A short list of things.

This accurately represents my mind over the past six months.

A brief list (in no particular order) of things I have been up to over the past six months since the One Pig Scotland tour:

  • Lucky Frame (aka my awesome company) won a ‘Best Game’ BAFTA for Bad Hotel.
  • I performed a live set on BBC Radio 3 with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Matthew Herbert at the Roundhouse. I made some custom software and hacked a harpsichord. It was super fun.
  • Lucky Frame released Wave Trip, a music creation game, for iPad and iPhone, to much critical acclaim. You can see giant posters of it in an Apple Store near you.
  • The Seznec Bros performed seven shows in a tour of Scotland, including trips to the Highlands and Islands.
  • I performed Terry Riley’s “In C” at the Kölner Philharmonie with Stargaze, Matthew Herbert, and André de Ridder.
  • As part of the ‘Matthew Herbert Quartet’ I was part of the recording of the new album “The End of Silence“, made entirely out of the sound of a bomb. This is getting released in June, and we have started playing live shows, starting in Italy, Germany, and Australia.
  • Which reminds me, I went to Australia with Mr Herbert + co. to perform One Pig, The End of Silence, and a one-off piece called “One Room” at the Melbourne Recital Hall. Some interesting reviews here.
  • On a similar theme, I was in the group to perform “One Day” at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg.
  • I spent four days in Aldeburgh and Snape as part of a Faster Than Sound residency with Peter Gregson, Pekka Kuusisto, and Reactify. I wrote a piece for Violin, Cello, and Electronics which was performed at Aldeburgh Music.
  • Our game “Bad Hotel” was nominated for an Independent Game Festival award in San Francisco, so the whole Lucky Frame crew went out there for a week to shmooze. We didn’t win, but it was great.
  • We’ve been working on a super fun project with Dundee Contemporary Arts, making generative data visualisations.
  • I have been teaching at Napier University and Glasgow School of Art.
  • I am very honored to have been selected for a PRS New Music Biennial award. I’ll be working on a new piece for Edinburgh Art Festival 2014.
  • Finally, I’m heading to Montreal tomorrow for a couple of shows with the Herbert band at Mutek. One Pig on May 29th and The End of Silence on June 1st.

So, it’s been quite an amazing first half of the year. Writing this post has been an interesting exercise for me in terms of looking back on what I’ve done. More soon!

Seznec Bros Tour

Through some terrible organisation and forward planning on my part, I somehow managed to neglect posting here about the now nearly-complete Seznec Bros tour. Over the past week my brother and I have played shows in Bath, Torquay, Oxford, London, Penryn, and more. We are finishing it all off tomorrow night in Fulham at Brook’s Blues Bar. It’s been a brilliant little batch of shows, especially since we were joined for several of them by the incredible Senegalese multi-instrumentalist Amadou Diagne.
Our show in Oxford was organised by our amazing friend Malachy, who then put us up in his gorgeous home in the countryside. He has in his possession a lovely Wurlitzer electric piano, which I completely fell in love with. Cory and I made a few videos with it, here’s the first one for you:

Be sure to check the Seznec Bros website, where you can buy our new album, watch more videos, and get details on our activities!

Seznec Bros in France

I’m just getting ready to head off to Paris to meet up with Cory for a couple of Seznec Bros shows. It’s been a little while, so we’re really excited!

We’re going to be using these shows to record some video and take some photos, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of content to post here and on the Seznec Bros site in the coming weeks.

Be sure to Like us on Facebook for news, updates, and goodies, and if you’re in Paris or Brittany this week come down to the shows!

12 July, 9pm, Chat Noir, Paris
13 July, 6:30pm and 10pm, Café Toucouleur, Tregastel

Seznec Bros – Jagged Land

I am very excited to announce that my brother Cory and I have finished our new album, entitled Jagged Land.

It is available on CD and as a digital download, through iTunes, CD Baby, or Bandcamp. Here’s a sample for you:

I’m very proud of the album. It’s a rootsy bluesy gospelly emotional contemporary jumble, which I think is a pretty good reflection of Cory and me.

The digital download of the album is currently on sale for just $5 minimum from Bandcamp. If you buy from there you’ll get two bonus tracks for free!

Please visit the Seznec Brothers website for more information.

Sugar in her coffee…

I just got back from a few days with my brother recording some great new music together with percussionist extraordinaire Paul Clifford. I’m really looking forward to editing and mixing those new tunes. In the mean time, here’s a (slightly strange) music video I made of a new Seznec Brothers tune:

You can also watch a video of us playing it together at home. This version has a pretty different feel:

You can download the mp3 of the video version here!

Knut and Nils

Blanchard and Jeffries' wonderful balloon
I always love reading what happened on this day in history, and today is particularly fun. On this day in 1785, French inventor Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American doctor John Jeffries crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon, marking the first aerial crossing and setting an example of Franco-American cooperation that I can’t help but be proud of. Ballooning was all the rage at the time, according the Blanchard’s wikipedia entry:

The early balloon flights triggered a phase of public “balloonmania”, with all manner of objects decorated with images of balloons or styled au ballon, from ceramics to fans and hats. Clothing au ballon was produced with exaggerated puffed sleeves and rounded skirts, or with printed images of balloons. Hair was coiffed à la montgolfier, au globe volant, au demi-ballon, or à la Blanchard.

Monsieur Blanchard made a career out of ballooning, and ended up touring America and Europe, wowing George Washington and four future presidents on one day alone. He also teamed up with Sébastien Lenormand, the inventor of the parachute, endorsing it as a great way to escape safely from a hot air balloon (the parachute had been invented as a means to escape from burning buildings, but Blanchard had a one-track mind). Blanchard took his obsession slightly too far, and eventually had a heart attack whilst inside the balloon and fell out and died. His wife suffered a similar fate a few years later (which was documented by Norwich Duff, born down the street from me in Edinburgh), though not before she was proclaimed the “Official Aeronaut of the Restoration” by Louis XVIII.

For his part, John Jeffries studied medicine in Edinburgh, was a Loyalist who was involved in the Boston Massacre trial (he testified that in Ireland the soldiers would have fired even sooner) and was a surgeon for the British Navy during the occupation of Boston. Also, this fascinating article claims that he and Blanchard pretty much hated each other, and may have killed a small dog during their journey.

All of this reminded me of another balloon journey that took place much later – the ill-fated attempt by S.A. Andrée and his two assistants, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel.
Mr Andree, with Knut and Nils on takeoff
Mr. Andrée was a Swedish engineer with a passion for ballooning who got caught up in all of the turn-of-the-century excitement surrounding polar exploration. He combined these two interests and formulated a plan for travelling across the North Pole in a balloon from Sweden to Canada. His plans were based on completely unproven and blatantly impossible theories (steering a balloon with ropes, for example), but his enthusiasm appealed to the Swedish power structures at the time, which were concerned that their supposedly inferior neighbors Norway were winning the polar exploration race (who eventually won is disputed, but the Swedes certainly didn’t end up doing that well at all). The Swedish Academy approved his plan and funded his project.
Mr Andree's balloon after the crash
The expedition was doomed from the start. The balloon couldn’t hold air, the steering mechanism didn’t work, they didn’t bring enough food, and their clothing was totally unsuitable. After a disastrous first attempt, one of Andrée’s assistants quit, and was replaced by Knut Frænkel (who seems to have been younger and less critical). They finally took off in 1897. The steering ropes and seven hundred and forty kilograms of weight were jettisoned within a few minutes of takeoff. The flight lasted 10 hours, followed by 41 hours of bumping along the ice before they landed. The three of them wandered around the ice floes for three months (with Knut taking lots of lovely photographs) before dying, probably from contracting a disease by eating raw Polar Bear meat. Their bodies were found 33 years later and they were returned to Sweden as national heroes.

And 75 years later, my brother Cory and I read about this expedition and wrote a song about it! It’s called “The Ballad of Knut and Nils”, and you can listen to it right here:

The song features me on guitar, recorded in Pittsburgh, and my brother on a Bolivian Charango (which was subsequently destroyed by British Airways). It is on our album “Sediment”, which you can buy on our Bandcamp page.

I also can’t help thinking that this all somehow relates to Mujik, with the balloon thing and all. Hmmmm.

images from the Library of Congress and of course the Wikipedia entry on S.A. Andrée’s balloon expedition.

Seznec Brothers in Edinburgh

August was a slightly crazy month of amazing projects for me, which were all topped off by a visit from my brother Cory. We played two gigs at the Edinburgh Book Festival, which turned out to be a brilliant little venue. We had tons of fun, and we were able to get a few videos recorded. Here are two songs for you…first is “Fat Fanny Stomp”, which is an old song by a pianist called Jim Clark that we found in this awesome collection of old 78s. The second is a Seznec Brothers song called “Promised Land” which is based on a 19th century spiritual. Enjoy!

If you made it this far, you can also listen to our original recorded version of Promised Land here:

Trying to get home

My brother Cory and I are both at home in Maryland, and we’re going to try and make a few more semi-improvised videos like this one over the next few weeks…enjoy!

Pour un monde meilleur

This June, like last June and the June before that, my brother Cory and I met up in Paris to work on a play with our cousin Fabrice Macaux at the Abbaye de Maubuisson.

This year the play was called “Pour un monde meilleur”, and it featured a 12 person choir! Cory and I composed all sorts of music and sound design that used the choir together with our trademark electro-acoustic hybrid style.

Cory was a character in the play, whilst I was a shadowy background character, controlling all of the sound from behind a fence behind the stage area. I think the crowd could just see my head. I was doing lots of live sound design, manipulating recordings and live sound in real time to go with the dream-like atmosphere of the play. During one day of rehearsals and performance I took a photo every 10 seconds with the built in camera of my laptop. I’ve made a medley of the sound design and music from the production to go with it, to give a vague idea of how it sounded:

If you would like to hear what the choir sounded like without my computer trickery, here are two rough recordings we made in the Abbey:
Le capital toujours fondamental

I’m now back in Edinburgh, working hard on the Loop Machine, and enjoying the long summer days!

Rolo + Groanbox in the press

Today’s issue of The Independent features not one but two articles that mention me! I’m very proud.

The first is about Wii development, and discusses the Loop Machine at length. The second is about The Groanbox Boys, otherwise known as my brother Cory’s band. I co-produced their first two albums, and we’re planning on doing a third at the end of the month. If you’re in the UK you should catch one of their shows this month, they’re incredible!

A small show in NYC

I just finished working on the new Groanbox Boys album, which we recorded entirely at the family farm in Maryland. Details and samples will follow in a few weeks when it’s all printed up, but for now I’ll say that it’s really dark and complex and unlike anything you have heard before.

Now Cory and I are in New York, and we are playing a show on saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. It’s a free outdoor block party show at the Jalopy in Red Hook. We’ll be on for about an hour at around 1 pm. Hope to see you there!