Category: music

Lurk recordings

I’ve been recording some experiments with a new iteration of my livecoding system, and putting them up over on I’m going to continue doing that but here’s the latest recording for the tired of clicking:

All and any feedback is very welcome.

Upcoming events in September

7/8th September 2012, Leeds – Live Interfaces

As my first act as research fellow at ICSRiM, I’m chairing this conference on live interaction in performance technology, two days of papers and performances, including a (free) club night.  The quality of submissions has been fantastic, and we have people coming from 11 different countries outside the UK, can’t wait!

10th September, Slovenia – ICMC 2012

Then I’m off to give a paper on Live notation at the International Computer Music Conference with Hester Reeve.   Looking forward to hanging out in Ljubljana, hope to spend some time in the kiberpapa while I’m there (Sunday-Thursday).

16th September, Germany – Documenta festival

This isn’t 100% confirmed, but the book Speaking Code will be launched at Documenta festival, and while I can’t be there, I will still be live coding there.  More on this once it’s done..

17th September, Goldsmiths – Graduation

Although I was done with this back in November 2011, this is the final step where I get to wear the stupid clothes.  Hoo.

25th September, Leeds – Psychogeography Pecha Kucha

I’ll be trying to argue for computer programming being a form of psychogeography in 20 slides over 6.66 minutes. Drop me a line if you’re interested and I’ll pass on the room info once I know..  The event is organised by Tina Richardson.

29th September, Sheffield – Do It Thissen

Happy to be performing in the exhibition about post-punk Sheffield, I’ll be somehow re-interpreting a wall of 7″ record sleeve cover art.  Neil Webb and Ron Wright will be playing too, and Sensoria will be launching their musical map. Register here for a free beer!

Live recordings

Some recent live recordings, this from InterFace2012 in Birmingham:

and this from the BEAM Festival:

I asked the engineers to cut the sound at 15 and 20 minutes respectively.


Another cog

PhD Thesis: Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts

With some minor corrections done, my thesis is finally off to the printers.  I’ve made a PDF available, and here’s the abstract:

We consider the artist-programmer, who creates work through its description as source code. The artist-programmer grandstands computer language, giving unique vantage over human-computer interaction in a creative context. We focus on the human in this relationship, noting that humans use an amalgam of language and gesture to express themselves. Accordingly we expose the deep relationship between computer languages and continuous expression, examining how these realms may support one another, and how the artist-programmer may fully engage with both.

Our argument takes us up through layers of representation, starting with symbols, then words, language and notation, to consider the role that these representations may play in human creativity. We form a cross-disciplinary perspective from psychology, computer science, linguistics, human-computer interaction, computational creativity, music technology and the arts.

We develop and demonstrate the potential of this view to inform arts practice, through the practical introduction of software prototypes, artworks, programming languages and improvised performances. In particular, we introduce works which demonstrate the role of perception in symbolic semantics, embed the representation of time in programming language, include visuospatial arrangement in syntax, and embed the activity of programming in the improvisation and experience of art.

Feedback is very welcome!

BibTeX record:

    title = {{Artist-Programmers} and Programming Languages for the Arts},
    author = {McLean, Alex},
    month = {October},
    year = {2011},
    school = {Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London}

RIS record:

ID  - McLean2011
TI  - Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts
PB  - Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London
AU  - McLean, Alex
PY  - 2011/10/01

Pitter patter

Experimenting with webcam overlay. Video recorded using gstreamer, source for screencaster here (screensave.c).

UPDATE, here’s another from a different angle to appease douglas.

Workshop output

The Text live coding workshop went really well, surprisingly well considering it was the first time anyone apart from me had used it and (so I found out after) most of the participants didn’t have any programming experience. The six participants took to the various combinators surprisingly quickly, the main stumbling block being getting the functions to connect in the right way… Some UI work to do there, and I got some valuable feedback on it.

Once the participants had got the hang of things on headphones, we all switched to speakers and the seven of us played acid techno for an hour or so together, in perfect time sync thanks to netclock. Here’s a mobile phone snippet:

The sound quality doesn’t capture it there, but for me things got really interesting musically, and it was fun walking around the room panning between the seven players…

Test run of Text

I’ve been rather busy writing lately, my PhD funding runs out in April, and I hope by then I’ll have finished and will be looking for things to do next.

I have had a bit of time to make Text, a visual language I mentioned earlier, a bit more stable, here’s a test run:

A bit of a struggle, partly due to the small screen area I gave myself for the grab, but also due to some UI design issues I need to sort out before my workshop at Access Space in Sheffield next week, on the 5th February. Access Space is a really nice free media lab, but will turn nasty unless I free the workshop software, so expect a release soon.

In case someone is interested, here’s the linux commandline I use to record a screencast with audio from jackd:

gst-launch-0.10 avimux name=mux \
! filesink location=cast.avi \
ximagesrc name=videosource use-damage=false endx=640 endy=480 \
! video/x-raw-rgb,framerate=10/1 \
! videorate \
! ffmpegcolorspace \
! videoscale method=1 \
! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480,framerate=10/1 \
! queue \
! mux. \
jackaudiosrc connect=0 name=audiosource \
! audio/x-raw-float,rate=44100,channels=2,depth=16 \
! audioconvert \
! queue \
! mux.


Text is a experimental visual language under development.  Code and docs will appear here at some point, but all I have for now is this video of a proof of concept.

It’s basically Haskell but with syntax based on proximity in 2D space, rather than adjacency.  Type compatible things connect automatically, made possible though Haskell’s strong types and currying.  I implemented the interface in C, using clutter, and ended up implementing a lot of Haskell’s type system.  Whenever something changes it compiles the graph into Haskell code, which gets piped to ghci.  The different colours are the different types.  Stripes are curried function parameters.  Lots more to do, but I think this could be a really useful system for live performance.