DMS8012: Performing my _hackedKeyboard$^/colourNEON;


So last Saturday I performed on the hacked keyboard that I made for the Live Electronic Performance module, at one of the Newcastle Late Shows’ events here in the Culture Lab ballroom. I’m pretty happy with my performance- I found my instrument to be dynamic enough to improvise with and produce a captivating sound. Though, there are several things I would change if given the opportunity again.

First off, I spent a good deal of time painting my device and making it look all nice, and then when it came to performing, I was plonked high up on a stage where it was above any of the audience’s view. A solution to this problem would be to perform in a more inclusive space, perhaps down lower on the ground with the audience all around me. I might also solve this issue by performing with a camera projecting a bird’s eye view of my set up behind me. Linking on to this tangent- if I were to use projections I might also be able to make it so that pressing keys on my device not only played a sound, but also manipulated the display (like in patatap) as an additional visual stimulus.

Also ‘like patatap,’ I do think it’d be better to have a second bank of sounds as opposed to only one as it is mapped now. I felt my performance was a little short, and this may have been because I was overly concerned at my limited resources getting stale. I think this could be overcame by creating a second mapping of the capital letters, and re-attaching the ‘CAPS LOCK’ key as a sort of toggle between the two banks. There would even be a light to indicate which mode the keyboard is in if I were to pursue this.

There is a lot of un-used space on my device in the void created by all the unnecessary keys I removed. I could potentially envisage these spaces being filled up with touch sliders controlling master parameters such as pitch, volume and effects. Again, this would give my device more range and playability. I had some real issues getting Arduino boards to work with my operating system during the course of this project, though connecting these sensors to Pure Data as sensors via Arduino would be one means of accomplishing this.

I get the feeling that I’m only just dipping my toes into this world, but with that said I am confident in my understanding of it. I believe that even with my meagre abilities I could find my way to realising an idea. There is an open-source culture of sharing one’s experiments in this realm, and as such, it is conducive to working beyond your means- which is always a desirable space for an artist.


Reflections on HSS8121


I must confess there were several occasions which I forgot that this module even existed given how infrequently we met for it, though in reflection it’s completely changed my perspective. Previously I have always resented having to participate in research a little here at university. Before I ever made my choice to come to Newcastle I always said: “if I ever go to university it will be to study music.” I think at the time, I didn’t really understand how ‘research’ might have fitted into that picture- and my attitude has probably reflected that ever since, until I began to see it under a new light.

There’s something about the dry academicness of the term that is a real turn off for me. Though it has implications of trawling through mountains of literature and drawing complicated histograms, neither of which interest me particularly- “research” is just a word describing the process of ‘finding out things you don’t already know,’ and I love doing that. I suppose that realisation defines my outtake from this module really.

One of the aims of this module was to encourage us to find our own ways in which research relates to our practice. For me I think it’s about inspiration. Doing ethnography exercises around town allowed me to observe the usually unseen; highlighting some potentially interesting artistic directions. Sampling sounds broadcast from Jupiter with Serena Korda made me realise the scale of all the un-tapped resources yet to be explored. These were both examples of research, and contrary to my prior opinions, it was exciting.

Thanks to this course, I am now less inclined to think of myself as a musician, than an ‘artist.’ I’d posit that’s probably due to the prevalent attitude towards ‘research through design’ here in Culture Lab. It’s strange how doing something that at first appears unrelated can show you something new about your own stuff. I’ve already began planning how I might incorporate this thinking into my work: me and Garry are thinking holistically about this entire album that we’re wanting to make this Summer (for the first time ever really). I had the idea of doing a spin on one of those chart things that artists do in the studio where they tick off when the guitar is recorded, and then vocals, and so on… except for our one, we could have more abstract criteria like ‘atmosphere’ or ‘edginess’ to push us to think more laterally about the project; perhaps leading to provoking results.

Speaking of lateral thinking, one of the more notable occurrences for me during this module was discovering the Yossarian ‘creative‘ search engine. I’ve already used it to come with ideas for my Research Proposal, and that commissioned opportunity at Seven Stories. I also found the talk about meeting with potential investors interesting that week, though unfortunately I felt that much of the entrepreneurial material offered to us on this module didn’t really pertain to my idea of what I’m going to be up to when this is all said and done. I appreciate it must be hard to cater to everyone’s position though, and the tailored advice we’ve been receiving from Generator these last few months has left me feeling anything but lacklustre.






an Update on Real Sesh ////// Hypnotise


It’s an exciting time here at Real Sesh. We had our first ever *official* group release this week, with a single and B-side courtesy of me and Garry. You can see the video we did for Hypnotise celebrating the release above. Both the track and the video have been in existence for probably well over 6 months now; we’ve been sitting on them, tweaking them meticulously and waiting for the opportune moment.

In hindsight at the tail end of this project, we’ve realised that our workflow needs to speed up pretty radically- in the sense that the period between absolute start and end was way too long this time. Not least because it isn’t conducive with producing a lot of work, but mainly because the energy we had during the conception of the work was greatly diminished by the time it actually came to share it with the world. Anyway, it was a good experience to really see how music finds it’s way onto the online stores. It also feels pretty cool to know that our music is finally up for sale and technically earning money via streaming on Spotify.

There’s been a proper surge of motivation in all of us in regards to the Sesh recently. We’ve been taking our radio show a bit more seriously, and generally trying to make a bit of a digital impact. A lot of this has been spurred on by a meeting we had with Andrew Archer at Loft Music, who is a supervisor that we were put in touch with via Generator (an awesome company that helps out establishing creative businesses here in the North East). He recommended that we started building ourselves a rudimentary website as a means of better organising all our content, and also potentially creating some ad revenue through traffic in the future.

It was a good observation of his- it’s easy to forget how hard it is to find your own stuff when you know where it all is yourself..   and so on that note, here is some stuff we’ve been doing.



Joint release by Alexei & Garry this month


Ben & Garry’s film on Gentrification in Newcastle


A load of our radio shows


Some visual art


Social Media    [our channel]    [collaborative page where we share group releases]

We’ve made a start on a wordpress:

tfw brainstorming

tfw Brainstorming

A couple of weeks back in term time, we were all in the seminar room brainstorming about what we might do for the Seven Stories commission opportunity- Seven Stories being the ‘National Centre for Children’s Literacy’, and the opportunity being Newcastle’s Late Shows; a night when a range of the artistic venues around the town open their doors to the public late at night for a special programme.

We were shamelessly asked to blog about this experience, as we’re obviously not pulling our weight! But as such, here I am..

I suppose the more menial aspects of my experience is where I will start- I quite enjoyed the act of brainstorming how we did in that group. It was a fun creative space to participate in, and the lack of real constraint was liberating in much the same sense that I have found the ethos of MUS8161: Free Music Practice. I found it interesting to observe how my own ideas were bounced around by others, and how this led to inspiration I never could have achieved purely by myself. This reminded me of a really useful video I stumbled across the other night aimed at aspiring artists- in particular I’m referring to point #6, about how excellent work can be constructed by consistently seeking external opinion and integrating it in the process.

The process also got me thinking about something we were talking about a while back in relation to reflecting on the features of one’s own practice. the act of brainstorming made me consider my own role in group, and thus what I might have to offer to the dialogue. In order to do this I really had to be objective about my previous interests and abilities; which of course is a massively important exercise when trying to develop one’s own original aesthetic.

I also daydreamed a bit.. {pic related}

MUS8161: Thank You, Free Music Practice

Morning Smoke

I cannot express how much I’m enjoying getting stuck into the Free Music Practice module. We’re building on some of the ideas I was toying with in HSS8120- like my ‘considered un-consideration’ theory. I’ve found the sessions and seminars really very inspiring, and in the process of completing my portfolio submission I think I’m creating some interesting work [pictures, writing and music].

It comes as a ‘discovery‘ for me; I haven’t grown up surrounded by these ideals of art, I have had my own experience with it’s own implications- and as such, the act of creating with the specific intent of ignoring perceived limitations has been a real liberation in a sense, and an eye-opener in another. It’s like disregarding the rules has made me more aware of all the things I was imposing upon myself without even realising.

Pictured above, is an essay I’m currently writing for the module. I’m approaching this in the spirit of the rest of the work; in this case, I’m writing it in smalls chunks (as much or as little as I want), when/wherever I feel like it, before censoring it over so I can’t see what I’ve just written. I’m fairly certain this will produce some sporadic results, I just hope it makes sense enough to be good- although, maybe I don’t?

In other news, below is an edit of a session with ‘Lemon Knxledge,’ an improvising band that we’ve started in perfect timing for this module. I think we’re going to do a performance at the start of next month courtesy of a gig that Ares is organising? Sunday 2nd April, upstairs in the evening at Bar Loco.

Vocals – Alexei Crawley

Synths – Ben Woolsey

Guitar – Garry Lydon

Drums – Jonah Scholfield-Lott


Solar Circuitry


Look, okay, I’m not that great at this blogging thing/ maybe.  I’m trying so be nice.

A little time ago now, we built some synthesizers using circuit breadboards and colourful little wires. Attached to our little circuits were some little solar panels; which detect little rays of light, and changed things a little bit accordingly-you could sort of alter the order of things within the circuit for differing effects as well.

We took these little devices a little but out of culture lab and annoyed the general public a little with a symphony of eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

This project got me a little hot under the collar, and all excited about circuits. It was a little bit like being back in little school, as I have very vague memories of doing Basic Circuit Stuff then.

In the little video above, you can see some stylish and aesthetic close ups of our devices. I also decided to colour the whole thing with a tinge, to reflect the melancholic feelings of all the people we irritated doing this little project.

HSS8120: Nearly

Everyday this week I have fallen asleep to a video of Bob Ross painting. I’m taking it as a sign of stress. I have an aching back which has come on suddenly after a trip to Grainger Market earlier today as well, which is helping nothing.

For some reason, I’m experiencing a lot of self-doubt in my work for this project, and I’m not alone- most of the people I’ve spoken to about it have agreed they feel the same.. What is wrong with us?

I would share some pictures of what work I’ve done so far but the Picture Upload button is broken [<missing?>] and so I have no means of doing so. My manifesto is sort of finished- considering doing a bit more of a plenary. I think the way I’ve responded is quite interesting though.

FINALLY tonight, after much deliberation, I’ve decided that my project video-thing is completely done. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the process, as I want to talk about it during my presentation on Friday, but due to my making them simultaneously, the back-and-forthing between music editor and video editor proved to be very long-winded. I’d have an idea for one component, implement it, and then realise it meant I’d have to completely re-do the music/video. I made these kind of changes several times, each more agonising than the last.

I think my presentation is going to be ‘experientially what it’s like to do a CAP project’ or something to this avail. If nothing else I think it will be a good way of tying up things in my own head as it all feels a bit disjointed right now. Sometimes I really don’t like doing art for a reason. I can’t wait to do exactly what I’m doing right now, except for no reason.

*PS I now realise I haven’t been able to upload images because I was trying to post to the course blog instead of my own..

HSS8120: So Far


I cannot wait to return to Newcastle. I have literally been counting down the hours for the last three days now (aprox. 65hrs until I’m back in my freezing subterranean domain!). Work is going okay; my manifesto is finished, complete with needless cover art [above], and my writing for the project side of things is well underway- the working title of which is ’21 Post-Truths.’

One thing I’m struggling with in regards to the project, is ‘form;’ I’ve made a piece of music to accompany my writing, and I have some images in mind for my ‘Donald Trump is Actually Neo from the Hit Blockbuster Movie Trilogy: The Matrix‘ idea. What I’m really considering now is construction. Originally I intended to mush these bits all together, but being slightly further along in the process, the devil on my shoulder keeps telling me that it simply will not work; the writing and the visuals are possibly too tenuously linked? However, in keeping with the spirit of my “yeah I’m just going to do it” attitude.. Yeah, I’m just going to do it.

I’ve decided it’s a worthwhile foray even if it’s a flop.

I don’t sleep properly here; my mum’s re-done my bedroom while I’ve been away at university, and part of that has included a new duvet for my bed, which is probably about x17 hotter than the far side of Mercury and I keep waking up in the middle of the night in a layer of cold sweat, muttering gibberish about Donald Trump and deadlines.

Earlier in the process I was thinking about reading my writing for the project live alongside the musical projection, but I’m now more inclined to record my reading and manipulate it somehow; making the finished product more of a ‘thing’ than a ‘performance.’ I ordered a Universal Audio Apollo the other afternoon, because an audio interface is definitely worth £700 AM I RIGHT? Whilst I’m being facetious of course, I’m still hurting.


Side note: I’ve realised the idea I had for my presentation DEFINITELY will not work, and I’m completely stumped on that front- will keep you posted as I’m sure this is deeply troubling news for you all.

HSS8120: Post-Truth then?

As I sat there watching Bear Grylls: The Island USA, stomach unpleasantly full of  Cadbury Wispa bars and our disgusting vinegary homebrew, I realised several moons had passed since having my first ideas and I hadn’t committed any of them to writing. Fairly typical of myself, unfortunately.

I’ve noticed a feeling within me, as many people do, that Christmas feels less ‘like Christmas‘ every year. For me, it’s been especially the case in 2016. I’m not sure if I can truly say I’ll look back with complete agony on this year; I graduated from university, attended my close friend Callum’s wedding as best man, made some successful things and all the trimmings. Although, everyone in the media is telling me it’s been the worst year of my life, so I suppose it has.


So, “post-truth” then? Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year; defined as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” If that seems somewhat familiar, it’s because post-truth politics have been featured centre-stage this year for two of the most controversial voting incidents in recent history; the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.


In an article for the economist, the writer states, “consider how far Donald Trump is estranged from fact. He inhabits a fantastical realm where Barack Obama’s birth certificate was faked, the president founded Islamic State (IS), the Clintons are killers and the father of a rival was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot John F. Kennedy… His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels is reportedly quoted as saying “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” which seems particularly pertinent here.


I was watching a video of Kanye West talking at the Oxford Guild the other day, and I got to thinking when he went off on this tangent about The Matrix trilogy: “The Matrix is like the Bible of the post-information age; when the hunter guys come for Neo, those are opinions- that’s perception, that’s tradition. Attacking you from every which angle possible. But when there is a focused lie, and you have a master sensei like Laurence Fishbourne, and you have a squad behind you, you literally can put the world in slow motion.” Is Donald Trump the chosen one? Has he come to restore balance to The Matrix? I’m not sure but I feel like that’s an incredibly silly idea to explore artistically so that’s what I’m going to do.

What I’m thinking about for the ‘project‘ aspect of our assignment, is a piece of post-truth performance poetry accompanied by some sort of musical projection. As I was sitting on the sweaty, long train-ride home to Essex I also had an idea for my ‘presentation,’ but that’s not quite ready to reveal yet..



[] Wikipedia: Post-Truth Politics

[] The Economist: Art of the Lie

[] Kanye West at the Oxford Guild

Documenting ‘something beautiful’

Donald Trump had just been elected president. I explain that in the hysteria of it all I have managed to leave my work at home, and so the impact of my piece may be somewhat diminished. I had planned to surprise Sarah with a URL-containing post-it note, where I had assumed she was expecting a piece of jewellery or such, inside the box she had supplied me to return my project in; currently sitting on my bedside table.

After my confession, I go to the URL- conveniently left open in a tab in my laptop browser, and play the video I had made several nights before, of myself holding the necklace I had constructed up in front of my damp basement projector screen, as though it was swaying on a breeze in some mystical light. That night I sat there underground after filming, and edited the colour saturation of the video and combined it together with some strange synthesizer music I had made for another project. As its’ premiere played out, Sarah watched on gleefully, and I felt a sense of resolution to my now redundant personal concerns, that my project might in fact be stupid and perhaps terrible.

Four weeks prior to this, our group of three- Sarah, Mike and myself, met to discuss a shared exploration into the idea of an ‘instruction’. Instructions are predictably linear, and often must be followed rigidly; which can be useful, yet if subverted could in theory be more interesting or generative, in an artistic sense. We met one week later with tasks for each other contorted around this idea. Sarah handed Mike and I each a small box, sealed with string, attached to which was found a postcard stating: “make me something beautiful, return it to me in this box.”

Upon fervidly unravelling the box at home on the narrow space free from festering clutter at the end of my kitchen worktop, I found a bag filled with tiny buttons, links, chains, and the likes. At first, I was a little perplexed as I didn’t have the feintest clue what I was going to with these materials, but true to my creative ethos- “less thinking, more doing,” I simply just started. Picking up piece by piece, weaving and twisting them together in a truly atrocious manner that would surely make any actual craftsman cringe, it became obvious pretty quickly that I was making a necklace. I fashioned a centrepiece with a pin and an old cigarette card displaying a nice little flower, and sort of just, worked out from there.

When I decided it was finished, I also decided I wouldn’t dream of wearing it, nor of course, would anyone in their right mind; so my ‘necklace’ found itself as a pendant hanging from my cupboard handle for quite some while. At this point I figured I could play with the instructions on Sarah’s postcard a little further- what if I were to return to her not this shoddy necklace, but a wondrous video, so edited and distorted that you can hardly make the thing out? I think it would’ve been cool if I didn’t have to go and ruin the surprise by forgetting it. Now Sarah has unfortunately left the course, and Donald Trump is still going to be president.