Emute Lab @ Sussex

Experimental Music Technologies Lab

Month: March 2015

Composing and Performing with the Magnetic Resonator Piano

:::: Thursday, March 26th, 1.20pm @ Recital Room, Falmer House 120 ::::

The magnetic resonator piano (MRP) is an electromagnetically augmented acoustic grand piano which uses electromagnets to induce vibrations in the strings. The MRP is played from the piano keyboard using an optical scanner that measures the continuous position of every key. The instrument is capable of infinite sustain, crescendos from silence, harmonics, pitch bends and new timbres, all produced acoustically by the piano strings and soundboard without any external speakers.

This event will begin with a performance by music composed for, or adapted to, the magnetic resonator piano. A talk and workshop will follow the performance. The talk will present the design of the instrument, including how its evolution has been shaped by working with composers and performers. The MRP was first created in 2009, and underwent a significant design revision in 2011 in response to feedback from musicians. The talk will also discuss how other digital musical instrument creators can build a community of musicians around their instruments.

The workshop will explore techniques for composing and performing with the magnetic resonator piano, working directly with the instrument. Examples will be taken from recent pieces composed for MRP, and there will be an opportunity to try new ideas on the resonator system.



Andrew McPherson is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. With a background in electrical engineering and music, his research focuses on augmented acoustic instruments, new performance interfaces, and study of performer-instrument interaction. He did his undergraduate and Master’s work at MIT, completing his M.Eng. thesis in Barry Vercoe’s group at the MIT Media Lab. He completed his PhD in music composition in 2009 at the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining Queen Mary in 2011, he spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher in the Music Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab) at Drexel University.

In addition to the magnetic resonator piano, he is the creator of the TouchKeys multi-touch keyboard which launched in a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013. More recently he has studied how musicians appropriate and misuse technology for creative purposes, creating a new digital musical instrument, the D-Box, specifically designed to be hacked and subverted by the performer using circuit bending techniques.

SLÁTUR – Experimental Composer Collective

After Tom Betts’ talk on the Sublime in Computer Games, we are lucky to have visitors from Iceland in the form of the experimental music SLÁTUR composer collective. They will perform a concert with compositions by SLÁTUR members. The performance includes electronic compositions with live electronic processing as well as music using animated notation, found objects as musical instruments and video projections.

Slatur pianoShort description:

SLÁTUR – an artistically obtrusive composer collective centered in Reykjavík, Iceland. Since 2005 its members have been working on various types of experiments. These include animated notation using computer graphics, interactivity, various experiments with sounds and tunings, performance art and the development of limited and isolated musical universes. The members share ideas and methods freely while the final products are usually independent efforts.

Slatur headquarters slatur instrument


Tom Betts: The Sublime in Computer Games: Procedurally Generated Audiovisual Worlds

:::: Friday, March 20th, 2-4pm, @ Recital Room, Falmer House 120 ::::

In this seminar, musician and game designer Tom Betts will present his research and talk about the role of the sublime in the production of audiovisual digital work. He will briefly describe the history of the sublime and how it can be located in contemporary digital art and audio. He will describe how software can be programmed to generate these experiences, and present states where the digital world appears boundless and autonomous. The talk will describe the concept of the digital sublime as developed through the writing of Kant, Deleuze and Wark, music by artists such as Jem Finer, La Monte Young and Autechre and on video games such as Proteus, Minecraft and Love. Tom will describe how he employs computer code as an artistic medium to generate the sublime, generating audiovisual environments that explore permutational complexity and present experiences that walk the margins between confusion and control.



Tom Betts, aka Nullpointer, is an artist, academic and coder. He’s been a lecturer, designer, published musician, professional artist, warlock… Tom has just completed his PhD investigating the digital sublime in videogames. As part of this research he developed three games exploring the ideas of permutation and generativity in audiovisual game spaces. He is the lead programmer at game development studio Big Robot, who successfully Kickstarted the game “Sir, You Are Being Hunted” and developed the project through early access and Steam digital distribution. For a while he was a published musician and worked on a range of projects including setting up an automated generative radio station and touring with his band Weevil. He has performed with his software and delivered talks at international venues such as DIGRA, FreePlay, UNITE, Sonar, Rezzed and Indievelopment. He has also designed commercial interactive work for the Tate, V&A and Southbank Centre. He really likes generative systems, drinking coffee, watching films where nothing much happens and quite likes ironing.


The event will be followed with performances by the Icelandic S.L.A.T.U.R collective of experimental contemporary composers.


Visiting Researcher: Halldór Úlfarsson

The Music Department welcomes a visiting researcher – Halldór Úlfarsson – from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. Halldór is a specialist in acoustics and new musical instrument design, and will discuss his work with Music and CHASE consortium PhD students, give masterclasses, and a lecture for students in the Creative Music Technology module.

Detailed programme:

Wednesday, March 18th – 1pm (Creativity Zone) – “Reflections from a decade of open ended acoustic investigations”

This talk will be twofold. In the first part, Halldór will present the research and conceptual development of the halldorophone instrument here wonderfully played by Hildur Guðnadóttir who releases with the London-based Touch label.

The second part will introduce a module taught at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, in a collaboration with composer Þráinn Hjálmarsson, structured around open-ended investigation of acoustics as artistic medium for composition students. This part will summarise the work done during the course, discussing some of the more successful outcomes of that process (including experimental clarinet barrels featured in a piece performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2014).

Thursday, March 19th – 4pm (Recital Room – after the Tony Dummet Event): Post-graduate Masterclass: “Music as a by-product of other narrative systems / Culture as Material”

Discussing in more detail the hacking of timbre and scale in classical instruments with students of composition at the IAA and examples of projects from the new music scene in Iceland that inspired and informed that process. Halldór will discuss his design practice as a prop in the context of visual art and on the effort of creating a culture for a new musical instrument. Also musings on the ontological classification of the products of this effort.

Friday, March 20th – 11am – Lecture for CMT – “The halldorophone”

Students in the Creative Music Technologies module will get an overview of the exciting field of developing new musical instruments: the concerns of tradition, materiality, legacy and sustainability. Halldór will provide a deeper discussion of the technical ins and outs of the Halldorophone, design goals and problems…


Short bio

Halldór Úlfarsson is an artist and designer who collaborates with composers, musicians and institutions on projects relating to his string instrument the Halldorophone. These projects are presented as performances or recorded and presented as films or installations.

Halldór studied at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts with an overlapping MA in applied art and design at the Aalto University in Helsinki Finland. He has exhibited his art in Europe and Iceland where he lives and works for the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.

Website: http://www.halldorulfarsson.info


Leafcutter John – Performance, Talk and Workshop

:::: Thursday, March 5th, 1.20pm, @ Recital Room, Falmer House 120 ::::

Leafcutter John will perform at the Music Lunchtime Recital Concert a piece called “Playing with Light” - a light controlled electronic music performance. After the performance he will give a short talk about his work and the hardware and software he has built do to perform his live electronic music. From the Light controlled music system to the equipment he uses with his twice Mercury Prize nominated Polar Bear. Questions are welcome at any point during the talk.

Workshop: After the talk (and some coffee break) Leafcutter will give a workshop. In his description: “We will build self contained generative music systems running on simple Arduino boards. They will allow us to experiment with Cellular Automata mapped to generate rhythm and melody. Networking several devices together we’ll create some kind of super instrument, mwhaaa hahahaa! Absolutely no experience of Arduino, coding, or anything fancy necessary!”

Performance – 1.20 pm
Talk – 2pm
Workshop – 3-6pm

leafcutter Light interface live crop


Short Leafcutter John Biography

“Alongside Aphex Twin and Bogdan Raczynski – he’s one of the UK’s most fearlessly inventive electronicists” (Time Out London)

“A musician who combines acoustic and electronic music with an irresistible compulsion to build Heath Robinson- like inventions” (The Guardian)

“One of the bourgeoning stars of post-electronica” (The Wire)

“He has used the power available to him to push boundaries and concepts” (Future Music)

John Burton originally studied Painting at Norwich School of Art and Design. He graduated in 1998 and moved to London and began exploring the possibilities of recording and manipulating sound on an old computer he originally bought to write his Art School dissertation.

His first recordings reached the offices of Planet Mu Records in 1999 where its founder and Aphex Twin collaborator Mike Paradinas encouraged John’s more experimental efforts. Working with Planet Mu, John released 3 critically acclaimed albums which culminated in the release of The Housebound Spirit, an album which combined elements of music-concrete and electro-acoustic music with voice and guitar work more commonly found in folk music. It won an Honorary Mention at the 2004 Ars Electronica Awards, and was featured in The Wire Magazine’s Top 50 records of 2003.

May 2015 will see the release of Resurrection (John’s 6th studio album) and marks fifteen years of releases by Leafcutter John. Aerial photographs of the Japanese tsunami of 2011 were a direct inspiration for the record. Not content with the usual tools available to the electronic musician, John has created innovative new systems and techniques for both live performance and production. This includes a light-controlled instrument that allows him manipulate his live sound through gesture, flickering candles, flashing torches and pyrotechnics. For the track “Gulps,” John coded special software to layer huge swathes of sound. Using a recursive system, he created 7.1 billion layers of a recording of the North Sea, one for each human alive on the planet at the time of writing.

John has toured from Vietnam to Venice, appeared live with Beck Hansen and Imogen Heap, and provided the score for Crow, a major theatre project by Handspring (creators of War Horse). During this time, John has also maintained his permanent role as the unpredictable, electronic antagonist in Polar Bear, the twice Mercury Music Prize-nominated, genre-defying jazz band.

He has also worked with Talvin Singh, Wayne Mcgregor’s Random Dance, BBC Symphony and Concert orchestras, and has played concerts worldwide with Beck, Jarvis Cocker, Imogen Heap, Matmos, Grace Jones, Nick Cave, Yo La Tengo, Beth Orton, Otomo Yoshihide, Aki Onda, Phillip Jeck, Tujiko Noriko Sebastian Rochford, and Janek Schaefer.

Discography (Albums) 

  • Resurrection (2015) Desire Path Recordings (Pathway009) LP
  • Tunis (2010) Tsuku Boshi Records CD.
  • The Forest And The Sea (2006) Staubgold Records (Staubgold 68) CD/LP
  • The Housebound Spirit (2003) Planet Mu (ZIQ061) CD
  • Microcontact (2001) Planet Mu (ZIQ022) CD
  • Concourse EEP (2000) Planet Mu (ZIQ017) 12” and CD

website: http://www.leafcutterjohn.com

email: leafcutterjohn@gmail.com

Twitter: @leafcutterjohn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.l.burton.3

© 2017 Emute Lab @ Sussex

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑