Secret Sounds of Spores, opening today!

I’m posting this from the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens, where I’m busy installing my latest installation, The Secret Sounds of Spores. Followers of this blog and my twitter feed will no doubt be aware of this project, as I can’t seem to stop talking about it! In a nutshell, I’m working with mycologist Patrick Hickey to make a musical installation using mushrooms.
I’ve made yet another video about it all, this time going into more detail about how the software works:

The installation is part of a whole show about mushrooms – From Another Kingdom: The Amazing World of Fungi. It is opening tonight at the John Hope Gateway of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens.

Maybe I will see you there! Don’t worry if you can’t make it, the installation will be up for a few weeks at least, and it’s free. Let me know if you happen to find any mushrooms that you want to stick in the installation, we’re going to need a lot of them in the coming weeks!

Exercise Magic!!

Readers of my twitter feed will remember a series of tweets a few weeks back about my performance at the Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow called Exercise Magic!!

This performance was part of a Cryptic Night with fellow artist Rachel Maclean. The night featured videos by the both of us (including my “Penalty Shootout” and “A story about techno”), a wacky Q & A session, and my performance, which was specifically commissioned for this night.

Exercise Magic!! was based around an exercise video (Real Results with Beverley Callard). I donned a specially designed suit designed by Kristina Johansen containing Wii remotes – you can read through the process she went through to make it on her website. The wiimotes, and a wii balance board on the floor, sent data to custom built Max/MSP/Jitter patches, which controlled the video and audio in real time based on my movements. If you’re interested, you can see a screenshot of that patch in my previous post.

The performance started off with me entering the stage and warming up, before beginning to exercise along with Beverley and Co. Slowly, though, my movements started to create strange sounds that clashed with the perfect world of the video. Eventually the lines began to blur between who was controlling who – was I following the video, or controlling it? Throw in some jamming remixes of the exercise music and you get the idea of Exercise Magic!!

I hope to do this performance again at some point soon, and develop it even further. For now, here is a video that shows the first couple of minutes…it was very dark in there so it’s not great quality, but I hope you get the idea.

Photos by Tamara Polajnar

Adventures at CCA Glasgow, Part 1

Gelkies at the CCA GlasgowGelkies at the CCA Glasgow
Anyone in Glasgow over the next week can drop the Centre for Contemporary Art on Sauchiehall Street to say hello to the Gelkies! It’s all a part of the leadup to this Thursday, when I’ll be showing work and performing at Cryptic Nights at the CCA. I’m sharing the night with film artist extraordinaire Rachel MacLean, and we’ve got lots of wackiness planned. We’ll both be showing some of our videos, and I’ll be premiering a brand new performance called “Exercise Magic!!”, which I’ll write about more soon. It involves Wiimotes, an exercise video, and spandex. A screenshot of the Max/MSP/Jitter patch I’m working on, for those of you into that kind of thing!
Exercise Magic!!

TEI Conference at MIT

TEI conference
A few weeks ago I got to attend the astounding TEI Conference at the equally astounding MIT Media Lab. It was awesome for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which was because I got to present some great work. I was working on a project by Sarah Kettley and Martha Glazzard of Nottingham Trent University, who have been developing custom built knitted stretch sensors which can be embedded into clothing, a project they call “Aeolia”. It’s pretty sweet.

Working with Sarah and Peter Gregson, cellist extraordinaire, I developed some custom software (using Arduino, Max/MSP, and Ableton Live) which allowed Peter to manipulate his own playing through his movements in real time. Here’s a video we made during rehearsals:

I don’t have a video of us showing it off at the conference, unfortunately…it was just too busy! But I think it went really well and if all goes well we’ll be developing this project further.

This trip was possible thanks to support from the Scottish Arts Council and New Media Scotland.

The rest of the conference was absolutely fantastic, the highlight for me being an incredible “bodyhack” studio workshop with Daito Manabe + company. The TEI folk made a great little end-of-conference video about the studio workshops (featuring music by yours truly!):

Expected Arrival Time

Expected Arrival Time
Last Friday saw the premiere of my new installation Expected Arrival Time in Dundee, as part of the Winter Light Night event. This piece came together surprisingly quickly, thanks to the support of John Gray from the Dundee City Council and Donna Holford-Lovell from Abertay University Cultural Projects, and an incredible amount of help and hard work from Ken Rusk from Abertay.
Expected Arrival Time
For Expected Arrival Time, a series of disused LED bus shelter signs from the city of Dundee were built into a large array of nearly two meters tall, and I made a system for controlling their flashing based on sound. The whole structure was placed in an empty shop front in downtown Dundee, with a microphone hanging from a window above the sidewalk. The microphone picked up the ambient sound of the street and sent that to the bus signs, which flashed in different ways in response to the sound. Watch the video to see it in action!

NeON Festival, Dundee

Last week I was very pleased to play a small part in the first edition of NeON, an amazing festival of digital media and interactive design in Dundee (a city which has many, many, many claims to fame in those fields). But why don’t I let the Scottish news media tell you about it instead? You may even see someone you know…

Thanks to all of the organizers for a wonderful event, it was really great to be involved. And of course thanks to everyone who came to my workshops, the questions and discussions could have gone on all night!

I live in interesting times

Category : Amazing Rolo

Micro Maker Faire
I have lots of things to post about these days. I suppose that’s a good thing! I’ll take them one at a time. A few weeks ago I was invited down to Cardiff for May You Live in Interesting Times, a “festival of creative technology”. I took part in both the “Micro Maker Faire”, which lived up to it’s name very nicely, and the “Sound Pit”, which was a super-in-depth discussion about sound, sound art, music, and music technology. This all took place at the very swish newly-renovated Chapter Arts Centre. I saw some really exciting projects and met some great people, including the Bwyd Sonique, Dorkbot Bristol, and much much more.

This festival was extremely well documented, though a dedicated site called Switchboard. From there I was able to find this video documenting the Micro Maker Faire, featuring yours truly showing off the Gelkies and LoopMachine:

You can also listen to the Sound Pit discussion in it’s entirety right here!

Sound Pit @ MYLiIT by switchboardthree

Thanks to everyone on the May You Live in Interesting Times team for a fantastic time!

Running Time at the National Galleries

A story about technoIt makes me very proud to say that one of my videos, “A story about techno”, is included in the massive and groundbreaking show currently on at the National Galleries of Scotland. The show, Running Time, is the biggest ever exhibition of Scottish video art, and the first ever dedicated exclusively to artist films in Scotland. The show has been going for a couple of weeks now, and each week there is a new theme. This week’s theme, within which my video is included, is Sound and Vision. From their website:

Sound and Vision explores the influence of sound and music on artists’ work, revealing a distinctive stylistic approach to film-making. Artists such as Katy Dove and Craig Mullholland integrate experimental music into their practice whilst others, including Sam Spreckley and Will Duke, use a range of manipulated sound recordings to create unsettling soundtracks.

If you happen to be in Scotland be sure to check this out, it’s at the Dean Gallery and is completely free!

Rolo on the Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast

Category : Amazing Rolo, Wii

IMG_0473I’m off to Wales tomorrow (more on that soon!), but before I go I wanted to mention that I was interviewed for the most recent installment of the Tech Weekly Podcast from The Guardian about my work making music software for Wii remotes. I had a great time chatting about my successes and challenges…you can listen to the episode here, or in the player below. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


Rolo + Groanbox

Rolo Remixes Groanbox Groanbox at the Luminaire, London Groanbox at the Luminaire, London

I’m heading off to London tomorrow to play a gig with my brother and his awesome band Groanbox. It’s all going to kick off tomorrow night at 7:30 pm at the Luminaire in Kilburn. Tickets and info about the gig can be found here, it should be a great show! I’ll be bringing a whole bag of tricks from Wii remotes to solenoids to Gelkies and back again, and a large part of my set will be devoted to remixing Groanbox songs…here’s a remix I’ve been working on especially for the show, of “Bogeyman” from their latest album Gran Bwa:
[audio:] and here’s an older remix I did a few years ago of “Sea Bone Howl”:
[audio:] [edit // thanks to all who came down, I’ve added a few pictures from the night! there are a few more on my flickr page]


LumièrophoneThis week I was very happy to present at The Sounds of the Silents, an event at the University of Edinburgh about the history of film sound. There were some amazing lectures and demonstrations from historians and foley artists and more. dsc_5323My presentation was about the Lumièrophone, a screen that I made with Kristina Johansen. As you can see from the photo, this screen has light sensors sewn onto the surface. These sensors control a synthesizer I built that generated sound based on what was projected on the screen. All the sound was thus generated in real time, and without any computers or anything, just a 9 volt battery and some speakers. The Lumièrophone (named after Auguste and Louis)was designed especially for the showing of an abstract film by Walter Ruttman, and I think it worked very well! You can see a video for yourself:

Rough Cut Nation

I feel very honored to be involved in Rough Cut Nation, a brilliant show that’s happening right now at the Nation Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

In a nutshell, the Rough Cut Nation project is a bunch of Scottish artists who took over the Portrait Gallery, which is closing for renovation at the end of the summer. They covered the walls with their work, which looks absolutely brilliant. I got involved by making an interactive temporary paint installation!

Check out the video I made, featuring music by the one and only Handface.

Together with Kristina Johansen, we also made a glove using conductive thread and embedded LEDs to make the interaction a bit more natural:

I originally got in touch with Richie Cumming, the organizer of the show, to help him set up a sensor system for switching on some UV lights. The idea was that they would light up every so often to reveal hidden textures on the walls that were painted with UV-responsive paint. Long story short, we ended up not going with that plan, and instead I built something that was a lot more interactive and loads of fun to play with…I got some UV LED’s from Patrick Hickey at Nipht Technologies and turned put them into jars and boxes with little buttons. When brought near the walls they made the phosphorus paint glow in lovely magical way.

The jars and boxes felt a lot like futuristic spraypaint cans…I started thinking that maybe the different types of containers I put them in each represented what spraypaint cans will become in various divergent futures. Hmmm.

In any case, the UV LED things fit really well with the whole show, because it gave people the opportunity to paint the walls themselves in a fun and temporary way. It went down a storm at the opening on Friday!

Rough Cut Nation will be open to the public until August 30th, and it’s free! It’s also your last chance to visit the Portrait Gallery for a couple years, so get in while you can. There’s also a nice little café they’ve set up just for the show. You can find out more on the Rough Cut Nation Page of the National Galleries of Scotland website, and on the National Galleries Blog!