Category Archives: Noise

Shorts #31: 1416343620 (2014)

[play]Shorts #31: 1416343620 (2014)

Commissioned and titled by David Jensenius, who says the title is the unix timestamp of when he received the commission.

This is an acoustic piece, recorded with a zoom and mixed in Ardour. The source sounds are my radiator, my kettle boiling, shoving a running recorder into a plastic bag and finally feedback from when I accidentally told Ardour to do monitoring of the internal microphone to the internal speakers. The feedback timbre is modified by putting my thumbs over the speaker grates. This does not have as much subtlety as the kind of speaker cupping that PowerBooks UnPlugged does with macs and feedback, but it still works.

The plastic bag portion of the sound is influenced by the Fluxus composition Micro 1 by Takehisa Kosugi, “Wrap a live microphone with a very large sheet of paper. Make a tight bundle. Keep the microphone alive for another five minutes”. I highly encourage people to try that out, as it’s surprisingly wonderful.

If you would like to commission a one minute piece, check out my online shop.


Shorts #30: A lazy afternoon in the shade of the cliff (2014)

[play]Shorts #30: A lazy afternoon in the shade
of the cliff

Commissioned and titled by Dan Stowell.

This piece was created with a MOTM synthesiser and a Gravity Well fracRack module by Circuit Abbey. It was mixed in Ardour. It was my first use of the Gravity Well module, which does emulation of orbital paths. I need to read the help files a lot more to figure out exactly what is going on, but it seems to do wave shaping to emulate the position of satellites or other orbiting bodies. Appropriately enough, I was recording this during the comet landing, checking for updates between every track.

After mixing it, I did a final listen via only the internal speakers on my laptop and found that the last part was too low for the speakers to play any sound at all! In the mean time, I listened to the recording of the ‘singing comet’, and emulated it in a patch and put that over the second half.

If you would like to commission a one minute piece, check out my online shop.


Meridian Drums

Meridian Drums (2013) was premièred at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco in June 2013. It was made using SuperCollider and some analogue techno synths from the days when MIDI went over MIDI cables. These were the FutureRetro 777 and a Jomox AirBase rackmounted drum machine. The piece was only semi-interactive – I cued some section changes and modified the timbre of the 777 to sound less and less like a TB303.

This piece is available for download via BandCamp, provided you sign a petition supporting Laetita, a Russian LGBT asylum seeker in Sweden, who is still awaiting a final decision in her case.

If you want to support LGBT asylum seekers more generally, there is also a petition to ask Australia to stop deporting all asylum seeks to a country which prosecutes LGBT people.

Analog Variations

[play]Analog Variations (2010)

A piece created using an analog synthesiser and using analog
re-processing of recorded materials. The same sounds appear again and
again, each further prepared with analog methods. I wanted to get
back to my roots and do something that used a computer only as a tape
recorder and not as a compositional tool. It’s easier and more
rewarding to get organic sounds out of fiddling knobs than it is
fiddling number generators.


Silicon Valley By Rail

[play]Silicon Valley by Rail (2010)

I was home last year for my uncle’s funeral. I don’t have a car or even a drivers license any more, so I rode a lot of trains, especially around the the South Bay Area. Silicon Valley’s trains are diesel, with real bells on them. They sound like something out of time, like our rail infrastructure is from the past even as our gadgets are pushing us into the future.

I recorded the trains and bells with a Xoom recorder. Then, I analysed the spectrum of the bells and used dissonance curves to construct a tuning for FM tones modelled on the bells. I used those tones to construct a drone and then mixed in some processed versions of the train sounds. There’s also a bit of binaural beating in this piece, making it a safe, legal high.

In the process of making this piece, I released a SuperCollider Quark called TuningLib, which has in it a DissonanceCurve class, useful for computing tunings based on timbre.


Live at NOISE=NOISE #19

[play]Live at NOISE=NOISE #19 (29 April 2010)

There’s a series of Noise concerts in the London area called NOISE=NOISE, curated by Ryan Jordan. They’re usually pretty awesome. This was the second one I’ve played in. It was organised about two days before the event, so I threw together my set at the last minute.

In the first part of it, I’m playing my MOTM synthesizer and live sampling that in my SimpleSample SuperCollider patch, controlled by a wireless gamepad. However, one channel seemed to be out on the PA and it seemed like a lot of my SC stuff wasn’t making it out to the PA either. At some point, the joystick gave up the ghost completely, so it switched to being all modular synth.

Some of the frequencies really resonated the hell out of the space. For best results, listen with speakers rather than headphones and turn it up loud.


Blakes 9 (2009)

[play]Blakes 9 (2008-9)

I’ve been working on this piece for over a year and it’s time to say it’s done.

The inspiration to start this piece came from two sources. One was that I watched the TV show Blakes 7 and thought it had great incidental music. And the other was that I briefly dated a poet who had a thing for the number 9.

I recorded a loop of synthesized sounds that seemed to go with the sounds on the show, and then I came up with a cutup algorithm that broke it into pieces based on a 9-feeling. But that wasn’t enough, so I added in some glitching. But that wasn’t enough, so I added in another section, and so it grew in an ungainly way, until it filled 80 speakers and was premiered as an N-channel piece at a BEAST concert at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham in June 2009.

Then I spent the summer mixing it down to 2 channels, while trying to prevent it from getting muddy. I won’t lie, it sounds better with more channels, but the stereo version is ok. If you have a subwoofer, it’s even better.

If you happen to have a speaker array of 8 channels or, really, any number of channels and you think you might want to present this piece, please contact me.


Shorts: #29 Raining Up

[play] Shorts: #29 Raining Up (2009)

Commissioned and titled by Autumn Looijen

This piece was created using a MOTM Synthesizer and mixed in Ardour. There were several false starts. I had been doing field recordings of storms and for a while, every artificial sound I made seemed to also sound like weather. The title Autumn chose seems to indicate that I didn’t quite get away from weather-related sounds.

I have started accepting commissions of one minute pieces again, and I’ve dropped the price since the last round. If you’d like to commission me, check out my online shop thing. Order now to beat the holiday rush!


Blake’s 9 – draft

[play]Blake’s 9 (2008)

This piece has changed significantly since I first posted it and a newer version has since been posted.

I recently watched the entirety of the TV series Blake’s 7. Like all BBC science fiction productions of it’s era, the incidental music and sound effects are outstanding. The background hums, the computer whirrs and the ominous notes create a mood and a sense of place that is alien. After watching several of the episodes, I went home and created a patch on my MOTM synthesizer which seemed to perfectly capture a progression of mood as it might appear in an episode with Avon creeping along with a ray gun, infiltrating a Federation base.

However, as nice as patch was, with it’s 4 minute long loop, it wasn’t a piece. And there wasn’t an obvious way to make it become one. It was too complex and had too much character to mix, but not enough to stand on it’s own. I let it sit for weeks and thought about other things, specifically, a beat generation algorithm that was going nowhere. And then I met a poet who is obsessed with divisions / groups of 9.

I set my beat maker to 9, and then I thought of using it as a an organizational principle for cutting, rather than a way to make cheesy drum loops. I used it to cut my loop to sections and then into grains. Then I played back the grains in groups of 9, to make measures of 9 beats. In order to add some pitch variety, I changed the speed of playback of the grains, with rates of 1, 27/25, 9/7, 7/9, 25/27, a few intervals in a just version of the Bohlen Pierce scale. This scale uses 3’s instead of octaves, so the ratios have multiples of 3 where you would expect powers of two for more traditional scales.

This is a work in progress and may go on to be an installation or gain additional movements or neither or both.



[play]Phreaking (2008)

I wrote this piece for BrumCon 07. The con was sponsored by our local 2600 group, so I decided to use telephone in-line signaling codes as source materials. I spent a lot of time readin up on phone phreaking, which was just so completely cool. I never did it as a kid because the threats my dad made against me were so dire. But man, it was awesome!

The piece, though, is slightly silly. Well, maybe more than slightly. I doubt I’ll play it again, but I think the logic I used around the drum beats will definitely be refined and reused.

In the spirit of the con, the fugly, un-clean code is below the cut, along with some explanation of what the heck is going on. When I say ugly and unclean, I really, really mean it.

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