Beats Headphones and the new Lone Shark Album

I got a pair of Dr Dre Beats Headphones for my 40th birthday, and I tell you what, they are rubbish for mastering. This idea that they give you the “studio experience” is just marketing ploy. I have to turn the bass down by at least 3dB to get anything close to a reasonable mix, and then I have to annoy my neighbours the next day with my Adam A5 speakers to check it, and invariably go back and re-master the track.
But there is good news if you like my electro releases, there is a new one coming really soon on Sci Fi records, called “Build Your Wings on the Way Down” – which is a quote from Marc Singer BTW. It’ll be the best of the last 12 years of my unreleased electro music, but remastered to the best of my ability (and the worst distaste of my next-door neighbours).

Also, coming soon, Simon Limbrick’s new album of Contemporary Steel Pan music has a couple of tracks by me, for live-notation-driven steel pan and live electronics. It’s called “Relay” and will be available soon from

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New Posting Long Time

Hey, anyone who is reading!

I have just let this go in recent times, so a quick word about what I’ve been up to. I built some circuits that worked, and some that didn’t (more later). I’ve made some new music and revitalized some old stuff. A new Lone Shark album out soon, and in contemporary music there is a version of the interactive notation and live remix piece Islands out soon also. I’ve also been working hard on a Ninja Jamm update (better sound, less memory used, soon!).

I think I am quite suffocated by London. I met a couple of music producers for Sony the other day – pure wide-boys! Boasting about how they get paid for Little Mix and One Direction tracks. Meanwhile, the “Tent Poles” theory of film production appears to have gone, replaced by just a few big-budget movies and less and less of the small stuff. The Internet’s “long tail” has been eating itself for a while, and we are in danger of arriving in a World where there is one record company, one film company and a lot of people with day jobs and a hobby. We’re very close already in fact! I miss a small, vibrant community, but you never step into the same river twice.

But, there will be new posts soon, and music, and circuits. Sorry to be away for so long!

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Islands Patch

Just thought I’d share…
This is the Pure Data patch for Islands 2, unrolled as a poster.
Many elements are repeated 12 times. I started making a poster with all twelve of the subpatches, and it became very large, very quickly!
Look out for Simon Limbrick’s forthcoming releases, including a recording of this piece with live electronics (I haven’t yet made a poster for that patch – this is just the score patch).

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If you could re-invent your body on a daily basis, what would you do?
I remember when I was studying for my degree, in Electronic Music, I used to walk around the streets and shops of Hatfield clicking my fingers in polyrhythmic patterns (7 against 5, 4 against 3 etc) but two arms and two legs just doesn’t cut it! We are built for 4/4 time signatures (walk and gait) and as a consequence, the music that humans make is mostly very restricted in terms of rhythm. If I could wake up each day with a different body, I would have seven legs and five arms one day, 1 leg and three arms another. Different configurations of fingers, prehensile toes etc. A central limb…
But in order to appreciate the music I made, you would also have to mutate.

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Buzz is back

For those of you who dabble with alternatives to the Cubase/Logic/Ableton mafia of software packages for music, there is Buzz for Windows.

Buzz has been around for about 14 years, but the original version of Buzz was halted in its development when Oskari Tammelin’s hard-drive caught fire and he lost the source code! It has never been open-source, but it has always been free. I made a few records with this software in the 2000′s and I can tell you that, if you learn how to use the keyboard to navigate around and program this package it is one of the quickest and most versatile pieces of software there is for making rhythm-based music.

One of its great features is that you can make music with Buzz without any external devices whatsoever. Patterns can be programmed from the qwerty keyboard, and any parameter of any machine (including VST plugins) can be automated in the tracker-based pattern editor or via Midi. It is fully MIDI compatible, and there are hundreds of free machines available at

Buzz existed through binary patches (and glitches) throughout the 2000′s, but recently Mr Tammelin has re-created it and is constantly improving it. This is a welcome return of the most innovative music packages to emerge from the tracker paradigm, and it gets better and better. With 14 years of 3rd party development of machines for Buzz (synths, FX and more) it’s always been one of my favourites, and fully VST compatible.

If you do download Buzz, get the Buzz DIY Kit with Machines from This will give you (most) of the Buzz machines available, but there are always more being developed at

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The Paia 9700s Analog Synthesizer

It’s been a long time since I built anything electronic, so I decided to buy a Paia 9700s kit a few years ago. Then I moved house a handful of times and we had our first child.  So last spring (2011) I decided to build the Paia. I made a lot of mistakes, but I would say that the instructions for building are excellent and the online resources are good too. Well, I decided to document the process after I’d finished the first board (MIDI2CV8 module) so here are some pictures of the synthesizer as it is being built. Sound samples to follow…

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Adventures with Dynamic Notation

Working on Islands for Steel Pan and Live Electronics, for Simon Limbrick to play.

Part one was performed at Dartington Summer School this year, and went well. The score on the left is from Part 1. This uses Gemnotes in a much more appropriate way for live notation than the first version for vibraphone (see below) and apart from a few unreadable glitches (!) is largely legible.

A big problem with this dynamic notation is beaming of notes and collapsing durations to be the most readable forms. It works great when the beaming is explicitly stated in the score file, and the score is played linearly, but that’s no fun at all. You may as well have a piece of paper. This version of Islands has extensive real-time score-scrambling – on-the-fly re-ordering of notes and interleaving of score files. The score for part 1 is split into 161 fragments and thee are re-combined differently every time it is played. The live electronics (Pd patch) records and cuts up the input recorded from the steel pan, and re-organizes that with some live effects, transpositions and reversal of some events.

Part 2 of the piece…well it’s fun to see what happens when the live notation goes crazy – I clearly need to work on this some more (2nd and 3rd graphics).

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Taking apart the Roland CSQ600 to make a usable case for my initial modular designs.

The beauty of Japanese hand-drawn circuits is apparent here – much more elegant than modern CAD designs!

April 2011

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Gemnotes 0.2.3

Gemnotes 0.2.3 is released.

There is now support for dynamics (fff to ppp) as well as hairpins. There is also the first articulation (accented notes).

Finally, a patch to translate midi files to gemnotes score format is included (translate_midi.pd), and a polyrhythmic quantizing object. These are not foolproof, and editing of the text scores is advised. Also, using groups, stemlength and hdsq messages will ensure that beamed groups, rests etc turn out well.

Binaries are included for Linux, Mac OS X (Intel) and Windows (new!).

Download here: gemnotes-0.2.3

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Ninja Jamm

An earlier version of the patch, the final thing is even more complex!

I nearly finished work on the audio engine for the Ninja Jamm iPhone app audio engine. What a relief! Probably the biggest PD project in terms of complexity (since it has to run on the iPhone) and sheer hard graft, I have worked on.

…update – never say a project is finished until it’s released (I should know this by now). There were always going to be bugs, but I’ll keep posting here when some news emerges.

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