The sound of {Music} Computing – free schools event @QMUL Wed 14 Dec 5.30pm


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Save the date – Wednesday 14 December 2016 – because Andrew McPherson will be giving a talk on music and computing and demonstrating his Magnetic Resonance Piano at this free festive talk at Queen Mary University of London. It’s aimed at secondary school pupils but all are welcome, it’s family-friendly and free🙂

The sound of {Music} Computing
Wednesday 14 December – 5.30-6.30pm FREE
The People’s Palace, Queen Mary University of London
Hosted by the IET and QMUL
(doors at 5pm, talk at 5.30pm, mince pies at 6.30pm, carriages at 7.30pm)
Download an event flyer (PDF)



The design of the acoustic piano has scarcely changed in more than a century. Now, computers are being used to transform the sounds and techniques of this
familiar instrument. 

The magnetic resonator piano (MRP) is an augmented instrument which places electromagnets inside an acoustic grand piano. The electromagnets cause the strings to vibrate without being struck with the hammers, creating notes that can sustain indefinitely, grow out of silence, or change in pitch or timbre. All sound is completely acoustic, with no speakers.

The MRP is played from the piano keyboard using a combination of familiar and new techniques. The instrument uses a computer to translate key motion into signals for the electromagnets, but playing it, you wouldn’t know that a computer is involved: pressing the keys causes the strings to sound, just like on a normal piano. But unlike a normal piano, you can continuously shape the sound of each note, adding vibrato, pitch bends, harmonics and other novel effects. The result sounds like a combination of a piano, an organ and a glass harmonica.

There will be a live demo of the MRP during the presentation, and it will be available after the talk for attendees to try for themselves.

Your host

Andrew McPherson is a Reader in Digital Media at Queen Mary University of London. He is a member of the Centre for Digital Music (C4DM), a research group in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science which explores the overlap between music and computing. Andrew completed a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining QMUL in 2011, he was a postdoc in the Music Entertainment Technology Laboratory at Drexel University. His research covers digital and augmented instruments, embedded computing systems, and the study of performer instrument interaction.

Within C4DM, he leads the Augmented Instruments Laboratory, a team whose projects have been featured in two successful Kickstarter campaigns, concerts in high-profile venues including the Barbican Centre and Cadogan Hall, and over two dozen media articles. More information on Andrew’s work can be found at:


Text above is taken from this event flyer (PDF)

Skype on Helium – amusing buffering error on conversation with my dad


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This recording was made a few years ago while I was in a hotel using iffy wifi to ‘phone’ my dad via Skype. I’d never heard Skype turn someone’s voice like this before and didn’t really know what to do, and couldn’t stop giggling (as is clear from the recording). Subsequent googling indicated that it had been due to some buffering error, but it always makes me laugh to hear it. My dad died yesterday so I suppose this is a bit ‘in memoriam’-y but let’s not be down in the dumps -he found it quite funny too. In the call he’s saying ‘hang up, hang up’, encouraging me to restart the conversation which we eventually did successfully.

I once tried to recover my dad’s normal speaking voice from this by running the audio through Audacity and slowing it down but it sounded just as hilarious then. Haha 🙂


Exploring the secrets of soothing spaceship sound | Atlas Obscura h/t @bowbrick


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Via Steve Bowbrick…

Headphones on for the low spaceship rumbling sounds…

It was, as he put it, his favorite part of the show. The “ambient engine noise sound.”

via Exploring the Secrets of Soothing Spaceship Sound | Atlas Obscura

Ditto. In fact one of my favourite pieces of music from Star Trek The Next Generation is definitely missing the lovely engine sounds (and the sounds of Wesley Crusher snoozing as his nanites escape) in S301 – Evolution (below) that were present in the broadcast version (which keeps being taken down!).

Music by Ron Jones (who’s also done a lot of work on Family Guy / American Dad).

Chinook helicopter rotor sounds [m4a] in Greenwich


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Chinook - RNAS Yeovilton 2006

I live in Blackheath in London which is in the borough of Greenwich and Woolwich, and Woolwich has an army barracks. I assume that’s where most of the Chinook helicopters come from (or visit and then leave) that make lots of lovely noise overhead in the early evening. With two rotors (spinning in opposite [contra-rotating tandem rotors] directions) the Boeing Chinook RAF helicopter has an unmistakeable sound which you can hear well before you’ll see any sign of a helicopter. They also look totally cool when they do show up.

Here is a low quality (sorry!) iPhone 5s sound recording, taken without wind guard, of a Chinook making its lovely noise in Greenwich.


What a shame @EmiratesAirLDN now blasts music at you


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I had an unintentionally free trip on the Emirates Air-line (cable car / dangleway) this morning. For future reference it’s cheaper if you have a travelcard (mine’s annual 1-3 so I got the return trip for £7 instead of £9) although I think they’ve stopped the discount for local residents who had a Greenwich or Newham card.

It’s a lovely relaxing trip – I don’t really think of it as a journey, more a fairground ride with the option to get off at the other side and have some noodles or a mooch around the eco centre. I highly recommend it as a fun thing to do in London.

Sadly they’ve started blasting out music in the passenger-loading area (the bit where you get onto or alight from the cable car pods). Nothing particularly wrong with the music (I heard Tiny Dancer and something from Stevie Wonder) but it’s really quite loud and unnecessary. I know some underground stations have music (often classical) playing in the background but it’s usually not deafening, though I could do without it. Apparently on the underground it’s to deter teenagers (!) but I’ve no idea what it’s deterring at the Emirates Air-Line. Commuters probably.

About a year ago the cable cars introduced an in-car/pod/cabin audio commentary but at least they advertised the fact that you could ask for your pod to be quiet. Incidentally, this turned out to be a fairly good way to get an emptier cabin during busy periods as most people seemed to want the audio, or at least didn’t care, but I was shunted into a nice silent empty one after letting a couple of people go ahead of me.

Today I asked for the same – no audio – but I was really annoyed once the doors shut to realise that I was going to suffer bloody awful piped library music for the duration of the short journey. On repeat loop. Dear god. While I appreciate that there are worse things in the world to worry about I’m afraid I lost my temper and demanded a refund and a guarantee of silence on the return journey. The staff were extremely efficient, understanding and helpful, promptly refunding me, providing me with a free return ticket, apologising for the annoyance and checking mid-dangle on my return journey that the cabin was indeed quiet (it was, lovely).

Why is there loud music at the start and end of the journey? Why is there quieter music during the journey. Neither improved my experience, the silence was appreciated. It’s a real shame that it’s currently quite hard to hear the lovely hypnotic sound of the cablecar’s bullwheel (the massive rotating wheels at either end that push the cables around and around, and across the river). I remember the first time I heard it, shortly after the cable cars opened, when I walked towards the North Greenwich terminal and heard this amazing whum-whum-whum sound emanating. Also as the cable cars leave the terminal they make a nice little trundling noise as they ‘go over the points’ or whatever it’s called when they ‘take off’ and pass over some small wheels.

Dear Emirates – please shush the music, it’s unnecessary – thanks.

Things I’d like to hear instead while waiting for or crossing the river by cable-car

  • Press Option 1 for silence😉
  • Press Option 2 for a talk by an engineer explaining how the cable-car system was constructed and works
  • Option 3 for tourist information and pointing out landmarks
  • Option 4 for radio transmissions to and from Air Traffic Control at London City Airport

Also they’ve a massive Rolls Royce engine at the North Greenwich cable-car station. It would be paired with three others and hung from a very, very large aircraft. I don’t know which type of Rolls Royce engine it was but a quick google tells me that the Rolls Royce Trent 800 series (used on a Boeing 777 for example) has a diameter of about 9 feet. The fuselage of a Boeing 737 is just a little larger than that at 11+ feet.


Walter Murch film editing masterclass at the @ICALondon, 23 April 2016


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Oh my goodness Walter Murch is fab. I’ve just been to the ICA to hear him talk about ‘Return to OZ‘ which I hadn’t seen (it’s fantastic, and really quite dark) and I could hear him talk all day. He directed RtOZ but I know of him more as both a sound and film editor. He’s doing a masterclass for young film makers in April, in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and if I was a film maker I’d be clambering over people to go to this. I’m not sure I can justify it but I’ll see if they’ll let me in, as an enthusiastic viewer (more truthfully, listener) of films. Here he is talking about film editing, for BAFTA Guru.

I’ve read his ‘In the Blink of an Eye‘ book about film editing and film in general – I recommend it.

Frames of Representation: The Art of the Edit: A Masterclass with Walter Murch
23 Apr 2016, 4:15 pm | Cinema 1 | £8.00 to £12.00

Frames of Representation is delighted to welcome Walter Murch, triple Oscar- and triple BAFTA-winning sound designer and editor of iconic films such as Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and The Conversation to host a masterclass on film editing.

Universally acknowledged as a master in his field, Walter Murch coined the term ‘Sound Designer’ and helped to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level.

In this unique masterclass, Walter Murch focuses on editing documentaries, exploring the methodology of merging fiction and documentary to explore perceived reality and human stories.

Walter Murch and his connection with the documentary film Lost and Beautiful is also explored. Murch mentored Sara Fgaier, film editor on Lost and Beautiful, for one year as part of the Rolex Arts initiative. Walter worked with Sara as he made the final edits of a new documentary, Particle Fever. This masterclass offers young filmmakers a chance to ask questions and examine the assumptions of established thinking on documentary cinema and cinema in general.”

2016/2017 film music events in London: Barbican, RFH / Southbank, RAH


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There’s a lot of film music stuff happening everwhere all the time but as I live in London that’s what this post will focus on. If you know of a film music event I’ve missed please let me know in the comments (@JoBrodie on Twitter jo.brodie on Gmail).

Barbican#OscarWinningScores season: talks by composers who’ve won an Oscar and a screening of the film for which they won it
Royal Albert HallFilm with Live Orchestra season: films projected with orchestra performing the score live. They also do Conversations with Screen Composers where a composer’s interviewed and some clips from their films are shown and discussed
Southbank Centre Film Scores Live season: films projected with orchestra performing the score live, at the Royal Festival and St John’s Smith Square

Here’s a plain-text list of the films involved
2001: A Space Odyssey
Brief Encounter
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert
Gladiator Live
Gravity 3D
Hitchcock’s The Lodger
Independence Day
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Jurassic Park
Shakespeare in Love
The English Patient
The Full Monty
There Will be Blood
Tous les matins du monde
Under the Skin
and a general “Western Music in Concert”


Neil Brand presented the excellent ‘Sound of Cinema’ series a couple of years ago (it’s being rebroadcast on Sun 6 March) and he’s doing some YouTube videos ‘Bells and Whistles‘ on film music.

Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made The Movies – Ep 1: The Big Score
BBC Four, 12.45pm, Sun 6 Mar 2016
Neil Brand’s excellent programme on film scores.

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark live
Wed 9-Sat 12 Mar 2016 – 7pm every night and 2.30pm on Sat too, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

Western Music in Concert
with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra
7.30pm, Fri 11 Mar 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

Clint Mansell – talk
7.30pm, Sun 27 March 2016, Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s BAFTA Conversations with Screen Composers: Clint Mansell

The English Patient (15) + ScreenTalk with Gabriel Yared
7pm, 20 Apr 2016, Cinema 1, Level -2 in the Barbican
Barbican Oscar® Winning Scores season

Gladiator Live
7.30pm, Wed 25 – Thur 26 May 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

Shakespeare in Love (15) + ScreenTalk with Stephen Warbeck
7pm, 15 Jun 2016, Cinema 1, Level -2 in the Barbican
Barbican Oscar® Winning Scores season

Gravity 3D (12A) + ScreenTalk with Steven Price
7pm, 14 Sep 2016, Cinema 1, Level -2 in the Barbican
Barbican Oscar® Winning Scores season

Independence Day Live
Featuring pre-film talk from David Arnold
7pm, Thur 22 Sep 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

2001: A Space Odyssey
7.30pm, Sun 2 Oct 2016, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Amadeus Live
featuring the Academy of St Martin in the Fields
7pm, Fri 14 Oct 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

Music from the film Tous les matins du monde
[film time not given] Wed 19 Oct 2016, St John’s Smith Square
6.15pm – free pre-concert talk
Jordi Savall & Le Concert des Nations – performing on C17th period instruments
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Emma (U) + ScreenTalk with Rachel Portman
7pm, 26 Oct 2016, Cinema 1, Level -2 in the Barbican
Barbican Oscar® Winning Scores season

Jurassic Park in Concert
with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
7.30pm, Thur 3 – Sat 5 Nov 2016, Royal Albert Hall (2.30pm Sat perf sold out)
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

2.00pm, Sun 6 Nov 2016, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Aliens Live
3pm and 7.30pm, Sun 6 Nov 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra

The Full Monty (15) + ScreenTalk with Anne Dudley
7pm, 7 Dec 2016, Cinema 1, Level -2 in the Barbican
Barbican Oscar® Winning Scores season

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert
2pm and 7pm, Wed 28 Dec 2016, Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall’s Films with Live Orchestra


There Will be Blood
7.30pm, Mon 30 Jan 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Brief Encounter
7.30pm, Tue 14 Feb 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Under the Skin
7.30pm, Tue 4 Apr 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

7.30pm, Fri 23 Jun 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season

Hitchcock’s The Lodger
7.30pm*, Sat 24 Jun 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
6.15pm – free pre-film talk
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season
*time not given on individual web page for the film but one assumes!

3.00pm, Sun 25 Jun 2017, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre’s Film Scores Live 2016/17 season


Is there a perfect design for a concert hall ? Acoustics talk on Tue 1 March


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Not being a fan of opera I’ve never paid attention to the Royal Opera House’s website but fortunately @schrokit does and found this gem of a talk on Tuesday evening. This talk seems like it was precisely calibrated to be very suitable for me, alas I can’t actually go – but at least I know I need to pay more attention to ROH! I see from the link below that the event will be filmed so fingers crossed I’ll be able to catch it later.

Insights: The Art and Science of Theatre Acoustics
Clore Studio Upstairs, Tuesday 1 March 2016, 7.30pm, £7-14

“Is there a perfect design for a lyric theatre or concert hall? In partnership with the Institute of Physics, join leading scientists and artists as they discuss how acoustics can make or break a performance.”

I’m not sure if Prof Trevor Cox is speaking at this event but his book (Sonic Wonderland: a scientific odyssey of sound) is rather good fun.



Why go to a music concert? Panel talk @QMUL on 1 March, FREE


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A Mind of Music – Why Go to A Concert?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 from 17:30 to 19:00 (GMT) – Add to Calendar

The Octagon, Queen’s Building – Queen Mary University of London, . Mile End Road. London E1 4NS GB – View Map

Panel talk with Professor John Sloboda and other leading figures in Music Research

“Much of the music we listen to in everyday life is accessed via recordings in our own private space. What are the reasons for attending a live music event?  What happens in audiences when they attend?  What are the benefits or disadvantages from doing so and how might this apply to our wider mental, social and emotional health and wellbeing?  This panel discussion will present cutting edge research into our understanding of live musical experiences, what happens during music performances and the role of the audience plays within musical events.”

Tickets (FREE):

Picture above is from a brilliant David Arnold concert I was at in Dublin last year.

Further reading

Do you gain anything from listening to a concert?

Musedelica: First symposium on psychedelic music – Sussex, June 2016


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I’m a member of the Music and Science mailing list and that’s where I heard about this event (below) but on googling for more info I have also discovered the existence of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) UK and Ireland Branch so that might be of interest to some readers, if you didn’t already know about it of course🙂

Details of the conference follow…


A symposium for researchers in the field of psychedelic music and related areas!about/cjg9

JUNE 14-15th 2016
The Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex

The first Musedelica symposium will be held June 14-15th, 2016 at the Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. The symposium will bring together students, early career researchers, independent researchers and music producers from the field of psychedelic music and related areas.

The symposium focusses on psychedelic music, especially (but not limited to) electronic dance music and other fields related to psychedelic drugs and music. Proposals are welcome from researchers in any field; see the list of topics below for more details.
In addition to giving students and early career researchers the chance to present their research in an intimate and friendly academic setting, Musedelica will bring together researchers from a range of fields, facilitate the sharing and synthesis of new ideas, and help to shape an exciting and  interdisciplinary field of research.

The deadline to submit proposals is March 15th, 2016
(Notification of acceptance by March 31st, 2016)

To submit your proposal, please click on ‘submit proposal’ at the top right corner of the page, or email as an attached document to Proposals should be around 300-500 words.

20-30 mins. We are interested in submissions that address the topics listed below. Proposals should outline how the work relates to one or more of the conference themes. Please also provide a 150-word (maximum) biography.

10-20 mins. This could be a performance of a piece of psychedelic music, perhaps incorporating a short talk about its psychedelic or trance state-inducing elements. A demonstration of your composition practice or performance practice would also be of interest. Proposals should outline how the work relates to one or more of the conference themes and should comprise: A description of the work (including duration), 150-word (maximum) biography and a technical rider (technical specifications of the venue are available on request).

Topics of interest

  • Electronic dance music, the psychedelic experience and/or trance state
  • Psychedelic music (of any genre) and the psychedelic experience and/or trance state
  • The embodied experience of composing, appreciating and/or dancing to psychedelic music
  • Music festivals and the psychedelic experience, including issues surrounding well-being and harm reduction
  • Psychedelic substances and the composition, perception and/or appreciation of music
  • Dancing and the trance state and/or psychedelic experience
  • Music cultures and the psychedelic experience and/or trance state
  • Music cultures and the prohibition of recreational drugs
  • The process, practice and/or experience of composing psychedelic music.
  • New methodologies/directions in the research of psychedelic music
  • Other related topics: this is not a definitive list, so please contact me with ideas.

Funding is being sought and we will know whether this has been successful in March. If funding is obtained, the symposium will be free of charge and participants will just need to obtain funding from their own institution to cover the cost of travel and accommodation. If the symposium does not attract funding, the cost of registration will be around £40-50.

We look forward to receiving your proposal!

See also
Musedelica: First symposium on psychedelic music