Love Music Festival

For the past few months I’ve been quietly working on a gigantic project with an amazing team of people, and last week we finally went public. The Love Music Festival is a brand-new series of musical events happening in schools all around Scotland. It is comprised of a series of exciting workshops in September and October and culminates in two weeks of concerts in venues from Shetland to Peebles, and everywhere in between.

My job is to build custom software, musical installations, and run creative sound recording workshops in schools…so far I’ve been to Peebles, St Andrews, Barra, Benbecula, and Kilmarnock, and next week I’m off to Shetland and Inverness for a few more. You can follow my adventures on my dedicated Love Music page, where I’ll be blogging and posting software and videos. There is some software for download there already, give it a try!

On a side note, the Western Isles are amazing. I’m glad I got a new raincoat, though.
I have conquered a mountain

Spores at the Botanics

Spores Falling
Thanks to everyone who came down to the Botanics last Sunday! Patrick and I had a drop-in session to show off our Secret Sounds of Spores installation, and we both felt that it went really well.
We got lots of great video and photos, which we will be going through in the coming days. In the mean time you can see this video (featuring a glimpse into a fascinating tangential conversation I had with Paul Stamets) that Patrick put together showing everything in action:

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!

Spores at the Apple Store

Secret Sounds of SporesFor the past few weeks Patrick Hickey and I have been working more and more on our Secret Sounds of Spores project, which is coming together nicely. For those of you just joining us, we are building an installation for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh which will create music from falling mushroom spores. You can see these spores if you shine a laser underneath a live (or recently deceased) mushroom, and I’m building custom software that will analyze them and trigger a series of strange musical instruments that Patrick and I are building. My previous post explains the concept a bit more, and here’s a new video that shows some of the instruments in action:

Patrick and I will be giving a demonstration and explanation tomorrow night, the 15th of July, at the Apple Store in Glasgow. The event is free and begins at 6pm. We will be showing off a few of the instruments, I’ll be explaining how I’ve approached the software, and if this rain continues we shouldn’t have any trouble finding some mushrooms!

You can RSVP on the New Media Scotland Facebook Group or Eventbrite page.

Hope to see you there!

edit: as I’ve said in the comments, thanks to all who came by! I’ll post photos as soon as I get them from the Apple Store, in the mean time here is one of the mushrooms set up with the laser:Mushrooms + Laser

The Secret Sounds of Spores

I’m working on a project right now with Patrick Hickey, founder of Nipht Technologies, which involves building an installation that will create music from mushrooms.

This all came about when Patrick showed me some videos he had made using closeup footage of a laser pointed underneath a protected mushroom – as you will see in the footage below, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I loved how shining a laser revealed a whole hidden world that to me had an intrinsically artistic and musical quality.

Anyway, we decided to collaborate and make an installation that would turn the patterns of those falling spores into music. We were awarded an Alt-W grant from New Media Scotland for the idea, and we have been working on it for the past few weeks. This video gives a bit of an introduction to what we are doing:

One interesting (and unexpected) outcome of tracking the spores to make music is that you end up with a really fascinating data set. This image represent the notes on a piano roll being triggered by three different mushroom spore video feeds – you can see the different patterns created by the different mushrooms.

It’s a big project, and it will take a few more blog posts to explain it all, so if you have any questions please let me know and I will address them as well as I can!

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!!

Gelkies at the Hannah Maclure

Last year I was lucky enough to be the Digital Media Artist in Residence at the University of Abertay, Dundee, a position funded by the Scottish Arts Council. It was an amazing experience for me and my career, and it officially culminated in the production of my first solo gallery show, which took place at the Hannah Maclure Gallery. This show was called “Gelkies”, and opened in November 2009. The show was presented as a sort of zoo, with the eponymous Gelkies being strange creatures native to rural Scotland. I even made a nature documentary about them:

Here is a video that documents the installation itself:

Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk about the Gelkies to the fabulous folks from Central Station as part of their exciting Dundee Pop-Up tour. Looking forward to it!

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!

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 cafĂ© 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!

The Gelkies in Dundee

The Gelkies will be at the Hannah Maclure Gallery in Dundee as part of the “Word Games” exhibit with Gayle Meikle. The opening is tonight at 6pm, and the show continues until July 17th. Here is the text that will accompany the piece:

The Gelkie is a strange and mythical creature, whose very existence was in doubt until recently. Native to Scotland, the Hannah Maclure Centre is delighted to present these highly endangered specimens in something resembling their natural habitat. Researchers are still puzzling over their mating habits, but what is clear is that male and female Gelkies must form pairs in order to communicate in their peculiar language of light and sound. A solitary Gelkie is a sad sight indeed, unable to express the slightest noise. But while they naturally form couples, scientists are perplexed by their tendency to spend most of their lives arguing. With time, and your support, Gelkies can flourish throughout Scotland. Please contact the Scottish Gelkie Appreciation Society (SGAS) for information about how you can help these remarkable creatures.

GelkiesMy name in lights.

Introducing the Jam Jar!

The Jam Jar

I’m working on a project right now that involves building digital synthesizers that react to light. As a first step I made a small synth that I was able to fit inside a jam jar. I creatively named it the Jam Jar, and it totally rocks. Here’s a video that explains what it is and shows me jamming out with Ableton Live!

For more pictures check out my Flickr set.
[edit]> I neglected to mention that I built this synth with enormous help from a tutorial on hack-a-day!