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.
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.
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.