HSS8120 Project Work 6

So, everything has progressed at 100 mph the past few days with the development of my CDP idea. TDLR: I’m scrapping the idea of a breath-controlled instrument. This is because I couldn’t get myself excited about the reality of what the instrument was doing, it was very subtle, which is what I wanted, but it was too subtle, super boring. There was nothing that caught me, which means it’s unlikely it would catch an audience watching a performance.

This is something I could have worked on in PD – to create a more complex sound from the sensor – but I didn’t get round to it – because when I was experimenting with a half-finished stretch sensor (plan C) I discovered how beautifully the conductive thread behaves when I play it with one crocodile clip. Initially I was going to make a waistband out of this that would respond to stretch – but just through improvising and experimenting over it I am way more excited about the potential for playing this as an instrument rather than a wearable. (stretching could still be an option as an instrument).

The construction of the circuit and PD patch are exactly the same as for the other sensors (see the last blog post for more info).


“Ha, ha, bonny maid, will you weep now?”
“You heathenish dog, nor yet for you.”

I want to make a performance that makes reference to contemporary and historical examples of music/art and music/art that is in some way problematic to love, as a woman. “Crazy for loving you” (a Willie Nelson via Patsy Cline song title) is stitched into the instrument and completes the circuit and it sums up this relationship neatly. I’ll use the resistance generated sounds as an accompaniment and sing several verses from Prince Heathen (Roud : 3336 / Child : 104), a beautiful song with brutal, cruel lyrics. As a woman it chills me to the bone that this song was written, but I find some strength in singing it, especially the chorus where she insists she will never cry because of this brutal man. I want to make noise, quiet noise that teeters on harshness – pausing at pitches (as in the experiment above) that ring uncomfortably in the ear, and sing a beautiful song that on a closer listen is as uncomfortable to hear. This piece comes from a place of anger and a place of love, and I’m really excited to make it.

The instrument (no longer a wearable) will be played like a zither/dulcimer – flat to a table or across my lap) or like a harp (propped on my knee). This will still achieve this strange stillness I was interested in creating with the initial performance idea.


After making the sketch above I was reminded of this lush song by the Magnetic Fields which uses a similar straightforward vocal over a really jarring midi backing.

HSS8120 Project Work 5




As it stands I think the knitted sensor works best; it gives more varied results and shrinks back to it’s original shape better than the rubber chord – which stays stretched out a little making it less than ideal for making a costume that has to stay up!

These two stretch sensors: the shop-bought rubber cord sensor and the knitted conductive yarn/elestic yarn sensor both achieve what I want them to do; they output serial data that I can transform into sound. At the moment these are very linear movements and fairly uninspiring (though I’m thrilled to get the mechanics working!). I have one more method to test and then I will go forward with the best way to proceed in my building of an instrument.

I thought that this would be the point – when my sensors were complete – that I’d be able to improvise and experiment with sound and be inspired by the quirks of the instrument to respond and duet with my voice and breath. However, I’ll admit I’m struggling to find inspiration for where to take this in terms of a performance beyond a simple drone. I have ideas for a performance that might lend itself more to a random sound rather than a linear one, so I’ll see where the 3rd method (stitching words/patterns into elastic) takes me, because I feel that this will produce more unpredicable results.

Alternatively I could make the PD code more complex and introduce more random elements on that end, because at the moment I’ve just built a very simple synthesiser.

Both sensors used the same circuit and PD sketch – also used one of the p-duino sketches to get the arduino to talk to PD


A while ago I was super excited at the idea of sampling Sacred Harp songs that had been processed using some computer software for my Music Elective Project. However, I was recently pointed in the direction of the Alter/Ego software and have been playing with the voice packages and thinking about how I might compose my own song for robots to sing, possibly instead of sampling sacred harp arrangements. Here’s a little taster video of what I’m talking about, the words are simple and a little cheesy but I just wanted to see how I might construct a small verse to be sung solo by one of the Alter/Ego voices.


I wanted to make a quick, simple music video to go alongside the song Time To Thaw to share before the new year. I put this together just using imovie and taking advantage of the super glitchy green-screen feature.



I performed a semi-improvised sound/song collage at the Culture Lab in-progress show, to test out some ideas that I’ve started working with lately. Overall I think there are elements that I want to take forward and expand on and some bits that were less successful.


After sending questions to Debbie Armour to interview her child, Romy, I recieved a lovely recording of the Q + A and have been really excited to work with the audio. For this collage performance I chose to use a couple of parts:

“I’d miss.. I’d miss.. seeing.. seeing..”:

A part of the interview that grabbed me immediately was when she was thinking of an answer to the question “What would you miss most about earth if we had to move to another planet?”. I immediately put music to the natural rhythm and pacing of her voice in this fragment so was keen to work this in, especially since it illustrates the process of thinking and can be taken to have a double meaning of missing the act of seeing (when taken as a fragment).
I think this works really well as the basis of a song, it’s really immediate and hypnotic when incorporated within the beats and I played around with making it glitchy and adding 2-voice chorus effect onto it (on the MPC).

Longer clips (x2) as transition/endings:

I also included two unedited clips in which she explaines concepts more broadly. I think these work nicely as transitions between songs with a minimal drone, beat, or sound underneath to lift it. Her voice is very evocative and as a short interlude track on the EP I think this could work.


As I’ve said above, the samples of Romy’s voice really carry the arrangement of the first song. It was put together in the MCP before the performance using preexisting kicks, claps and other percussive samples and transitions through 9 different drum patterns, building up layers of these on top of the voice samples before cutting them back down again to a glitchy, altered version of the samples which is what remains at the end. Though basic at this stage, I think the beginning works really well and is immediate and effective, it goes straight into the song without any messing about. The end is nice too, I like how the glitches materialise as the layers are cut back. The beats aren’t especially complicated but they keep a nice driving pace to the song and are a good start.

I also added some live looped vocals, firstly a drone on two notes with an additional pitch shifted bass note. I think this works well to establish a key and as an introduction of the second voice (mine). I pick up on the pitch of the word “seeing” in Romy’s sample, which I think is an interesting way of keeping in touch with the base sample.

Then with a pitch shifted (octave up) I made smatterings of notes with reverse reverb on (and looped this). This takes a while to get interesting on the live recording but I think the addition of the higher frequencies is important for the song’s balance, and throws it off kilter a little because it’s very mechanical before this is introduced.

The final loop is made by singing along to the “I’d miss, I’d miss, seeing, seeing” slightly pitching the words along the same lines as the original voice. I preset that channel on the looper to reverse automatically when I looped it, which worked really nicely against the continued singing of “I’d miss, I’d miss, seeing, seeing”. I kept this one in until the very end which bled into the transition into the next song.

I also did some improvised vocals between building the first two loops and beginning to cut the layers down for the outro, which I think was the weakest part of this first song. I’m fairly comfortable improvising vocals but I think this was too comfortable and a bit lazy, the melody wasn’t very interesting and I’m not sure it added anything to it. For a recorded version of this song I’d perhaps consider going without the improvised vocal melody altogether or consider ways of making it add something, because it just crowds this particular arrangement at the moment I think.


The transition into the second song starts with the leftover reversed loop of “I’d miss, I’d miss, seeing, seeing” with the clean voice of Romy talking about the kind of planet she can imagine us all moving to. The way this cuts out to leave the voice on it’s own is really satisfying it draws attention to the words and the silence really lifts the sample. I’d like to have the voice alone a little longer before bringing in the beat for the next song, or perhaps not introduce the beat until she’s finished speaking at all.

I find the combination of minimal sound and voice really effective, and definitely want to play with this in the finished work.


The second song is less successful, but there are still elements that I’m definitely keen to reuse and develop. It’s much more like the music I make as Me Lost Me but seems very unfinished in this state.

Arrangement-wise the beat and drone are very similar to previous songs and I’d like to work more into creating something more interesting, it’s fine, but it’s boring imo.

I’d be really keen to reuse the lyrics of the poem I wrote – but perhaps with a different melody. Again, I think there were elements that were good but melodically it wasn’t anything special and it didn’t necessarily work sandwiched within the context of Romy’s samples or in the arrangement. It might make for a nice fragment of a-capella singing in the EP, if I can work a melody that stands up against minimal or no backing.


These birds they have the lay of the land
And lover I have none
How long after they lay me down
Will my body all be gone, be gone,
My body all be gone

And when the soil does touch your breast
Like I have touched your breast
Will It burn or will it rest
With roots all tangled b’tween, b’tween
With roots all tangled ‘tween

One hundred years from now or more
This dying earth will shudder
The chicks will shoot out from their nests
To fly among their mothers, mothers
To fly among their mothers

One hundred years from now or more
This dying earth will shudder
The chicks will shoot out from their nests
To mourn among their mothers, mothers
To mourn among their mothers