Category: events

Talk abstract: Pattern and groove in live coding

I’m happy to have a talk accepted for the first groove workshop happening in Jan 2023, “an online meeting seeking to bring together researchers from a wide range of domains and with differing research questions and approaches, all centered around the topic of musical groove.” Here’s my abstract:

Live coding is a performing arts practice, prevalent in computer music, where people write and manipulate code to make live music (Collins et al, 2014). It is an umbrella term for a varied range of approaches, but this paper addresses improvised live coding, where performers begin with a blank page, and write code to make music ‘from scratch’. This often take place in nightclub and festival contexts, where people dance to live coded music at events known as ‘algoraves’.

The concept of groove (Duman et al, 2021) offers a challenging viewpoint on live coding. On one hand, groove is an unspecifiable and embodied experience, whereas code is clearly an explicit, formal specification and therefore seen as disembodied. How can groove find a place for itself in code-based music?

The concept of tacit knowledge throws light on this situation by offering the idea that we “know more than we can tell”, the classic example being knowing a face of a friend so that we can spot them in a large crowd, despite not being able to describe their face in words to any level of detail (Polanyi, 1966). Groove is tacit, as something we know without being able to articulate. Accordingly in Polanyi’s terms, we say that groove is proximal – close yet inexplicable, whereas code is distal – distant and therefore explainable.

A key property of tacit knowledge is that proximal knowledge can be used to structure distal knowledge. Applied to live coding, this suggests that although code generates music, from a human perspective, it is rather the close experience of music that structures our understanding of code. We can say then that code is meaningless until we run it and experience its output – only then can we read that code from the perspective of the music. To use another metaphor, the code is the map, the music is the territory, and we can’t read the map until we know the territory.

Through this talk, I will explore the practicalities of this tacit relationship between computation and experience, and generalise it from live coding to heritage pattern-based craft practices.

Live interview with Music Hackspace

I’m really looking forward to joining JB from Music Hackspace to go through the pre-history, history, present and potential future of Tidal, possibly in that order.. Here’s the youtube live stream, if you click on it you should see the date + time in your local timezone, and click to get a reminder:

More info here:

Livestream: TidalCycles – growing a language for algorithmic pattern

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.


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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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..


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:


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.


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 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.”

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 ..

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..

Live on DOMMUNE Tokyo

Here’s my set from the Tokyo x Yorkshire show live on DOMMUNE last month:

It was a lot of fun, you can see the whole show over on the eulerroom channel featureing 2.5 hours of top performances and a two-hour bilingual chat.

Bluedot algorave 2018

Bluedot 2018 was a great time, here’s a nicely live edited film of it.. Catch Sam + me as CCAI from around the 2h1m mark.. As well as top stuff from Innocent, Digital Selves, TYPE and AlgoBabez.

Digital Art: A Long History and Feedforward

I wrote a paper with Ellen Harlizius-Klück and Dave Griffiths called “Digital Art: A Long History“, accepted to Live Interfaces (ICLI) 2018. From the abstract: “A digital representation is one based on countable, discrete values, but definitions of Digital Art do not always take account of this. We examine the nature of digital and analogue representations, and draw from a rich pre-industrial and ancient history of their presence in the arts, with emphasis on textile weaves. We reflect on how this approach opens up a long, rich history, arguing that our understanding of digital art should be based on discrete pattern, rather than technological fashion.” You can read the pre-print here.

I’ll also be performing with my new Feedforward editor in ICLI, here’s a recent performance with it in Reykjavik:

I actually started ICLI in Leeds back in 2012 with Kia Ng, and I’m super excited to be attending the fourth biannual edition of the conference, especially as it has such a solid programme.

Playground residency

Announcing another project! I’m artist-in-residence at CMC Playground, the exhibition and arts programme that is part of annual Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, funded by Arts Council England. This is going to be a lot of fun, working with children in Crofton Academy in Wakefield, and Wybourn Community Primary in Sheffield, the results shown in the exhibition at the start of July. I’ve worked with these schools before, doing a crazy tanglebots workshop with a class at Wybourn, and working with a visually impaired pupil at Crofton Academy to control a laser cutter with code for his GCSE coursework. This time I’m planning on exploring coding and pattern – encrypting messages in Quipu-inspired structures, and making music through TidalCycles drumming circles. Fun!