It’s Noisefloor time again! This year, we are running a much smaller festival, featuring exclusively student work. The festival has run nearly every year since 2010 and has featured concerts and papers from a plethora of UK and international artists and academics. However, this year, we decided that with the departure of festival founder Ben Ramsay, the imminent move of the department from Stafford to Stoke and our new degree courses for 2016, we thought we should take things a bit easier this year.
Last week I took part in a Sonic PI workshop at Wavemaker in Stoke, led by author of the software, Sam Aaron. The software is effectively a new front-end for the synth-programming SuperCollider, but being aimed at teaching Live Coding to young people, it is intuitive and easy to learn. Back at Staffs Uni, we have had some awesome guest speakers. Session singer and “vocal coach to the stars” Sally Rivers, who has worked with Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Sugar Babes, and Annie Lennox gave a vocal workshop to some of our student vocalists. We also had a sound design masterclass with sound supremo Dean Humphreys, who has worked on films such as Taken 2, The Pianist and Donnie Brasco. Interviews with Dean and Sally can be watched/listened to on the Music department YouTube/Mixcloud pages.
On the evening of Friday 11th March 2016 I will be performing at the International Festival of Music Performance and Composition at the Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen in Leeds. The headliners are (ex 808-state man) Graham Massey’s Toolshed. This is my first gig in ages, and will feature a premier of Church Belles, another performance of Kafka-esque and a revisiting of my 2012 piece Rows, Columns, Collisions. This week has involved some fairly heavy duty preparation, including turning some very messy Max patched into lovely, neat Max for Live devices. The concert is curated by Matthew Bourne and also features Frederic Mathevet, Danny Saul & Arthur Keegan-Bole.
Just finished a version of a new piece: Church Belles. It’s a Max for Live-based system, that takes a live signal from the guitar, which is then converted to MIDI using Jam Origin‘s software. Specific notes “ring” the bells. The notes played by the bells change the pitch of the live vocal, using Max 7’s new “retune~” object. Mid-way through the piece, peace-time bells become war-time sirens.
The song is influenced by stories my grandmother told me about waiting for my grandfather to return from bombing raids during World War 2.
Thanks to Kate Gallow for the picture.
I recently returned from NIME 2015 in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, where I was demonstrating the Max system used for the composition and performance of Kafka-Esque. I met some amazing people, heard some fantastic performances and listened to inspiring talks.
Highlights included an inspiring keynote from R. Luke Dubois, a wonderfully visual performance by Myriam Bleau, a beautiful piece by Tim Shaw using the audience’s mobiles, building musical robots out of cardboard with Jiffer Harriman , some very useful Max machine learning techniques and Steve Benford talking about the Carolan Guitar. It was great to meet and hang out with Simon Waloschek, Gregory Taylor, Duncan Menzies and the guys from the CREATE Ensemble.
This week sees the return of the Noisefloor Festival at Staffordshire University. The festival explores and presents accessible yet experimental electronic music in fixed multichannel and live performance.
I will be giving a paper presentation on Signal Analysis in Interactive Music Systems on Tuesday and a performance of Kafka-esque on Wednesday.
I have recently made some Soundflower tutorial videos for my “DAW Production Techniques” module at Staffordshire University. Soundflower is a virtual internal interface or patchbacy allowing audio connections between different applications.
The tutorials start with recording audio from a browser into Pro Tools; progress to sending audio in and out of Pro Tools via home-made effects in Max; then go on to discuss using Logic virtual instruments in Pro Tools and culminate in using Logic Pro X, Ableton Live and Max all within the same Pro Tools session.
In between teaching and PhD work I’ve managed to finish a few pieces over the past little while. These will be released properly eventually, but for now here they are on Soundcloud. All produced by me and mastered by the exceptional Dr Dave Payling:
- “All That Remain” by GOL (National Trevor Remix)
- “Surrender” by Clair Brennan (National Trevor Remix)
- “I Begin Where You End” by National Trevor
- “Broken Starling” by National Trevor
Last Friday (6th February 2015) Staffs Uni students and myself decamped the Digital Performance Applications lecture to the Mitchell Arts Centre (where I used to work with Planet Sound Community Arts) in Hanley for the Wavemaker event, organised by Bitjam.
We got to meet Ashley James Brown, an inspiring programmer/artist/educator who showed us how to create some interactive/generative/glitch art in Processing in mega-quick time. We repaid the favour by showing Ash some generative music techniques in Max MSP.
The festival also features performances by composers Trevor Wishart, Denis Smalley and Javier Alvarez. Other members of the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre at De Montfort University including Simon Atkinson, Kerry Francksen and Panos Ameildes will also be presenting their work.
“Indeterminate techniques borrowed from experimental music can be applied to the composition and performance of popular, song-based material. The author makes the case for treating computer-based systems as collaborators in creating works that are both sensuous and cerebral.”
You can read it here if you or your institution is a subscriber.
I’ve recently uploaded two new videos as part of my expanding body of PhD work. A key idea is that humans and machines can perform together – and both should be represented in a way that reveals their real-time collaboration.
Willow is a piece for guitar, vocal and electronics. Almost all of the computer’s output is controlled by the guitar’s audio signal and position.
Kafka-Esque is an electronic piece driven by the performer typing on the computer keyboard.
From 1998 until 2005 I was a director of Planet Sound Community Arts, a not-for-profit music education organisation working predominantly with young people in North Staffordshire. In 2004 we managed to secure a decent amount of money to put on a show stopping carnival parade through Newcastle-under-Lyme.
I recently unearthed the documentary film about the project and really enjoyed reliving it all again. It really was a fantastic collaborative show of vibrancy and positivity. You can watch the film here.
Since 2005 I have worked as a lecturer is Staffordshire University’s Music Technology department. I went full time in 2011. I now teach a range of subjects including Digital Audio Workstation production, Digital Performance and Sound Design. I thought it was about time we started uploading some of the best student work.
I’ve just done some mixes of some of my favourite material that I’ve been listening to over the last couple of years. One is a fairly straightforward dance mix and features the remixed “Footprints” from my “Baby I’m Your Boy” album. The other is a little bit more woooooaaah and features fractured beats, noise, electroacoustic, post-dubstep and classical tunes.
They are named “Trans//missions” after the endless compilation tapes and then CDs I used to make – along with original artwork – back in the day when I had a little more free time and a big supply of magazines to cut up. Now it’s a quick search through Creative Commons pictures on Flickr. Photograph on the left courtesy of Daniel Bernadinelli.
A new version of a piece I have been working on as part of my PhD studies. I am exploring how, as a singer-songwriter, I can collaborate with computers in the composition and performance. For this piece, I decided to get a little extreme and rather sing a lyric, I thought I could type it.
The action of typing a Franz Kafka quote controls rhythm, melody, sample playback and video, which in turn also influences the sounds of the synths. The quote resonates with the piece – the keyboard allows us to both withdraw and connect with the outside world. Watch on Youtube or Vimeo. Thanks to Toby Tomlins (video footage) and Darren Washington (photography).
I’ve been working on some material. One is a song called “Willow”. It is a simple guitar and vocal, but the guitar is treated via a Max/MSP system that reads the signal of the guitar, and maps various synth and effects parameters to pitch and amplitude. Using a Wiimote, it is also sensitive to the position the guitar is held.
The most recent piece is called “KafkaEsqueTest”. It is performed by typing a quote from Franz Kafka. The Max/MSP/Jitter system recognises particular words and vowel combinations, and creates sounds and image in response. Thanks so much to Sam Tarakajian and his Delicious Max Tutorial series. I didn’t recognise him at first but he was also at Code Control!
I’m currently exploring new ways to write songs – both lyrics and music. The main theme is embracing the post-structuralist ethos of relinquishing control. In terms of music, I have been experimenting with using field recordings as source material, with some exciting results. I’ve also been working on some tools in Max/MSP (see earlier posts). Lyrically, I’ve been looking at Dadaist poets such as Tristan Tzara and Modernists like Gertrude Stein, and theorists such as Roland Barthes. After all, who says songs have to mean anything? At Glastonbury in 2003, Michael Stipe introduced “Losing My Religion” with the proclamation: “this is your song, we just cover it”. Then, for the first time in a while – I wrote some lyrics. It felt awesome!
I am currently undertaking PhD research at DeMontfort University under the supervision of the extraordinary Dr.s John Richards and Bret Battey. My research focuses on realtime interactive music systems for song-based material. Now that summer is here and the marking is done, I’m getting stuck in to some experimentation and creation. I’ve just finished the first version of an interactive generative arpeggiator. Please note: it makes use of a kin.rhythmicator subpatch which will also need to be downloaded.
I am hoping to learn some new skills, particularly in using Arduino to generate visuals.
Last Thursday I gave a pitch with Carl Plant and Ben McManus from Bitjam at the IC Tomorrow finals for the Digital Innovation: Music contest in London. IC Tomorrow is a government initiative that helps companies develop and market innovative ideas that make use of technology.
Although we didn’t win, we learned a lot, made some great connections and hope to continue with our idea. We then thought we’d spend a bit of time hanging out at the BBC (left) before driving back to Stoke listening to Deftones, Hawkwind and Def Leppard.
On the 7th November I gave a performance as part of DeMontfort University’s MTI concert series. The interactive-generative piece for Launchpad is my first finished piece for my PhD work and is performed using custom software created in Max/MSP and Processing. Hardware used includes a Novation Launchpad and two Korg Nanokontrols.
The performer instigates and controls the level of note events represented by red squares moving across the grid. Control events are represented by green squares moving vertically. Pressing the pads causes them to turn yellow. Collisions between all these create further musical events. The overall aim is to create something beautiful that contains a satisfying blend of order and chaos. Video here.
I have just uploaded a couple of pieces to break the deafening radio silence. The first is a remix of “Break in the Clouds” by Reading band Last Picture Show. I’ve taken an out and out rocker, slowed it down, stripped it back and turned it into quirky, chilled electro-pop. You can hear the result here.
A little while back, I received a few invites to join Mixcloud. So I did. I don’t really DJ or make podcasts, so I thought I’d run the whole of the debut National Trevor album together into one piece. You can find the result here.
I will be presenting some of my current PhD research at the Geeklab event, hosted by Bitjam at the Burslem School of Art this Saturday, 14th July. You can attend in person or listen/watch live on Ustream.tv between 12 and 4pm. This follows on and relates from some recent videos I’ve done and an appearance on Cre8 radio.
I’m currently researching the live performance of electronic music. There was a recent article on Create Digital Music about how many musicians “cheat” by pressing the play button. As a live performer and recording artist, I’m interested in how pressing the play button can be made more interesting, and looking at how human performers and audiences can relate to machines.
I have recently begun a mobile phone performance group with students at Staffordshire University. The group is affiliated to the Staffordshire University Sonic Arts Network, and meets on a weekly basis to create live electronic music in a fun, relaxed and collaborative atmosphere. We aren’t yet using any custom-built instruments (check out Atau Tanaka and Adam Parkinson who create their own performance software in PD and run it on iPhones in RJDJ) – we are just using some standard apps that run on iPhones and Android, such as Bebop, Filtatron, Reactable and Nanoloop.
Work is proceeding on a final EP of Captain Yange material. These are four songs that were featuring in our set following the release of “Compos Mentis” and our support slot with Fightstar at the Proud Gallery. Paul recorded the drum parts at Staffs Uni in September 2009. Very little then happened with them while Scott wrote songs for Robbie Williams and Si did a solo album and a Master’s degree.
Last year, we had started to look at these recordings again. Paul had edited and approved his performances. Scott and Si (with additional input from former band member Jon Wilkinson) will be completing the songs. We hope they will remain true to the spirit in which we played them.
I’ve decided to get rid of my car and travel to Staffs on the marvellous X1 express. Rather than the stresses of the M6, I chilled out with a beautiful view of the Staffs countryside and an excellent podcast: Musicians Cooler. Dave Jackson is an excellent host, and talks about issues like optimising your video tags, the benefits of StumbleUpon and tracking your Twitter followers’ activity with a free application from Crowdbooster.com
I will be playing my first National Trevor gig in what seems like ages on Sunday November 6th, at Fat Cat’s in Hanley. 7.30pm start.Tickets are £4 and can be bought online or at Music Mania in Hanley.
I will be showcasing my new geeky setup incorporating guitar and vocals with an array of MIDI controllers, an iPhone and a Wiimote. I will be projecting some visuals at the same time that give you a bit of a clue what’s going on. I am also hoping to have film-makers and collaborators Junction 15 present so that I can put some more videos on Youtube and Vimeo.
Khoros is an exciting new tool for music technology developed by my good friend and colleague Paul Rogerson. I hope to be able to use one in National Trevor performances in the future, and for community workshops. Check it out an spread the word. Here is a link to see the instrument in action with special needs groups on Vimeo.
It is with great pleasure that I can reveal I will be performing at this year’s Stoke Sounds Festival on Saturday 30th July. I will be on the Intermission tent from 4.45-5.15pm. I have been working hard in preparation, building bespoke software that lets me do live sampling, pitch shifting and mixing. I’ve also built an air guitar out of an iPhone and a Wiimote!
I should also be doing some stuff with the Bitjam boys on the Bitjam stage, apparently in a Hawaiian shirt!
To find out more about the festival, please visit the Facebook page.
Here is a link to the interview I did with Lisa Wilding/Leeka at 6 towns radio on the Kulture Klubshow a little while back: http://www.mixcloud.com/6townsdowney/national-trevor-interview-16-2-11-leeka/
I have also been on the Stoke Sounds show on a Monday night. I offered a free download of baby I’m Your Boy from Bandcamp! Check it out here!
Those kind folks at Stoke Sounds have written a review of “Baby I’m Your Boy”. You can check it out at www.stokesounds.co.uk. It’s put me in a really good mood so I’ve made some tracks available for free download at Last.fm. In case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, then I can reveal I’ve been working on how to perform the album live. I’ll tell you more about it soon once I’ve got the software working a bit better.
I’ve made a video from the photoshoot with Darren Washington and some by Lee Ball. It seems to be an expectation now that music benefits from a visual counterpart, and I think that this can really add to the listening experience. Watching my fellow musicians who work across a number of genres, it seems to be a natural progression to work with imagery. This is especially true when you can collaborate with gifted photographers like Darren and Lee: I was amazed how a succession of stills can be just as powerful as video.
Check it out here.
From the rhythmic textures of Footprints urging you to dance to the gently waterfalling Take What You Need, this is a superb offering from National Trevor. The melding of organic acoustic instruments and electronic layers forms a mesmerising backdrop for Si Waite’s heartfelt vocals on Still Life and The Hand of History. This is definitely a whole album to be savoured by the fire or on the beach and just melt into the atmosphere……..wonderful!
by Louise Mayer
Saturday: Photographed a photographer at work, the awesome Darren Washington. Sunday: Recorded the sound for a short film on location (Damage). Monday: Released an album and made a psychadelic video of my pregnant partner with some amazing friends. Tuesday: Told somebody what I need from them. Wednesday: Received and made a heartfelt apology. Thursday: Listened to a revolution on the radio. Friday: Felt fulfilled in my work. I’m lucky to do what I do.
Over the past 2 and a half years I’ve written some tunes and built a studio to record them in. They’re finally finished and available for your listening pleasure. I’m very proud of them. I hope you can get some enjoyment from them and that you will share your experience of them with me. Sometimes it’s a lonely process trying to pour your soul into a microphone and some genuine human feedback is marvelous.
If you buy the record too – well then that’s a massive bonus. Not only does it give me a bit of much needed income, it gives me encouragement to carry on. It’s available from the usual places – iTunes, Amazon etc. I’ll be doing a physical release at some point. Thank you to everybody that supports me in my endeavours. Words cannot express what you mean to me. Well, mine can’t anyway.
At long last I have completed the debut “National Trevor” album!
In preparation for the release, I have done a photoshoot with Darren Washington, created some artwork for the cover with Kerrie Williamson and learned some basic website-building skills.
In 2011 I will be doing some live shows incorporating live electronics and video.