Innovation lost in time

Today I went to The Musical Museum with @kocicenka. It’s our holiday, but we are spending it in London to save some cash!

The Musical Museum is a pretty interesting place. Its website however leaves a lot to be desired!

Its full of incredibly complex and laboriously made mechanical self playing musical instruments. We went on a tour with a nice bloke who explained a lot of it to us.

He explained and demostrated steel pin drum music boxes, then pin disc music boxes and then onto player pianos with paper piano rolls. After that he showed us some orchestrions and other mechanical player instruments including a violin duet one which was quite bizarre. At the end we saw a recorded piano roll performance from Gershwin.

The whole thing was extremely impressive. So much effort and work has gone into achieving the ability to create a distributed musical experience in this era. Between 1880 – 1929 these machines really were the only way you could experience music on demand in the home. They were initially only owned by the rich, but towards the end of that era much cheaper versions became available which much of the middle class could afford.

Of course when recordings and gramophone playback became viable, all of this became practically obsolete.

As I wandered around, it struck me how the vast amount of effort embodied in these machines, which involved some incredible innovation and extreme precision and skill is lost in obscure museums. I guess it happens in all fields which involve technological progression.

I’m certainly already feeling this is a factor with the musical work I have done which is inextricably linked with software. As devices and operating systems progress software made for them is forced to maintain compatibility or become redundant – its an interesting point to consider.

I also recently went to an event at the Science Museum which featured a reunion of some early BBC Radiophonic Workshop members and the founders of EMS.

Peter Zinovieff was there and I had a great chat with him afterwards. The work he did at EMS pioneering sequencing and synthesis control with computers was really fascinating. His story at the end of this video about how his studio was abandoned and destroyed is truly heart rending. I think its a real shame when innovation of this level gets lost in time.

I hope to talk with Peter a lot more soon.


Disquiet 0039 – Bugs in the Nowaki

This time I was interested in what I could do with this old Feonic Soundbug I have. More about Feonic’s technology here : But basically they are a small piece of Terfenol-D which changes shape when a magnetic field is applied to it. This solid can be pressed against other solids to cause vibrations which turn that whole solid object into a speaker of sorts.

I took my Soundbug and attached it to a number of things in my house / studio and played the sample tracks through them. This included the window, a Jen SX1000 synth case, my studio desk, a hollow body electric guitar, a great grandmothers violin and my oven door. I recorded the sound they made very closely with a Zoom H1.

Sometimes the Soundbug was either overloading, coming loose, or the battery was in the process of dying and it made the whole thing go crazy. I used all these sounds too.

I took all these samples into Ableton Live and did this quick live mix on my APC40.

I used a lot of the built in effects to do things like isolate frequencies and try to build structure out of the sounds. I used a few Michael Norris plugs to create sort of fake spectral reverbs, but I also used Lexicon Hall reverbs too. The whole thing went through Izotope Ozone at the end.

Here is some more info about this weeks Junto :

Disquiet Junto Project 0039: Netlabel Derivations

The netlabel phenomenon is a tremendous force in contemporary music, with hundreds of these small organizations around the world actively distributing for free the music of willing musicians. In many ways, the concept of the netlabel is at the forefront of the Creative Commons — except for one lingering issue: Many netlabels set their tracks to a license that doesn’t allow for derivative works. On a label-by-label basis, that’s likely an informed decision. But from a broader perspective, it arguably stunts the promotion of shared culture.

In order to encourage the employment of licenses that allow for derivative works, such as remixes, the Disquiet Junto will focus its collective attention this week to a netlabel that allows for derivative works. We’ll take three tracks from three different releases from the Nowaki label, based in Paris, France, and combine them into remixed celebrations of the label’s vibrancy.

So, the assignment this week is simple. Please download the following three tracks from the netlabel Nowaki and combine them into a new track. You can process the sourced audio in any way you choose, but you can’t add anything to it:

“Irese” from this Barascud’s Summit:

“Sumatra” from André D / Christophe Meulien’s Archipel

“She Likes to Look at the Sky” from Kluge’s No Love, Please.

Note: You will likely have to download the full albums to access the source audio.

Deadline: Monday, October 1, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your finished work should be between 2 and 5 minutes in length.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on, please include the term “disquiet0039-remixingnowaki” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: For this project, your track should be set as downloadable, and allow for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

This Disquiet Junto project was done as a celebration of the efforts of the Nowaki netlabel, and to support its employment of licenses that allow for derivative works. This track is comprised of three pieces of music: “Irese” by Barascud, “Sumatra” by André D / Christophe Meulien, and “She Likes to Look at the Sky” by Kluge. More on the Nowaki label, and the original versions of these tracks, at


More on this 39th Disquiet Junto project at:

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

The music at my gym sucks

My gym Fitness4Less is great, but the music there sucks.

I generally listen to audiobooks while working out. Currently I’m on the Iain M Banks culture series. However I wondered today if I could transform the crap music they play there into something more interesting..

So I made a quick RjDj scene which transforms the incoming audio in realtime into something more interesting. Here is a demo recording of it in action with some standard aggressively produced pop feeding into it :)

It features a crossover around 120Hz, below that the signal is passed through lowpass filtered and amplified with some tanh type soft clipping. Above 120Hz all of the signal is fed through a graindelay I made which has a long buffer like 20 seconds and randomly plays grains from that buffer in a stereo spread. The output of this graindelay is also fed through a platereverb which feeds back into the graindelay. The output of that delay / reverb is then sweep bandpassed with randomised frequency centers. The scene uses many of the RjLib Pure data abstractions :

Next time I’m at the gym I’m going to test it out. Wish me luck!

Hell and Beck [Disquiet Junto Project 0035: Reading Beck]

This track is a short experimental track for the Disquiet Junto project.

It is an interpretation of a sample of the sheet music from the Beck collection Song Reader. This is what the sheet music looks like :

I took the image and inverted it. Aside from that I did no other image processing.

I then used Photosounder and Nicolas Fournel’s Audiopaint to turn the image into sound.

Both these applications create sound from pictures by scanning them from left to right. I set the timeframe to be 4 minutes, so it takes 4 minutes to scan across the image.

I bounced out audio from those and then processed / mixed them in Cubase using Znoise, Aphex aural exciter, iZotope ozone and alloy and PSP Pianoverb.

I then exported and processed those submixes in Paulstretch with 6 different settings not stretched at all, but octaved a lot.

This then came back into Cubase where I did lots of compression and EQ ( cubase native plugs mainly ) mix automation and added a little more PSP Pianoverb. I also used Michael Norris’ Soundmagic Spectral Averaging AU through DDMF Metaplugin for one aspect of the ‘choir’.

It was mastered using Ozone in Twistedwave.

More on Beck’s Song Reader here:

More on this 35th Disquiet Junto project at:

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

Sonic London

Had a great day exploring with @kocicenka and our friend Anna from Spain the other day. We went to see @martynware ‘s new thing on the Millennium bridge called Tales from the Bridge. It’s an immersive sound installation that spans the entire bridge and involves 3d positional audio. Martyn has developed his own positional system over a number of years at Illustrious. He gave me a great demo of their system once but this was the first time I had heard one of his pieces at location.

This video really doesn’t do it justice AT ALL so you need to go experience it while its there!

The piece is very contemplative and serene, but also educational in an interesting way. It really made me listen more to the other sounds of the bridge – the water being displaced by the boats passing below, the seagulls, the wind, the people.. It was actually brilliantly mixed to blend all of this into the soundscape and become part of the art. It really transformed my perception of London at that moment.

It makes me want to have more location specific sound in our built environment – something I was always interested in during my days in the world of Architecture. Making music specific to a place / situation is just fascinating. We do a lot of this at RjDj too.

On the other side of the bridge – the sonic transformation of the city continued. This guy was properly freaking out on his synths. It was great it made the South Bank feel very futuristic and slightly on edge. Very fluid.

We then wandered into the Tate Modern and encountered this :

It was pretty wild. I initially assumed that it was a participation piece involving members of the public and was amazed how the artist had them so involved. It turns out they are paid to be part of the artwork and given very specific instructions, including talking directly to the observers and breaking down in tears. More here :

To be honest I wanted it to be entirely made of the public. That would have been awesome. I considered intervening / disrupting it and becoming part of the artwork myself but chickened out..

In the new TANKS area at the Tate there was a que for a piece by Tania Bruguera. I joined it.

It seemed to be going slowly, in fact it was not moving at all. But something else was at play here. I saw someone in black taking seemingly random people into the room from the que. A ‘Selector’ came up and told me that I could go in if I did something for her in return. I said I didn’t have an idea of what to offer her, but that I thought that this que itself was the piece of art and that I would actually never get in unless I participated in some way. I asked her if that was true and she said no. But then she let me in anyway. I said that its a shame because that would have been awesome. The piece of art in the room had very little impact on me, but the que had a lot. I think it would have been better if when selected they just took you to a side exit and left you outside in the world.

Precipitation String – [disquiet 0017 transition]

This was created as part of the Disquiet Junto series of short projects. It is experimental and unfinished.

I wanted to try something different this week, but also try some scripting in a language I haven’t used for many years: LSL – the scripting language used in Linden Lab’s Second Life.

The Disquiet Junto brief was to take a field recording and a piece of music ( see below ) and transition between them seamlessly. I failed pretty spectacularly here, but I was actually more interested in creating an interesting way of creating interaction between the two during the transition.

The first 20 secs are of a field recording made by @kocicenka of some rain on a huge flat roof in Hackney, London.

The middle section ( with the visuals ) is entirely recorded from the output of Second Life. I scripted a series of objects in there to play when a falling droplet object hits them. The droplet is randomly dropped from various positions above the ‘cloud’. When they are hit they play either rain sounds, or music sounds. Both the sounds were fragmented up into small chunks a few seconds long. Each time they are hit, they glow and resize themselves programmatically. Sometimes the droplets bounce in different ways due to the Havok engine used – giving it a potential for random generation. In Second Life, the placement of sounds also involves a 3d spacial simulation in FMOD. I filmed this video using Screenflow so that the camera movements ( and random scripts ) would effectively create the mix.

Finally it fades into the last few seconds of the track by Lee Rosevere ( detailed below ).

This track includes a segment of “The Day Love Came In The Mail” by Lee Rosevere off the album Play 3 on the WM Recordings netlabel, thanks to Creative Commons license. More information at:

More details on the Disquiet Junto at: