music

ISEA 2012

May 29, 2012 by


I’ll be speaking at the Eighteenth International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2012 Albuquerque.

Machine Wilderness is a symposium and series of events exploring the discourse of global proportions on the subject of art, technology and nature. The ISEA symposium is held every year in a different location around the world, and has a 30-year history of significant acclaim.

Acoustic Cosmology will be included in the “Radical Cosmologies” track.

Update: I’m speaking on “The Utterance of a Cosmological Model” in Hotel Albuquerque: Sandia Room at 2:30pm.

The “Radical Cosmologies” theme will gaze at the universe and question our place in it. It will explore a wide range of creative perspectives and practices around the cultural, scientific and philosophical possibilities of contemporary astronomy. This theme will incorporate various forms of media, written word, performance and installation, as well as workshops, community-based actions, lectures and online projects to offer viewers fresh interpretations and experiences of cultural myths, indigenous histories and contemporary science.

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A sneak preview of some of the work I’ll be presenting on Sunday.

Below is a radio-image taken by ALMA of the “Antennae Galaxies” colliding. We have transformed the image-cube data, in which each pixel represents an electromagnetic radio spectrum, into a sonic spectrum. By clicking the image and moving your cursor around you can “play” a spectrum of the colliding galaxies.

Spend some time moving slowly around the red(redshifted) areas – there is a surprising richness to the harmonics for such a simple sonification.

Note: this loads a 62MB data-cube before displaying (still working on a compressed version) … it could take many minutes to appear if you are on a slow connection – it did take these photons 70 million years to reach us, so please be patient while they go the last few bit-miles!

To view & listen, I recommend you open this link in a new tab while you are reading this post.

To get a sense of the picture at optical wavelengths, here’s the HST image .

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“On 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the Earth. 2011 sees the fiftieth anniversary of that event…”

As part of my ongoing work on Binary Dust, I am speaking at Heavenly Discourses on Sunday 16th October 16:45 – 18:00. PANEL: Music

I’ll be presenting new work (including sounds and pictures derived from ALMA) that my great collaborators, Andrew Newsam and Julie Freeman, have helped me with (thank you!).

Here’s the abstract of my paper. I am delighted to have been accepted – esp. as I’m one of the few/the only non-institutional presenters at the conference.

The utterance of a cosmological model?

A conjoining of languages, Acoustic Cosmology is an attempt to describe our audible worlds – a 21st century progression of the music of the spheres – a narrative of acoustic sculpture within n-dimensional space. With no intentional stance on sound as a cultural construct or phenomenology, we openly explore links between cosmology and music, using the language of mathematics and sonic art.

Building on the works Trevor Wishart and Jean-Pierre Luminet, and developed by professional astronomers and musicians, we question and connect the fabric of these non-verbal languages.

Using cosmology and sonic art as its basis, this paper will provide a journey of discovery – a basis for discussion in the junction between music and astronomy, opening up new methods of comprehending scale, connection, depth and complexity. Sound examples and visuals will be included in the presentation.

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Binary Dust …

December 10, 2010 by

Well, it’s taken a little while to pull together, but Binary Dust is now live. Hope you enjoy.

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Webcasting radio = innovation

October 16, 2010 by

A big shout out to RinseFM who just got their FM license .

This is the second station I’ve helped with streaming that’s ended up with an FM license (the first was Resonance FM).

Having put Virgin Radio, Kiss FM and Classic FM streams online in the mid-90s, and then all of the regional Emap “Big City” stations online, it’s good to see webcasting acting as the catalyst for incubating, innovating,  and enabling new talent and embryonic stations to grow.

The great folks at Emap gave me this brilliant quote after we launched their stations: “I would recommend them to anyone undertaking a project involving streaming media of any size�?. The fun stuff is to flex at the small end, not the large, and see if you can flip the dial (Rinse get a substantial online audience, not that far off what Virgin Radio got in its early days of streaming – and at that time, Virgin was the most listened-to station on the web).

It’s a process that takes many, many years and doesn’t fit with any kind of funding or related creative support structure that we have. There’s definitely a need (I’ve helped dozens of community-led projects get going), but very little in the way of useful infrastructure that works without getting in the way.

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This year is the 50th anniversary of Jodrell Bank.

Today is also a landmark day for Jodrell Bank – the whole science team are moving from on-site, to Manchester University. While this is probably very practical, I can’t help feeling sad that this unique and historic research establishment is dramatically shifting its identity.

I worked at Jodrell from 1994-1995 and thoroughly enjoyed it: 120 scientists in the middle of a field in deepest Cheshire. Remarkably “British” Science – on my first day I was shown around to one of the “workshops” (very slightly more advanced than a garden shed) where someone was building an amplifier for the main dish, and cooling it to under 20 degrees Kelvin, making it one of the quietest amplifiers on Earth.

In another room, years later, someone was building their own data router, to carry data at 30 Gigabits per second, since the best commercial ones couldn’t come anywhere close

…today MERLIN‘s seven telescopes ship 30Gbps, each, to a huge computer cluster at the main facility that processes 150-200Gbps of data in real time – making it one of the most powerful computers on Earth.

The history of Jodrell Bank and the Lovell Telescope is vast: it’s first official task was to identify and track Sputnik – it was the only instrument the West had (at the time) that could do so.

Pulsars and Quasars are amongst the discoveries in which Jodrell was the catalyst. The Cosmic Microwave Background, Masers, Gravitational Lenses, and myriad others are part of the rich mixture of Radio Astronomy research.



Jodrell gets very little mention compared to other facilities, unlike its US counterpart the VLA, or the Hubble Space Telescope. The latter is particularly relevant – Jodrell has had equal or better resolution than the HST since before HST launched – and the only reason you don’t know that is because NASA have a $20m “marketing budget” to tell the world. That’s about the same as Jodrell had to upgrade the entire facility.

Jodrell was mentioned a couple of times in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “… Jodrell Bank looked straight through them — which was a pity because it was exactly the sort of thing they’d been looking for all these years … someone decided it was time for a nice relaxing cup of tea” – and happens to be very true: tea at 11am and 3pm was an unmissable part of the day. Everything stopped.

It was at tea that one of the longest serving members of staff was trying to recall how they’d built some of the 6-bit computers I was trying to re-interpret the data from (“now was bit 3 the weather or the telescope ID?”). I should have kept that envelope…

Last year the Lovell Telescope was nominated the UK’s greatest ‘Unsung Landmark’ in a BBC competition. This only scratches the surface. To me, Jodrell Bank is iconic of an entire country of passionate, brilliant scientists, who get little of no recognition for the spectacular work that they do. At various times, Jodrell has had to justify its existence, which is reasonable for any institution to have to do, but I believe that much of its real value is overlooked….

I am delighted that, 13 years after leaving, I will be going back to hear some of my music (“Binary Dust“) played at the 50th Anniversary celebrations, right in front of the Lovell Telescope dish.

They are also projecting onto the 76m Lovell dish, which should be quite spectacular – it’s at least twice the size of the largest IMAX screen (hope the weather’s good!).

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Hong Kong concert

August 26, 1996 by

ICMC Computer-music festival in Hong Kong.

Premiered “Glass” in Hong Kong UST

GLASS 1996
The French surrealist literary movement ‘ecriture automatique’ expressed the inner essence of objects in relation to our association with them; writing in a stream of conciousness. This piece was composed in a similar style, to depict the essence of glass. I envisaged glass from many different perspectives: glass in frames, stained glass, its molecular structure, as a window to the world, and a separator to reality.

Starting with a glass harmonic tone, ever-present in our daily lives, our history and the whole of our culture; glass is mostly unseen, rather trivial, transparent – being there yet being invisible. Seemingly an unimportant part of life but always dividing us from it, we view our reality through glass – unfolding behind windows, coloured through stained glass, corrected through spectacles, distorted by mirrors and lenses, filtered through television.

The initial image of rain against the window reflects the peace of the interior, contrasting the wet reality dripping onto the glass. The outside world is distorted and stretched – even sounds being abstracted from their sources. The window itself appears to be the source of all noise. Stained glass depicts the history of the world, it overpowers us with peace within cathedrals and churches, yet contrasts stories of worship and devotion with bloody wars – a christian beconing to light through light through glass. The piece explores these images, contradictions and emotional atmospheres and tries to reflect their complexity.
Text interpretation by Carola Boehm, Musicologist.

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ICMC presentation (3D-sound)

January 25, 1994 by

Part of the results of my Masters Degree in Computer-Music from Glasgow University.

Amongst other things, we “streamed” uncompressed WAV files between Glasgow and Edinburgh, because we could.
I went on to build a 3-site, 40 NeXT machine network to do audio research at the University.

Starks, G.R. & Linton, K.N. (Sept. 1994).
sndSpace: A Graphical 3-D Stereo Application“,
International Computer Music Conference, Aarhus, Denmark.

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Internet Music Survey

January 10, 1993 by

Surveyed all the free digital signal processing (DSP) and music software available on the Internet. In those days you could – there were about 120 references to “music software” if you did an Archie search…

Early days …. funny to think that years later it’d be so relevant.

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