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.
What does the skyline of New York sound like? How can you make a composition from your sleep patterns or blood cells? Music can be made from anything we find around us, from our names or birth dates to our cells, from atoms to stars. Composer and guitarist Milton Mermikides presents the fascinating origins and history of data sonification – the translation of information or patterns into sound and music – as well as a selection of his own compositions derived from sleep cycles, viruses, paintings, exoplanetary moons, traffic patterns and other ‘non-musical’ data. In addition, a string trio of the Ensemble Montage will demonstrate how these data sound and perform a new composition based on ‘the hidden music’ of Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival. Discover how music can reveal the patterns in the natural world, and give us both a theoretical and aesthetic appreciation of everything around us.
For students and subscribers of Studium Generale tickets are € 5,-
Translation of pendulum waves to music using a simple pitch translation system on a 5-limit Yo scale. Watch the right hand edge and all will make sense! This little experiment turned out so well, I think it deserves a whole project. My head and ears are spinning.
A real pleasure to appear with my sister Alex to talk about the Bloodlines project (and data sonification in general) on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek on Wednesday 28th October hosted by the quite brilliant Libby Purves. Fellow guests included the delightful and inspirational Peggy Seeger and Amati’s James Buchanan.
The next in the series of Hidden Music data sonification works. Data sonification is a long term interest/project/passion of mine, which involves the systematic translation of ‘non-musical’ data into music.
Here I’ve taken Kandinsky’s beautiful 1926 painting Several Circles and translated it systematically into sound. Colour and vertical position are translated into timbre and pitch respectively, as the red cursor scans the image horizontally.
Whether Kandinsky was a synaesthete or not is disputed, but his fusion of music and visual art metaphor, working process and concept is well documented. From the link:
“Our response to his work should mirror our appreciation of music and should come from within, not from its likenesses to the visible world: “Colour is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many strings.”
Kandinsky achieved pure abstraction by replacing the castles and hilltop towers of his early landscapes with stabs of paint or, as he saw them, musical notes and chords that would visually “sing” together. In this way, his swirling compositions were painted with polyphonic swathes of warm, high-pitched yellow that he might balance with a patch of cold, sonorous blue or a silent, black void.”
Here’s the first in a long series of data sonification experiments. This Hidden Music series is a long term interest/project/passion of mine, which involves the systematic translation of ‘non-musical’ data into music. Here’s a simple example, the orbital periods of the planets of the solar system translated into pitch and rhythm. The rhythms are simply created by speeding up the actual orbital periods by 25 octaves (doubling the speed 25 times), and the pitches are created by transposing them up 37 octaves. I haven’t quantized pitch or rhythm, so its both microtonal to the nearest cent (100th of a semitone) and microtemporal (to the nearest millisecond), but I hear a clockwork beauty in this irrational/chaotic collection of ratios nonetheless. Stay tuned for some even more distant harmony from some ex-planets. I recommend a sub-bass speaker to really feel Uranus and Neptune’s drones. Thanks to Rob Scott for his space science brain, and my long term partner-in-nerd Anna Tanczos for the visuals.