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!

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!):

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!

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!


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: