Composition

Tonal Harmony Flowcharts (Major & Minor)

By (heavily belated) popular demand here’s a stab at ‘common-practice’ chord progressions in major and now minor keys!

The Rhythm of Life

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.


Image to Sound

A max/msp/Ableton Live tool I’m building to aid my hidden music projects. So many possibilities, these are literally first-go unpolished demos. Images by Bridget Riley.

A Year of Sleep

…I wish.

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.

Home

https://www.physoc.org/sleep_circadian/sleep-and-circadian-rhythms-mechanisms-function

Careful at the Rose Main Theatre June 5 2018

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.

Event details

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

 

Clapping on Push

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.

Clapping for Push 2 Project

 

Piano Phase on Push 2

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.

Here’s the video and Live Set to explore. Piano Phase Push 2 Project

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)

Breaking 4/4 at CCA Glasgow

On Friday 23rd March, I’ll be giving an Ableton-hosted workshop at the CCA, Glasgow on Breaking 4/4 – rhythmic shenanigans galore.

Booking here and details below.

 

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.

Hidden Music and Tension Blue at Canterbury Christ Church University Wed 24th Jan

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.

Details and Booking

 

 

Scoring Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

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
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Careful in the Guardian

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.

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Noorderzon Festival

Am looking forward to this event and the opportunity to do something different and fun with the excellent Ensemble Montage.

Milton Mermikides & Ensemble Montage | Hidden Music

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,- 

TedX Groningen: Everything We Do is Music

Spiegel Im Spiegel on a Postcard

The most succinct analysis I can make of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel (a stunning and elegant work). Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/track/3rlqTqUOzu0zDwQFJe44gk

Spiegel Analysis

Pendulum Music

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.

Bloodlines on Radio 4 Midweek

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.

Available here:

Sonic Circles

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.”

Thanks as ever to Anna Tanczos for the visuals.

 

 

Distant Harmony

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.

 

The Modal Compass

A way of visualising the relationship between the modes of the major scale. When I have time I’ll expand to other modal groups (and fix the dodgy alignments).

Modal Compass

Hidden Music Exhibition Lewis Elton Gallery

Here’s some info for my Hidden Music exhibition 7-13 May 2015 at the Lewis Elton Gallery. A series of works created through translation of natural phenomena into sound.

Hidden Music

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