Performances at Network Music Festival

On Thursday 26th January I performed with Freecode at the Network Music Festival pre-festival party.

For this set at any one time there were two people doing audio and two doing video. We also had the theme “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”. To try and explain further:

Something old
Video: Antonio (hellocatfood) and Alan (laternist)
Audio: Leon (Chromatouch) and Jim (minuek)

Something new
Video: Chromatouch and minuek
Audio: hellocatfood and laternist

Something borrowed:
Video: hellocatfood and minuek
Audio: Chromatouch and laternist

Something blue:
Video: Chromatouch and laternist
Audio: hellocatfood and laternist

Working in this way I think gave us a bit more structure and allowed each person to shine in the spotlight for a bit. It also saw us mixing and matching styles a lot more. For example, myself and laternist create very abstract and noisy images and sound whereas Chromatouch and minuek create audio that’s more listenable and do similar things with visuals. Having two of these mixing created great results!

We now have a tumblr account where we’ll be posting all of our videos. Go visit it:

The following day I performed with BiLE. We performed two pieces at Network Music Festival: XYZ and Laptopera. The visuals for XYZ have evolved quite a bit since its first performance.

XYZ - Old visuals

Previously the visuals acted mostly as a display of the data being sent over the network. Without knowing what the data was it was hard to get any meaning from the visuals. Now, however, I feel it better represents the interactions between the players. Here it is being performed at Network Music Festival:

Please excuse the positioning of the camera. I also posted at work in progress video of those visuals in case you should want to get a better idea of what’s happening.

BiLE also premiered Laptopera, which you can watch and listen to on the BiLE YouTube channel

BiLE Business

The world of BiLE is a busy one recently! On January 3rd we were featured in an article in the Financial Times about Laptop Orchestra’s

BiLE in the Financial Times

Read the interview here

Thanks to Alex Newman for writing the article. The article also makes reference to Network Music Festival, which is taking place in from 27-29th January in various locations around Birmingham.

The festival will featrue performances, workshops and lectures from national and international laptop ensembles and performers including Benoît and the Mandelbrots – we both performed at Laptops Meet Musicians Festival in Venice last year – and BiLE


Local journalist Ross Cotton interviewed BiLE ahead of our performance next week:

With elements of both art and music within their sound, BiLE fuse together two creative outlets and present their experiments through performance.

“It’s very much a musical background that we all come from, and I think that translates into the approach that we take” says Iain.


“We’re more about exploring other avenues alongside the other things that we are doing. But the stuff that we’re doing in BiLE is definitely influencing my other compositions. Working with a group of composers with other ideas just opens your eyes to other avenues.”

“We are always trying to create interesting music”, says fellow member Chris.

“We’re not about technical fetishes or using technology for the sake of it, we are just using technology as a way of enabling us to do interesting and new things.

“The technology is much more of an enabling factor, rather than a necessity. It’s about new ways of expression, rather than genre-based roots”, he says.

Full interview is available here

BiLE will be performing XYZ and will be premiering Laptopera. In terms of visuals, for this performance I wanted to move away from using pre-recorded videos and instead use purely generative visuals. This required me to learn a lot about using particles in GEM – [part_head], [part_velocity] etc. Here’s a preview of the results for XYZ and Laptopera.

It still needs a bit of work, but it’s coming along nicely!

Tickets for Network Music Festival can be bought from the website and costs from £8 for day tickets to £25 for a weekend pass.

Click to buy

BiLE at SONICpicnic, 29th July 2011

BiLE will be performing alongside a whole host of musicians at SONICpicnic on 29th July at VIVID.

SOUNDkitchne SONICpicnic

I designed this. Word to your mother.

BiLE had their very first performance at the first SOUNDkitchen event – see, we’ve got proof – so we’re really happy to be performing again.

We’ll be performing a few pieces including XYZ, which was recently played in Venice at the Laptop Meets Musicians Festival. You can see a preview of the visuals that I’ve prepared for it below:

I’ll also be doing visuals for the whole night alongside Chromatouch

BiLE at Laptops Meet Musicians Festival, 11-12 July 2011

From 10th-13th July I’ll be in Venice (which is in Italy, apparently) with another three-sevenths of BiLE for the Laptops Meet Musicians Festival.

Sonic Arm Wrestlers

We’ll be performing two pieces, Partially Percussive (recording below) and XYZ, which was recently performed when BiLE was in Norway for NIME:

XYZ (or ‘Sonic Arm Wrestle’) is a structured improvisation using motion capture devices such as iPhone, Wiimote and Xbox Kinect. Each player can fight to take control of another players sound.

In Partially Percusive, players sample the sounds of striking metallic objects and then manipulate the sounds in software. Players are instructed to listen for whether other players are playing sounds that are percussive vs sustained, pointillistic vs flowing, sparse vs dense, or loud vs soft and situate their own sounds accordingly. Players can sample a new sound after a pause and can pause for as long as they’d like, when they feel they should.

Partially Percussive by BiLE

You should all travel from wherever you are in the world to Italy just for this one spectacular performance. 😉


Aside from a brief post announcing our performance at SOUNDkitchen a few months back I’ve failed to actually talk about the Birmingham Laptop Ensemble (BiLE).

BiLE at Electroacoustic Compostion Forum in Liverpool

six sevenths of BiLE performing in Liverpool

BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) are a collaborative group of composers and performers of instrumental and electroacoustic music. Six artists were brought together through their shared interest in live performance and desire to perform and improvise together in an interactive ensemble.

BiLE’s core team of performers are: Julien Guillamat, Charles Céleste Hutchins, Shelly Knotts, Norah Lorway, Jorge Garcia Moncada and Chris Tarren.

BiLE regularly perform with glitch artist Antonio Roberts.

My role in the group (the supersecrit seventh member) is, where necessary, to provide visuals for their performances. Up until now I’ve been using various versions of a video mixer built in Pure Data to do my visuals. This has worked and I’ve used it to create this video for Electroacousitc Sonata No.1 for Cello by Julien Guillamat:

For future performances I want to compose visuals in the same way that they do with audio. For example, for some pieces each member is able to control certain parts of the software being used by another member by sending messages via OSC over a wireless network. I’ve recently figured out how to join this network so now I’ll be using their data to affect the visuals. I also want to use a Wiimote and Kinect in some way, but I’ll have to work on that.

BiLE will be performing next at NIME in Oslo, Norway (without me) on 31st May 2011. After that we have an easer-to-get-to gig in Wolverhampton. More on that soon…

BiLE at SOUNDkitchen, 17th March 2011

On Thursday 17th March from 8pm I’ll be providing visuals for BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) at SOUNDktichen Balkan Fusion at the Hare and Hounds

BiLE are a collaborative group of composers (instrumental and electroacoustic), performers and programmers who are all active members of BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre). The core group of six artists were brought together through their shared interest in live performance and desire to perform and improvise together in an interactive ensemble.

This will be my first foray into the land of live visuals and certainly not my last. I’m really excited about this as long as my computer doesn’t crash it’ll be an awesome set! Get your tickets here.