A pleasure to take part in this BBC Scotland documentary on sleep, presented by Ian Hamilton and produced by Laura Kingwell. Ian, who is blind has a particualr interest in sleep disorders and the work of Prof Debra Skene, a key collaborator in Sound Asleep. First broadcast 29/3/20 on Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland.
For centuries. composers have been reaching out beyond the musical world into nature, science and other disciplines for inspiration. Pythagoras conceived of a harmony created by the orbiting planets (The Music of the Spheres), Newton attached 7 colours of the rainbow to the notes of a scale, composers like J.S. Bach encoded their names into musical motifs, and Villa Lobos wrote melodies tracing the New York skyline. This workshop enables musicians of all styles to tap into this vast and profound craft of ‘data-music’. This long-established but niche craft has now been given a profound renaissance with contemporary technology: Ableton Live with bespoke Max for Live devices (available to participants in the workshop and distributed online) allow a world of real-time music creativity beyond the limits of human imagination. We will demonstrate such techniques as the automatic translation of your name into melodies, works of art into rhythms, spider webs into virtual harps, live weather reports into MIDI controls and countless other possible translations. This approach provides a uniqueness and profound meaning to your music-making whatever your stylistic interest, allowing you to tap into the infinite and uncharted universe of musical creativity.
I’ll be keynote speaker-erm-ing at the Royal Asociety of Medicine on Tuesday 4th September at the Royal Society of Medicine, London.
More details here and at the link above:
Join us as we explore the links between sleep, sleep disorders and all forms of art, literature, and music including modern digital media.
We will look at the effect of music in the sleeping brain, the portrayal of sleep and sleep disorders within works of art, the perils and pleasures of sleep apps and their effect on the public perception of sleep and the literature of dreams.
You will learn to:
Understand public perception of sleep and sleep disorders and the role that the arts play
The effect of specific musical frequencies upon the sleeping brain
The impact of modern digital media upon sleep and circadian rhythm
The portrayal of sleep and dream within art, literature, and film
Sound Asleep was filmed by Jake Davison, Kate Wallace, Josephine Hannon and Megan Brown. They interviewed Professor Morten Kringelbach, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, and Professor Milton Mermikides, a composer guitarist and music theorist.
Jake explains: “The film is about the discovery of newly described changes in brain activity during sleep by Professor Kringelbach and his team, and how conversion of these findings to music could provide a useful diagnostic tool and possibly a therapeutic for sleep disorder treatment. We decided to cover this story because, in the age of smartphones, tablets and a 24/7 world, the quality of our sleep is decreasing and its importance is often overlooked. This new model of sleep brain activity developed by Professor Kringelbach and his team, as well as his collaboration with Professor Milton Mermikides to produce musical compositions from this data, will help us understand the mechanism of sleep better and therefore allow us to improve our own sleep. Both the ground-breaking nature of this research and the unorthodox method of utilising music to potentially unlock more discoveries seemed intriguing to us and something that needed to be heard about
How fast was the petition to revoke Article 50 signed in the 24 hours surrounding Theresa May’s speech on March 20th 2019? Well if a note was played on the piano every time the petition was signed it would sound (and look) like this. Ingredients: Ableton Live 10 + Max/MSP + Excel + UAD Apollo + Adam Audio S2V + NI S88 Keyboard with Light Guide + NI Komplete + Lava Lamp
23 February 2019, The Sound Asleep project was presented by Prof Debra Skene at the Designing Time even at the Design Museum, London:
A day of talks and live performances exploring the design of alternative time systems, based on daily bodily rhythms (known as circadian rhythm).
Currently, ‘clock time’ structures and directs human behaviour. But are there alternative time systems that are better for our health, happiness and overall productivity? Rather than being guided by the clock, the installation investigates new time systems and ways of living.
A series of participatory events and activities over the course of the weekend will test and challenge the structures and rhythms of contemporary life. On Saturday evening there will be a public talk by scientists, artists and designers on the design of time and the nature of temporality.
Book for the free December 5th 2018 6pm event at the Barbican here:
Hear what the neuroscience of falling asleep sounds like! Join composer and guitarist Milton Mermikides and Oxford Professor Morten Kringelbach – an expert in the neuroscience of pleasure – as they explore the musical qualities of sleep. This exciting dialogue will cover the science of sleep and its parallels with musical composition.
Kringelbach will discuss the neuroscience of music and why it is one of the strongest and most universal sources of human pleasure. Mermikides believes everything we do is music, and that music exists from the galaxies down to subatomic particles.
Together they will look at the neuroscience of human sleep and how harmonic patterns in our sleep cycle can be used to create musical compositions reflecting sleep during both health and disease. You will hear both what good and disrupted sleep patterns sound like. You’ll also find out how our body clock differs from the 24-hour clock and how this impacts our natural sleep cycle.
Kringelbach will present his new research identifying the neural pathways for how we fall asleep. Building on this, Mermikides will present new music he has composed based on Kringelbach’s discoveries. For the first time, you will hear what the neuroscience of falling asleep sounds like.
Sound Asleep is a public lecture open to everyone. It’s part of The Physiological Society’s Sleep and Circadian Rhythms meeting taking place at the Barbican between 5-6 December 2018.
My deep interest in the fields of (micro/macro) rhythm and data music, came together in the BBC Radio 4 ‘The Rhythm of Life’ 2-episode series presented by Evelyn Glennie. A great pleasure to chat rhythm and music translations with her, among fabulous Bridget Riley prints at the Tate Britain. I appear briefly at the end of Episode 1, but with more to say in Episode 2 The World as an Orchestra. Listen live on Tuesday 28th 2018 and September 1st 2018 11.30am, or catch up after the first airing here
Here’s some background
Virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie reveals a hidden world of rhythm around us and searches for musical inspiration from some unlikely sources.
As a musician and rhythm obsessive, Evelyn has always beenfascinated by the rhythmic nature of the world around us. She explains that, by learning to focus our attention, we can tap into a complex realm of energy and pattern in our surroundings. Over the course of the programme, Evelyn tunes into everything from the oscillation of a tree in the wind to the polyrhythmic groove of our solar system.
Visiting the Mini plant in Oxford, an enormous factory that beats out a steady meter of 1000 cars a day, Evelyn surveys the endless rows of robotic arms and describes the location as “like being in a massive percussion instrument”. Walking around the factory, Evelyn is desperate to “play the space”. Back in her studio, surrounded by percussion instruments, she does exactly that – hammering out a metallic improvisation inspired by the rhythms of the production line.
Evelyn explains that she has always drawn inspiration from non-musical art forms. At Tate Britain, surrounded by prints by Bridget Riley, Evelyn meets the composer Milton Mermikides who uses digital technology to translate Riley’s famously rhythmic paintings into mesmeric music. Evelyn also performs a percussive piece in response to the looping rhythms of Riley’s work.
Finally, Evelyn gazes up at the buildings that line the Thames with composer Peter Adjaye, whose work is heavily influenced by the rhythm of architecture. Evelyn explains that, like a piece of music, a building is a composition based on structure, ornamentation, repetitive patterns and layer upon layer of rhythm.
Presenter: Evelyn Glennie Producer: Max O’Brien A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.
Delighted to be giving the final public lecture for the Physiological Society’s snappily titled Sleep and Circadian Rhythms from Mechanisms to Function event as part of their 2018 Year of Sleep initiative. December 6 2018 Barbican, London. More details to follow.
Careful at the Rose Main Theatre, Kingston June 5 2018 2pm – This unique dance/theatre performance puts you in the care of five over-stretched nurses as they struggle to balance empathy and efficiency, compassion and clinical proficiency. Inspired by its makers’ experience of long-term hospitalization, Careful celebrates the skill, beauty and toil of professional nursing as seen through the eyes of the patient. Introduced by Professor Karen Norman, a leading expert in nursing, the performance forms part of The Art of Nursing, an annual event hosted by Kingston University and St George’s hospital.
This event is designed for students and professionals of nursing, though members of the public are very warmly welcomed to attend.
Careful was developed in collaboration with the Clinical Skills and Simulation team at Kingston University and St George’s University London. The collaboration has also led to the development of workshops designed to enhance self-awareness and non-technical skills of patient care, which now form part of the Nursing practice curriculum.
Careful is a project by Chimera, an arts company/research network dedicated to making engrossing artworks about, for and with the medical and healthcare sector. Led by Dr Alex Mermikides (Guildhall School of Music & Drama) and Dr Milton Mermikides (University of Surrey), we also create impactful events for students, researchers and the general public. Our work has been supported with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council England. www.chimeranetwork.org.
Duration 90 minutes, including introductory talk and post-show discussion. Please note that the event will be filmed for evaluation and publicity purposes. Book FREE tickets here
Here’s another classic process piece used as a ‘Push Etude’, Steve Reich’s Clapping. Even though it was written after Piano Phase, it is somewhat simpler (certainly to perform), relying on discrete rather than continuous phasing, so fits well into the discrete conceptual world of MIDI rhythm. The challenge here is to program the seminal pattern (which can be heard in triple or duple time like much of Reich’s Ewe-inspired phase pieces). You could of course play it in but I’m trying to roast my Push 2 programming chops. Duplicate the track and then shift it over in steps (you could also set global quantise appropriately and restart one clip at the appropriate metric point, but I wanted to make use of the lovely clip view now available). Unfortunately the push has little control over the fine control of offset, a shift move (as far as I can tell is always a semiquaver (1/16)) so I’ve set the Set to 6/8 rather than 6/4. I’m not sure of a more elegant way to reset the start offset other than how I did it, let me know if you can!
Being an 8×8 grid (we do generally reside in the normative binary default rhythmic world like it or not), the Push represents the 12 slots over a row and a half (I’d like to be able to move the rows into 6s for example) so imagine it like this:
You can then apply the pattern to melodic material as I’ve shown later in the video. Enjoy, njoye, joyen, oyenj, yenjo, enjoy.
Ableton Push 2 and Live 10 are incredible devices, both progressive and able to integrate seminal electronic, process and generative creative practices. In order to start exploring their potential I’ve been experimenting with recreating classic works as succinctly and fluently as possible. Here’s Steve Reich’s Piano Phase using just one track and Live 10 and Push’s new melodic sequencer layout which I find hugely valuable.
In essence you can break down the classic theme into its component pitches, and reform them by pitch rather than rhythmic placement.
Quick overview: Set scale on Push to E Dorian and form the patterns from above on teh 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th degree of the scale respectively. Once you can do this it can be fun to enter them in diferent orders, add chords to each of them and of course use in your own improvisational/compositional practice.
The phasing is super simple (naive really) each dial completes a rotation so you can settle on each semiquaver confidently before moving to the next rotation. This could all be done in microtemporal MIDI (creating fewer artefacts) with M4L devices but I like the ‘in-the-box’ constraint, maximising pre-existing tools.
Piano Phase Push Project (change the MIDI instrument to whatever you like)
Renowned TedX Groningen and Ableton Loop keynote speaker, Dr Milton Mermikides and Ableton Certified Trainer Phelan Kane take a look at some less than conventional ways to generate rhythms and sound. Using Live and custom Max for Live devices, this workshop introduces a range of tools and methods to break out of standard repetitive cycles of electronic music composition. Through a series of exercises using custom-built Max for Live devices, they’ll explore Euclidean sequencers, odd meter, micro timing, hypermeter, swing and latency, with the aim of unleashing your creativity and exploring uncharted territory beyond the standard 4/4 landscape.
Bridget and Milton Mermikides will be performing their classical guitar and live electronic project, Tension Blue at Canterbury Christ Church University, preceded by a talk on Milton’s Hidden Music series. Wednesday 24th January 2018, St Gregory’s Centre for Music (Talk 11.45am, Concert 1.10-2pm), Free Entry.
It has been a wonderful experience writing and making music for a stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s sublime/vital/classic novel Invisible Man. The author Ralph Ellison was a jazz trumpeter and cornet player, a student of symphonic composition, a deep connection with African music and a radio/electronics fanatic. Being allowed, even obliged to employ an eclectic blend of jazz, modernist, electronicism and African rhythm; as well as ‘working’ with the unnecessarily talented and lovely team of actor Clarence Smith, directors Anna Girvan & Tinu Craig, African percussionists Sola Akingbola (Jamiroquai) & Richard Olatunde, and of course the cellist prodigy Laura van der Heijden was/(continues to be) an immense privilege and joy. More about the emerging project here: invisiblemanplay.wordpress.com
A fantastic article by Guardian journalist/leukaemia warrior Hannah Partos on the Arts Council-funded project Careful – which focuses on the lives of 4 nurses – written by Alex Mermikides, and with music (based on the sounds and rhythms of the hospital) by Milton Mermikides.