Live code, code based interfaces and live patching – theory and practice

Some theory

Not every use of code interaction on stage is an instance of live coding. When I first started working with SuperCollider a decade ago, I didn’t create GUIs. I started and stopped code on stage. I had comments in the code giving me instructions on how to do this. One piece instructed me to count to ten between evaluating code blocks. Another told me to take a deep breath.
Part of this was because I hadn’t yet learned how to invoke callback methods or use tasks. Some of it was to create a musical timing – a deep breath is not the same as a two second pause. This was undoubtedly using code interactions to make music. But in no sense were these programs examples of live coding. Once a block was started, there was no further intervention possible aside from halting executing or turning down a fader to slowly mute the output. These pieces were live realisations of generative music, which means they have virtually no interactivity once started whether by code or by other means.
There is not a bright line separating code based interfaces from live coding but instead a continuum between pieces like the ones I used to write and blank slate live coding. The more the interactivity of the code, the farther along this continuum something falls. Levels of interaction could be thought to include starting and stopping, changing parameters on the fly, and changing the logic or signal graph on the fly. Changing logic or signal graph would put one closer to blank slate coding than does just changing numbers on something while it plays.
This argument does imply a value judgement about authenticity, however, this is not my purpose. Different types of code interactions are better suited to different circumstance. A piece that is more live coded isn’t necessarily sonically or objectively better. However, this kind of value judgement is useful in applying the metaphor of live coding to other interactions.
I have been pondering for a while whether or not live synthesiser patching is an analogue form of live coding, a question first posed by Julian Rohrhuber (2011) on the live coding email list. On the one hand, the kind of analogue modules used for modular synthesisers were originally developed for analogue computers. The synthesiser itself is a general purpose tool for sound, although, obviously limited to whatever modules are available. (Thus putting it some place between a chainsaw and an idea. (Toplap 2010)) Both computer programs and live patches can quickly grow in complexity to there the performer can no longer comprehend exactly what’s happening. (Collins 2007)
On the other hand, there is no code. However, I’m not sure how much that matters. A PD or MAX patch created on the fly that crates a signal graph is clearly an example of live coding. If for some reason, the patching language had hard limits on what unit generators were available and in what quantity, this would still count. Therefore the transition from virtual to physical seems small. Instead of focussing on the code itself, then, let’s look at the metaphor.
Knob twirling is an example of changing numbers on the fly. Modular synthesisers do contain logic in the forms of gates and switches. This logic and the musical signal routing can be changed on the fly via re-patching. Therefore, a live patching performance that contained all of these elements would be an example of analogue live coding.

Gig Report

I very recently did some live patching in the Live Code Festival in Karlsruhe. Alas, this reasoning of what is or is not live coding did not become clear to me until I was reflecting back on my performance afterwards. This is the first time I was doing patching with any other goals in addition to making nice sounds, which meant I was pushing against places the sounds wanted to settle and I realised on stage I was inadequately prepared. There is both in live coding and live patching a problem of how to prepare for a show, something it has in common with forms of improvised or partially improvised music.
I had a conversation with Scott Wilson about how to practice improvised music that has an agenda. I should have spent the few days before the show building patches that use gates to control timbrel or graph changes. I should have also practised making graph changes in the middle of playing. Instead, I spent the days ahead wrestling with problems with Jack on Linux. I use SuperCollider to manage some panning and recording for me and was having tech problems with it. Mixing analogue and digital systems in this way exposes one to the greater inherent instability of computers. I could make my own stereo autopanner with some envelope followers, a comparator and a panner, so I’ll be looking into putting something together out of guitar pedals or seeing of there is an off-the-shelf solution available.
For this performance, I decided to colour code my cables, following the colour conventions of Sonology in the Hague, so that I would use black for audio, blue for control voltages and red for triggers. This was so users with synthesiser knowledge might be able to at least partly decode my patches. However, this caused a few problems. Normally, I play with cables around my neck and I’ve never before done anything live with cable colours. This time, every time I looked down, I only saw red cables but never actually wanted to use them. For the audience, I tried to make up for the difficulty of seeing a distant synth by using a web cam to project live images of it, but the colour was lost in the low resolution of the web cam. People who tried to just look at the synth directly would have trouble perceiving black cables on a black synth. If I do colour coding again, I need to swap the colours I use and not wear them around my neck. A better webcam might also help.
Aside from the low resolution, the web cam part was successful. I also set the program up so that if I pressed certain buttons on my midi device, slides would be displayed of modules. So when I patched an oscillator, I pushed the oscillator button on the midi control and a labelled picture of an oscillator appeared in the upper left corner. I didn’t always remember to push the buttons, but the audience appreciated the slides and I may extend this in future with more of my modules (I forgot to do the ring mod module) and also extend it to more combinations, so I would have a slide of two oscillators showing FM and one of three showing chaos.
Sonically, the patching seems to have been a success although it was not fun to do because I did have an agenda I was trying to push towards, but had not rehearsed adequately. I want to spend a lot of time now working this out and getting it right and doing another show, but that was it. My next presentation will be all SuperCollider and I need to work on that. I am thinking a lot, though about what I might do for the Other Minds festival next spring. I wonder if live patching would be adequately ambitious for such a high profile gig….


Collins, Nick. “Live Coding Practice,” 2007. The Proceedings of NIME 2007 [E-JOURNAL]
Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2012].
Rohrhuber, Julian. “[livecode] analogue live coding?” 19 February 2011. [Email to livecode list].
Available at: <>
[Accessed: 1 March 2012].
TopLap, “ManifestoDraft.” 14 November 2010. TopLap. [ONLINE] Available at:
<> [Accessed: 12 September 2011].

Gig Report: The adoration may not be universal

BiLe had two gigs yesterday but I’m just going to talk about the second one. However, first I’m going to talk about some gigs I played a few years ago. One was a cafe gig, or possible several cage gigs. They tend to blend together. I was playing tuba with some free improvisers, including the owner of the cafe. A bunch of people were there talking, we started to play and just about everybody left.
It’s slightly uncomfortable, but it’s well known to anybody who has ever played in a cafe. And there have been times when I’ve meant to have a cup of coffee and talk with friends and then, rather than talk over the music, we’ve moved on when it started. At other times, I’ve been happily surprised by live music and there have been many times I’ve gone out to a cafe specifically to hear the music that was programmed.
The other was in 2004 and I had just started doing live computer pieces in SuperCollider, but they were not interactive, they were live realisations. (I called them “press the button” pieces.) I was testing out a new one at an open mic night at a restaurant. My friend had organised the evening and asked me to play, but it was me and all acoustic guitars. It was a very early version of the piece and it still had some major aesthetic problems, which became glaringly apparent as it played. Many people in the room left to go home over the course of the piece. It was not a cafe, it was a restaurant. People had plates of food in front of them which they apparently abandoned during the longest 11 minutes of my life. (I blogged about this at the time.)
A few things happened as a result of this. One was that a busboy came out and game me a thumbs up, I’m pretty sure because he liked the music, but you never know. Another was that I instantly got much more respect from my colleagues at the university. For my own part, I pledged to become more aware of how listeners may respond to pieces I was working on to try to prevent a repeat of this. And finally, I learned the value of playing things in front of people as part of the path to finishing a piece.
The reasons for the increased respect from my colleagues is slightly complex. Part of it was simple elitism, but I think a part of it was an encouragement to take risks. Being likeable is not enough. Some fantastic music is loved upon first listening. But a lot is hated. A lot of fantastic an important pieces caused riots on their first playing. 4’33” by John Cage, Rite of Spring by Stravinsky and Ballet Mecanique by George Antheil are all well-known examples of this. Of course, causing an uproar does not mean that you’re good. You could just be terrible. But it does mean you’re taking a risk.
Of course, I tend to blunder into risks blindly and be caught a bit by surprise.


Localities can put on their own, independent TED conferences. One in Birmingham decided to invite BiLE and despite having a gig already lined up the same morning, we agreed to to play.
I’d been at the LoveBytes festival in Sheffield (which was excellent) the day before and stayed over. Alas, it turned out that the reason that my hotel room was so cheap was because it was directly over a Reggae club. I think my room must have been right over the bass amp. One song was in the same key as the resonant frequency of the door frame. We woke up early yesterday morning, played a set at a headphone concert at the LoveBytes Festival, and then got on a train back to Birmingham and got to the MAC centre just in time to set up and play another set at TEDx
We waited nervously back stage for our turn, filed in and started to play XYZ by Shelly Knotts. For some reason, there was a lot of crashing. Chris missed the entire piece, trying to recover from a crash. Julien and Shelly both crashed mid-piece, but were able to recover quickly. I did not crash, but I’m the last to come in. It was sparse and a bit stressful, but we got through it. We’ve played that piece a lot previously. It’s not our first piece, but it’s the first we proposed, as we spent our first-ever meeting writing a vague proposal to NIME last year and this was the piece that we played there.
Then we played Sonnation 2 by Julien Guillamat. We’ve only played that piece a couple of times before, but it’s not difficult. I forgot to plug in my faders and spent the first two minutes trying to figure out what was wrong and then recovering, so it also had some sparseness. The end was not as tight as it could be and I smiled a bit at the error, but then it was over and we filed back off stage.
We always have problems with having the right sort of game face for playing live. I’ve been working on my posture, but we still sometimes slip into head resting on arm with elbow on the table. And I should have kept a straight face at the end. I typed some lines into the speech synthesiser to announce piece titles, which is something I’ve seen other bands do at laptop concerts. I have mixed feelings about it. It seemed better than not engaging at all (which is what we usually do, alas) and we didn’t have a microphone.
Afterwards, we went outside to wait for the talks to end so we could break down our gear. It was then that somebody pulled out their smart phone to check Twitter.


The tweets are below in chronological order (oldest first). While it was clear the performance had some technical issues, it had not seemed unusual in any way. We picked pieces that I thought would be accessible. XYZ has computer game elements, including players competing for control of sound parameters and lo-fi game-ish graphics. Sonnations also seems accessible in that is uses live sampling of metallic instruments, something that has worked with Partially Percussive and because it has a physically performative element at the end. Plus it gets nice sounds.
It may be that the difference between reactions to Sonnations and, say, Partially Percussive may have to do with managing audience reactions in some way. The bells do sound nicer than the kitchen hardware, but, because they look like instruments, the audience may be expecting something much more conventionally tonal. They resonances of the metal bowls might be a nice surprise vs the cow bell sounds might be slightly disappointing. Of course, it’s even more likely that the audience would have found the use of kitchen objects to be unbearably pretentious. It may have been better to play Act 2 of the Laptopera as the second piece. It sounds weirder, but the obvious references to spam email, especially the penis-enlargement ones are funny and may have engaged them. Or maybe not. It’s hard to know.
We’re playing at the symphony hall in May and this does have me a bit worried in that I would not have predicted these crashes and I don’t know what caused them. And I’m worried that we might be too brutal for fans of minimalism. It’s caught on much more than other genres of 21st century art music and appeals to a mainstream audience. Just because an audience wants to be challenged a bit, doesn’t mean they want what we do.
On the other hand, as somebody who often specialises in noise music, I’ve never expected to get mass approval or even approval from the majority of people at any given gig. Probably the only exception here is that I’m not usually as directly exposed to audience reaction. And, indeed, there were people who liked it. So maybe it’s a storm in a teacup? It’s impossible to get perspective on things from the stage, as it were.


  • About to find out what a laptop ensemble is at #TEDxBrum @EskimoDalton
  • And the laptop ensemble are (is?) using macbook pros, because they’re the best kind of laptops #ilovemac #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82 (replies)
  • Oh…it’s BILE! Ha! #TEDxBrum @EskimoDalton
  • What a treat. Watch the bham laptop ensamble being streamed live on #tedxbrum websire now x @JoyOfFengShui
  • Using iphone as a sound control device – motion control + music = electro-weirdness! #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • It’s like being stuck INSIDE A LAPTOP right now #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • i got a headache can we get @Flutebox on pls? #tedxbrum @tedxbrum @Flutebox @aerosolali
  • The Birmingham Laptop Ensemble. It could only come out of the University of Birmingham. #tedxbrum #notforme @mrmarksteadman
    • @mrmarksteadman 🙂 @carolinebeavon
    • @carolinebeavon I’m sure it’s all really clever, but just a tad self-indulgent for me @mrmarksteadman
    • @mrmarksteadman I agree. No real musical quality from what I can tell … But then, I went to BCU 😉 @carolinebeavon
    • @carolinebeavon That’s kinda my point! Good, no-nonsense uni 😉 Sad to have missed @flutebox; will defo check out the @civicolive replay @mrmarksteadman
    • @mrmarksteadman yup. They were great. This … Hmmmm, not a fan @carolinebeavon
    • @carolinebeavon Guess you had to be there. Oh no, you are, sorry. And it continues. *sigh* mrmarksteadman
    • @mrmarksteadman let me out!!!!! 🙂 @carolinebeavon
    • @carolinebeavon OH GOD IT’S SO SMUG! I CAN’T TAKE HOW PLEASED THEY ARE WITH THEMSELVES! (Sorry… just… yeah, sorry.) #tedxbrum @mrmarksteadman
  • Not getting the laptop ensemble – will try harder #tedxbrum @mrspicto
  • I was expecting some form of 8bit electro music. This is not that. #tedxbrum @JAWilletts
  • I think the computers have taken over #tedxbrum @dorvago
  • Very impressive technically, although not sure if it’s supposed to be music? #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
    • @Dr_Bob82 BiLE = sound art ?! @PostFilm
    • @PostFilm I’d agree that it was ‘sound’ but never been a fan of electro-music 🙂 @Dr_Bob82
    • @Dr_Bob82 sound art: I guess it’s just a matter of taste. You don’t hang someone for not liking coffee, anchovies, or cucumber @PostFilm
    • @PostFilm It’s definitely a matter of taste, although occasionally I have felt socially ostracised for not liking coffee 😉 @Dr_Bob82
    • @Dr_Bob82 harmony, melody, rhythm are culture- and time-specific; but electroacoustic is so broad now that it’s difficult to generalise @PostFilm
  • @BiLEnsemble > visually Kraftwerk/Modified Toy Orchestra minus suits, audibly Aphex Twin via laptops & remote controls. Madness! #TEDxBrum @asmallfurrybear
  • #TEDxBrum Bored already @Keybored_KATz
  • Horrible feeling that this isn’t going down as expected… Please, some melody for the love of god!! #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • #TEDxBrum Trying to be positive – but really – pass the paracetamol @Pictoontwit
  • Birmingham Laptop Ensemble – using interference to create music! #tedxbrum @CerasellaChis
  • #TEDxBrum I feel very old right now. @Stephen_Griffin
  • It’s like a game, where I don’t know the rules and can’t tell if it’s glitching or not. #tedxbrum @JAWilletts
  • Think there’s some sort of Kinect-type deal going on here as well with controlling the ‘music’ #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • No, sorry I tried but not for me ( laptop ensemble) #TEDxBRUM @mrspicto
  • somebody pls where is nathan @Flutebox come back pls! #tedxbrum @aerosolali
  • #TEDxBrum can Flutebox come back on please @Pictoontwit
  • #tedxbrum not sure what to make of this music @simonjenner
  • @BiLEnsemble > a possible contender for @supersonicfest 2012 line up? #TEDxBrum @asmallfurrybear
  • nah not for me… Seems too out of control & random…“@vixfitzgerald: I don’t get it #TEDxBrum Birmingham laptop ensemble 🙁 ??” @Soulsailor
  • Like War of the Worlds meets Aphex Twin meets an over-enthusiastic computer geek #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • Anyone else not got a clue what’s going on? Even the performers look disinterested! Smile and nod, smile and nod… #TEDxBrum @MykWilliams
  • Its getting an interesting Twitter reaction. Not sure whether it’s quite a bit too revolutionary. #tedxbrum @JAWilletts
  • As if my head didn’t hurt enough from all the ideas #TEDxBrum crammed in, BiLE start their intense sonic assault @orangejon
  • Birmingham Laptop Ensemble at #TEDxBrum @stanchers
  • #TEDxBrum that made Kraftwerk look pedestrian Stephen_Griffin
  • Birmingham Laptop Orchestra. Industrial grunge synth from the 70s. A little to atonal for me. #tedxbrum @DaveSussman
  • Please. Melody. Just a little bit. I won’t tell the experimentalist musicians that you did it #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • Amazing stuff around here. 🙂 #TEDxBrum @CerasellaChis
  • Talk amongst yourselves. #tedxbrum @mrmarksteadman
  • #TEDxBrum I am sure there mothers are very proud – I am now reflecting on the value or otherwise of a University education @Pictoontwit
  • I feel like this needs an explanation #TEDxBrum @chargedatom
  • Hmm sorry but please don’t “play” another “track” /Birmingham laptop Ensemble ;-( #WTF #TEDxBrum @Soulsailor (replies)
  • WE NEED MOAR COWBELL!: #tedxbrum Dr_Bob82
  • …but i do like the guys stickers on his laptop…. #tedxbrum @aerosolali
  • #TEDxBrum the power of social media – and when you die on your feet even faster @Pictoontwit
  • Really not feeling Laptop Ensemble.I’m afraid at #TEDxBrum even they look bored. @carolinebeavon
  • Wouldn’t it be better to just plug an iPod in. #tedxbrum @dorvago
  • The cowbell is a way too understated instrument, let’s get the cowbell trending too! #TEDxBrum #morecowbell @TEDxBrum
  • Is it possible to rehearse this? #seriousquestion #TEDxBrum @chargedatom
    • @chargedatom I think they’re winging it. Most UoB students do 😉 @Dr_Bob82
  • @BiLEnsemble it’s interesting to watch here in the MAC. Physical meets digital, theres so much that could go wrong, it’s working!! #tedxbrum @Ben_R_Murphy
  • If we don’t get more cowbell, we may as well all go home #cowbell #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • Who spiked my drink with acid? Is this real? #TEDxBrum @craiggumbley
  • I for one, was happy to have #8bit of silence ¦-) #bless RT @mrmarksteadman Talk amongst yourselves. #tedxbrum @Jacattell
  • #TEDxBrum the emperor’s new laptop? @Stephen_Griffin
  • I’m now imagining myself in a rainforest. Away from this. Far away. #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • #TEDxBrum PLEASE STOP @Pictoontwit
  • Britain ‘s not got talent sorry #TEDxBrum @vixfitzgerald
  • One of them must be checking the twitter feed #tedxbrum #multitasking @dorvago
  • Oh dear twitter generated laughter in danger of breaking out now. At least it is a more positive effect than i expected #tedxbrum @mrspicto
  • Ah, so they played instruments at the start, recorded them, now they’ve digitised and resampled them and are playing them back #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • I’m not at #TEDxBrum, but finding the tweets about the “Laptop Ensemble” hilarious. It sounds dreadful (but I bet you all clap at the end). @editorialgirl
  • Ordered chaos; #LOVEIT! MT @Soulsailor nah not for me… Seems too out of control & random… /cc @vixfitzgerald #TEDxBrum @Jacattell
  • #morecowbell #lesscowbell would it make a difference?? #TEDxBrum @chargedatom
  • Massive TUNE! #tedxbrum @n_chalmers
    • @n_chalmers will buy u the CD for ur bday! #tedxbrum @J_K_Schofield
    • @n_chalmers going to download this one after for sure @kathpreston1
  • Twitter is my outlet. Can’t keep straight face. #TEDxBrum @karldoody
  • No one said innovation was going to be easy, right? #TEDxBrum @TEDxBrum
  • #TEDxBrum Warming to BiLE – snugly weird. @Stephen_Griffin
    • @Stephen_Griffin Was that smugly weird? #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • So now the track is on a loop and they’re playing along ‘in real time’ with it. Except it sounds… well… it’s finished now #tedxbrum @Dr_Bob82
  • Balls. #tedxbrum @mrmarksteadman
  • #TEDxBrum …. Laptop Ensemble … Seriously … Is that it 😉 @shuhabtrq
  • I want to see more people preoccupied with the stuff BiLE is doing. #TEDxBrum @CerasellaChis
  • Well I liked it… #TEDxBrum @stanchers
  • Brilliant performance from Laptop Ensemble BiLE – enjoyed watching and listening to them on the live stream #TEDxBrum @PostFilm
  • thinks BiLE upset some #tedxbrum delegates who did not want to open up to sound art and opportunity for digital experimentation @PostFilm
  • Skimmed the #TEDxBrum stream – if that sad reaction to @BiLEnsemble is accurate reflection of audience vibe I’m glad I’m not there. @peteashton
    • @peteashton Actually the reception to it IN THE ROOM in the real world was warm. The dissenters were vocal on Twitter. Go figure. @helgahenry
    • @peteashton We don’t know how much info (if any) was given to the audience about what they were listening to. Tweets sounded… surprised. @editorialgirl
    • @editorialgirl Indeed. I just don’t think I’d enjoy being in an audience which is surprised in that way by their work. Which is fine. @peteashton
    • @peteashton if it’s any consolation at all, I was there, at TEDxBrum & I enjoyed BiLE. New to me, a surprise, yes, but in a good way! @KendaLeeG
  • @hellocatfood I think you v can now legitimately claim to be a misunderstood artist now! The #TedxBrum audience just weren’t ready for you. @AndyPryke
  • @gregmcdougall there was a random laptop music segment that didn’t work for me then more awesomeness #TEDxBrum @Soulsailor
  • for me ‘sound art’ is part of the creative “T” in TED. More radical digitral sonic experimentation please from BiLE #tedxbrum @PostFilm
  • Oddest moment today: watching @BiLEnsemble use modern technology to give the audience a scarily accurate experience of tinnitus. #tedxbrum @catharker
  • #tedxBrum @BiLEnsemble have potential. I heard some cool sounding stuff and was a little jazzy. Maybe mix with instruments/samples/beats? @RenewableSave
  • i see bile at #tedxbrum has caused some controversy. i don’t think any performer has an inherent right to have their performance liked. @simonjgray
    • (& i type this as somebody who has made music which is well far from being universally liked. #tedxbrum ) @simonjgray
  • Really enjoyed playing at #lovebytes and #tedxbrum yesterday… as well as the post-TED discussion 😉 @BiLEnsemble
    • @BiLEnsemble and we enjoyed you! @TEDxBrum, out of interest, was the #lovebytes performance different? @Ben_R_Murphy
    • @BiLEnsemble well done BiLE performing at #tedxbrum !!!! @InterFace_2012
  • @celesteh obvious there were probs at #TEDxBrum, but I enjoyed the pieces – although was brought up on Harvey’s “Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco” @davidburden
  • BiLE Blog #tedxbrum @PostFilm
  • BiLE’s last piece at #TEDxBrum Quietat points so some mobile signal interference. @Acuity_Design

Press Release

Download PDF

Birmingham’s first Network Music Festival 27-29th January.

For immediate release: 24th January 2011

Birmingham’s first Network Music Festival presents hi-tech music performances from local and international artists.

On 27-29th January 2012 the first Network Music Festival will showcase some of the most innovative UK and international artists using networking technology. Presenting a broad spectrum of work from laptop bands, to live coding, to online collaborative improvisation, to modified radio networks, audio-visual opera and iPhone battles, Network Music Festival will be a weekend of exciting performances, installations, talks and workshops showcasing over 70 artists!

Network Music Festival are working alongside local organisations Friction Arts, SOUNDkitchen, BEAST, Ort Cafe and The Old Print Works and PST/Kismet in order to bring this new and innovative festival to Birmingham.

With 20 performances, 5 installations, 5 talks and a 2 day work Network Music Festival will be a vibrant and diverse festival presenting musical work where networking is central to the aesthetic, creation or performance practice. Acts include: Live-coding laptop quartet Benoit and the Mandelbrots (Germany); algorithmic music duo Wrongheaded (UK), transatlantic network band Glitch Lich (UK/USA) and home grown laptop bands BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) and BEER (Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research) as well as many more local, UK, European and international acts programmed from our OPEN CALL for performances, installations and talks.

If that’s not enough, we’ll be kicking off the festival early on Thursday 26th January with a pre-festival party programmed in collaboration with local sound-art collective SOUNDkitchen which showcases some of Birmingham best electronic acts, Freecode, Juneau Brothers and Lash Frenzy as well as one of SOUNDkitchen’s own sound installations.

There’s also an opportunity for you to get involved as we’re running a 2 day workshop on ‘Collaborative Live Coding Performance’ led by members of the first live coding band [PB_UP] (Powerbooks Unplugged).

“Birmingham has a reputation for being the birth place of new genres of music,” said festival organiser, Shelly Knotts. “We’re excited to be a part of this and to be bringing the relatively new genre of computer network based music to Brum. Some of these concerts are going to be epic!”

Tickets are available from Day and weekend passes available £5-£25. Workshop £20.

For more information visit our website: and follow us on twitter: @NetMusicFest. To tweet about the festival use the hashtag #NMF2012. We also have a facebook page:

Network Music Festival // 27-29th January 2012 // The Edge, 79-81 Cheapside, Birmingham, B12 0QH

Twitter: @NetMusicFest Hashtag: #NMF2012



On Friday will be a sneak preview of an excerpt from Act 2 of the Death of Stockhausen, the world’s first ‘laptopera.’

BiLE in Venice

Juju and I flew in a day before the Laptops Meet Musicians Festival, because we wanted to go to the Biennale. Our flight was at 6 am, so we slept about 2 hours before having to leave my flat at an ungodly hour. Once arrived in Venice, the first thing I noticed that it was about 15 degrees warmer than London. And I wondered why I thought it would be a good idea to wear steel capped boots!

We found our hotel, which said it could get us a 35% price reduction on tickets for the Biennale, starting the next day, so we spent the first day wandering the narrow streets and looking into churches. It was my 3rd time in the city, but I have always gone during the art show, so had barely been in any of the churches before. They are astounding.

Covered in marble and monuments many metres tall. The Basilicas have no shortage of relics. I saw St Theresa’s foot! (Random aside: My mum had a piece of St Theresa in a tiny envelope, which I accidentally dropped into the carpet. Some bit of her was hoovered up and is now sanctifying a California landfill)

We walked down to San Marco square. It used to be described by The Rough Guide as “pigeon infested,” but this has improved vastly since I was last there. Street vendors no longer sell pigeon food, thank gods.

At about 10, the lack of sleep and the heat were too much for me, so I went to go lie down in the hotel. I had booked a hostel bed, but they had reassigned us to a tiny hotel room with a double bed. It was theoretically a step up. I thought about asking for twin beds, but then didn’t want to bother, as it was only for one night. I lay down on the bed and turned on the fan and lay awake sweating, wearing nothing but my shorts. For hours.
Juju came home at 2 and we both lay on top of the bed in nothing but shorts. It was not the best night of holiday ever.
Shelly and Antonio arrived the next morning, so we checked out and went to meet them at the bus station. We went then to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where we were going to be lodged by the Foundazione Giorgio Cini.
Even though it was early in the day, they gave us our room keys and let us check in. during the long process of photocopying passports and signing documents written in Italian, the festival organisers happened by and told us where to meet them for dinner and gave us a sneak peak of the concert hall.
We took a vaporetto boat back to the rest of the islands and went into some of the national pavilions for the Biennale. This year, they’re scattered around the city and largely free. The one that I liked best was Taiwan. Theirs was focused on sound. They had a large listening room and then a smaller room showing two movies side by side that were different perspectives on the same scene. Two sound artists were recording the harvest and processing of some grain or rice. They started in the fields and then tracked it’s harvest, it’s transport by train, the processing in a factory, the distribution, the processing of the chaff. They worked directly with the workers and got recordings form insides the cabs of vehicles and very very close to things. It was amazing, especially the sound, but also augmented by the video. I think it was my favourite thing at the Biennale this year.
The Festival took us out to dinner that night and the two subsequent nights, always to the same nice restaurant. The food was fantastic.
Antonio was talking about how he always buys travel insurance because he always accidentally eats something that he’s allergic to. Then, moments later, he confused a fish for a chicken. Fortunately, medical intervention was not required, although he is allergic to fish. People teased him for this, but I totally understand not recognising something that you never eat. I don’t really know many French food words for meat items because I never ate them, so I never made a strong association with the word.
The next day, we had the early sound check slot, so we did our technical stuff and then had some rehearsal time. We switched to using a BT home hub, in the hopes that supercollider would beachball less often. This was semi-successful. Supercollider just has a major issue with wifi, as far as I can tell. Also, when there were two iPhones running touchOSC on the network, data transmition got really blocky and jerky for SC users. I don’t remember if the Juju was effected on Max or not, but we had to have one of them switch to using an adhoc network to talk to their phone. That fixed that. So after endless faffing, we had a not overly inspiring rehearsal. Then they took us out for lunch at the one café on the island. It ended with coffee and ice cream, as all good summer lunches should.
We spent the entire afternoon writing our 10 minute presentation on the ensemble.
The evening started with a presentation from David Ogborn about the Cybernetic Orchestra, the LOrk he runs. He spoke about how he uses a code-based interface for some pieces. He described this as Live Coding, but I think that term is much more specific and refers to a particular type of on the fly code generation, whereas, the players in his group start with a programme already written and make changes to it.
Code-based interfaces are, of course, entirely legitimate ways to write and control pieces. They also do have some pedagogical value, however, I think it’s easy to overstate that case. For example, I can open a CSS file and make a bunch of changes to it in order to get roughly the look I want out of my website, but I cannot say that I know CSS and would not know CSS unless I actually studied it by reading a book or several help files and coding something from scratch. However, by being able to modify code, it does make the user into a kind of a power user and does demystify code, so it’s a good thing to do, but one needs to keep it in perspective.
After the longish presentation, BiLE then played for about 20 minutes. We played XYZ first and Partially Percussive second. I think that musically, they work best in the opposite order, but Antonio decided he thought it would be best to do my piece without graphics and as the projection screen was on the other side of the room than where we were playing, we had to do that order or nobody would look back to see the video for XYZ.
Shelly’s piece is normally for 4 audio players, so it scaled down very well for 3. I accidentally hit the mute button instead of fading out, so the end was a bit abrupt, but it was ok. It came out well enough that another band wants to cover it!
My piece is normally for 6 audio players and probably should have been practiced more for the smaller group, as it came out a bit more roughly. One thing that came out very nicely is that the piece ends with a bell sound and as that rung out, the church bells all over the city were ringing, so the bells sounded like a part of the piece. That was really nice.
Then we gave out presentation which probably went on for a bit longer than the allocated 10 minutes. I’m not sure if I said anything useful, especially after Ogborn spoke for so long. Normally, I want to differentiate between LOrks and BiLE, which is a laptop ensemble, but every band at LMMF was a LE, so I think this distinction was just confusing.
After the concert, they took us all for dinner again and then a bar. We all slept in a it later than intended the next morning, except for Juju, who flew to France. Shelly and I poked around the Foundation’s buildings and then went up the church’s clock tower in time for the noon bells ringing. I set up my zoom recorder, put in ear plugs and waited for the bells to ring. I could feel the vibrations of the big bells on my body and there were amazing partials after the ring. I haven’t listened to the recording yet, but I’m hoping it’s good.
After lunch we went to the Biennale at Giardini. We didn’t see much of it, actually. There was an unfortunate tendency for the national pavilions to have art pieces that were self-referential and about themselves. Or worse, about the Biennale. I get that it’s a lot of pressure and whatnot to do something for such a prestigious show, but maybe that pressure could be let out via long, rambling blog posts rather than via the art.
One high point was the USA’s pavilion, which had what seemed like some very smart critiques of consumer capitalism, all with a million corporate sponsorships. They had the symbol of liberty in a tanning bed, for example. Given the number of sponsors and the apparent popularity, I am slightly afraid I’m attributing irony and critique where none exists, but for the mean time, I’m impressed by an upside-down army tank with a treadmill on it.
The big pavilion there had a bunch of stuffed pigeons on it. There were some cool things inside, but I was not blown away by anything. We didn’t get very far in before we needed to go back for a concert.
The second night of LMMF was all music and no talking, which is good. All the bands were very good.
After dinner and the bar, we went to the old greek-style amphitheatre on the foundation grounds and opened a couple of bottles of wine. I crashed out around 4 am, but most everybody else stayed up until 5. Or at least, most everybody younger than me.
We were hanging out a lot with Benoit and the Mandelbrots, a live coding quartet from Karlsruhe, Germany. They were signing songs from youtube videos. At one point, we were walking along and everybody was singing the theme song from Super Mario Brothers. They have their finger on the pulse of pop culture, or at least internet memes.
The final day, we checked out and then went to Arsenal to see a last bit of the Biennale. Like in the last 2 times I’ve gone, I’ve like Arsenal more than some other parts of the show. (Although, this year, the stuff in the city centre was really the best.) There were a lot of pieces made out of trash, and dealing with waste and refuse and the disposability in general of pop culture seemed to be a major theme this year. There was a large hanging dragon made of discarded truck innertubes and fine embroidery, it was cool.
One very impressive piece was a giant statue, in the style of ancient Greece or Rome. It was as tall as a double decker bus. But instead of being made of marble, which it resembled, it was made of candle wax, was full of wicks and was actually burning. Already the heads of the figures had come off from the burning. The whole thing was gradually being consumed during the course of the exhibit.
Another piece that caught my attention beastiaity video from Germany called Tierfick. The animals involved were taxidermied. The video was disturbing but also silly. I actually do like stuff that tries to be shocking.
So, I heard a bunch of good music, ate a bunch of good food, stayed in rooms that were a reasonable temperature, talked to a lot of good people and saw a lot of art. I hope gigs like this become a trend for BiLE!

Backstage at a BiLE gig

We played yesterday in Wolverhampton and I thought it went rather well. While we’re playing, we have a chat window open, so we can do some communication with each other. This is what went on in chat during our last piece:

Norah> :(
Les> reme
Les>  why is norah sad?
Shelly> :(?
Norah> someone crashed?
Antonio> Antonio crashed
Norah> oh :(
Shelly>  ack
Les>  bummer
jorge> ohh sheeet
Antonio> next?
Norah> Les note!
chris> my wiimote is boken
chris> ok ill start
Antonio> cool
chris> ready?
Les>  i am now
Norah> bang
Shelly>  huh? firebell starts?
jorge> yes
chris> im clock
jorge> purrfect
Les>  go?
Shelly>  ack brb. start without me
Antonio> go go go
Shelly> bk
Shelly>  ...test... 
Norah> hi
Les> we need a better beater for that bell 
Shelly>  jorge can i have the spoon?
Les>  eye contact!!
Shelly>  chirs can u pass the small bell this way? 
Les>  sounding good, norah
Shelly>  sounding GREAT! 
Norah> thanks
Antonio> everything is crashing for me :(
Shelly>  norah, ur patch sounds really coo1
Norah> it's being very magical today!
Norah> WOW
Norah> excellent transition guys
Shelly>  i dont know what time it is by the way
Les>  10
Norah> 10:58
Norah> let's start winding down?
Les>  10:15?
Norah> 11:17
Les>  10:35
Les>  nice
Antonio> :)
Norah> that was super!
Antonio> is ther eone more?
chris> sh*t that was amazing!
jorge> super!!
Antonio> !!!
Shelly>  nope!
Antonio> super fun times
Shelly>  suppersuppersupper
Antonio> what's next?

Kinect and OSC Human Interface Devices

To make up for the boring title of this post, lets’s start off with a video:

XYZ with Kinect a video by celesteh on Flickr.

This is a sneak preview of the system I wrote to play XYZ by Shelly Knotts. Her score calls for every player to make a drone that’s controllable by x, y, and z parameters of a gestural controller. For my controller, I’m using a kinect.

I’m using a little c++ program based on OpenNi and NITE to find my hand position and then sending out OSC messages with those coordinates. I’ve written a class for OSCHIDs in SuperCollider, which will automatically scale the values for me, based on the largest and smallest inputs it’s seen so far. In an actual performance, I would need to calibrate it by waving my arms around a bit before starting to play.

You can see that I’m selecting myself in a drop down menu as I start using those x, y and z values. If this had been a real performance, other players names would have been there also and there is a mechanism wherein we duel for controls of each other’s sounds!

We’re doing a sneak preview of this piece on campus on wednesday, which I’m not allowed to invite the public to (something about file regulations) but the proper premiere will be at NIME in Oslo, on Tuesday 31st May @ 9.00pm atChateau Neuf (Street address: Slemdalsveien 15). More information about the performance is available via BiLE’s blog.

The SuperCollider Code

I’ve blogged about this earlier, but have since updated to be more immediately useful to people working with TouchOSC or OSCeleton or other weird OSC devices. I’ve also generated several helpfiles!
OSCHID allows one to describe single OSC devices and define “slots” for them.
Those are called OscSlots and are meant to be quite a lot like GeneralHIDSlots, except that OSCHIDs and their slots do not call actions while they are calibrating.
The OSC WiiMote class that uses DarWiinRemote OSC is still called WiiOSCClient and, as far as I recall, has not changed its API since I last posted.
Note that except for people using smart devices like iPhones or whatever, OSC HIDs require helper apps to actually talk to the WiiMote or the kinect. Speaking of which…

The Kinect Code

Compiling / Installing

This code is, frankly, a complete mess and this should be considered pre-alpha. I’m only sharing it because I’m hoping somebody knows how to add support to change the tilt or how to package this as a proper Mac Application. And because I like to share. As far as I know, this code should be cross-platform, but I make no promises at all.
First, there are dependencies. You have to install a lot of crap: SensorKinect, OpenNi and NITE. Find instructions here or here.
Then you need to install the OSC library. Everybody normally uses packosc because it’s easy and stuff…. except it was segfaulting for me, so bugger that. Go install libOSC++.
Ok, now you can download my source code: (Isn’t that a clever name? Anyway…) Go to your NITE folder and look for a subfolder called Samples. You need to put this into that folder. Then, go to the terminal and get into the directory and type: make. God willing and the floodwaters don’t rise, it should compile and put an executable file into the ../Bin directory.
You need to invoke the program from the terminal, so cd over to Bin and type ./OscHand and it should work.


This program needs an XML file which is lurking a few directories below in ../../Data/Sample-Tracking.xml. If you leave everything where it is in Bin, you don’t need to specify anything, but if you want to move stuff around, you need to provide the path to this XML file as the first argument on the command line.
The program generates some OSC messages which are /hand/x , /hand/y and /hand/z, all of which are followed by a single floating point number. It does not bundle things together because I couldn’t get oscpack to work, so this is what it is. By default, it sends these to port 57120, because that is the port I most want to use. Theoretically, if you give it a -p followed by a number for the second and third arguments, it will set to the port that you want. Because I have not made this as lovely as possible, you MUST specify the XML file path before you specify the port number. (As this is an easy fix, it’s high on my todo list, but it’s not happening this week.)
There are some keyboard options you can do in the window while the program is running. Typing s turns smoothing on or off. Unless you’re doing very small gestures, you probably want smoothing on.
If you want to adjust the tilt, you’re SOL, as I have been unable to solve this problem. If you also download libfreenect, you can write a little program to aim the thing, which you will then have to quit before you can use this program. Which is just awesome. There are some Processing sketches which can also be used for aiming.
You should be able to figure out how to use this in SuperCollider with the classes above, but here’s a wee bit of example code to get you started:

 k =
  ax: OscSlot(realtive, '/hand/x'),
  ay: OscSlot(realtive, '/hand/y'),
  az: OscSlot(realtive, '/hand/z')

 // wave your arms a bit to calibrate

 k.calibrate = false;

 k.setAction(ax, { |val|  val.value.postln});

And more teaser

You can see the GUIs of a few other BiLE Tools in the video at the top, including the Chat client and a shared stopwatch. There’s also a network API. I’m going to do a big code release in the fall, so stay tuned.

First BiLE Performance

BiLE, the Birmingham Laptop Ensemble, had it’s first gig on Thursday, just six or eight weeks after being formed. We played at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, which is a well-known venue for rock bands, as a part of the Sound Kitchen series. There were two pieces on the bill, one called 15 Minutes for BiLE by BiLE member Jorge Garcia Moncada and we did a cover of Stucknote by Scot Gresham-Lancaster, which was a piece played by The Hub.
As a first performance, I thought it went rather well. There were the usual issues where everything sounds completely different on stage and the few minutes of sound checking does not give anybody enough time to get used to the monitor speakers. And time moves completely differently in front of an audience, where suddenly every minute gets much longer. But there were also the performing-with-a-computer issues: computers get terrible stage fright and are much more prone to crash. A few people did have their sound engines crash, so the first piece had a high pitched squeal for a few minutes, while messages flew on the chat window, reminding people to be quiet during the quiet parts. Actually, there was quite a lot of panic in the chat window and I wish I’d kept a log of it. (Later the audience said we all looked panicked from time to time. I always look panicked on stage, but it’s not cool.) In the second piece, I forgot to tell my programme to commence sound-making for a bout the first three minutes. I haven’t heard the recording yet, but I bet things sounded ok. Considering that most of us had never done live laptop performance at all before and how quickly we went from our first planning meeting to our first gig, I think we got a good result.
Jorge’s piece was complicated but Stucknote seems deceptively simple, so we did not try running through it until the day before the gig. In retrospect, this was clearly an error, because the piece, like all structured improvisation, does require some practice to get the flow down. Of course, we’d all spent the requisite time working on our sound generation and I’d coded up some faders for me and the other SuperCollider user, with Ron Kuivila’s Conductor quark, which is a very quick and dirty was of making useful GUIs. I’d tried out my part at home and it worked well and the sound I got was interesting, so I felt confident in it until I got to the practice and it crashed very quickly. I restarted SuperCollider and it crashed again. And again. And again. Half the time, it brought down the other SC user’s computer also. And it was clobbering the network, causing the MAX users a bunch of error messages and a few moments of network congestion. MAX, usefully, just throws away network messages when there are too many of them, whereas SC does not seem to.
I could not figure out where the bug was and so, after the practice, I sat down to sort it out. And there was no sign of it. Everything was fine again.
Fortunately, this provided enough of a clue that I was able to figure out that I had created an infinite loop between the two SuperCollider programmes. When I moved a slider in the GUI, that sent a message to the network which effected the sound on the target machine and also caused Shelly’s programme to update the GUI. However, the Conductor class always informs listeners when it’s updated, no matter who updated it or how, so it sent a message back to the network informing everybody of it’s new value, which caused my GUI to update, which sent a message to the network, ad infintum until I crashed.
I came up with a fix using a flag and semaphores:

                             should_call_action = false;
                             cv = con[contag];
                             cv.input = input;
                             should_call_action = true; 

While this fix mostly works, it does bring up some interesting questions about data management across this kind of network. If we’re all updating the data at once, is there a master copy of it somewhere? Who owns the master copy if one exists? In this case, as one person is making sound from it, that person would seem to be the owner of the data. But what if we were all sharing and using the sliders? Then we all own it and may all have different ideas of what it might actually be.
I’m writing a class for managing shared resources which holds a value and notifies listeners when it changes. The object that’s changing it passes itself along to the method, so when listeners are notified, the changer is not. I haven’t finished the class yet, so I don’t have sample code, but I’m pondering some related issues.
Like, should there be a client version of this class for a local copy held on the local machine and a master version for the canonical copy on the network that everybody else is updating? Should a master copy of some data advertise itself on the network via the API and automatically listen for updates? Should they specify a way to scale values so it can also accepted changed inputs from 0-1 and scale them appropriately? If it does accept inputs/values in a specified range, should there be a switch for the clients to automagically build a GUI containing sliders for every master variable on the network? I think that would be quite cool, but I may not have time to code it soon, as our next gig, where we’ll be playing a piece of mine, is coming up very soon on 29 of April and then there’s a gig in May and then I suspect probably one in June and one in July (although not scheduled yet) and in August, we’re going to NIME in Oslo, which is very exciting. Bright days ahead.


It’s kind of last-minute. I think the organisation for this event started on Tuesday. Anyway, I’ll be there doing some live-patching of my MOTM synthesizer. Depending on how this afternoon goes, I might also be live-sampling it with supercollider. I want to use my wireless game controller, so it should go with no visible laptop. It’s the future. The official announcement follows. My name has been mistaken hyphenated in a very amusing fashion.


spontaneous assemblage
diy punk electronics
exploratory noise
hallucinogenic visions
sonic butchery

Thursday 29th April
@ Butchers Corner
302 New Cross Road

nearest overground — New Cross Gate

7/8pm ish start



Gig Report: The Globe in Brighton

Helen’s Evil Twin had a gig with Danse Macabre last night in Brighton. These two bands often tour together because Taylor and Helen play in both of them. We played at the Globe in Brighton, which is a small, friendly pub, near the sea.
The drum kit and several folks came down in a vehicle affectionately known as Camper Van Helsgin, which is an old VW minibus that does not have heat in it. They showed up shivering and then unloaded all the gear. There were sound check and the normal stuff. HET was on first. I always write out chord changes on my set list because when I get nervous, I cannot remember things well. At least my hands weren’t shaking – not that it’s a bad effect on a fretless bass. I made more mistakes than I would in a rehearsal, but it was mostly ok. At the end, there was a guy yelling for more. Yay for happy people. I like playing in a band!
While DM was on, the snow began falling in earnest and settling. (Brits say “settling.” Americans say “sticking.”) I looked out the window and saw giant snowflakes blowing sideways. Yikes. DM played many of the same songs from the last time I saw them in Worchester, several of which are on their disk the Golden Age of Ballooning. They were a bit tighter than last time and more in tune. Also, Steph, their bassist has gotten an electric upright bass. It sounds really really good. Apparently, she just got it, so only played it for a few songs. I think she might be just learning it? Her hand positions look self-taught, but her sound says she known what she’s doing.
After the show we packed up ASAP and then did some car shuffling to get everybody dropped as close to where they live as possible. DM has a strong trans following, mostly mtf. (Alas, HET does not yet have a dedicated ftm fan base.) So I ended up in the van of a fan as we set out on the frozen snowy roads.
We stopped to buy hot drinks and use the loo at a petrol station outside of Brighton, but they sold out of everything as we arrived. Alas. I think that’s where I dropped my phone.
I thought the snow would get worse as we went north, but instead it lightened up until there was nothing settling in London. So I got home to Xena in one piece. Down a mobile phone, but fun anyway.
Speaking of which, I hadn’t been able to get my phone to sync with my computer for weeks, so I may have lost your number. If you think I should have your number, please email it to me.

Gig Report: Worcester Music Festival

On Friday afternoon, Ash Surrey of Danse Macabre and her partner came and picked up me and Hoops of Helen’s Evil Twin. We set off for the Worcester Music Festival where both our bands played gigs. Worcester is in the Midlands, somewhere near Birmingham. The rural area around it, the shire, is, of course Worcestershire, and is the region where Worcestershire sauce originates. Alas, it usually contains anchovies, so I did not eat any of it while away.
Anyway, Friday afternoon traffic on the M25 is a drag and we arrived in the evening and met up with the remaining members of HET and Danse Macabre. They came separately in a 70’s-era VW minibus, which apparently has been on many music tours. The van is affectionately known as Camper van Helsing, a joke that never stops being funny.
After checking in to the Travel Lodge, we went out to drink and catch some live music. The festival organizers went to just about every bar and café in central Worcester and asked them if they would host live musicians for three days and not charge admission. Every event was free and there were many participating venues. The one we went to was the one HET was to play the following night, the Marr’s Bar. On Friday night, the BBC was there broadcasting live. They had a big canvas BBC banner on the wall behind the stage, ringed by fairy lights and posters up explaining that this was all live on the radio.
One guy that was playing was Nigel Clark, a Brummie who was a member of the 90’s pop band Dodgy. They were very popular in the UK, but I don’t think I’d heard of them in the states. He was quite good. I like his music a lot and his stage chatter was also very entertaining. He explained he was going to leave the curse words out of one of his songs due to the radio broadcast. And on one of his songs, during the intro he said that all the home listeners would be wondering why so many people in the bar were talking while he was playing (the background chatter level was kind of typical for a bar) and he improvised a verse about not talking during the performance. The room fell very quiet. It was nicely done.
I was really excited about the BBC being there, but they only do live broadcasts on Friday nights and would not be back for our gig, alas. After the music was over, we went back to the hotel and got drunk and then started horsing around with ukuleles and other instruments until about 2 AM. I felt kind of guilty about this, but I think that we didn’t keep anybody else awake. I hope.
We woke up kind of late Saturday morning and after breakfast went to Danse Macabre’s venue. They’re a goth band. Their drummer is Helen of HET and they have the same violinist as HET, but their own bassist and lead singer. The lead singer put on black renaisance faire trousers and ruffly white shirt and a black jacket and top hat and a lot of skull-related jewelry, including a large, sparkly skull belt buckle. She put on black lipstick and all that. Watching her transform from slightly eccentric street clothes to goth was kind of amazing.
They played some songs from their album “The Golden Age of Ballooning” and a song about Worcestershire sauce, which included such facts as the inventor of it and the typical ingredients. And they played some songs from a rock opera about evil squirrels. The subject matter was very eclectic.
We hung around for one more act, which was Smiley Mic, a guy with some looping pedals, making pop music by looping himself. He was was musically very good, but his lyrics all tended to be about how he was one guy laying down loops. Then we went to Marr’s Bar for HET’s sound check.
The bar has a really good stage, a great PA and a good sound guy. I had my own monitor speaker. We did the sound check and it was amazing because we could actually hear each other, which is not something that happens often on stage. I was kind of nervous, but we were on second and so the audience was people who came with us and other bands waiting to sound check and that was it. The first guy was on for maybe 10 minutes and was really good. I had a bunch of mistakes when we actually played and didn’t feel good about it, but the rest of the band was very happy. While I was putting my bass away, a bloke from the audience approached Helen and started talking enthusiastically about how great we were. I guess it doesn’t matter that I forgot the bassline to our song summarizing Jane Eyre?
I caught another band, who was also very cool and then left to get some food and then put my bass back into the hotel and caught the last few bands of the evening, on 4 and 5 hours after we started. The crowd had grown a lot. The last band, And What Will Be Left of Them, was playing their last-ever gig and they and the audience were both getting kind of emotional about it. Understandable as they were really good. Actually, all of the Worcester and Midlands-based bands on were really good. Really fun, really musically strong. Worcester is cool.
So I was highly impressed by the Worcester music scene. I suspect we will play there again and will probably also play in Birmingham and Manchester around December and January when we expect to be selling our album. Anybody who wants a rock band to play a show and then kip in their house around that time is highly encouraged to leave a comment or drop a line, because free lodging really helps with the going-into-debit thing that can be a downside of touring.
On Sunday, we headed back into London. I arrived at my flat in the afternoon, too burnt to do much but veg out. I’m quite enjoying the rock and roll life style, but my next major task needs to be to really really memorize the nine songs on our set list. I’ve got them, but not as solidly not-having-to-think-about-it as I’d like. And then, our set list should grow longer as things get recorded. Also, some of the songs could use better basslines, which requires time and thought and stuff, something I should be able to manage before our next gig on the 25 of September in Whitechapel.
My personal next gig is not with the rock band, but is a noise music thing coming up on Wednesday at the Foundry in London. I’ll be playing my synthesizer. Starts at 7pm. I don’t know what time I’ll be on, but it’s free. In the basement.