Deactivating facebook

I’ve ‘deactivated’ my facebook page, for the usual reasons – the inability to actually share things with people without being filtered out, privacy concerns, general lack of transparancy and annoyance. It’s a pretty strange process, a bit like changing your ADSL provider, where the site proposes various arguments for why you should stay, puts you on guilt trips about the people who will miss you, etc.

Then when it’s finally done it turns out that all you’ve really done is the equivalent to blocking all your friends. If they go to your page it will pretty much look like you’ve blocked them, harsh! There’s no way of leaving a ‘I’m taking a break’ message or anything like that. So this is the main reason for this (fairly boring, sorry) blog post, to let you know that I haven’t blocked you on facebook!

It’s also extemely easy to re-activate your account – you just log back in and you’re insta-restored.. So quite a lot of friction to leave, and none whatsoever to return.

There are alternative ways of deactivation, as kindohm pointed out on the twitter, you can just unfollow everyone and everything. I found some tips here that make this easy, it’s a nice way of deactivating on your own terms, not facebook’s.. But still it wasn’t quite enough for me, so I’ve gone the official route.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll return or not, but in the meantime you can find me on the TOPLAP slack, twitter, send me an email, or drop by to chat in person either at Access Space labs on Fitzalan Square in Sheffield UK, or Deutsches Museum in Munich DE, or somewhere between..

Update – started getting people asking why I’d unfriended them so reverted to the Hodnick method, reactivated but not following anything. Harumph.

Cyclic visualiser

Something I did ages ago on a residency, made a video a while back but forgot to put it here, here it is:


On xmas eve I made a bot

The source is here. It’s been a little unstable (any tips for running the jack audio subsystem on a virtual server?) but generally works well. There have been some nice patterns coming up, a random selection:

Then some mystery person (or bot) made a bot called tidalbotbot that is generating patterns for tidalbot, e.g.:

We’ve been meaning to include examples in the tidalcycles docs for a while, should get around to this.. Also planning on a tidal pattern sharing website, which could interface nicely with tidalbot. More soon!

Musicbox controller

For upcoming collaborations with musicbox maestro David Littler, and to explore data input to Tidal as part of my ODI residency, I wanted to use one of these paper tape-driven mechanical music boxes as a controller interface:

You can see from the photo that I have quite a messy kitchen. Also that I’ve screwed the musicbox onto a handmade box (laser cut at the ever-wondrous Access Space). The cable coming out of it leads to a webcam mounted inside the box, that is peeking up through a hole underneath the paper as it emerges from the music box. With a spot of hacked-together python opencv code, here is the view from the webcam and the notes it sees:

Now I just need to feed the notes into Tidal, and use them to feed into live coded patterns. Should be good enough for upcoming performances with David tonight at a semi-private “Digital Folk” event at Access Space and another tomorrow in London at the ODI lunchtime lecture.

By the way the music in the above was made by my Son and I clipping out holes more or less at random. The resulting tune has really grown on me, though!

UPDATE – first live coding experiment:

Algorithmic and Mechanical Movement

flyerI’ve been working on the Festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Movement (AlgoMech for short) lately, curating it with Lovebytes and funded by Sheffield Year of Making and Arts Council England. It’s going to be a big week for me, bringing together lots of strands into one festival featuring concerts, a day symposium, hands-on workshops and an algorave. It’s diverse enough to be a bit hard to sell but is exploring a bit of a different take on technology in performance, a long view on algorithms and machines, with focus on the people involved. If it gets good audience support then we’ll be doing our best to make it an annual event, and so I’d absolutely love it if you came along, and/or helped spread the word via twitter, facebook or by sharing the website, this nice write-up, or the video below or by telling someone nice about it who you think might be interested. Thanks a lot!


get_image.phpI’ve been reminiscing about the early days of live coding, living in London UK around the year 2000 and taking part in experimental electronic music events there. There is some kickback for the phrase “experimental music”, it doesn’t make sense as a genre label (once it’s a genre, is it still an experiment?) or an institutional alignment (could/should institutions experiment on culture?), but I think it makes sense to talk about experimental events where new ideas and software are tried out, which might result in failure.

One place was the Foundry, a pub on Old Street/Great Eastern Street where I spent a lot of time. You never knew what you were walking into, from full-on digital noise to (actually, more often than not), a lady reciting poetry about worms, uncontrolled explosions in the vaults.. If you wanted to do something yourself you just spoke to Gimpo and would get a date in the diary.

The pub was closely associated to the KLF, and a framed poster by Bill Drummond was on display titled “I COULD FUCKIN’ DO BETTER THAN THAT”. On reflection I think my life would have been very different if I hadn’t read it. We organised quite a few VXSLAB events here, even a generative art exhibition in the basement (old bank vaults). The ethos of doing stuff without looking for permission or funding, just doing it is something we took into many dorkbotlondon and other free events.. Making things happen felt easy.

Another place was Public Life, an underground toilet squatted by Siraj Izhar and turned into another amazing space for experimentation. It’s rules for operation were similar to the Foundry:

  1. not to solicit activity, all activity had to be self initiated, volunteered or uninvited
  2. not to say no to anything, reject anything but attempt accommodation in some way

Slub played here regularly, at events like the Sunday Deriver, and Plug and Play. The space had a projector (they were starting to become affordable), so we were able to start projecting our screens..

With venues like Fabric closing in London, lets not forget the other end of the spectrum – venues created for open experimentation, existing for art outside of funded institutions and commercial venues. They open up where artists can move in, before property developers push them out. Without these spaces, I wouldn’t be making music or events now. Do they still exist in London? Sheffield has Audacious, Access Space, DINA etc, long may they continue..

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

Canute in the EulerRoom

Had a great time playing with Yee-King as Canute in EulerRoom at ODIHQ (during the Thinking Out Loud launch). Here’s the recording:

Thinking Out Loud exhibition

Cm26290WYAAlLkfThe Thinking Out Loud exhibition is up! I’ve been working on this with curator Hannah Redler, during my ongoing sound-artist-in-residence at the Open Data Institute in London (supported by SaM). We’ve brought together a great group show consisting of work from some of my friends, collaborators and inspirations, in particular Felicity Ford, David Griffiths and Julian Rohrhuber, Ellen Harlizius-Klück, Dan Hett, David Littler, Antonio Roberts, Sam Meech and Amy Twigger-Holroyd.

There were many other artists we wanted to invite and include, but these pieces sit very well together to create an alternative view on digital art and open data, for example presenting weaving and knitting as digital art forms, and Precolumbian Quipu as unfathomable data.

The exhibition is free to visit by appointment, full info here.

Here’s some photos gleaned from twitter (will improve on these next time I’m down!).

Making Spicule

Algorithmic approaches to music involve working with music as language, and vice-versa, in fact music and language become inseparable. This allows a musician to describe many layers of patterns as text, in an explicit way that is not possible by other means. By this I mean that musical behaviours are given names, allowing them to then be combined with other musical behaviours to create new behaviours. This process of making language for music is not one of cold specification, but of creative exploration. People make new language to describe things all the time, but there’s something astonishing about making languages for computers to make music, and it’s something I want to share.

Here’s a recording of one of the live streams I’ve been doing while working on my solo album Spicule from my home studio:

I start with nothing, but in the last few minutes everything comes together and I have a couple of different parts that start feeling like a whole track. There isn’t really a musical structure to the session apart from the slow building of parts, and a sudden cut when everything comes together. The macro structure of the track will come later, but by a process of trying rough ideas, and listening to see where they go, the music emerges from the words.

I generally go through much the same process when I’m doing improvised performances, making music from nothing, but this feels very different.. Instead of being tied to the structure of a performance, making continual changes to work with the audience’s expectations, I’m dealing with repetitions even more than usual. I’ve started experimenting with lights, at first to try accentuating the sound but I think now more to help focus, to get inside the repetition and maintain flow. Unfortunately doesn’t quite work in the video because the sound and video are slightly out of sync.. But the left/right light channels map to the left/right speakers, and each sound has a different colour.

As live coding develops, I still really enjoy improvisation, but am finding myself doing polished performances more often, involving prepared tracks, with risk low, and the original making processes behind them hidden. This is probably for the best, but then it feels important to share the behind-the-scene improvisation and development that goes on.. My pledgemusic crowdfund is a great way to do this, thanks to the generous critical feedback, encouragement and (gulp) hard deadline.. If you haven’t joined it yet, you can do it here!