Music Theory Musical Illustrations Publications

Arvo Pärt Analyses in Print

Musical illustrations of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and Beatitudes are now published in Arvo Pärt’s Resonant Texts: Choral and Organ Music 1956–2015 (Shenton 2018) and Illiano, R., & Locanto, M. (Eds.). (2019). Twentieth-century music and mathematics. Brepols.

These unpack the musical mechanisms of Arvo Pärt’s music as outlined in this lecture below.

Audio Production & Engineering MiltOnNotes Music Technology

MiltonNotes:Spectral Layers

Guitar Lessons Music Theory Publications

Playing in the Key of Sea

A breakdown of the musical science of the Sea Shanty in Total Guitar Issue 344

Live Electronics Publications

Two Blue Circles – published on Viribus

Electronic Works Live Electronics Publications

Corale for Solo Guitar & Live Electronics

Guitar Music Theory Publications

Anatomy of a Guitar Solo

Originally commissioned for Total Guitar, this examination of the reader-voted top 50 guitar solos is now publicly available on Guitar World.

Notes per bar profiles
TImeline vs Popularity revealing ‘Mount Late 70s’
Guitar Lessons Jazz & Improvisation Lectures & Presentations Rhythm

Art of Timing

Engaging directly with time-feel and micro-timing on the electric guitar with specific exercises and style studies. This is for many levels of player who wants to draw focus to the elements of groove which are often excluded, glossed over or mythologized in the learning process.

Art of Timing – for the development of Time-feel
Guitar Jazz & Improvisation Lectures & Presentations Live Electronics Music Technology Music Theory Research

Digital Self-Sabotage

A live video presentation at the fantastic 21st Century Guitar Conference “in” Lisbon, March 2021, hosted by the wonderful Amy Brandon and Rita Torres. ‘Digital Self-Sabotage’ explores we guitarists’ deep and twisted engagement with the fretboard, and how technology can expand and disrupt this bond for learning and insight.

Digital Self-Sabotage Lecture
Guitar Lessons Jazz & Improvisation Music Music Theory Publications Research Rhythm

Time-feel in Soundboard Scholar

Soundboard Scholar (No.6) features my paper. “Monitored Freedom: Swing Rhythm in the Jazz Arrangements of Roland Dyens” examines the time-feel in the performances and scores of Roland Dyens, in particular reference to his arrangement of Nuages – and Django’s performances of this piece. Working with the genius Jonathan Leathwood is always a privilege and joy, and I am very grateful that my illustration is used as the cover image to the journal. Available here.

Data Sonification Press & Interviews TV & Media

Covid-19 Listening Project in the Metro

CLP was featured in the Metro newspaper tech section on Friday 13th November 2020. More on the project:

A collaboration with Dr Enzo De Sena, the mutations of the Covid-19 virus over 500 generations are sonified. Every motif is formed by the mutation of successive Covid-19 strains. Although ‘musical’ decisions are made, they are done so not to cloak the data with familiar emotional signs, but to reveal the hidden music of the mutations – as such motivic similarity and variation are the shared language of music and biology. Despite the remarkable amount of change it should be appreciated that Covid-19 is in fact relatively stable, so the hope for an effective vaccine remains.

– Milton

This project tries to sonify the genetic mutations of COVID-19 as they are observed over time. The main aim of the project is to satisfy a personal curiosity and for artistic purposes. However, it is hoped that sonifying the mutations could highlight patterns that would not be picked up otherwise.

The current sonification methodology associates notes’ timing to the position of the mutation within the DNA and pitch to the type of nucleotide mutation (e.g. G->A, or C->T etc). This means that the position of the mutation results in different rhythmic placement, and the type of nucleotide mutation results in different melodies.

– Enzo

To follow the project visit:

Concert Works Data Sonification Electronic Works Live Electronics Research Sound Installations

Revisiting December Hollow at the Computer Arts Society (EVA 2020)

A presentation on the ‘December Hollow’ collaborative project with Peter Zinovieff & Anne-Marie Curran-Cundy at the 30th Anniversary conference of Electronic Visualisation & the Arts (EVA) London 2020.  
Papers available: J. Weinel, J.P. Bowen, G. Diprose, and N. Lambert (eds.) EVA London 2020: Electronic Visualisation & the Arts. Proceedings of a conference to be held online in November. BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, 2020. ISBN 978-1-78017-538-6.
Papers onlinePublished online via ScienceOpen by the BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT, in the series: Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC) Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2020). DOI 10.14236/ewic/EVA2020.0 see also DBLP access.
Guitar Lessons Jazz & Improvisation Music Theory Press & Interviews Rhythm

The Deep Theory & Technique of Time-feel – The Guitar Hour Podcast

A pleasure to indulge in full-tilt nerdery about micro-timing with the annoyingly talented and annoyingly nice hosts of The Guitar Hour Podcast. \m/ \m/

Data Sonification Press & Interviews

Careful releases Learning Packs for Student & Frontline Nurses

The Careful project has expanded and developed to now support student nurses during the pandemic. The project has been disseminated by The Stage and Medical News Sites.

“A set of drama-based resources to help Kingston University, London nursing students working during the Covid-19 pandemic have been put together through a collaboration with world-leading performing arts school Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London.”

Music Technology

New Scientist MIDI 2.0

Happy to be involved in this fascinating New Scientist article on MIDI 2.0’s potential.




Covid-19 Listening Project

The genome is formed by a long sequence of 4 types of nucleotides: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (c), and uracil (U). This sequence is used to synthesise specific proteins such as the “Spike protein”, which gives COVID-19 its crown-like appearance. A mutation happens when a nucleotide is changed, inserted or deleted in the sequence.

The current sonification methodology associates notes’ timing to the position of the mutation within the DNA and pitch to the type of nucleotide mutation (e.g. adenine to guanine). This means that the position of the mutation results in different rhythmic placement, and the type of nucleotide mutation results in different melodies, giving each genome its own musical signature. Furthemore, repeating musical patterns mean that a mutation has persisted over time.

Note that although it may seem like the number of mutations is large, COVID-19 is actually considered a relatively stable virus.

Data gathering

The project uses the database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is being updated every day with new COVID-19 sequences coming from research centres across the world. The website is available here: NCBI Covid-19 page

The data is parsed and downloaded using the covid-genome-matlab-parser.

How the mutations are obtained from the NCBI dataset

The first step is to obtain the mutations are obtained from the NCBI dataset:

  • The genomic comparison is run on the basis of the nucleotide sequences (in GACU symbols).
  • In order to reduce the amount of data (currently over 700 genomes), only the first measurement of a day is considered; this currently reduces the number of genomes to 74.
  • The comparison of genome pairs is carried out using the Needleman-Wunsch global alignment algorithm [1], which allows to identify the genetic mutations.
  • The mutations are considered starting from the beginning of the first protein (NSP1), i.e. at nucleotide n. 266 of the NCBI accession MT019529. Mismatches in the last 100 bases are also ignored (for reference, the RNA of COVID-19 is about 30k bases long).

How the mutations are translated to music

The second step is to translate the mutations into music. Below are two examples of how to do this.

Youtube video

Below are the details of the procedure to generate the sound from the mutations:

  • The nucleotide mutations are translated into notes using the table below; a constant value is added to all of them; the - sign indicates an insertion or a deletion; all other types of mutations are ignored.
Old basis New basis Midi note Note
C 47 B2
U 48 C3
A 49 C♯3/D♭3
G A 51 D♯3/E♭3
G U 52 E3
G C 53 F3
A G 54 F♯3/G♭3
A U 55 G3
A C 56 G♯3/A♭3
U G 57 A3
U A 58 A♯3/B♭3
U C 59 B3
C G 60 C4
C A 61 C♯4/D♭4
C U 62 D4
G 63 D♯4/E♭4
A 64 E4
U 65 F4
C 66 F♯4/G♭4
G 50 D3
  • The mutations are then organised in 8 groups according to the table below.
Protein name Group Instrument Angle
NSP1 1 Cello -45°
NSP2 1 Cello -45°
NSP3 2 Cello -30°
NSP4 3 Cello -15°
NSP5 3 Cello -15°
NSP6 3 Cello -15°
NSP7 3 Cello -15°
NSP8 3 Cello -15°
NSP9 4 Cello
NSP10 4 Cello
NSP12 4 Cello
NSP13 5 Cello +15°
NSP14 5 Cello +15°
NSP15 5 Cello +15°
NSP16 5 Cello +15°
S 6 Double base +30°
ORF3a 7 Violin +45°
E 7 Violin +45°
M 7 Violin +45°
ORF6 7 Violin +45°
ORF7a 7 Violin +45°
ORF8 7 Violin +45°
N 7 Violin +45°
ORF10 7 Violin +45°
Non-coding DNA 8 Violin +45°
  • In order to facilitate spatial discrimination, each group is rendered in a different direction, as indicated in the table above. This specific separation corresponds to the actual lenght of each protein. In other words, this results in a similar experience you’d have if the RNA was actually rolled out around you and each mutation would reproduce a sound from a corresponding direction. This means that not only one can identify the position of the mutation by using the time delay, but also the perceived position of the sound in space, with mutations closer to the beginning of the sequence appearing to your left, while later ones appearing to your right. The specific spatialisation technique used here is Perceptual Soundfield Reconstruction (PSR) [2,3,4].
  • In order to increase presence, each source is rendered with reverberation using Scattering Delay Networks (SDN) [2,5]; the simulated room is rectangular with size 10 m x 10 m x 3 m. The listener is approximately in the center of the space, and the sound source is 2 meters away from the listener.
  • In order to increase presence, each source is rendered with reverberation using Scattering Delay Networks (SDN) [2,5]; the simulated room is rectangular with size 10 m x 10 m x 3 m. The listener is approximately in the center of the space, and the sound source is 2 meters away from the listener.
  • The (informal) protein labels are taken from the NYT article in [7].

Chorus of Changes (soundcloud)

Here, over 500 genome sequences are translated into two octaves of a B minor scale. The translations are selected by mapping the most common mutations types (‘note deltas’ above) into the most common diatonic scale degrees on a sample of Western Art Music (see Huron 2008)[6]. This results in familiar melodic motifs for the most commonly retained mutations and pandiatonic blurring for the more novel mutations. At the tempo selected this results in a surprisingly engaging piece of music lasting over 42 minutes, where the language of mutation is translated into the language motivic transformation, a deeper sonificaiton beyond arbitrary chormatic or ‘safe’ scale choices.This is performable by choir and organ nut its here rendered with MIDI instrumentations in Ableton Live with UAD and Native Instrument plugins.


Please keep the coding convention.

We are particularly interested in collaborations with Molecular Biologists. Contact enzodesena AT gmail DOT com if interested.


We are both with the Department of Music and Media, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK University of Surrey DMM Website.


We would like to thank Gemma Bruno (Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine, Italy) and Niki Loverdu (KU Leuven, Belgium) for the useful discussions on topic. Also, we would like to thank our friends and colleagues for the useful feedback on the presentation.

The project also uses internally:


[1] Durbin, R., Eddy, S., Krogh, A., and Mitchison, G. (1998). Biological Sequence Analysis (Cambridge University Press).

[2] H. Hacıhabiboğlu, E. De Sena, Z. Cvetković, J.D. Johnston and J. O. Smith III, “Perceptual Spatial Audio Recording, Simulation, and Rendering,” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 36-54, May 2017.

[3] E. De Sena, Z. Cvetković, H. Hacıhabiboğlu, M. Moonen, and T. van Waterschoot, “Localization Uncertainty in Time-Amplitude Stereophonic Reproduction,” IEEE/ACM Trans. Audio, Speech and Language Process. (in press).

[4] E. De Sena, H. Hacıhabiboğlu, and Z. Cvetković, “Analysis and Design of Multichannel Systems for Perceptual Sound Field Reconstruction,” IEEE Trans. on Audio, Speech and Language Process., vol. 21 , no. 8, pp 1653-1665, Aug. 2013.

[5] E. De Sena, H. Hacıhabiboğlu, Z. Cvetković, and J. O. Smith III “Efficient Synthesis of Room Acoustics via Scattering Delay Networks,” IEEE/ACM Trans. Audio, Speech and Language Process., vol. 23, no. 9, pp 1478 – 1492, Sept. 2015.

[6] Huron, D. (2008) Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation. MIT Press

[7] (Accessed on: 8/3/2020)


This project is licensed under the GNU License. The code will be made available soon. In the meantime, contact enzodesena AT gmail DOT com if interested.

You use the code, data and findings here at your own risk. See the file for details.

Data Sonification Music TV & Media

Sound Asleep on BBC Scotland

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.


Composition Electronic Works


A cute little Arvo Part machine, for creating tintinnabuli voices (Demo, background, tutorial and free download below)

Latest version available on or Download here if you want v1.3 in a live set, free to use, but please leave a comment, rate kindly and credit Milton Mermikides ( Do let me know here about any published or exciting work you are doing with it 🙂


British Psychosocial Oncology 2020 Conference

British Psychosocial Oncology Conference Feb 27-28 2020
Accessing patients’ perspectives of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) through the arts

Hosted by Dr Alex and Dr Milton Mermikides

Milton is Reader in Music at University of Surrey. Alex is Doctoral Programme Leader at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Bloodlines is dance-lecture performance depicting a patient’s experiences of ALL and its treatment through stem cell transplant. Here, it’s makers, Milton (a composer and ALL survivor) and Alex 

(theatre-maker and his sibling bone marrow donor) share extracts of the work and reveal some of techniques they used to turn their personal experience, and their medical data, into an artwork.

Bloodlines was first performed at the Science Museum, London and has since been seen by medical students and professionals, patient groups and general audiences. It has featured in the Times Higher Education and on Midweek (BBC Radio 4). Its development was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Audio Production & Engineering Composition Data Sonification Lectures & Presentations Music Technology

Everything is Music

Lecture and Workshop for Ableton at Glasgow’s Question Session in the beautiful Lighthouse venue. Make music from anything.

Feb 8 2020 Free Entry – For all Info:

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.

Music Theory Publications Research

Arvo Pärt Analyses published by Cambridge University Press

Pleasing to see my ‘postcard’ analyses of Arvo Pärt’s Beatitudes and Spiegel Im Spiegel published in Andrew Shenton’s fine new work Arvo Pärt’s Resonant Texts (Cambridge University Press).

Here they are without explanation.


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