My creative work is at the intersection of music technology, sound, play, interface, and interaction.
I see sound as a powerful medium that can be used to explore our problematic relationship with media in general. Sound is perhaps the most visceral way to experience time, as it is inherently linked to our own perception of timing (and therefore space).
Interface is the main vector for the integration of play and game design ideas into my projects. Game design often uses interfaces to work both for and against a player’s interests, from dice to fairground challenges to modern day game controllers and digital software design. The limitations that different interfaces impose upon players are often what create meaningful experience.
Within my practice it is crucial for anything I build to be fully functional, and wherever possible I strive to learn the tools and technology required to create the work I envisage myself. This allows me to fully understand the technological limitations and possibilities, and invariably opens up stronger potential avenues for the work.
I therefore approach the exploration of musical technology in an artistic sense, drawing on a number of different fields (creative coding, game design, performance, interdisciplinary collaboration) to develop thoughtful and critical work.
A recent project that typifies my process is The Book of Knowledge of Impractical Musical Devices. Based loosely on a 12th century Islamic engineering handbook by Al-Jazari, my Book of Knowledge is comprised of three musical devices (volumes) that each take a fundamental limitation to a natural conclusion. The finished project is comprised of the functional instruments themselves, as well as a website with resources, videos, and essays that describe the thought process and emotional journey of each instrument.
The resulting instruments represent a set of critiques regarding our use of media in general, opening up questions about memory, digital experience, and our own obsession with recording and re-experiencing our pasts. Volume 1, for example, is entitled A Day That Will Never Happen Again, and contains a sound library recorded entirely on a single day. Each day that the instrument is used these sounds will be rearranged and the parameters changed – these settings will never be recreated, and there is a virtually infinite set of potential variations that will be created. This mirrors the way our own memory works, which is scattered, inaccurate and inefficient. We use recorded media as a way of mitigating our uncertain memories, helping us ignore the fact that those days are gone, they are not coming back. It’s an instrument that ends up being a meditation on two days – the one that I recorded and which is now gone forever, and today, the day that I’m using the instrument and which will soon also be in the past.
The Book of Knowledge project also has a strong undercurrent of criticism of the music technology sector, which I believe has been unusually sheltered from the critiques that are often aimed at the broader digital technology sectors. The commercial music software and hardware sector is rife with problematic socio-cultural assumptions, racial and sexist biases, and ethically questionable practices, but these issues are most often ignored, perhaps due to the enthusiasm that often goes along with the enabling of creativity. My work attempts to approach the creative development of music interfaces from a thoughtful and critical viewpoint, resulting in more meaningful experiences.