Month: May 2016

Inhabiting the Hack


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 video streaming website (aimed at software developers sharing their screens, rather than live coding as we know it), it was also written by 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.


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.


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), or to youtube live events via my own nginx server (previously).