Writings, recordings and software

This page will contain open access and open source publications that are outcomes of the Sonic Writing project. Other related publications can be found on Thor Magnusson's publications page

Performing with Patterns of Time

Music is a time-based art form often characterised by patternings; manipulations of sequences over time. Composers and performers may think in terms of patterns, although the structure of patterned sequences are often not made explicit in musical notation. This chapter explores how musical sequences can be created and transformed in real-time performance through patterning functions. Topics related to the use of algorithms for pattern-making are discussed, and two systems are introduced - ixi lang and TidalCycles, as high level and expressive mini-languages for musical pattern.

[The Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music - the chapter can be downloaded from here]

Musical Organics: A Heterarchical Approach to Digital Organology

Gaining a comprehensive understanding and overview of new musical technologies is fraught with difficulties. They are made of digital materials of such diverse origins and nature, that they do not fit comfortably into traditional organological classifications. This article traces the history of musical instrument classifications relevant to the understanding of new digital instruments, and proposes an alternative method to the centuries-old tree-structure of downwards divisions. The proposed musical organics is a multidimensional, heterarchical, and organic approach to the analysis and classification of both traditional and new musical instruments that suits the rhizomatic nature of their material design and technical origins. Outlines of a hypothetical organological informatics retrieval system are also presented.

[The Journal of New Music Research - the article can be downloaded from here]

Contextualizing Musical Organics: An Ad-hoc Organological Classification Approach

New digital musical instruments are difficult for organologists to deal with, due to their heterogeneous origins, interdisciplinary science, and fluid, open-ended nature. NIMEs are studied from a range of disciplines, such as musicology, engineering, human-computer interaction, psychology, design, and performance studies. Attempts to continue traditional organology classifications for electronic and digital instruments have been made, but with unsatisfactory results. This paper raises the problem of tree-like classifications of digital instruments, proposing an alternative approach: musical organics.

Musical organics is a philosophical attempt to tackle the problems inherent in the organological classification of digital instruments. Shifting the emphasis from hand-coded classification to information retrieval supported search and clustering, an open and distributed system that anyone can contribute to is proposed. In order to show how such a system could incorporate third-party additions, the paper also presents an organological ontogenesis of three innovative musical instruments: the saxophone, the Minimoog, and the Reactable. This micro-analysis of innovation in the field of musical instruments can help forming a framework for the study of how instruments are adopted in musical culture.

[Proceedings of the 2017 New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference (NIME) - the paper can be downloaded from here]

Interfacing Sound: Visual Representation of Sound in Musical Software Instruments

This chapter explores the role of visual representation of sound in music software. Software design often remediates older technologies, such as common music notation, the analogue tape, outboard studio equipment, as well as applying metaphors from acoustic and electric instruments. In that context, the aim is to study particular modes in which abstract shapes, symbols and innovative notations can be applied in systems for composition and live performance. The chapter presents the development of musical software as a form of composition: it is an experimental activity that goes hand in hand with sound and music research, where the musician-programmer has to gain a formal understanding of diverse domains that before might have been tacit knowledge. The digital system’s requirements for abstractions of the source domain, specifications of material, and completeness of definitions are all features that inevitably require a very strong understanding of the source domain.

[Musical Instruments in the 21st Century - my chapter can be downloaded from here]

Writing with shaky hands (editorial)

In his introduction to the Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault objects to be defined as a writer of a solid identity in order to be able to move, change, and explore the unknown – labyrinths and underground passages – admitting that such writing is at times done with a ‘shaky hand’. This journal issue explores live coding, a performance practice that operates in a similar spirit of writing as an adventure and exploration, of deliberately rejecting definitions, of being heterogeneous in nature, and continually challenging its self-understanding through the practice of writing and rewriting – of defining and redefining – as a public performance.

[The Live Coding issue of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. View the editorial here]

Notating the Non-Notateable: Digital Notation of Txalaparta Practice

This paper explores notation practices related to the ancient Basque musical tradition of the txalaparta. It presents the txalaparta practice, introduces the improvisational rules of txalaparta playing, and describes our attempts in creating notation systems for the instrument. Due to the nature of txalaparta playing, Common Western Notation is not a suitable notation, and we will present the notation system we have developed as part of the Digital Txalaparta project. This system captures the key parts of playing and could potentially serve for both playback and a rich documentation of what players actually perform.

[Tenor 2016 Conference download PDF]

Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Live Interfaces

The proceedings of the Live Interfaces conference are the outcome of a five-day gathering at the University of Sussex's Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in June 2016. The biennial ICLI conference is interdisciplinary and practice-based, unique in that it focuses on the role of performance interfaces across all of the performing arts. This year it became clear that ICLI has become an established platform for people operating in diverse sections of the arts to meet and discuss the embodied use of technology in live performance. With a focus on practice, the conference emphasised the role of performances, workshops and installations as well as papers and posters.

With submissions from musicians, dancers, roboticists, brain scientists, visual artists, philosophers, animators, sculpturists, and more, the proceedings illustrate the range of activities encompassed by this lively platform for knowledge exchange and new performance practices. The proceedings were peer reviewed and include long and short papers, doctoral colloquium papers, performance installation and workshop descriptions, as well as some documentation of the event itself. Much of the conference was also filmed and can be found on the conference YouTube channel.

[Live Interfaces 2016 Conference link to PDF proceedings and video channel]