Author: Alex

(Algo|Afro)futures

(Alfo|Afro)futures

I’m happy to be working with Antonio Roberts on this mentoring project working with early career Black artists, initially in the Birmingham/West Midlands area. The project is structured around workshop sessions exploring TidalCycles and other live coding technologies and ideas, but the idea is to support the artists involved in taking live coding somewhere new. The call is out now until 14th March. We’re working on this with Christopher Haworth, funded by UKRI as part of his Music and the Internet project. I’m really looking forward to see where the artists take the ideas. Full info including the thinking behind the programme here: algo-afro-futures.lurk.org

Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music in paperback

https://hive.dmmserver.com/media/356/97801975/9780197554364.jpg

The Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music (I always have to check whether it’s of or on) is out in paperback 1st March 2021! You can (pre)order via your local bookshop, or services like hive which gives a (small) cut to your nominated bookseller. The hardback was rather expensive, but I’m happy that it’s sold well enough to go into this much cheaper print run. The cover is ace, featuring the AlgoBabez (Shelly Knotts and Joanne Armitage) with hellocatfood‘s visuals in the background, although sadly they aren’t actually featured in the book – the band wasn’t formed when the contents was drafted. You can find the table of contents here, and a good number of the chapters as open access preprints here.

2020 roundup

January brought personal loss, and lets face it the rest of the year wasn’t the best ride, but I thought I’d do a quick round up of some of the things I’ve been part of.

February

I got to go to the International Conference on Live Coding in Limerick, great fun meeting people and I presented a paper on the Live Loom. We started this conference back in 2015 and it’s been great following it around the world. The next will be in Chile later in 2021.

Later in February I organised the AlgoMech Panel on Distributed Culture together with Iris Saladino. We had really great speakers, and audiences in both Buenos Aires as well as Sheffield. Our aim was to encourage people to do more events online in a distributed fashion, rather than waste the environment with international travel for short trips of large numbers of people to generic conference facilities.. We organised this before he pandemic arrived and events overtook our aims somewhat.. I really hope we don’t go back to geographically centred academic conferences, which exclude so many people as well as damaging the environment.

March

I managed a workshop at Barnet Library and performance at the mighty Cafe Oto in London before lockdown arrived.. Then an online event the Eulerroom Equinox, again organised with the energetic and super creative Argentinian crew. This went on for over three days nonstop. It was an emotional time, again we’d been organising it since before the pandemic arrived and so were doing online performances together under lockdown conditions for the first time. Quite a few in-person events had to be cancelled and turned into solo performances from sofas and bedrooms. It was good to go through this together.

April

From April-June I ran an online TidalCycles course. I tried to make it as accessible and sustainable as possible, and I think succeeded on both counts with a pay-as-you-feel model. Feedback has been really good and people are still joining it – it’s all based on pre-recorded videos. I’ve recently made the first four weeks fully open access, with the second four weeks still pay-as-you-feel. I hope to find time to do one more four-week block in the spring. I set up a forum to host the course which has since become an active general forum for Tidal.

In the first months of lockdown there was a lot of demand for online streams, including some well paid ‘corporate’ events that I normally wouldn’t specially travel to. These fell off after a while, I guess as events started getting postponed or just not organised, and people maybe got a bit bored of watching performances on their screens? Still I had masses of fun collaborating with hellocatfood during this period.. Here’s one we did for Graham Dunning’s excellent noisequest series for example:

May

I’m particularly happy with this performance we did for a VR Algorave, organised by CNDSD and tiemposdelruido:

This solo performance for the Parisian Algovoids festival was fun too:

June

From June I had the honour of mentoring Lizzie Wilson aka Digital Selves for the Google Summer of Code, for her project on autonomous live coding. This was a great and productive experience and I’d be happy to hear from students interested in applying next year – especially those with backgrounds underrepresented in tech/live coding. An opportunity for you to get paid to contribute to Tidal (or some other free/open source project).

I also managed to submit a funding proposal of my own in June. I was really happy with the proposal, and it’ll be life changing if it comes through.. It’ll be well into 2021 before I find out though.

July

In July I presented a paper on “Algorithmic Pattern” at the lovely NIME (New Interfaces on Musical Expression) conference, as well as doing a performance using my feedforward editor. I wrote a short blog post with videos and link to the paper so won’t repeat that here. Nice to see that NIME are using the shift online during the pandemic to look for longer term ways to be less environmentally impactful.

I also co-ran a research workshop on Hybrid Live Coding Interfaces, with Shelly Knotts and Jack Armitage, which went really well. It was originally going to be part of NIME, but we decided to open it up as a free online workshop. The video recordings are available online.

August

In August I started a commission/residency type thing with call&response in London, running an online listening workshop on interference patterns and making a multichannel live coded piece. The latter will be up in Jan 2021.

Also as a lovely outcome of the Tidal Club community growing from the online course I ran at the start of the year, we ran a 24 hour stream, more or less non-stop, with 65 performances.. Here’s the playlist! So much amazing stuff.

September

Not too much happened in September, between waves I managed to get into hospital for an operation which went well but wiped me out for a while..

October

A fun quadrophonic performance at No Bounds festival, a network collaboration with CNDSD, Iris Saladino and Munshkr although I actually managed to perform from within the venue myself, with a socially distanced audience of 12 people. It was also streamed with binaural sound, here’s the archive:

November

Around the start of November I started a reading group and forum on Algorithmic Pattern, which has been a lot of fun already.

This is when we would have been organising AlgoMech festival 2020.. We decided to shelve it at the start of the year, we could have applied for emergency arts council funds but decided other people needed the money more – putting Algomech festival on is a labour of love, and it didn’t feel like we were the emergency. Here’s hoping for 2021. I did do a collaboration with Nick Potter at University of Sheffield though, running a nice live coding binaural streamed event.

December

We did another ace tidal club stream for the solstice, this time with around 80 performances.. I did probably my strangest performance of the year as part of this, sat next to a muddy stream in the dark in Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield, streaming to the world using binaural microphones. With a single bluetooth speaker on one side and the stream on the other it should sound fairly immersive on headphones..

There you go! Have a good 2021 everybody x

Apocalyptic folk night, Dec 2018

A recording of the “apocalyptic folk night” that took place in Access Space Sheffield, 11th December 2018 from 8pm until 10:30pm.
Part a:

Part b:

  My contribution was a hastily live coded arrangement of a famous tune that’s used in several songs, in particular the Red Flag, O Christmas Tree, and O Tannenbaum. I gave out lyric sheets with all three versions and asked people to choose which version they sung (based on their politics, nationality etc), or switch between them at random.
We wanted to create a space for an extra-strange open mic night, taking the feel of a folk night but with an open-noise policy. As organisers we didn’t know what to expect, but the room was full and the music was amazing. Even in 2018 it felt like apocalypse was around the corner, but lets keep hoping for a bright future where folk from all backgrounds can come together for music and cheer.
If you were one of the performers, please go to archive.org and comment with part (a or b) you’re in and the time in the recording you started performing thanks very much!
The event blurb:

“An undisciplined night of folk noises from the past and future.

Bring your instruments, voices, laptops, handmade electronics, other noisemakers and your friends.

The idea is to run this like a folk club, with people taking turns to play short pieces, but not subscribing to any particular definition of what ‘folk music’ might be. Non-western, improvised and generally strange music is very welcome.

Acoustic music is also welcome. A PA will be available for laptops etc but to be inclusive to all folk, we don’t expect things to get super loud.

Donations on the door are welcome. Drinks will be available from the bar.”

Compassion through algorithms – vol ii

Very happy to be part of this compilation fundraiser in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, with many algorithmic greats from the more northerly parts of England:

Compassion through algorithms volume II

It’s inspired by the first compassion through algorithms compilation, created by Algorave Tokyo.

Here’s my contribution, ‘prelock’:

I wrote this blurb describing how I made the track:

This track is mainly made by adding numbers together and messing with time, using the free/open source TidalCycles system I made. The main melody is made from the numbers 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 and -1, with the numbers 2, -2, 3, 5 and 7 played between them, set to the notes of a minor scale. Because there are six numbers in the first list, and five in the second, they rotate around each other to create a long melody. Then another ‘voice’ comes in which jumps up by 12 notes (an octave) and is shifted forward and backward in time. The whole thing is 5 beats to the bar, including a sliced up breakbeat which is going on its own journey. There’s also a dirty kick underneath with a steady timeline, changing to the 12 beat African standard pattern right at the end, which frees everything up as it slows down.

Here’s the mess of tranklements that I made it with:

The compilation is Pay As You Feel – all donations very appreciated by the Young Minds Together group of Black girls doing performing arts in Rotherham, looking to rebuild post-pandemic.

Upcoming projects

A few choice projects coming up!

  • Tidal new moon – an online stream of 72 x 20 minute performances with Tidal, to celebrate the new moon 18/19 August 2020, organised by the Tidal Club community. [More details]
  • Call and response commission – an online listening workshop exploring algorithmic interference patterns (22nd August, free, book here), followed by a solo multichannel performance in October. Other commissioned artists are Hannah Catherine Jones, Robyn Steward, Beatrice Dillon, and Shabaka Hutchings. [More details]
  • No Bounds Festival Sheffield, collaborating with Iris Saladino & Munshkr from Colectivo de Live Coders (CLiC) of Buenos Aires, and CNDSD of Mexico City, using the Flok web-based collaborative live coding system to create a multichannel improvised performance in a factory in Sheffield (14/15 Nov, details to follow)
  • Off-site residence with Iklectik London, developing new work with Eimear O’Donovan exploring live coding and the voice, September/October

Looking forward ..

How to withdraw from Facebook

Facebook is a problem.. They happily show political adverts, heavily targeted and very under-regulated, as well as being slow to act against white nationalism and so on.The worst thing for me it was facebook turns us into. It privileges easy controversy, so your feed will be full of people getting angry at other groups but often not dealing with difficult issues in a reasonable and thoughtful way. If by some chance an interesting discussion does start up on facebook, it’s not properly shared or archived. There’s a lot to like, and there’s a lot of hidden facebook mechanics which we don’t know enough about to dislike. Anyway, I’ve recently moved towards participating on smaller, semi-private social groups off facebook and it’s much more enjoyable and productive.

Still, you might not be ready to leave it, wanting to keep in touch with friends and family, promote events and so on.. Using facebook’s own tools to step away can cause a lot of upset, as it will appear to your friends that you’ve blocked them.

A good alternative is to unfollow everyone and every page. If you’re like me that would normally involve 1000’s of clicks to remove all the weird and local pages and random people you’ve somehow friended over a decade or so. Here’s a way to do that automatically, although it takes a while (one unfollow per 2 seconds, to avoid facebook detecting and stopping your plan..), it is hands-off.

Here’s how, in e.g. firefox or chrome:

* Click the Arrow in upper right
* Select “News feed preferences”
* Click “Unfollow people and groups to hide their posts”

Now the tricky bit – to open the “javascript console”. This is what facebook doesn’t want you to do, as getting access to the javascript running in your facebook window is exactly what scammers want to do. (I’m not a scammer, but don’t take my word for it!)

This might be slightly different on your computer/browser version, but.. In firefox, It’s under the ‘burger’ menu in the top right (click the three horizontal lines), then “Web Developer” (that’s you!), and then “Web console” (not browser console). Under chrome, it’s a similar menu but three dots, then “more tools”, “developer tools”, then in the new frame that opens up select ‘console’ in the menu along the top.

At this point you should see a healthy warning telling you not to paste in code. If you decide to trust me and go ahead anyway, click the commandline area (it should have a ‘>’ or ‘>>’ in front) and paste in the following:

var unfollowButtons =document.querySelectorAll('div[aria-pressed="false"]'); unfollowed = 0;for(var i=0;i<unfollowButtons.length;i++) {setTimeout(function(element){ element.click(); unfollowed ++;console.log('Total unfollowed ' + unfollowed + ' out of ' +unfollowButtons.length) }, i*2000, unfollowButtons[i]) }

The browser might get you to do something like type “allow pasting” first, to make doubly sure that you aren’t being scammed. If you do type something like that, you’ll need to delete those words again otherwise it’ll be part of the code and nothing will work..

You should see the displayed people and pages get unfollowed before you, one by one. It won’t do all of them though, just a couple of dozen that have loaded in that page.. To unfollow everyone and everything, you have to scroll down in the ‘unfollow people’ box until they’re all loaded up. Then run the code again.

Then you’ll have a nice calm facebook experience and hopefully will enjoy some improved mental health.

NIME – algorithmic pattern

I gave a paper and performance for the New Interfaces for Musical Expression conferece last week. It was to be hosted in Birmingham UK, but went online. It seems to have been a big success and the organisers are talking about making future conferences online too, irrespective of pandemic emergencies, in the interests of making the conference more accessible and reducing damage to the planet.

My paper “Algorithmic Pattern” is here, and here is a 10 minute demo of some of the ideas in it:

Here’s my performance, demonstrating my prototype ‘feedforward’ editor. The NIME audience seemed to enjoy that I left a crash in..

Hybrid live coding workshop

I’ve been working on the hybrid live coding interfaces research workshop with Shelly Knotts and Jack Armitage, happening online 28-29th July 2020. It was originally going to be colocated with NIME, but we decided to hold it a week later, and twice as long (six hours, spread over two days) so that we could include more people and make registration free.

The abstracts will be up soon, but you can already see the schedule and list of speakers on the website. There’s a really nice mix of talks, should be ace!

With all the responsibilities and stress of lockdown, we made it as quick and easy to propose something as possible. There’s no publication attached, but with it being a free event, and low-barrier to entry, we got loads of proposals. We’re using the very promising pubpub.org system from MIT to collect abstracts, which I highly recommend as a multi-user publishing tool supporting peer review and comments.

hellocatfood x yaxu

I’m really happy with this set with hellocatfood:

You can find some kind words about it over on the mighty CDM, including an exclusive talk-through of the performance between the two of us.