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.
I asked my friend and many-time collaborator Anna Tanczos to visualise Villa-Lobos’s New York Skyline Melody for a recent lecture-presentation. The results are fantastic (I predict 1000s of views), and you can see exactly how Villa-Lobos translated the New York Skyline into a solo piano work (note the multiple voices with the foreground and background buildings). This piece has been a big inspiration to me the field of data sonification. For more on New York Skyline Melody and similar workssee here, and for all things Data Sonification here.
Martino Unstrung (2008 Sixteen Films) – for which I was honoured to compose the music – is now available to view online.
In 1980 Pat Martino moved his belongings from California to Philadelphia to live with two complete strangers: his parents. As a young jazz guitar virtuoso he had achieved near legendary status during the 60s and 70s, before being diagnosed with a life-threatening brain condition. Surgery had saved his life but wiped his memory. Back in his childhood home, surrounded by the relics of his former life, his father played him his old recordings at full volume and friends rallied to try to coax him back to being the great artist he had been. He could not dispute the evidence; the face in the mirror was the same as the one on the record sleeves but it meant nothing to him. Amnesia had ripped selfhood from his brain and rendered his life meaningless. He was nobody.
Director Ian Knox and Neuropsycologist Paul Broks travel America in search of the soul of the legendary jazz guitar great Pat Martino, tracing his remarkable return from the depths of amnesia to the peak of artistic achievement. FEATURING: CARLOS SANTANA, PETE TOWNSHEND, LES PAUL, JOE PESCI, JOHN PATITUCCI, RED HOLLOWAY, DELMAR BROWN.
Here’s details of a public seminar on Wednesday 29th October 4pm, TB06, University of Surrey.
4.00pm, Wednesday 29th October, TB06 FREE admission More Info
Dr Milton Mermikides (Surrey)
Musical Continua: Perception and Technology
Digital music technology has now fulfilled Varèse’s dream of “instruments obedient to […] thought”, Russolo’s call to “conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds” and Busoni’s desire to “draw a little nearer to infinitude”. However, the staggering developments in music technology over the last 20 years has brought with it a less predictable outcome, the ability to better understand the mechanics of music itself, and to illuminate some of the mysteries of its expressive power. Through a survey of recent research projects, this seminar examines how our understanding of musical expression in pitch, rhythm and timbre can be enhanced with technological support, furthering analytical insight, artistic appreciation and creative practice.
The fabulous Qed conference happened again this year, to much acclaim. Very happy to work on the intro video again. (Here’s 2013‘s offering). This time Paul Zenon revealed his superstitions. Many of these are particularly inside jokes in the skeptic community, but I hope others are entertained. Fingers crossed.
Bridget and I will be performing at 1.30pm Sunday March 30th (University of Surrey) at the launch of the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC) run by Steve Goss and me. We’ll be performing 7 new works for classical guitar and electronics. Not the usual guitar rep. Tickets are £2 for students and £10 for the rest of us. Would be lovely to have some friends (of ours and new music) there.
Delighted to learn that the film version of Bloodlines will be featured in the Fabrica Vitae touring exhibition.
Fabrica Vitae is inspired by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) and explores art and anatomy through the work of contemporary artists, scientists and thinkers. It will feature work from artists and scientists who are working together to re-imagine and extend the understanding of the human body.
More details will be available after Feb. 27th on www.fabrica-vitae.com.
The first Fabrica Vitae exhibition will take place in Zakynthos, Greece in May 2014.
Dr. Simon Park (my serial bio-art collaborator (like this) and creator of the amazing exploring the invisible site along with sound guru Professor Tony Myatt and I, have been exploring the interaction of sound/music and the Pyrocystis fusiformis bioluminescent algae. As you do. Here’s a sneaky pilot.