Here’s a showreel covering some of my work over the last few years.
Everyone has a different take on how a showreel should look, I decided I wanted something that was almost an original work in itself. I was interested in re-purposing my existing material and having a bit of fun with the edit, hopefully to catch the eye of whoever was watching it and encouraging them to explore my body of work in more detail.
We shot this in Victoria Park in October to take full advantage of the vibrant autumnal colours. These yellows and orange tones were used as a starting point to form psychedelic kaleidoscopes that pulsate and evolve from the movement within the shot. I’ve been really interested in experimenting with different types of framing, particularly presenting multiple frames side by side and playing with symmetry – this also presents opportunity for mischief when the symmetry between frames is pulled out of sync, reversed and distorted.
The track is taken from their latest album “Bamboo Diner in the Rain” – which is out on Moshi, Moshi – I’m really enjoying it – so check it out!
I’ve got another Wave Pictures video coming in the new year – so stay tuned!
Following the recent In The Dark: Cityscapes event I was interviewed for the Monocle 24 radio show ‘The Urbanist‘ – we talked about some of the pieces played, discuss the power of audio and explore the nature of urban soundscapes. You can have a listen below, although I admit, I much prefer being on the other side of the microphone.
A processed and layered piece constructed from a single recording of a dustbin truck captured outside of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Headphones recommended.
The piece was produced for exhibition at an In The Dark live listening event on Cityscapes and presented within the Glasshouse Bookshop at the Wapping Project on Wednesday 22nd March 2012.
If you have ever been woken up in the early hours by this sort of noise, I’m sure you’re aware of the complex mechanical racket that they make. It’s a great collection of sounds – clangs, squeaks and crashes – I really wanted to capture and then pull out elements of this noise, turning them into an evolving, glitchy cascade of sound that would fill the listening space it was to be presented in. Anyway, have a listen below.
An experimental sound piece which takes recordings made during a vist to Bury St Edmunds and weaves them into a surreal narrative, morphing between lakeside walks, market criers, street performers and birdsong.
Recordings made using a Zoom H4n, edited and assembled on Ableton Live.
On Friday I attended the latest In The Dark listening event which was held at the Folly for a Flyover venue (a peculiar pop-up cinema / art space) in Hackney, East London. What was particularly exciting about this event was that I was having one of my very own pieces exhibited / played and it was very humbling to hear my work alongside those from well established and respected radio producers!
If you’ve never heard of In The Dark, it’s a fantastic organisation which champions and commissions experimental radio pieces. They basically encourage producers to play around with the radio format to create weird, yet wonderfully original audio pieces. If you’re a fan of WNYCs RadioLab then this is definitely something for you.
The organisation regularly holds ‘listening events’ across London, bringing together a community of producers and listeners to hear a selection of audio shorts, curated by founder Nina Garthwaite. Although sitting ‘in the dark’ with a bunch of people, listening to radio may sound like an unusual way to spend the evening, it really is a great experience and I must say something very unique! Each of the pieces played are stylistically distinct and certainly always thought provoking, so you can never be sure what you might end up listening to.
On Friday, the night was arranged into three parts:
I’m currently in the midst of producing a 30 minute radio piece on the subject of death. To be more specific, I’m exploring contemporary attitudes towards death and doing so through the perspective of those who deal with death on a daily basis.
Part of my project took me to the basement of the Royal Sunderland Hospital where I spent the day exploring it’s mortuary with pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton. Recently, as I was listening back to his interview I begun to find myself fixated on a particular section, in which he discusses the way in which he views the human body. He describes his view of life as being very ‘mechanistic’ and as I listened to him talk about the body as ‘pumps’ and ‘shunts’ I was inspired to compose a short piece from his words.
As a biologist myself, I have always considered the human body to represent a beautiful feat of natural engineering. From the minute intricacies of the inner ear to the extent of the circulatory system, pulsating to the rhythm of a beating heart – the human body is living machine. Our consciousness and everything that makes us, ‘us’ is a product of this machinery and when the machine stops – so do we.
The title of this piece toys with the idea of Adam and Eve and how this throws up a very different view of the human body. However which ever view you take, both are unified in the fact that they find certain beauty in the human form.
Soundcloud’s audio compression has reduced the quality of the piece somewhat so please get in touch if you’d like a copy of the original file.
So most of our universe (over 70%) is made up of something called Dark Energy. We can’t see it and we don’t really know what it is…
Matter – everything that makes up me, you, planets and stars – appears to make up only a very small fraction of the universe, about 4%. Instead, the universe seems to be filled predominantly by a very strange material known as dark energy and it is this material, with it’s anti-gravity properties, which seems to speeding up the expansion of our universe. We’ve known that the universe was expanding since Edwin Hubble made his observations in the 1920s, however it’s only in the last 20 years that we’ve realised that this expansion is actually speeding up! The problem is that we can’t directly detect dark energy and this makes it very difficult to understand what it is and whether it really does exist.
Instead we must rely on indirect observations, looking at light travelling from the far reaches of the universe to determine whether the properties of this light has changed during the time it has taken to reach us. A good way to measure the expanding universe is to make observations of distant supernovae (huge explosions which follow the death of large stars) which act as ‘standard candles‘ or ‘lighthouses’ because we know how bright these object should be. Measuring light from distant supernovae has allowed us to see that it is different to what it should be if these objects were positioned within a static universe. Instead what we see is changes in this light which indicates that these objects are being flung outwards and away from us via some sort of cosmic expansion.
A nice analogy to describe the expansion of the universe is what happens when two points are drawn on the surface of an inflating balloon. As the balloon is inflated, the two points begin to move further and further away from each other and as the material expands outwards, the distance between the two points also increases. Applying this analogy to the cosmos, we could imagine the same happening with two galaxies being pulled apart from each other as the space they exist in expands.
As dark energy is so difficult to detect, scientists have recently been looking for new ways to independently verify its presence within the universe. Whilst at the BBC I was lucky enough to interview cosmologist Dr Chris Blake from Swinburne University, Australia who has recently published two papers reconfirming dark energy via a new set of methods. Blake and his colleagues produced a galaxy map of over 200,000 galaxies and used this information to look at how these galaxies were distributed and how they grew relative to each other. Through this work Blake and his colleagues were able to reconfirm the presence of dark energy and perhaps most importantly were able to determine some of its properties.
I thought I’d use the audio from this telephone interview and spruce it for the next sounds of science episode:
It probably sounds better with headphones (or obviously decent speakers).
After discovering the LHC sound project last year I’ve been on the look out for artists who have taken these sounds and used them to make music. So recently I was very excited when I came across a track called “Particles of God” because not only did it feature these bizarre and abstract sounds but it also sounded awesome!
The man behind the track is Jeff Oster, an American trumpet/flugelhorn player whose work frequently crosses over into electronic and ambient terrain. After hearing this track I delved deeper and found that this was not the first piece Jeff had created using audio samples from scientific sources. On another track entitled “Saturn Calling” he had sampled the eerie sounds of Saturn’s auroras (as captured by the NASA Cassini spacecraft) and it won him the ‘Best New Age Song’ at the 2008 Independent Music Awards.
I decided to get in touch with Jeff to find out a little bit more about how these cosmological and subatomic soundscapes had been influencing his work…
What was the inspiration behind these tracks? (Saturn Calling & Particles of God)
“I have always been interested in the cosmos, space exploration and mankind’s need to reach beyond this world. From watching the mars rovers landing on mars via NASA TV, or the space shuttle launches, even back to Apollo and the moon missions, I have always been amazed at what these scientists have accomplished.
I am always searching for new sounds as i create my music. For “Saturn Calling”, I was working on the music for a song, and had been watching the Cassini mission, and its amazing pictures of Saturn and its moons. The name of the song at that point was “Sounds of Saturn”, and I just typed that phrase into Google. Lo and behold, up came the recording of the auroras of Saturn, and I incorporated them into the song.
One of the best things that has come from that music has been the way NASA and JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] have embraced it – they currently host a feature on the song on the NASA and JPL websites, and I was invited to perform the song at the Cassini “end of prime” celebration at JPL in 2009, for the scientists that worked to make that mission a success. It was quite moving, to be able to stand in front of these amazing scientists who make the seemingly impossible a reality.
The inspiration for ‘Particles of God” came from an article I was reading about the Large Hadron Collider, and of the way they are trying to capture the decay of the subatomic particles in sound. Since they can’t take a picture of these events (no camera can shoot that fast). They had posted some of these sounds, and I was inspired to choose a few of them and incorporate them into a new song, to which I added some beats and my trumpet using Apple’s Garageband program.
As it turned out, the scientists involved with these sounds (found here) were open to hearing music made from these sounds, so that’s how it came into the world. You gotta love the www….”
How did the sounds influence the way in which you composed the tracks?
“The way I create my songs is very much the way a painter paints a picture. Sounds are the colors on the palette, and I spend a lot of time building the bed tracks, mixing sound together and feeling which fit together best. In the case of “Saturn Calling”, I had a lot of the track already created, and the “wind” sound that the auroras made was a wonderful addition to the already created track.
That track was inspired by the Cassini program, and it was a lovely accident that these sounds added so much to the song. The fact that NASA and JPL took such a keen interest in the music because of those sounds was just the icing on the cake.
“Particles of God” was a bit more intentional – I chose the sounds I thought would work well in a song from the various sounds they have posted, and then built the music around them. These sounds actually have tone to them, so that drove the choice of instrumentation and then I added the beats, and of course the horn part. I usually create the horn part last, after the bed track has been established.”
When you heard the sounds of the Large Hadron Collider what went through your mind – how did they make you feel?
“The concept of the work is brilliant. It’s almost the opposite of reaching out into the universe in search of the unknown – it’s reaching in with the same goal – discovery of the unknown (or the search for what we think can be known)
It is amazing that sound can be used in an attempt to “see” these particles. For me, sound has always represented the embodiment of our inner selves, and it’s no accident that sound will be the tool to represent the smallest most fundamental particles of matter.
The feeling around the sounds is always a subjective thing – what’s beautiful to me might not be so for someone else. When I create music, first and foremost I please myself. If I love it, then that’s all that matters. The world will come to its own conclusion!”
Writing a song inspired by particle physics is slightly different to say writing a piece inspired by love or a romantic relationship – do you think a track like “Particles of God” can still have a similar emotive impact on the listener?
“I think that there’s a “coolness factor” in this song, partially because it actually includes these sounds. Songs resonate emotionally with the listener for various reasons, and in this case, the basics of song structure still need to be there. A cool beat, some kind of melody, a certain overall experience of the music as a song has to be there, some familiarity. Just the random collection of the sounds wouldn’t have the same level of impact on the listener in my opinion.”
Do you think science can be emotive or invoke emotion in others? – Should scientists be encouraged to share their passion with non-scientists / members of the public?
“Scientists need to know how important their work is, and the impact that it has on the layman. I was a science major in school before I turned to music, and I spent many hours in the lab, taking notes, running experiments, creating research papers and helping with presentations of the findings. It is very meticulous work, and it is very easy to get lost in the work itself.
One of the most moving aspects of my performance at JPL was when I was able to speak to the scientists assembled there. I told them that the impact of their work was massive, the inspiration for some little kid that experiences the results of their very technical work (it is rocket science after all) is an emotional one, not cerebral.
Every scientist needs to remember that there is a real world emotional impact in what they are doing – that science reveals deep truths that resonate in all of us. It is noble work”
Do you think music and art are an effective way of sharing some of the excitement and wonder in science to an audience who might otherwise not be interested?
“I think that it is the bridge between the brain and the soul.”
Do you think it’s beneficial for scientists to work with artists; or do you think they should be left to get on with their work?
“It takes a special scientist, and a special artist, to bridge the gap between those worlds. It is very easy to get lost in the specifics of each environment, and they sometimes seem mutually exclusive.
And yet, both are involved in creating something out of nothing, aren’t they?
Music is “captured”, and turned into song. Science takes a hypothesis, and endeavours to prove it, for all of us to taste, feel, see, hear, touch. They both make the unreal real, and that commonality can only lead to greater knowledge and understanding.
That’s what we all want, isn’t it…”
If you could pick one sound which represented something in the scientific world that has inspired or interested you what would it be and why?
“When the SETI project picks up the sound of another world, that will truly be inspirational. I tend to be inspired by the sounds in the world – water, animal sounds, a child laughing. And of course, the sound of a well played horn 🙂
The scientific world is really the exploration of the entire world, and beyond. And what we discover will forever be inspirational to me.
Jeff’s is currently putting the finishing touches on his latest album ‘Surrender’ which will be released later this year – check out his website for more information!
You can check out ‘Saturn Calling’ here and I highly recommend listening to the original NASA recordings here.
Our response to sound and noise are influenced heavily by the psychological associations we have with them. Hospitals and their internal soundscapes obviously carry very negative connotations and in the case of young children these negative associations can lead to increased levels of distress and fear. However the reverse of this is also true, certain sounds can have very positive associations and the effect of listening to these sounds can be very positive and powerful.
Several weeks ago, I was walking down the central corridor of Liverpool’s Alder Hey children’s hospital when I became aware of the sound of birdsong. As I continued down I could hear quite clearly the sound of a single blackbird gracefully chirping through the din of the chaotic hospital. As I focused on the sound I found that it brought with it a sense of calm and I begun to lose the feeling of unease that I tend to experience inside hospitals. However, there was no sign of this little bird or any other wildlife inside the hospital, save from the colourful murals adorned across the corridor walls. I quickly realised that what I was listening to was a very special sound installation; playing out the wonderful recordings made by BAFTA award winning sound artist Chris Watson.
I’d come to Alder Hey specifically to talk with their Arts Coordinator Vicky Charnock to find out how the hospital had been experimenting with sound to improve the experiences of their young patients. I also got chance to speak with Chris Watson, the creative talent behind the installation and he explained to me why he chose to bring the sounds of a local park within the walls of this hospital.
The Dawn Chorus installation forms part of the larger Sonicstreams project which is a creative collaboration between Alder Hey and the Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology (FACT); the project aims to creatively explore the impact of sound on the human body.