Sometimes life feels a little like a volcano. On the surface, all is calm and collected, whilst just beneath there is a whirling pool of hot energy, never resting, preparing to break through again at any moment!

Indeed, I wrote a piece this month exploring this idea of creating a space for yourself in the busy lives that almost everyone seems to lead today. Retreating from the cacophony of the world is stepping towards everything that is essential. Silence should be explored, not explained. This little feature offers a very personal response to silence and escaping, touching on a very intimate moment in my recent experience, heartbreakingly so. I hope you will enjoy this considered piece. Read it here

Back in February I presented the world premiere of Mass Observation, a new intermedia live performance. Now I can share a short excerpt from the full show that uses technology to explore the pitfalls of social media, and the mass observation of society as viewed through the all-seeing-eyes of CCTV. Accompanied by a film that features surveillance footage and images taken from hidden cameras the performance uses live radio signals, dehumanised communications, abstract textures, all mixed into a contextual electronic score. Live radio transmissions are brought into the show to offer a real-time picture of the local atmosphere. I’m hoping to show this elsewhere in the coming year. Stay tuned. Watch the performance at the Centre Pompidou in Paris here

Scanner Mass Observation Live at Centre Pompidou 2019

It was a joy to close April by presenting my work with artist Kasia Molga at Somerset House in London, with our Code of Soil project. We held a workshop all afternoon where we shared the results of our research and development, and engaged in extended conversations and smiled as young children donned headphones to listen in wonder to the sound of live worms working hard beneath the surface of the soil. The installation version of this work will begin being shown later this year in public, so watch this space for more information. 

I’m often asked how I go about creating sounds for projects and so I made a little film where I explore just a single sound and follow a path to see where it goes. So here’s just one sound and two little Eurorack modular synths in the studio. Something extremely simple. If you watch carefully you’ll see one of the modules try to escape the case as they aren’t screwed in as yet, but it should give you an idea of how one sound comes into play in my works.

Qu-Bit Electronix Nebulae & Prism

Following on from this I was delighted to be invited to create a special sample reel for the American company Make Noise for their Morphagene Eurorack module, using sounds I created especially for this. I’ve rarely had the opportunity to create samples for other creative people to use, so thought this would be fun. It’s now available for free download from their account on Freesound.org. To download, head to freesound.org/people/makenoisemusic and search for the file labelled “Scanner Reel.wav.” Once downloaded, add it to your Morphagene’s SD card and rename it to fit alongside your card’s other Reels. If you don’t own the Morphagene module you can also cut up these sounds in any other audio editor and create something special with it too. Let me hear anything you create with the sounds too please! 

The Art of Intimacy returned to BBC Radio 4 due to popular demand. I was invited to score this short BBC series about the place of sexual consent in literature. How should it look, sound and feel like? Through two episodes with writer Eimear McBride we explore the moments just before sex – when consent is still molten and evolving. So where in our literature can we find good examples of this kind of intimacy?

I was utterly thrilled to learn that Lost at Sea has been nominated for an award at New Music Scotland. It was originally created for East Neuk Festival 2018 in collaboration with pupils from Waid Academy and proved to be a great success, and the sound installation that accompanied it ran for several months in the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. You can listen to a version of the recording here, but unfortunately the actual live performance was never recorded with the pupils. The awards ceremony will take place on the 13th May so please cross your fingers for me! 

Playtime in the studio is always a joy, but unfortunately there’s never enough time to explore all I want, but here’s something really rather quirky to share with you. Four machines with the wildest names speaking four different languages to each other at the very same time. That’s to say you can hear the Mroztronium Grackler and Dirty Electronics Mute Synth conversing with the Lorre Mill Double Knot and Ciat Lonbarde Sidrax. Yes, really. Watch it here in full. 

And whilst here, let me share a video playing with my Buchla 200e synthesiser system, which once belonged to a very popular British electronic whizzkid who simply has too much gear to enjoy and sold it at auction some years ago. It’s an exploratory rhythmic piece.

My rather playful On 45 series on Mixcloud continues this month with Japanese composer Ryoji Ikeda. If you’re not familiar with this series it is inspired by the pop songs under the umbrella title of Stars on 45, where music would be combined into a medley, with a common beat and tempo underneath. It was like a kind of greatest hits of a certain artist or style of music. Others in the series have featured the work of Chris Carter, Lorn, Mika Vainio, LFO, Holly Herndon, Alessandro Cortini, Sophie and many more. 

Archive Land opens at the Museum of Applied Arts in Cologne this week (4 May – 2 June), as part of the Artist Meets Archive series for the Photoszene Festival. Like many museums the MAKK holds a wealth of materials that are hidden away in a dark basement and rarely see the light of day. So, for this special project Dutch artist Erik Kessels has been given access to this unique collection and chosen images from their photo collection. Reproducing these photographic plates to enormously oversized playing cards he is building a huge house of cards, which you can visit inside the museum.

To accompany this Erik invited me to create a sound installation to reflect the themes. I began thinking about the photos themselves and what music might have been listened to at the time when they were taken. I settled on the work of Beethoven and replayed a very famous sonata of his on the piano, extremely slowly. To this I added all the sounds that might emanate from the photographs themselves, so the ticking of clocks, footsteps, horses, someone coughing, a crowd in the street, church bells, birdsong and more. All of this is then filtered through a kind of sonic lens so that the sounds appear and disappear, as does the music, suggesting a dreamlike quality to the room, moving the past to the present. 

This is the second time Erik and I have produced a very special project. The first time we released a DVD with a special music piece for his In Almost Every Picture Edition. These were signed and available only in a very limited edition. For Archive Land we are producing another very unique edition – a pack of cards reproducing the images from the exhibition with a music cassette of the score, in a collector’s box (200 copies, signed by Erik Kessels and myself), available at the museum box office for 30€. I’m hoping to pick up some copies myself if possible to offer for sale if they are available too, so please get in touch if you are interested. 

Taking the train from Cologne it’s then off to Superbooth, the annual electronic music instrument and music festival, which returns to Berlin’s FEZ youth and leisure centre. With over 250 exhibitors showing off their creative wares, live performances and presentations, it’s guaranteed to be an utterly exhausting and as before, wonderfully engaging and social experience. 

And then to close May, it’s time to celebrate another fine year as an alien visiting this planet. Apparently, my birthday brings me officially into ‘middle-age’ for humans, sharing my birthday with my creative pals Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks. How very quirky indeed.

Until next month, I remain your humble sonic guide.  

Professor Scanner 

::: listen :::
Jóhann Jóhannsson: Retrospective I (Deutsche Grammophon)
Brian Chas: Drums and Drones (Chaiking)
Leafcutter John: Yes! Come Parade With Us (Border Community)
Régis Renouard Larivière: Contrée (Editions Mego)

::: read ::: 
Matthew L. Tompkins: The Spectacle of Illusion (Thames & Hudson)
Mike Nelson: Amnesiac Hide (Black Dog)
Spectres: Composing Listening (Shelter Press)
Dick Raaymakers Monograph (V2)

::: watch :::
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond: Chris Smith
You: Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble
The Sound is Innocent: Johana Ozvold
Behind the Curve: Daniel J Clark