Ricercar (for electric violin and stochastic step-sequencer) 2016

Ricercar was created as a way to create evolving polyphonic textures in a ‘solo’ violin piece. It uses a midi foot controller (currently a Behringer FCB1010) to control an electric violin into a piece of software created specifically for this piece.


Testing at home before the first performance
foot controller, violin and laptop visible in the
chaos of pre-event preparations

The work is essentially fugal, relying on live sampling to create the layers around the instrumental part and uses a 3 layered sequencer to achieve this. Each layer contains a series of buffers which can be recorded into. The top layer has seven 5 second samples, the middle has 5×17 and the lower has 3×71 second samples. These all prime durations so when left to their own devices they will take a long time to ever repeat in precisely the same configuration. Using a foot controller to trigger when to start recording and which buffer to record to or overwrite, thus it is possible to gradually build up a four part texture using the three sampler ‘lines’ and the live violin.


Overlapping prime blocks 5,17 and 71

In itself this is passable, but could be rather recursive and very quickly get repetitive unless loops are overwritten regularly, which in itself could become an oft-repeated task. This has been overcome in 2 ways. The first is that each time a sample is due to be played there is a 50% chance that it will not be in which case the sequencer just moves on and waits until the next step is ready and then re-rolls its virtual dice. When scaled up over each of the 3 layers of fast, medium and slow samples this means that there will probably always be something playing (depending on how many samples have had audio recorded into them!) but the thickness of the texture will vary.  The second way that diversity is added is by changing the playback speed of each sample. As a sample is triggered the sequencer takes a decision as to what pitch/speed to play the audio. This varies over four octaves (two up and two down) and results in a shift in playback of between quarter speed and four times as fast. The speed changes are in discrete even tempered steps and thus a broader sense of harmony and polyphonic/contrapuntal line can be achieved.pitch.JPG

In addition to this audio focused processing there are 2 global controls. The first is how fast the sequencer triggers each step. This in itself does not affect the length of individual samples so at extreme speeds loops will overlap in a densely fired texture or conversely there may be a lot of space and silence at very slow speeds. The last of the controls is volume of playback, which when used carefully can not only help to balance the live and processed material but can greatly increase the sensation of articulation and dialogue.

Within this framework the performer is free to improvise, guided by the constraints and freedoms of the instrument, themselves the hardware and software.


Video extract taken by Diane Evans at OscilloScope 28/6/15

The Xmas-o-lo-phone (no apologies)!


The Xmas-o-lo-phone

I’m going to set up a Christmas ‘xylophone’ between the trees. This will consist of a series of hollow (tuned) pipes hung length ways between the trees, suspended on rope or chord. The overall effect will look similar to a rope ladder slung sideways.

The idea is that rather than just playing a scale it will play Jingle Bells. So, the first few notes will be at the same pitch as with the tune:


Jingle bells, jingle bells

Jin- (It is not until you get to note 8 that it rises in pitch!)


So, each rung is a note of the tune, as you run along blowing or tapping them they play the tune, they will also be spaced so that the rhythm works properly e.g. the third note has twice as big a gap to the next ‘rung’ compared to the previous note.

It would be good to set it up in a horseshoe (probably more realistically a V) shape between the trees so that is can be run around in a loop.

The trick is working it out so that it is dead easy to play.

Tune Pitch Duration
Step Pitch Rhythm Degree of scale Relative pipe length Pipe length in (mm) Cut from pipe batch Relative distance to next note Distance to next note (cm)
1 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
2 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
3 e Minim 3 0.789889 50.0 3 4 100
4 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
5 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
6 e Minim 3 0.789889 50.0 3 4 100
7 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
8 g Crotchet 5 0.666667 42.2 4 2 50
9 c Dotted Crotchet 1 1 63.3 4 3 75
10 d Quaver 2 0.888889 56.3 2 1 25
11 e Semibreve 3 0.789889 50.0 3 8 200
12 f Crotchet 4 0.750188 47.5 1 2 50
13 f Crotchet 4 0.750188 47.5 1 2 50
14 f Dotted Crotchet 4 0.750188 47.5 1 3 75
15 f Quaver 4 0.750188 47.5 1 1 25
16 f Crotchet 4 0.750188 47.5 1 2 50
17 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
18 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
19 e Quaver 3 0.789889 50.0 3 1 25
20 e Quaver 3 0.789889 50.0 3 1 25
21 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
22 d Crotchet 2 0.888889 56.3 2 2 50
23 d Crotchet 2 0.888889 56.3 2 2 50
24 e Crotchet 3 0.789889 50.0 3 2 50
25 d Minim 2 0.888889 56.3 2 4 100
26 g Minim 5 0.666667 42.2 4 4 100
1310.2 6*3m pipes 1600

Watch this space for the chance to have a go 🙂

A Brief Intro to Acousmatic Composition

A Brief Intro to Acousmatic Composition

Posted elsewhere but may be of some interest!

ground loop


  • Philosopical

“Our musical alphabet must be enriched. We also need new instruments very badly. . . . In my own works I have always felt the need of new mediums of expression . . . which can lend themselves to every expression of thought and can keep up with thought.”

Edgard Varèse: New York Morning Telegraph 1916

“Perhaps the time is not far off when a composer will be able to represent through recording, music specifically composed for the gramophone”

Andre Coeuroy: Panorama of Contemporary Music 1928

“The rediscovery of the musicality of sound in noise and in language, and the reunification of music, noise and language in order to obtain a unity of material: that is one of the chief artistic tasks of radio.”

Rudolf Arnheim Radio 1936

“When I proposed the term ‘musique concrète,’ I intended … to point out an opposition with the way musical work usually…

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5am starts

Working writing some music for the wonderful No Fit State Circus (see one of their videos above-not my audio though), based upon a set of poems written by school kids for the opening of the new arts centre in Bangor, Wales. Getting the work done means I get to see a lot of this as it means a lot of early starts.


Sunrise over the sea from studio 1 Bangor Uni

However it does mean that I get to work with a fantastic set of people in what promises to be an amazing new venue. The building isn’t built yet so I’m not to stressed but hey September is going to arrive quickly!

Gosh I forgot how tiring it is being productive! 🙂



Max MSP Basics

Here is some stuff I put together a while back. It may be useful for some people 🙂

ground loop

Contents (click to jump to section):

What is Max/MSP?
Working with audio
Numbers, messages and lists
Programme flow and control
Making patches simpler
Playing audio samples
Simple MIDI control
Enveloping and cross-fading
Designing the user interface
Soundfile playback and timing.
Refining soundfile playback control and timing.
More elegant approaches to additive synthesis.
A better way to create polyphony: poly~
Breaking out; physical I/O and Arduino.
Working with acoustic instruments
Audio processing
Further audio manipulation
Jitter II
Javascript in Max
Algorithmic composition

What is Max/MSP?

Max/MSP (often just called ‘Max’) is a ‘multimedia programming environment’ which will allow you to create pretty much any kind of music or audio software you can think of. It can also handle video using a built-in extension called ‘Jitter’.

To get more of an idea of what Max can do, visit the website www.cycling74.com and click on the ‘projects made with Max’

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Watery fates….


Going out to go underwater sound recording for Bangor New Music Festival 🙂

As I have been traveling everywhere by bus this week, which given the nature of what I do is not always that simple given the amount/delicate nature of kit that goes about the stuff in the box has become stripped down to the level of an art in itself…..

2 x hydrophones (lent by Bangor Uni School of Ocean Sciences)
1 x Fostex audio recorder
1 x remote control in case of wet situations
1 x headphones
1 roll of insulation tape for insulation, table tidying, and waterproofing.
1 roll of surgical tape for attaching things to people if required
1 roll of gaffa tape for almost anything
1 roll of aluminum tape for conductive and heat proof repairs
Wire cutters/strippers
1 x multimeter to mend stuff when it breaks
25 x nappy bags for inexpensive waterproofing.
1 spoon for banging things to make noise
1 feather to ‘silently’ make tings make noise
Fishing line for suspending things
Balloons for suspending things in the water column.

Absolutely nothing that requires mains power!

‘Tis going to be great and mad, especially when there are 26 primary school kids all armed with microphones thrown into the mix too!

Moving on up!

photoAfter roughly 5 years, I am relocating my studio out of Hendre Hall to closer to home. There have been some great times there and I’d like to say thanks to all who have supported, listened and heckled over the years. Especial thanks must go to Malcolm and James Innes along with Mike ‘The Lights’ for putting up with the strange noises and random happenings. A massive thanks to everyone 🙂199738_10150174549315631_687534_nthumbs_edwright292833_10150363418310631_8193653_n182094_10150147756365631_2827187_n

I have had loads of fun there and created some cool things, even if I do say so myself! From: instrumental music, motion tracking party installations, through to surround sound acousmatic pieces, electronics and programing, and sonic marble runs I have had a blast.

All these have made in some way in that studio.

‘Starlight Snowfall’, String Ensemble and 4 channel electronics

‘Thinking Inside the Box’, Stereo fixed media installation
‘Crosswire’, for electric violin and live processing

‘Anatomy of a Mountain Stream’, 4 channel fixed media
‘Sound Games’, electronics and live controllers
‘Wordless Prayer’ Sound Sculpture (collaboration Hodges, Attard, Flescher)
‘Folksong’ Sound-sculpture
‘Live Study’ Live visual art sampling and electroacoustic
‘Jackdaws’ 4 Channel electroacoustic audio. For installation. Images by Helen Booth, performance poetry by Rhys Trimble.
‘This it Tomorrow’ 4 Channel electroacoustic audio. For installation. Sculpture by Dominic McGill

‘Amser/Time’ Electracoustic soundtrack. For stop-motion animation. Animation by Wendy Dawson and Tim Pugh.

‘Who can hear the Sea’, Octophonic evolving installation
‘DROP!’, Sound game installation

Thanks everyone, here’s to the next 5 years


Bring it on!


I’m honoured to say that I’m going to be the viola player for this ensemble and call for works so, please write something for us!

BNMF – Call for Scores
‘If music be the food of love, play on’
Piece inspired by Shakespeare
All students are invited to submit original scores for the Bangor New Music Festival, to be
performed on Friday 14 March 2014 by the Bangor New Music Ensemble. The location for
the performance will be outdoors, on Bangor High Street, with the use of the Deniol Shopping
Centre balcony. The piece could either use text by Shakespeare or be inspired by a dramatic
work by the playwright. The text could be in Welsh for the Tenor. A few instruments/voices
(with the exception of cello) may be positioned on the balcony, see the given plan below. (In
case of extreme weather conditions the performance will be relocated under the Shopping
Centre glass porch.)
Composers are invited to submit works for any combination of the following
• Tenor (range: middle C – top Bb)
• Flute (doubling Piccolo and/or Alto)
• Clarinet (doubling Bass Clarinet)
• Violin (x2)
• Viola
• Cello (doubling Soprano, range: middle C – top A. Please do not include a part
where both cello and voice are performing simultaneously).
Deadline for submission is 12 noon, Friday 3 January 2014.
For more information, please contact Elina Hamilton at elina.hamilton@bangor.ac.uk or
01248 382183