Category: misc

Computer Club in Igloo magazine

A reflective review of Peak Cut EP in Igloo magazine, part of a feature on Computer Club:

Yaxu, Alex McLean, doesn’t just use programs to make his sound, he writes his own programs. The first result, Peak Cut, has been set to memory stick. The style, dubbed algorave, is a mix between breakbeat IDM and playful plink. The entirety was constructed using McLean’s Tidal software. McLean sounds like a bit of a programming fiend. During live shows the raw code he knocks out is displayed to give visual insight into what is happening behind the laptop lid. Now I’d be the first to raise a cynical eyebrow if this idea didn’t work, if this were little more than a gimmick. But, the music speaks for itself. I can feel the other eyebrow twitch. USB Stick?! But in the spirit that this LP has it is arguably the most universal physical format today. Charming sounds, sometimes chaotic, pour forth. Absorbing and complex this is a style that involves the listener in more ways than one. The release offers you the chance to try your hand at sonic sculpting with Tidal, the software being part of the release. As the price of vintage equipment soars over on eBay this is the other side of the synthesizer. Open source and available, an emancipation of electronic experimentation. Before my rhetoric gets a little too early 20th century I better get back to the album. Percussion rains down, clambering atop one another as keys stagger through a sonic storm in tracks like “Animals.” At points the fuzz, fizz and flicking can become frustrating, but that soon passes. Peak Cut needs a number of listens and is at times, well, puzzling. But pretension is not part of the formula, instead this is picking up where a certain past left off.

I’m not really a computer nut. Yeah, I know we all use em all the time but I’ve never really been into coding and stuff. I never really got past BASIC, or past the first few hours with it. Yet, I must admit, I always liked the egalitarian nature that a lot of coding has. The sharing of ideas and software. The freedom to build and construct in a new language, one that would communicate something new. Computer Club have captured some of that vibrancy, some of that desire to distribute and that keenness to create. Who says you need to buy vintage analog equipment for exorbitant prices? Some labels of Sheffield say otherwise, and the results are plain to enjoy.

full article

Forkbomb.pl

forkbombThis is how it began, with a forkbomb.. In 2001, Ade encouraged me to enter the Transmediale software art award, that he’d won the year before. I ended up submitting this:

my $strength = $ARGV[0] + 1;

while (not fork) {
  exit unless --$strength;
  print 0;
  twist: while (fork) {
    exit unless --$strength;
    print 1;
  }
}
goto 'twist' if --$strength;

It basically creates a process that keeps duplicating itself, while printing out zeros and ones, creating patterns from a system under heavy load. It won (half) the prize, and ended up being part of the touring Generator exhibition curated by Geoff Cox and Tom Trevor, alongside Adrian’s auto-illustrator and work by other pretty amazing artists.

I’ve been co-curating the Thinking Out Loud exhibition at the Open Data Institute, and we’ve ended up including it in a couple of different forms.. A print of the original forkbomb output that appeared on the Generator exhibition guide, the (now rather scruffy) fanfold paper output that was printed during that exhibition, and a new print showing outputs from a range of different computers and operating systems contributed by some brave people (download PDF).

The original script, including some background and instructions for running it, is here.

BBC Introducing West Yorkshire

Just had some fun with Joanne on BBC Radio Leeds, here’s the recording:

Inhabiting the Hack

logo

During the latter half of 2015 I organised / collaborated with a range of “alternative hackathons” and related events re-imagining the role of technology in creative practice. I’ve now collected documentation including a range of videos on the website, it was a really great series of events to be involved with, together with dozens of really nice people. Have a look here.

Crowdfunding live coding

I’m launching a crowdfund today, for making a new album and working on TidalCycles in the process.. I’m lucky to have the support of Sound and Music, as well as the collaboration of three Sheffield institutions – Computer Club, Human and Pimoroni.

I’d really appreciate it if you backed the crowdfund, it should be a fun ride and it’d be great to have you on it!

This crowdfunding business raises a couple of questions though. In particular, how can you live code a fixed recording, what’s live about that? Also, if TidalCycles is a free/open source project with a community of contributors sharing purely for love, won’t getting money involved spoil things?

On the first point, live coding has been used in composition from the start, it’s just a nice way to develop ideas even when you are alone.. It doesn’t have to be about performance, the live feedback loop between your fingers, the code and your ears is plenty enough.

I think PledgeMusic crowdfunds in particular put a really interesting spin on this — they’re all about opening up the creative process, and making it part of the experience of music. This fits nicely with the aims of live coding, and I’ll be live streaming my composition sessions. I’m hoping this approach will actually make the music better.. It’s so easy with algorithmic music to get obsessed with some interference pattern or other, follow it up a tree of abstract possibilities, but then end up pulling the ladder up after you.. Ending up in a world of pattern that just seems like noise, unless you’ve taken the same route. Basically, I’m hoping that sharing the making process will keep it grounded.

The second point, on the dissonance between grassroots free/open source software and pay-for crowdfunding, is trickier. If I do get some money to go towards development time it would be good to share it, but we’re likely talking less than minimum wage here, and then there’s the complicated questions about who gets paid what, what are the relative monetary values of different kinds of contributions etc. I think trying to turn TidalCycles into a distributor of crowdfund cash might seriously damage the community. In any case, I’ll be sharing all the code I make as free/open source.

But then TidalCycles has never really been a software development for me, but an aspect of musical development. I can’t imagine someone getting involved with developing it who isn’t motivated by making their own music, and sharing their ideas. So maybe the easiest way of thinking about the crowdfund is as a personal musical development, which happens to have free/open source outcomes. Lets see what happens though, it’ll get more complicated later in the process when I add hardware perks.. I’ll probably open the books at some point and see what people think, but all comments are welcome.

Streaming live coding

I got a tweet the other day, pointing to a rather strange article about live coding on what looked like a fake news website designed to optimise search engine results (which I am therefore not linking to). Not only did the article contain a lot of links to the livecoding.tv video streaming website (aimed at software developers sharing their screens, rather than live coding as we know it), it was also written by livecoding.tv themselves. It mentioned me, but halfway through goes from talking about my live coding software TidalCycles, to Jay-Z’s music streaming service TIDAL.

spamScreenshot at 2016-04-26 16:14:56

Looking a bit closer and the twitter account which tweeted the link at me looked a bit strange, too.. Lots of links to the afore-mentioned website.

spam2

Doing a reverse image search on the image on their profile, and I find out their true identity, via a stock photo website, namely “Young man drinking water in forest, smiling, portrait.

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A handsome chap, that’s for sure. This has made me wonder a bit about the strange feeling I had when I tried out streaming to this website.. There was something off about it, not only the opportunity to make yourself available for ‘private streaming sessions’ which seemed to have been borrowed from a very different business model, but also the people who would drop in to the chat, ask unrelated questions and then disappear. Just how far can these streaming websites go with bots? If in web 3.0 the users are the product, who exactly are we being sold to? Are we streaming to posthuman overlords?

Anyway I deleted my videos from this website a while back, in part due to their worrying treatment of one of their users, and these days I either stream to the friendlier (and free/open source) watchpeoplecode.com, or to youtube live events via my own nginx server (previously).

Luddites

Reading about the tactics of Luddites, a mysterious, unnamed, disorganised collective, spread out over a large geographical area, doing denial of service attacks on the technology of large corporations, with the government laughing at them while failing to keep up with them, all under the guise of a mysterious fictional character (“General Ludd”). Reminds me of Anonymous..

Eulerroom tech

Euler-Room-Facebook-Header

I’m running an EulerRoom event this Saturday, and have the tech about ready for it..

It’ll be a live event in Sheffield, streamed online, and I want the video stream to say who is playing when. A complication is that there will be four stacks of speakers, for multichannel sound..

For the scheduling, I’m using an old Perl script I wrote for a headphone event over ten years ago. It has.. evolved over this time. But it will display who is playing now and next for on the wall for the local people, and save that out to a file, for the streaming software (the excellent obs) to pick up and render on the video. OBS will take two webcam feeds which I’ll be able to switch between/blend on the night.

For the audio, I’m taking a feed from my mixer of the four outputs that are also going to the four speaker stacks (of the phenomenal dangernoise soundsystem) and bringing them into puredata (via a focusrite 6i6 sound module). I then have a simple puredata patch which uses the soundhack +binaural~ object to turn the quadrophonic audio into binaural stereo.. So those listening on headphones will still get the ‘3d’ (actually 2d, as opposed to the usual 1d.. Well I guess still 1d but trying to follow a circle around you instead of a line in front) audio.

This then gets fed into OBS (routed with jack audio, all running under linux mint), which then streams using the RTMP protocol up to my server  (running nginx with RTMP), which then forwards the stream on to youtube live (which should take plenty of listeners) and watchpeoplecode.com (which will work for those who aren’t allowed to watch youtube live for licensing reasons, e.g. those in Germany).

That’s it! Oh and all the graphic design is by the awesome David Palmer.

Hopefully it all works. If so, you’ll be able to watch it on http://eulerroom.com/live/

Yaxu + Rituals

A video recording of me performing with Rituals on pixels, camera mic quality audio:

Abstract Paradigms radio show

One of my tracks “Lucky Chop” from Peak Cut has been featured on the Abstract Paradigms radio show, and so I now know that in Australian, “Yaxu” is pronounced “Yackoo”. Have a listen via their podcast.