Inner Sound: Altered States of Consciousness in Electronic Music and Audio-Visual Media is a book project which I started writing November 2014. The book explores how altered states of consciousness have shaped the design of electronic music and audio-visual media. Taking a broad view across a wide range of psychedelic genres, Inner Sound explores the capabilities of technology for representing and manipulating consciousness, at the frontiers of electronic music and art. The book is being published by Oxford University Press, and will reach print in 2018. Although written over two years, in many ways this book consolidates an interest in psychedelic music and audio-visual art, extending over around 15 years. It is perhaps my most significant output to date, and I will be excited to see it finally reach print.
Technoshamanic Visions From the Underworld
The original Technoshamanic Visions from the Underworld was a looping video installation of various audio-visual works I had created, first presented at the Carbon Meets Silicon exhibition in Wales, 2015. In 2016, while living in Denmark, I started creating some new paintings, and computer graphics animations coded in Processing. Although these were made initially just for my own amusement, eventually I started making audio-reactive VJ mixes with them in VDMX, to various music from drum & bass and 90s trance to psychedelic rock music and noise. This led to Technoshamanic Visions from the Underworld 2, another video installation loop set to music by psychedelic rock band Hibushibire from Osaka, Japan, whose music is used with kind permission of the band. In 2017 the video installation will be presented at Carbon Meets Silicon 2, and Breaking Convention.
“Humanity"? The world in 2325 is a very different space, and this Archive is all that remains of the past. Created by Fathomable Ltd., Gnosis is a Virtual Reality (VR) artefact combining interactive puzzle gameplay, scientific visualisation and an immersive A/V performance. The player explores a synaesthetic, generative environment while engaging with a large network of knowledge mined from ConceptNet. I have made a few small contributions to this project in the form of audio-sculptures and consultancy on synaesthesia. The audio-scultures are essentially oscilloscopes signals, which are generated by translating sound into image and vice-versa, to form geometric shapes accompanied by tones. These form part of a stunning immersive cyberpunk world that Gnosis creates through its art style, innovative narrative, and gameplay.
A fixed-media composition of electroacoustic music, which premiered at Beast Feast 2017 festival at the University of Birmingham, on their amazing multi-channel sound system. Here is the programme note: "In the nexus of psychedelia, speedcore techno and electroacoustic music, Space Temple is a metallic temple of bass and geometry cast in the outer reaches of space. At once futuristic and ancient, the temple emerges in planetary alignment within the local system at the correct time, acting as both a repository for occult data and a site of transcendental technoshamanism. The Space Temple was constructed using analogue synthesis drum machines, concatenative synthesis techniques, and processed materials gathered from Tibetan Buddhist chants.."
Teknoshaman Flood City is a collaborative music project with Sol Nte (Pharaoh Sol). Musically the work absorbs influences from dub, late 90s drum & bass, grime, footwork and free-jazz to create a cyberpunk space-jazz sound that describes the dark, humid silicon cityscapes of a neon future. The record is available on hand-painted dubplates and as a digital download (iTunes, Spotify etc.). Flood City first premiered at Leeds College of Music's International Festival of Artistic Innovation in March 2015.
Cenote Animations is a series of visual music compositions, inspired by the cenotes (natural sinkholes) of Mexico. Utilising direct animation techniques on 8mm film in combination with motion graphics created in Processing, and stop-motion animation, the pieces Cenote Zaci and Cenote Sagrado create a technoshamanic audio-visual experience. The first performance of these works took place at Leeds College of Music's International Festival of Artistic Innovation in 2015. Click to view Cenote Zaci and Cenote Sagrado on vimeo.
Affective Computing for Intelligent Musical Playlists
This ongoing project by PhD student Darryl Griffiths (supervised by Stuart Cunningham and myself) examines how music playlists can be automatically generated to suit the user's context. Portable music players have evolved hugely in the last 10 years and listeners are now able to carry huge music libraries in their pocket. These devices have become increasingly pervasive and are used in all sorts of situations, such as: exercising, driving or relaxing. In this project, we are examining how sensors can be used to provide information to the music player about the environment the listener is in, what they are doing, and what their mood or emotional state is, with the aim of automatically picking music that best suits their current needs. For more information please see our Leonardo Music Journal article.
In 2014 I curated a collection of visual music and related work: Optical Research. The collection includes 12 pieces by an international group of artists: Ryo Ikeshiro, Josh Simmons, Ocusonic, Benjamin Rowley, Maxime Corbeil-Perron, Diego Garro, Mark Pilkington, Richard Scott, Scott Kiernan, Victoria Keddie, Diego Capoccitti, VJ Chaotic and Vibrasphere, and myself. The work includes audio-visualisations of data, glitch and trips through 3D fractal universes, to hacked analogue video equipment and pieces produced using paint and 8mm film. With a distinctly dark, digital, cybernetic and psychedelic edge. Optical Research is a feast for the eyes and ears, presented in 2015 as an installation at the Axis Arts Centre (Crewe) and is available to purchase on DVD. View the trailer.
Entoptic Phenomena in Audio
The culmination of my work composing psychedelic electroacoustic music, Entoptic Phenomena in Audio is a 12" vinyl record released on the Hardcore Jewellery label in 2014. The vinyl includes four pieces: Night Breed, Surfer Stem, Swamp Process and Entoptic Phenomena. Absorbing a variety of influences including: bass music, free jazz, flashcore, music concrete and the writings of Timothy Leary, the end result is ultimately psychedelic, organic, experimental ambient bass music. The pieces were composed from 2007-2009 and widely performed on the international electroacoustic circuit at events such as the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC). The record is available to purchase here and from all good record stores.
ACERemix is a project that came out of Stuart Cunningham and the Affective Audio team's earlier work in Similarity-Based Audio Compression, following observations that the compression system would produce glitch type music when the settings were wrong or errors occurred in the similarity processing of musical audio. The result is a method of taking an existing piece of music and producing quantised, beat-multiple sample 'grains' that can be rearranged in various ways to produce glitch music remixes. ACERemix resulted in a MAX/MSP patch being developed that allows ACERemix versions of music to be manipulated, effects processing applied, and switched between in real-time, and so can be used as a performance tool. Find the Audio Mostly 2014 paper on the ACM digital library.
Sound Design of Auditory Hallucinations
Auditory Hallucinations are the sounds people hear during experiences of hallucination, which have no acoustic origin in the external environment. This project investigates these types of sound by examining a large online database of experience reports, in order to form a classification system which is then used as a basis for designing these types of sounds in computer music. A collaboration with Stuart Cunningham and Darryl Griffiths, this research forms part of our ongoing work in devising ways through which altered states of consciousness (ASC) can be represented using sound and game technologies. Find the Audio Mostly 2014 paper on the ACM digital library.. Related follow up work provides a Unity prototype, and advance theories for sound design based on subjective perception, looking at first person representations and virtual reality.
Audio Easter Eggs
This project investigates the use of hidden tracks and messages in a variety of music mediums ranging from vinyl LPs to CD, digital files and video games. Providing a contextual review of audio 'easter eggs', the project explores their meaning, purpose and considers possible techniques for incorporating them in modern digital technologies. The project includes a small Max/MSP prototype 'Egg Raid' (produced in collaboration with Darryl Griffiths), which appears to be a regular keyboard/piano at first glance, but turns out to hide a variety of audio easter eggs. Read the ICMC 2014 paper here.
Psych Dome is an interactive visual music installation project. Psych Dome synthesises geometric visual patterns similar to those seen in experiences of hallucination, and provides an accompanying soundtrack. These are linked to the user's brain activity through use of a consumer-grade EEG headset, which provides control signals that affect various parameters of the graphics and sound in real-time. The first presentation of Psych Dome was in an immersive dome environment (full-dome) at Glyndwr University in 2013, which was also used as a basis for a human-computer interaction research study. Technically the software works using Processing and Max/MSP software. Read the EVA London paper, view the video, or download the (beta) software.
Quake Delirium is a modification/hack for the first-person shooter game Quake, which alters the game in order to simulate altered states of consciousness (ASC). The modification works by manipulating game properties such as graphical parameters and sound, which are usually static. By causing these properties to change in time and adding a supporting soundtrack, the project aims to provide a prototype simulation of a hallucinatory experience. In a recent update to Quake Delirium, we also carried out some initial testing with an EEG headset as a control device for the ASC effects. The project forms part of ongoing research regarding 'ASC Simulations'. Click to view the original video, Quake Delirium EEG video, to read the article, or to download the software.
Mezcal Animations is a fixed-media piece of 'visual music' (a form of audio-visual art). From 2013-2015 this composition was performed internationally at such events as: Last Friday Listening Room (University of California San Diego), Seeing Sound (Bath Spa University), Sweet Thunder Festival (San Francisco), the International Computer Music Conference (Athens) and others. An associated article was featured in a special edition of the Canadian journal eContact!, which looks at video music as an emerging art form. The article discusses the creation of the piece from both artistic and technological perspectives, using a combination of 8mm film and modern digital technologies. Click here to read the article, click here to view the video on Vimeo.
Second Screen Comes To The Silver Screen
'Second screening' is the modern practice of using an additional display to enhance or control a primary display (such as using a mobile phone to view related information while also watching TV). 'Second Screen Comes to the Silver Screen' was a TSB-funded feasibility study carried out at Glyndwr University in 2013, in collaboration with Stuart Cunningham. Using an online survey and case studies regarding two cinemas, this project explored ways in which mobile devices could enhance the experience of cinema-goers. While synchronous mobile content could provide interesting new possibilities for films, the study suggested that in the cinema context audiences would prefer asynchronous services to enrich their experience.
After completing Will Goldstone's excellent tutorial book on the Unity game engine, I had my first Unity demo completed, which you can play online by clicking here, After this in 2012 I went on to program my own side-scrolling shooter demo: Psychedelic Submarines. All the sound and graphical assets are original and produced by myself in Maya and Unity. Click here to play this game demo. Any references to pop groups from Liverpool are purely co-incidental.
Astraware Sound Design
Working with the mobile video games company Astraware Limited, in 2012 I produced sound effects and music for Astraware Word Games; a puzzle game released on various mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and Nook Color. I worked with the team on an ad-hoc basis producing sounds as required for various other mobile titles, ultimately resulting a small sound effects library which is being used by Astraware on an on-going basis for various published titles. Click here to view a video.
The aim of my PhD was titled: 'Altered states of consciousness (ASCs) as an adaptive principle for composing electroacoustic music'. The focus of the project was on composing electroacoustic music, where the design of sonic materials and structure are based on experiences of hallucination. While situated within the electroacoustic idiom, the project draws significantly on Western psychedelic culture and electronic dance music. The outputs consisted of a creative portfolio of compositions and a written commentary (the thesis): click here to read it. I was awarded my PhD in 2012 from Keele University, with professor Rajmil Fischman as supervisor.
Tiny Jungle was an audio-visual composition based around my altered states of consciousness research, incorporating a mixture of 3D graphics, hand-drawn artwork and other digital processes in order to construct a psychedelic narrative. The soundtrack explores an organic approach to breakbeats, and incorporates bass music influences. To make this piece I created an original Max/MSP/Jitter patch: the Atomizer Visual, which allows stroboscopic visual materials to be generated in real-time. The piece was performed at Noisefloor Festival in 2011. Click to read about the project; to download the Atomizer Visual software (Max/MSP); or to view Tiny Jungle on Vimeo.
Atomizer Live Patch
The Atomizer Live Patch is a real-time Max/MSP patch for live performance or generation of material. Designed for use with the Bitstream 3X MIDI controller, the patch provides several sound generating modules using various forms of sampling and granular synthesis. The patch enables surround sound spatialisation in 5.1 audio. Aesthetically the patch was based around my research regarding altered states of consciousness, and incorporates flashcore influences. Click here to read about the project, or click here to download the software (mac). In 2010 I used this patch for a laptop performance at the ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn, NYC. It was also used for Atomizer: a 60 second piece included in Robert Voisey's 60x60 project (video here).
Mutations is a piece of software which I programmed for composer Robert Ratcliffe, which was designed for Roberts's musical composition Mutations for piano and electronics.. Designed for use with a Korg NanoKontrol, the software allows the triggering and looping of various samples of piano material, which can also be processed using various digital effects. In 2010 the composition was performed by Zubin Kanga at New Interfaces for Musical Expression in Sydney, Australia. For more information, please see our article in eContact. For performance info please contact Robert Ratcliffe.
Bass Drum, Saxophone & Laptop
Bass Drum, Saxophone & Laptop was a collaborative improvisational performance with Sol Nte (saxophone), exploring real-time psychedelic performance with live instruments and electronics. To facilitate this I wrote a live performance patch in Max/MSP which provides real-time effects processing and sample triggering using automation paths which are either generative or derived from the amplitudes of the performers. Click to read about the project in eContact, to view a demo video of the patch in action or to download the software (windows). In 2010 we performed with the patch at Keele University. In a recent extension of this improvisational project, our group Repo-Jazz supported Peter Brötzmann & Steve Noble at Fort Process in 2014.
The Turtle was an underground dance music project. There were several netlabel releases. The first EP as Turtle Acid for the Analogue Mind Control netlabel explored acid 303 styles in 2007. Later that year, Hyper Riot on the TestTube netlabel based in Portugal, had breakcore sounds, electroacoustic ambiences and electro. In 2010, the Torpedo EP took a lofi approach with elements of jungle, dubstep, breakcore, chiptune and happy hardcore. The music was mainly made using Renoise, which for me is one of the most fun tools for making music! I also used ymVST a lot, which simulates the Yamaha soundchip from the Atari ST - the main computer I grew with, which sparked my interest in creating digital art and music with computers. There were lots of other unreleased/unfinished Turtle materials too, like these footwork pieces and this Waterworld acid-house remix!
From 2000-2010 I was active as a DJ performing eclectic avant guard electronic dance music sets including such styles as: jungle, breakcore, speedcore, acid techno, dubstep and grime, alongside noise, free-jazz, drones, shoegaze and 60s psychedelia. I performed at various sound system events, woods parties and student nights in and around Keele University. At the peak of my activity in this area, in 2007 I DJ'd at the Sonic Arts Network Expo Plymouth in support of Sileni and Superconductor. Click here to listen to some of my mixes on Mixcloud.