On my interest and work with computers

I have an interest in algorithmically generated sound and music (both audio and midi), but specifically I invented (with the help of my now ex-students Michael Tusch and James Larsson) a new kind of mathematics (‘harmonic maths’) which has been applied to music, moving abstract graphics and the combination of both. This work began in 1984 and has been used to generate scores, computer music and videos. No random numbers need be involved in harmonic math sequences, it’s deterministic, all based on the weaving of very precise patterns, rather as fractal and chaos sequences are. It deals with arrays of variables, each variable going through cycles of values at harmonically related (ie whole number ratio) speeds.

For techies, see the section on harmonic maths for a more technical exploration.

As a composer I use and extend conventional musical aspects (melody, rhythm, harmony, tonal progression…..). In the computer arena I have an interest to develop music which has both extreme “virtuosity” and a deep sense of mindfulness.

I’m just getting back to active work in computers and algorithms after an intense spell in the 80s when the software and hardware was not really up for the ideas. (I ended up writing 6502 and 68000 assembler code).

I then developed a series of harmonic-math generated ‘timbral transforms’ tones (on an Apple II/Mountain hardware) as healing/deeply relaxing/psychonaut sounds marketed as ShapeTapes (over 2000 were sold by mail order in the late 80s). These were researched considerably by Alexander practitioner/counsellor/healer Isobel McGilvray (who was co-author of the series).

See www.meditationalmusic.net for information on my albums of computer generated music.

I feel that there is a potential to be realised with computers in music that goes far beyond a creative convenience (as with sequencers for instance which are the equivalent of a musical word processor). I feel it consists of using machine dexterity in the extreme and also the presence and vision of the capacity to surprise. The Amerindians (I forget which tribes) have a word which means grace as well as surprise and music certainly needs to surprise – its creator and his/her audience alike.