Writing

Steely Dan’s Peg on Push.

Trying to push my Push skills up a peg with Peg and Steely Dan’s gorgeous µ harmonies.

 

 

 

Music & Shape

Very satisfying to receive this series of books from OUP at long last. Very pretty looking academic books, if you can believe that. My chapter with Eugene looks quite cool including all those brain bending Coltrane Cubes, M-Space and improvisational fields.

Available here

 

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.

What Makes a Musician? Cheltenham Science Festival – June 6 2017

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Does practice really make perfect or do musicians need a special innate ability to succeed? Neuroscientist Vin Walsh joins psychologist Lauren Stewart, music teacher and researcher Adam Ockelford, and composer and guitarist Milton Mermikides to discuss musicality, whether you can teach musicianship, and why some of us are more drawn to making music than others.

Tue 6 Jun 2017 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Cheltenham Science Festival
Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College £8 plus transaction fee

http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/whats-on/grid

AES Event: Technology and Creativity May 17 2017

Looking forward to being part of this panel discussion (click for tickets and info)

AES

The first event in a series, the AES London Committee present a discussion exploring the relationship between creativity and technology. Chaired by Phelan Kane (Chair of the AES London Regional Committee), the aim is to create a dynamic forum that features free flowing discussion and debate with contribution from panel and audience members alike.

The purpose of this evening is to explore the relationship between technology and creativity within the landscape of modern audio practice. What form does this relationship take? How do modern audio practitioners use technology creatively within their everyday practice and what role does the technology play? How important is the creative output of practitioners within the development of new audio paradigms? How is R&D influenced by current creative workflow trends? Does the realisation of R&D lead to new creative workflows and to what extent do creative workflows influence the R&D process?

Confirmed Panel Members:

  • Mandy Parnell – Mastering Engineer
  • Justin Paterson – Associate Professor of Music Technology, London College of Music, University of West London
  • Sarah Yule – Director of Channel Sales, ROLI
  • Milton Mermikides – Head of Composition & MMus Programme Director, University of Surrey
  • Justin Fraser – Producer / Engineer, Avid Certified Master Instructor

Swing Friction in Johnny B. Goode

Swing friction is a term I coined in my PhD thesis and is defined as the differential of swing values between individual performers (or groups of performers). If the swing friction is significantly large and consistently maintained, it may form a characteristic of ensemble feel.

Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode (Berry 1958) provides an instructive example of swing friction. Berry, often considered the father of rock n’ roll, was instrumental in ‘straightening out’ the blues 12/8 shuffle rhythm into the archetypal electric guitar riff. Johnny B. Goode features this ‘straight 8th’ guitar rhythm, as well as equally straight lead playing juxtaposed with a stubbornly bouncy drum, bass and piano feel. Heavily swung quaver values occur in the ride cymbal pattern, often near the 67% mark, a significant deviation of over 52ms from the straight quaver at 170bpm. The guitar rhythm part however remains resolutely straight rarely venturing beyond 52% swing. This already large 15% discrepancy of swing value is exaggerated with the guitar part often sitting on top of the beat (ranging between 0% and -4% latency) leading to a mean separation of about 17% (≈60ms). The lead guitar is equally straight, although not pushed, and occasionally falling behind the beat. Piano interjections are loose but quavers are generally quite swung, mainly in the 60-67% range and repeated quaver triplets prevail. The bass plays mainly crotchets, with the occasional quaver (usually ≈67%). A representative extract from the track can be heard here:

Figure 1 shows a composite two bar template for the lead, rhythm, bass and drum parts, with time-feel components added. There is a huge gap between the swing values of the guitars and bass and drums. The vocal track tends to fall in between these two extremes.  In order to hear the effect of swing friction, This example contains electronic sequences of this section with varying time-feel values: 1) as from Figure 1, 2) all instruments at 67% 3) all at 52% 4) all at a middle ground of 60% and 5) back to the ‘true’ values for comparison.

Picture1

Figure 1. Composite swing and latency values for guitars, bass and drums in Johnny B. Goode.

 

The sequences have been rendered with MIDI instruments on purpose; although the section would sound better with human performers, but the elimination of the inflection they would inevitably provide allows focus on the power – and limitations – of the SLW model. Mean values for swing and latency have been provided, but the standard deviations of these values introduce the component of looseness or tightness, again different between players. Weighting elements also occur, (the cymbal has a slight emphasis on offbeat quavers for example,) with both mean and standard deviations). This extract plays the sequence first as Figure 1 then with swing, latency, weighting standard deviations from Figure 2  introduced, which add a clearly-defined randomness to each of three time-feel elements, and instruments, individually. There is a subtle but appreciable difference between the sequences; attention to the cymbal pattern, for instance, will reveal a slight offbeat emphasis and looseness.

 

 

 

Lead Guitar Rhythm Guitar Bass Drums
µs= 51 ∂s=1.5  µl= 2    ∂l=

µw= -3 ∂w= 2

µs= 52 ∂s=1

µl= -3 ∂l= 1

µw= -3 ∂w= 2

µs= 67 ∂s=2

µl= 0    ∂l= 1

µw= 4   ∂w= 2

µs= 67 ∂s=2

µl= 0    ∂l= 0

µw= 2   ∂w= 1

Figure 2 Mean and standard deviation values of swing, latency and

weighting (measured as dB level)

An averaging out of time-feel components over the entire track runs the risk of over-generalization and may incorrectly group specific mechanisms that occur only occasionally. There are for example, brief moments when the bass seems to join with the rhythm guitar’s straight quavers. There is also the assumption, with a single matrix per instrument, that all beats of the bar are the same, which ignores the emphasis on crotchets 2 and 4 in the drums. Matrices could be provided for beats 1 and 2, and beats 3 and 4 separately, or even weighting at the crotchet level, for greater sophistication when needed.

Despite these acknowledged limitations, the discretionary use of this type of analysis allows for an instructive and parsimonious description of ensemble time-feel elements.

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

Palindromic scales and their modal groups

I’ve had this insight about palindromic scales, modes, modal groups, and the Euclidean (and sometimes maximally even) distributions of 7 notes in a one octave scale. This is what it looks like in my head. I really like that the ‘central’ scale of a group is not the traditional figurehead (Ionian, melodic minor etc.) but the palindromic parent. Nice to see the patterns emerge diagrammatically, and I will aim to use Melodic Phrygian and its modes in composing/improvising!

Palindromic scales

 

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.

 

 

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