Tag Archives: music

My First Algorave


On Saturday night I went to ‘Algorave Birmingham’, curated¬† by Antonio Roberts at Vivid Projects. I said I might write ‘a review’ but I’m not going to, because I wouldn’t know how. This is ‘a reaction’ – a digital feedback loop, an emission from the event horizon (should have worn my ‘Big Bang’ T-Shirt – the noughties Brum band, not the nerd show.)

My background is information technology. My current work is writing. I use the word ‘work’ in the artistic sense: something I spend my time on but may never get paid for. Themes recur. Are science and art actually different things? Is maths real or a model? Is software any different to magic, existing only outside the physical realm and communicating via intermediary objects?

Q: How much can you strip away from music and it still exist as an idea: melody, scales, pitch?

I came to Algorave via my functional programming experiments. I’m trying to learn Clojure, a member of the Lisp family of languages but with added time-travel. It messes with whether time is a wave or a set of discrete steps that can be retraced. Not real time, obviously but the model of time our software deals with. Time travel outside of the magical realm would be crazy-talk.

Dance music is often first. Drum machines. I got really frustrated the first time I saw how hard it was to programme beats. Where was the programmatic interface? Sampling, pitch-shifting, the ‘sound’ being manipulated by code. Digits being manipulated by digits, like the higher order functions of functional programming. I wondered a few weeks ago if processors had got fast enough to generate live noises. They have. A Raspberry Pi has http://sonic-pI noti.net/http://sonic-pi.net/. From there I discovered Clojure has, via ‘Overtone’ on ‘SuperCollider’ http://sam.aaron.name/, which resonates with my theory of a super-massive idea colider to mash-up memes.

Algorave Birmingham presented live coders generating sound and visuals. At times I felt that the graphics were pulsing to the beats but I don’t know if that really happened. I saw two pixelated women on the screen typing on ‘real’ laptops and a live drummer on digital drums. Virtuality virtuosos. I had a chat about how to make a hit record and forgot the name of the Kaiser Chiefs but remembered Black Wire who were the first band with a drum machine that I actually liked, because it didn’t sound mechanical, then The Kills who insisted everything was analogue, but now I’m looping.

A: I enjoyed the pulsing white noise. Software can do things that aren’t possible in Reality.

It’s all about The Community

Was it Margaret Thatcher who said “There’s no such thing as community”? No, of course it wasn’t. Neither was it the members of Birmingham’s (the Midlands, really) Lunar SOCIETY, who were fans of collaborating on big ideas, by the light of the silvery moon.

Birmingham was never a notable centre of organised labour or industrial unrest either, because of it’s lack of large industrial concerns being mean to people. It was more a cluster of craft workshops and small businesses, working co-operatively as though they were bigger; resulting in probably the only city centre made up of an ever-increasing number of Quarters, in addition to all its sides.

In about 2000, I started to burrow into Brum’s underground music and creative scenes,¬† both largely hidden, like some conceptual artisic ice-berg of a thing, and I was always impressed by the support given to others who appeared to be direct competitors. What these people intuitively knew, was that they were not fighting each other, but the apathy of their collective audience. Promoting together they had a broader product offering and were stronger.

A couple of years ago, as I became increasingly dissatisfied with my old corporate job,¬† I realised that the same might be true of The Tech Scene and I should start digging again. I’ve taken a few punts at The Silicon Canal meetings and last week I heard about and joined talk.planet.io, Brum DIGITAL tech start-up’s virtual talking-shop and this blog was subsequently invited aboard their Planet.

So, see all Brum tech scene blogs at: http://planet.birmingham.io/

We have Data, Information and Knowledge Quarters to build (I wonder if anyone invited ‘The Gadget Show’?)

Flogging a Dead Duck

As an addendum to my most recent post, I think it was @unfortunatalie’s tweet about dreaming of a dead duck that made me try to find ‘The Mallard’ by Harvey Andrews. Then I remembered hearing that he was once on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ then YouTube told me I really should see a video that showed the question atheists can’t answer about evolution.
Well, “can’t” if you don’t allow them to use any evidence from the fossil record but are perfectly happy to believe books that are at least a thousand years old.
“Go on, show us one kind of animal turning into another kind of animal right now! You can’t can you?” they said.

I’ll answer that:

All of them. Right now. Genetic mutation and selection. Watch it under a microscope. Then by beng the freaks that don’t die. In the time I’ve lived in my house, I have selectively bred short-arsed dandelions. Now shut up and read your book. There are some good stories in it but some of them shouldn’t be taken too literally.

You listen to ‘The Mallard’ at your own risk.