental humanities are a growing area.

· The computers we use now will probably disappear, to be replaced by things much less binary and much more flexible (probably made of graphene). Consequently, “digital” as an idea will become as obsolete as “analog” is today.

· Current fads such as “big data” and “internet of things” will be superseded rapidly by super intelligent computational entities that will operate in ways we cannot yet predict. We must negotiate our relationship with these, starting now. Co-operation is the only way forwards.

· Commercial interests will continue to hobble progress in some areas and artificially accelerate others. Meanwhile, society as a whole will decelerate as the pace of change becomes wearisome.

· Something will have to be done about energy.

· The workplace will change yet more (see my 2013 article on “10 jobs of the future”) and we will overcome our objections to many ethical issues that affect human existence. These wider things will affect composition and performance as much as they affect anything else. 

Thor: I consider the development of music technologies a consecutive history where technologies evolve, mutate, cross-breed, etc. For millennia this history can be studied as a feedback loop between instrument makers, performers and composers (or in some traditions excluding the role of the "composer", but that's outside the scope here). I'm quite interested then in this break in continuity that happens with the digital. The break is profound and can be studied at multiple levels, but we can point to issues such as the arbitrariness of gesture-sound mapping, of representative design, and other features of the digital that break with the continuity and embodiedness of the acoustic instrumental tradition. This is not to say that century old music technologies are not continuing in the new media, but rather a comment on the complexity of the considerations we have to do when we translate an acoustic tradition into digital media formats.

To me it's clear that emerging technologies can support both composition and performance in multiple ways. As an example, machine learning and new synthesis algorithms are developing quickly and it's exciting to behold how musicians always are amongst the first to apply new technologies for musical purposes.

Duncan: I think one needs to think about what the contexts for these activities are, individual, social, remote etc. Are the people doing these things the same folks that have always done them? How much is physical presence necessary? How do we engage with people so they feel a connection with what they see/hear/feel, does technology make this more difficult?

Are my niche obsessions shared?  And if so by whom? 


THINGS THAT KEEP US AWAKE, AND THAT WE’D LIKE TO EXPLORE (OVER AND ABOVE THE ABOVE)!

Daniel: I'd like to be exploring  novel perspectives and insights into performances; new possibilities for archiving via linked data and the semantic web; whether we can create new listening contexts via the Internet of Things; open source, open data and creative commons with respect to musical performance; the pitfalls and potentials opened up by the internet's limited economy of attention. 

Leo: Exploring alternative interaction between gesture and output in music.  Gesture and output do not need to relate with each other in digital music. Can we explore this potential? What if for instance the relation is inverted (i.e. to a hard movement correspond a soft sound - and vice-versa)

Andrew: I’m interested in exploring:

· Embodied Intelligence in Music

· Multimedia Installations

· Musical use of the Internet of Things

· Data Sonification

· Music and the Semantic Web

Stefan: Stuff that is exciting us at the moment at Kinicho includes the way 3D Audio opens up new ways of composition and recording, for instance volume is a function of distance and panning a function of localisation - so recordings can have positional and kinetic audio with a centered listener or the listener can go on a journey through the sound sources. Also

· The perception of time differs in stereo and 3D

· 3D Audio performance - new dimensions in the use of space for performance 

· Immersive Sonic Realities - reproducing acoustic environments

· Sonic archiving - recording the sonic fingerprint of a space so it can be preserved for future use 

· Sonic mashups - what would an orchestra sound like if they were playing in the bottom of a bott

Daniel: I’d like to be exploring:

·  Data sonification - translating information into audible forms, for both artistic and scientific ends; using sound as an interface to information

· Nonlinear composition - creating musical works that change on each rendition, based on generative techniques or in response to their context ·live notation - generating scores for performance on-the-fly

· Emergence and self-organisation - harnessing collective behaviours to generate and strong>·learn about emergent processes that are more than the sum of their parts

· Augmented composition - using generative tools to extend our compositional practice. We're a long way from artificial creative agencies, but we can certainly get close enough to usefully incorporate semi-autonomous processes in radically augmenting our own composition

· Spatial and immersive audio - see Stefan's comments; I love the idea of recording an archive of sonic fingerprints of specific spaces

 

That’s it, so far! There’s still time to add your thoughts into the mix ahead of tomorrow. Just join in via the email ‘string’ or share via Facebook and twitter.

Really looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow…

 

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Julia meets Andrew Hugill

Posted on June 03, 2016

Our Make Do and Bend Ideas Lab next Tuesday 7 June is bringing together nearly 30 musicians, composers and creative technologists to explore how new and emerging technologies might continue to disrupt our thinking around live performance and composition. With just a few days to go, Julia caught up with Andrew Hugill - composer, musicologist, computer scientist, literary scholar, pataphysician and Director of the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University, and one of the folk who’s coming along to Make, Do and Bend - to find out why he’s coming and what keeps him awake at night (in terms of this area, not just generally!). Here’s what he had to say…

Julia: Andrew, so the big question that I suppose is at the heart of what we’re looking to explore through Make, Do and Bend is how new and emerging technologies can continue to disrupt our thinking around composition and live performance? I wonder, can we start there….?

Andrew: Well, my first reaction would be ‘how can they not?’.

No, but seriously… the important thing is not so much what is technologically possible now, but what will be so in five years’ time. Technology changes that fast. But how do we know what that will be? We can make some educated guesses, and we can look at the Gartner hype-cycle and other similar projections. I’ll make a (risky) stab at some predictions…

- I predict neural control becoming mainstream quite soon. There are already basic neural controllers available quite cheaply (around £100), but the technology is not sophisticated enough yet to break through to a wide consumer market. But it’s on its way.

- The web will transform itself thanks to semantic web and to Tim Berners-Lee’s call to re-decentralise. But what will it become? If present engineering has its way, it will be ruled by the forces of neatness. Artists need to get in there and shakes things up!

- Bio-technology and genetic sciences are sure bets. Environmental humanities are a growing area.

- The computers we use now will probably disappear, to be replaced by things much less binary and much more flexible (probably made of graphene). Consequently, “digital” as an idea will become as obsolete as “analog” is today.

- Current fads such as “big data” and “internet of things” will be superseded rapidly by super-intelligent computational entities that will operate in ways we cannot yet predict. We must negotiate our relationship with these, starting now. Co-operation is the only way forwards.

- Commercial interests will continue to hobble or progress in some areas and artificially accelerate others. Meanwhile, society as a whole will decelerate as the pace of change becomes wearisome.

- Something will have to be done about energy.

- The workplace will change yet more (see my 2013 article on “10 jobs of the future”) and we will overcome our objections to many ethical issues that affect human existence. These wider things will affect composition and performance as much as they affect anything else.

To stay on topic: I think the challenge for artists is, as always, to find ways to “creatively abuse” the technologies. This will continue to provide the most fertile and imaginative solutions. We must embrace the engineers (indeed, become engineers ourselves), but we must do so in ways which embed humanity in the systems. We must find a way to reconcile the subjective ambiguities of human beings with the objective precisions of computers. 

Julia: There’s a lot there! Trying to keep us both on topic(!), how do you think new work can be developed to have a meaningful expression digitally and in a live context?

Andrew: I’m not at all sure what is meant by “meaningful expression”. It seems to me that any work developed in a digital and live context has “meaningful expression” somehow or to someone, if only to another computer. As for audiences, they will pick and choose as they have always done. But now, unusually, they will do more than just experience the work – they will make it too!

Julia: And what about the opportunities for digital artist/audience interaction to shape music creation? What do you see on the horizon there?

Andrew: I suspect there will be ever more dissolving of the distinction between the two. Performances will become more of a shared, pro-active, experience, like multi-player gaming. However, this does not remove the possibility of a collective appreciation of virtuosity, for example. Sometimes we like to be passive recipients, especially when one individual’s contribution stands out. So, more traditional modes of interaction will survive. But the hierarchical relationship which always places one person (or group) in the role of ‘genius’ performer and the rest in the role of grateful recipients is changing. Audiences reasonably expect to be able to shape their musical experience and today have a degree of control over that process that far exceeds anything imagined even a decade ago.

Julia: And finally – and this is a tough one to end on - what does digital ‘performance’ look like to you?

Andrew: Hopefully like nothing in particular or, rather, like anything it wants to look like. There is room for everything, from a conventional performance ritual with screens to an immersive interactive experience using augmented reality in a locative situation, and many, many other permutations. This is not to dodge the issue, however. What is ‘liveness’? How do we understand non-human agency? What’s our role as performer, or audience, or creator? And what will be the future role of, for example, an orchestra - is it inevitably a museum piece? All these questions are in the mix when contemplating digital performance, which will continually offer creative answers almost on a work-by- work basis. So, the exceptional is encountered more often than not. This is the sign of an active and flourishing area that has yet to settle into conservatism – and something I’m sure we’ll experience when we gather for Make, Do & Bend next week!

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An Introduction to Sound and Music

Posted on June 01, 2016


By Kealy Cozens & Richard Whitelaw from Sound and Music, one of our partners for Make, Do and Bend

Who are you and what do you do?

KC: I’m a Creative Project Leader focusing on data at Sound and Music which means that I get to work of projects that have data elements and get to play with data that we have internally. I run our regular event series Creative Data Club, Audience Labs and an artist residency with the ODI and Alex McLean. I’m currently on the verge of leading our brand spanking new Creative Data programme which brings all the data-y things we do together.

RW: I’m Director of Programmes at Sound and Music. When things are going well I help people to get things done. I get to spend quite a lot of time working with other people and that is one of the many things I enjoy about my job. In the past I’ve made artistic stuff (don’t anymore), done curatorial stuff (don’t anymore), produced lots of events (don’t anymore). Don’t be sad: I enjoy music a lot more now I don’t make it, ideas a lot more now I don’t curate them and events a lot more now I don’t produce them.

Why are you excited about attending Make, Do and Bend?

KC: As a Creative Project Leader at Sound and Music I love working on projects that blend digital, data, people and ideas. My plan for the day is to absorb the genius in the room much like a porous sea sponge and then use that in my own work. I’ve personally trialled a lot of creative techniques from human centred design sessions to all things and anything including post it notes so I’m really interested to see how the ideas are formed and shaped. I hope that my blended experience can be of some help to the participants and I’m an excellent listener.

RW: I know some of the people that are coming to this already and they are very interesting and a pleasure to spend time with. The people I don’t know look very interesting as well and I’m looking forward to meeting them all. I have absolutely no idea of how all these people are going to work together and this courting of failure is very exciting to me. I’d like to see more of it.

Tell us about an interesting digital or interaction project you’ve seen recently?

KC:  Our latest round of Audience Labs has just ended which has seen five projects look at how they interact with and engage audiences. One of the projects on the programme was Open Symphony which invites the audiences to become part of the performance by using their mobile phones to collaborate with the performers. Further back I’m still totally in love with Amon Tobin’s ISAM. As a person with limited mobility I’m really interested to see how the live experience will be transformed with digital. Although it’s been around as a concept for a while, virtual reality is reaching peak hype in 2016 so I’ll be watching to see how that manifests within the music sector.

RW: Digital technology recently allowed Sound and Music to collect, share and act to address some really alarming data about the lack of diversity of applicants to our opportunities. This has been interesting in many ways. Upon the publishing of the data and our programme response we had a lot of support on social media from individual artists (particularly from the emerging generation). Apart from partner organisations (including Drake Music, Heart n Soul, University of East London and Community Music) who had worked with us to devise Pathways (our programme to draw a wider range of artists to work with us) there was a strange lack of comment. Disability focused organisation like Paraorchestra and Shape picked it up pretty quickly but from ‘mainstream’ funded arts organisations there was a stony silence. This was odd because the blog that I wrote about Pathways and its genesis was the most widely read post in the history of Sound and Music.

This reticence may be linked to the fact that we shared our bad diversity data very publicly. I suspect that other organisations in our corner of the arts have equally bad diversity data, but are not quite ready to sign up for the bad diversity data nudist colony yet, let alone get their rocks off and jump in. We shared ours and the world didn’t end. It felt very good in fact.

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By Julia Payne, director of the hub

I’m writing this from Liverpool, where I’ve been for the past 2 days for the inaugural Binary Festival, a brilliant get together of innovators, makers, creatives and inventors. Over the past two days, I’ve stared and listened in wonder as the brilliant Sam Aaron did the most awesome live coding, been inspired by the force of nature that is Pam Warhurst from Incredible Edible, made my own IOT/VR mashup (that allowed me to move at will around the VIP area of the music venue I’d designed!) courtesy of the brilliant Uniform team, played with All We Are in space (thanks to the VR world created by Draw & Code) and had to do that ‘no, I’m not really crying’ thing during Lemn Sissay’s provocation. What’s been absolutely brilliant about the festival is that even though the it's ostensibly about tech, the topics we’ve covered have ranged from everything to health and the future of schools, sustainable living and online retail. For someone like me, who’s innately curious about a LOT of things (probably my biggest strength, but also my biggest challenge!), it’s been GREAT!

And that curiosity, I think, coupled with a good dose of generosity, is why I absolutely love bringing together people from different worlds to explore possibilities and challenges that they (sort of) have in common. And it’s why I’m really excited about Make Do & Bend, and can’t wait to get started on Tuesday 7 June.

I’ve been talking a lot about curiosity and generosity while I’ve been here at Binary, and there’s also been a fair bit of discussion about ‘don’t wait to get permission, just do it’, which I guess sort of fits with the hacker sensibility that underpins what I’m hoping we get to do together at Make Do and Bend in a week or so’s time. It's not a conventional hackathon; it's small and hopefully perfectly formed; we’ve worked really hard to curate a group full of people we think will really create that ‘atomic collision’ thinking I mentioned in my first Make Do and Bend blog. I’m pretty sure we’ll quickly get down to doing some out-there thinking, before getting totally absorbed in some head spinning ‘couldn’t do it on our own’ co-design. How could we not, given that we’re kicking off the day with some ‘postcards from the future’ from musician/producer/DJ Matthew Herbert; founder of Liverpool’s DOeS maker space (and IOT whizz) Adrian McEwan, and NESTA's Director of Digital Arts & Media, Tim Plyming. Have I said I can’t wait?!

Anyhow, while I’ve been here in Liverpool, the teams at the hub and London Sinfonietta have put together a manifesto to capture the spirit in which we hope our day together will unfold. I wanted to share it with you, so here it is…

· We are curious. We are generous. We will share what we have with each other - our experience, our knowledge, our opinions, even ideas that we think might be mad or bad.

· Everyone here is different. That’s the whole point. We learn from each other’s ‘normals’, listen to different opinions and perspectives and give each other space to speak and think.

· We are co-creators, in it together. As team members, we jointly ‘own’ the idea(s) we develop over the day. We play fair, and decide together if/how we will take our ideas further.

· We trade our ideas, ask ‘what if’ and are curious about the answers we get back. We might reject some answers, go down some blind alleys, but that is part of arriving at a new idea.

· We try stuff. We take forward what’s working, but don’t forget what wasn’t. It might come in handy later or at another point in the future.

· We want others to learn from what we’re exploring, so as teams we’ll commit to capturing our questions, answers and ideas along the way, and to sharing those more widely during and after the day.

· We respect privacy, and use responsibly the data we’re given access to.

· We’re here to think, do, learn and share. And have fun.

Can’t wait to meet you all, or see once again those of you who I already know. I have a feeling it’s going to be a whole lot of fun.

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Making Beautiful Digital Projects

Posted on April 15, 2016


By Andrew Burke, Chief Executive of the London Sinfonietta

At the London Sinfonietta, I’ve tried to embrace the possibilities of digital technology in different ways. We have a remit to do things differently and using technology allows us to make, present and educate about new music in new ways. Some of our work has been hugely successful, some has been more of a learning experience. I crave beautiful, poetic digital projects for the ensemble: those that enhance the live performance of new music or engage people deeply. I don’t think there is a fixed formula for making these projects, but these are some of the things I have noticed about them.

It inspires us to make art differently

A lot of work in the arts has pointed digital technology at what we do already. This kind of super-marketing is really important – anything that inspires new audiences to engage with existing powerful performance art is great. Yet, as important for the future is how we can imagine a new type of artistic project where digital technology is a fundamental part of the first idea, its creation and the performance, which will engage the public in new ways.

The best ideas fit the platform

It seems to me that the best digital and arts ideas are a really good fit between the artistic experience and the digital platform or channel that is involved. Ideally, you are having a unique experience that you really can’t have better anywhere else. A friend and digital thinker Brian Moran pointed me towards a great project by Arcade Fire, which was designed for the computer; users were encouraged to upload information and photos of themselves, which were then embedded into a play-out of the band’s latest video and song making it a personal experience for the fan. The project was cleverly exploiting the way we already use computers for storing digital photos and sending them to each other. I’m proud too of this ‘good fit’ on our own Steve Reich’s Clapping Music App which has now been downloaded over 100,000 times. The touchscreen iPhone was a perfect way for people to learn and perform this particular rhythmic piece – and a mobile device is with people all the time, so people engaged on the move, in their travel downtime.

People come together, as well as online

I think the arts have a powerful role in society to bring people together at compelling live events. And for us, with a bunch of brilliant musicians in our ensemble, it is so much more powerful for people to hear them live. A really exciting part of our own app project was a live event competition – which drove people to try harder and share their new-found skill at live events, performing with our percussionists and in front of each other. 

You see things, and ourselves, differently

Whilst I was at BBC Wales in 2001, a digital arts showcase brought several striking ideas to life. One project in particular has stayed with me, which projected red lips onto a Cardiff pavement, signalling a place for the public to talk to people online, anywhere in the world. A video feed sent the street image to my computer, and I could type sentences for an automated voice to speak at passers-by. Beyond the inevitable joking around I had a conversation with a tramp and ended up buying him a meal in a nearby Indian restaurant. Would I have done this were it not for this beautiful digital art project?  Probably not.

Time for some R&D…

It seems a good time – having made a bunch of work for a live performing ensemble such as the London Sinfonietta – to set off on this R&D project to find the next generation of ideas that could map themselves onto a group like ours. I hope we find these next, brilliant ideas and make some beautiful experiences for the public and our audience. I’ll report back… 

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By Julia Payne, director of the hub

Imagine the scene – 25 or so of Europe’s most curious and forward thinking composers, musicians and creative technologists, gathered together at NESTA HQ for a ‘nothing’s impossible’ day of plotting and conspiring, eating and drinking, thinking and doing. All in the name of exploring the next frontiers of live performance, and how digital technology can most creatively play its part in that.   

Well that’s pretty much the plan for the first part of Make, Do and Bend, a Lab on Tuesday 7 June dreamed up by the hub in collaboration with London Sinfonietta. Make Do and Bend will give our carefully curated group of fellow explorers the chance to do just that: make stuff that they can’t make on their own, do things that can’t be done under their individual steam, and bend and shape each other’s thinking into new performance ideas that none of them could have come up with on their own.

We think. We do. We Learn. We share. Those are the guiding principles of the hub, and the approach that underpins Make, Do and Bend. Inherently curious about the world around us, and by nature collaborative, sharing what we know and helping people connect with each other is second nature to us. It’s just how we roll. Like all of the work the hub is involved in making, Make Do and Bend has at its heart a central question, something we want to understand more about. In this instance, it’s all about exploring what ‘performance’ and ‘interaction’ between composers, artists and audiences can look like in this digital age – on stage, digitally and in settings which marry the two together.

It’s a subject that Andrew (London Sinfonietta’s CEO, and an old friend) and I have spent many an hour debating over the last few years, usually with the aid of distinctly old school pencils, paper, crazy drawings and much good natured table thumping… and a glass or two of red wine! So, like all good R&D projects tend to do, Make Do and Bend has developed iteratively, powered by ongoing discussion (between us and with our partners at NESTA and Sound and Music), and informed by the work we’ve both been doing: the hub’s Bring & Byte hack weekend we ran last year as part of our Joining the Dots programme, and London Sinfonietta’s ongoing digital work which most recently resulted in the amazing Steve Reich's Clapping Music app.

Over the years one of the things I’ve realised to be an absolute truth is that when you bring together people with different ‘normals’ and starting points, you get ‘atomic collisions’; thinking that just wouldn’t have come about in other circumstance, and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. Everyone involved leaves a little bit changed by the experience, the seeds are sewn for new collaborations and stuff gets done. And that’s exciting!

So that’s what Make Do and Bend is all about…atomic collisions…bringing together composers, coders, musicians, video artists, developers, instrument designers and all manner of other people who absolutely love music, and are curious about this central question around performance and technology. Make Do and Bend borrows from hack culture, and over the course of the day, we’ll share our inspirations and pool our ideas, before getting down to some serious playing, making, breaking and putting back together again. By the end of the day, what will we have created? Alongside new friendships, our hope is that  we’ll also have the bare bones of some great new ‘stuff’ – maybe some brand new tech, or  some new ideas for how to use tech we already have, a new ‘instrument’ (whatever one of those looks like in this context) or maybe a new way of thinking about instrumental playing, maybe some ideas for performances where their live and digital iterations get equal billing? Who knows?! And of course, at the end of it all, there’s the chance for some of the teams that formed over the day to win a development bursary to take their ideas to the next stage and perhaps even go on to work with London Sinfonietta and others to bring them ‘properly’ to life.

Having read this, it perhaps won’t surprise you that my favourite question is ‘what if’, and that the phrase I most overuse is ‘that’s a good idea’. Small wonder I can’t wait to get started!

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