MyFirstPhysicalRelease™

My first physical release is on its way! It’s a cassette made from a session recorded straight to tape at Rum Records in Ipswich on 23 July 2019. ‘LDOLS’ [pronounced ‘el-dolls’] is due to drop in late September, and is dedicated to my eldest daughter as it was recorded on her … last day of little school 🌼

Cover art is the “L” glyph from the Xenoling series by Dave Stitch.

We 💖 OutLoud Music: reflections on 2019’s “iHack” workshops

Sonitus ran a series of workshops during May/June 2019 for Outloud Music, a brilliant organisation in Ipswich that brings music tech education to people with mental health difficulties and other access needs. Considering our remit to engage hard-to-reach groups in sonic arts, it was a perfect match 🙂

We ran 12 ‘iHack’ sessions over 6 weeks with a different theme each week, all inspired by reading Nicholas Collins’ ‘Handmade Electronic Music’. Our aim was to use our skillset to reach beyond the usual boundaries of music tech and encourage participants to get creative with non-standard methods and tools for music-making – for example by ‘mis-using’ various bits of hardware, building our own instruments, and trying to get things that weren’t designed for music-making at all to try and … ummm … make some decent noise!

All of our sessions ultimately invite participants to sit back, close their eyes, listen to the world around them, and ask themselves the question: “… what even IS music, anyway?”

Circuit-bending toy keyboards.

So, what did we get up to?

Week 1: Using electric current to ‘twitch’ the piezoelectric crystals in speaker cones so the cones themselves make the noise. No audio signal necessary!

Week 2: Circuit bending toy piano keyboards to create unexpected results.

Week 3: Revealing hidden sounds using contact microphones.

Week 4: Data in sound: ‘listening’ to credit cards with a tapehead, playing graphic scores using the Phonopaper app, and creating spectagrams in Audition so we could see and hear our hidden handiwork.

Week 5: ‘Sliiiiiinky and Bass Drill’: sonic experimentation using a metal slinky to create a spring reverb and making sub-bass by repurposing an HDD hard drive from an old PC.

Week 6: FM Synthesis: the group customised their own battery-powered, portable FM synths by adding controls and cases, ready to take home!

Recording some twitching loudspeakers in action.

Is there an album in the pipeline?

Part of our practice is to record a selection of noises from each session with the aim of eventually creating a cohesive record that brings it all together. We have a large folder of recorded snippets with which to create a piece of music, perhaps even a selection of pieces that become an EP? Watch this space for that magic moment when time is available and inspiration strikes.

Above: During our final session together, we listened back as a group to the recordings. Members of the group then quick-fired some brilliant ideas for song titles, release titles and band names based on the sounds we heard. Lou was on hand to take a note!
Customising our own FM synths. This one is light-reactive so is housed in a clear-fronted box.

Opportunities and learnings

There’s a brilliant opportunity to create more synth-building activities that use light-reactive and gestural elements to help engage more people who have limited motor skills.

Thanks to CLIP for the lend of their fantastic shocking-pink keyboards for the cirucit bending session. It was really nice to pool existing resources and work collectively rather than having to invest in buying more plastic. Re-use, reduce, recycle!

I supported The m0therfºcking Orb (like, pinch me wtff!?)

I can almost *taste* the transparent TDK90 cassette with ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ recorded onto it, I loved it that much 😂. I can clearly conjure the memory of my cousin’s bold handwriting on the sticker across the body of the tape – green sharpie, all caps: THE ORB.  I don’t remember if I stole it from her or if she gave it to me, but I suspect the former as it would take me years to find out what this album was actually called 😉 Those two words were all I had to go on. As a 12year-old kid who’d had a pretty turbulent childhood, this tape was my first safe space – mentally, spiritually and musically – a complete palette of sounds to soothe, to feel uplifted by and get lost inside. Years before I started going to free parties or being part of any scene, the die was cast: I was going to be a raver, lose myself in the sub, still be dancing at dawn when the sun rises and everything is touched by the purity and brilliance of a new day, still be awake at dusk to gaze into the horizon and answer the question, “What were the skies like when you were young?” As it happened, jungle was just around the corner and the crunchy down-tempo Amens I first encountered on Little Fluffy Clouds would soon skitter all the way up to 160bpm, taking me with them for the following decade, but I didn’t know that then and I certainly didn’t need that then: I needed to centre and CHILL >>>> and The Orb made that space for me.

Fast forward to 2019, and I was a bit blown away to find myself supporting founder member, Alex Paterson, on a warm evening in early July on my home turf in East Anglia, at Colchester Arts Centre, almost exactly 1 year since I’ve put myself ‘out there’ as a solo artist.

For this gig I wanted to take Paterson’s audience on a 45-minute synth journey from squealing high-jinks FM to stripped-back, bit-crushed sub, layered with sympathetic strings and plinks courtesy of the Rings, vocals hazing in out and from the Radio Music, all held together by a backbone of 909 drums. I was determined to play this one 100% live, forgoing a ‘break glass in case of emergencies’ laptop, which is also an important milestone for me. I’ve put together two bits of phone footage to give viewers at home a flavour 😉 It was an absolute honour to play at this level – the sound system and light show was amazing. It all just came together beautifully on the night, as if it was meant to be ❤

Alex’s set banged of course! But that goes without saying, right?

Next stop #LadiesofModular / Brighton Modular Meet on 19th July, hope to see some of you on the south coast for a weekend of workshops, performances and nerd chat.

me and the big guy … (no of course i couldn’t resist asking him for a cheesy picture after the show.)

Electropixel9

A huge thank you to the #Apo33 collective for inviting me to participate in Electropixel9 on 5th July 2019 in Norwich. They’re a French sound art collective who are currently touring an amazing array of performances and sound installions around Europe, including David Tudor’s Rainforest IV which the group had re-created upstairs at St Mary’s Works in collaboration with NNSAC. I took a little tour of the installation in the dark, just the ambient street lighting sneaking through the rooflights, throwing shadows of all various objects suspended from wires on the ceiling – everything from crash barriers to kettles – the transducers whirring away to themselves like tiny washing machines! It very much felt like I was witnessing the living embodiment of the old conundrum, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Next stop for them is London – catch them at Goldsmiths on Thursday (and other places around LDN next weekend). Special shout-out to #Enerzion aka Chloe Malaise 😘 and to Oliver Payne of NNSAC for the picture below.

iHack / Ipswich / 8 May to 12 June

Hello! Sonitus – myself and Dave Stitch – are running some workshops inspired by Nicholas Collins’ Handmade Electronic Music at South Street Studios, Ipswich on Wednesdays from 8 May to 12 May 2019. There are two 2.5hr sessions per day, 10am or 1.30pm, and workshops are open to any adult with an additional need. We’ll be twitching loudspeakers, listening to the world through mics, making our own arduino FM synths, and circuit bending some toys! There are still spaces available so get in touch 🙂