This has to be one of the weirdest bits of TV I’ve done in a while, but thoroughly enjoyable at the same time.
A frankly strange case of broadcast-ception, live-streaming a pre-recorded live stream while talking about live streaming on BBC World News.
Meanwhile I’m looking forward to tonight at 20.30 UK Time, please join me online for my live streaming interactive music show!
I’ve recently started playing with an app called Periscope, giving interactive music concerts at my stage piano.
My ‘cast’ (if that’s what it’s called?) includes talks on music theory, breaking down similarities in familiar tunes and of course playing the odd request – like a classical version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ – or a mashup between Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and The Commodores’ ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’
It’s really fun – and my usecase seems to be a unique enough to get a mention in the Daily Telegraph‘s round up of the technology.
So, what do I get up to when I cast? you can find out on Mondays at 20:30 UK Time! At least, that’s the plan…
Essentially I’m talking about classical music theory using contemporary tunes – why is something catchy? What songs sound similar? What bits make a tune feel good? The session is mixed with live composition and conversation – content creation and audience interaction in real time.
Giving the audience access to the creative process and also a chance to communicate is pretty much exactly opposite to a traditional classical concert, where I’d be on a stage, far away from the listeners.
I believe it’s possible to demystify music without dissecting it, it’s so fun to explain what’s happening while playing some of the most memorable songs on the planet. I think this kind of informal direct broadcast is a great proving ground until I have my own big budget show where I have a huge grand piano and some notable musical guests to riff with.
Until then, viewers who make the effort to interact and contribute positively are going to shape how this cast evolves. How exciting! What works, what doesn’t, what do people want more of? I’m finding out every day. I’d hope to keep the audience interactivity if a big TV company wants to fund the huge grand piano and notable musical guests version.
For those of you reading this on Thursday 9th April 2015, there’s a replay available until 22:30 tonight, but you’ll need to download the app on an Apple device to watch at the moment. They say there’s an Android version coming. And, if you do visit, please ignore my faffing with the cables at the start, it definitely gets better.
At about 1AM this morning, I think I solved the problem of getting a decent audio feed in and listening at the same time, so Monday’s cast should have really rather good sound quality.
Oh and a final note from the technology presenter in me – streaming from mobiles has been available before – apps like Seesmic and Qik did this many years ago. But now data is cheaper, social media makes things more immediate, plus our connections are generally faster. This means the tech is ripe for mass adoption.
A notable alternative Meerkat has some big names endorsing it – Madonna released a video using this platform recently. I’ll let you know if I get a chance to try it out. And I’m sure there are other players in this area. In coming months we’ll get to see whether a single platform gains dominance, or if these apps can co-exist. It’ll inevitably play out over the next few months. Interesting interactive times!
Date: Mon 23 March 2015: Event: My first ever full-length musical !
I’m super-excited to call myself a London Theatre Impresario! A date, a venue, a show, tickets on sale!
Scary as I’m currently only about 70% of the way through writing every single note of the upcoming musical adventure that will be held in conjunction with the inimitable Hack Circus in exactly one month’s time.
We’ve written a story to go with some expert talks and some rather spiffing tunes as well even if I say so myself. Leila happens to be a genius librettist in my opinion and I’m hoping my tunes and orchestration will do those fantastic lyrics justice. She and I have hatched a musical monster of a night out… What a nerve-wracking but satisfying experience this is!
- I need to finish building the scores and orchestration
- we need to finalise the order of songs and talks and audience interactive bits
- I’ll have to learn and sing pretty much all the songs on the night
- Leila and I have to pre-record some short bits of audio to give on-stage a break
- I’m trying to build a home-made instrument that may or may not work on the night
- Eek I need to do all the audio show control while performing (Ableton I’m looking at you)
- people are actually buying tickets so it has to be good because we have a paying audience.
ONE NIGHT ONLY
Talking of which, if you’re in London that evening AND want to be the first to see this quite peculiar and creative take on the musical genre. From the HC site:
We will be travelling in a unique sound-powered tunnelling vessel, currently under development. Please bear in mind: we really don’t know what we will find. We need a strong healthy team. It might be worth getting down to the gym now if you can.
Bring a torch. This is very important. We are expecting it to be dark.
We will be guided on our journey by three experts: monster afictionado sci-fi author Chris Farnell, historian and volcano enthusiast Ralph Harrington and shark-mad comics legend Steve White – but who knows who (or what) else we might encounter?
TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE!
OK, I’m intrigued, tell me more:
(link for mobile users: http://www.hackcircus.com/underworlds )
DID I MENTION TICKETS ARE ON SALE?
Yes!! I’m ready and can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday night!
(link for mobile users: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hack-circus-underworlds-tickets-15756232315?aff=es2&rank=1 )
^^This link goes to the EventBrite Ticket Page if you’d like to buy a ticket or two.
**For some reason, none of my links work. Head over to hackcircus dot com forward slash underworlds. Oh the humanity…
The odds were most certainly not in my favour.
I was asked to take part in the Tech Tent annual quiz all about the tech news of 2014, pitted against none other than the people who actually make the news – the BBC Technology website team. Sounded to me like a guaranteed failure – these people know everything about the stories of the year – not only would they have written the articles, they would also have researched the stories thoroughly and (worse!) know background and periphery information.
How could I game the system without cheating? My plan below actually worked…
1. UNDERSTANDING THE FORMAT – where the scoring happens
The email came through with the rules: there will be “12 questions each relating to a big tech news story during 2014 – there’s one question for each month BUT they will not come in order. The order was selected by random draw. Most questions are in two parts offering two points, with an extra bonus point available for guessing which in which month the story happened. FWIW, I doubt we’ll get through all 12 questions in the limited time we have. If one team fails to answer a question or part of a question correctly, that q or part of question will be offered to the other team.”It made sense to memorise the news stories and their months as according to the format knowing these represented 12 points straight away.
2. CREATE DATA SET A
I gleaned the main events in technology from Wikipedia by month with a definite nod towards business and consumer electronics. I based the emphasis on quizmaster Rory’s preferences and my knowledge of the stories producer Jat tends to choose for the Tech Tent podcast.
3. CREATE DATA SET B AND SEE WHAT STORIES APPEAR IN BOTH A AND B
The click news scripts from the whole of 2014 were cut and pasted – all the click newsbelts together by month made it really easy to work out the most likely questions in each segment. I amalgamated this with the Wikipedia and The Verge year in review and other sources, then applied weighting depending on information available to ask deeper questions around a topic.
4. FURTHER ANALYSIS TO PINPOINT MOST LIKELY STORIES
Based on my analysis, some stories were more likely than others to work as questions for a quiz –for example Twitch and Apple buying beats were big stories in otherwise quiet months so it made sense to drill down into those. Flappy Bird was also pretty much guaranteed to be a question based on the analysis – and it helped that Rory did rather a few spots on flappy bird in 2014, so again, a likely candidate.
5. EDITORIAL CONSIDERATION
I could also discount any stories that weren’t appropriate for a Christmas quiz tone, which reduced the viable stories further.
6. EXPERT AREAS
It made sense to look at key stories like the Apple launch, top tech mergers and acquisitions and crypto-currency as big stories of 2014. So I memorised as many numbers and month/story combos as possible to maximise those easy points. Knowing about the business of tech meant that I could at least make informed guesses when I wasn’t sure of an answer – which sometimes paid off and sometimes didn’t (Google nearly bought Twitch = correct, The tablet-sized device launch was the Nokia tablet not Microsoft’s Surface pro tablet – nearly)
7. A BIT OF LUCK
As soon as I realised the last question (Number of World Cup Tweets) was directed at the Tech Website team first, it was easy to make an N+1 or N-1 call which would automatically cover more ground than the first guess, which led to eventual (if messy) victory!(It made up for correctly stating the flappy bird developer was making £32,000 per week ($50,000) which was not picked up!)
Yes! Emerged Victorious! Dave and Zoe from the BBC Tech Website team were worthy adversaries – because of the calibre of opponents, I had to up my game in order to even stand a chance against them. Thus I learned that when the odds aren’t great, it’s still worth doing the best you can, a great lesson to bring in 2015. Hurrah! and Happy New Year!
Music inspired by colour/art
An artist I know called Debbie Davies made a giant light-up interactive star for the Burning Man festival this year. I never got to see it in real life, but the pictures were enough to trigger the most amazing melody in me. I was so utterly happy to hear that she loved the composition. I can’t really explain why I wasn’t surprised.
Debbie, this is your star. I told you it was beautiful!
Photo credit duncan.co
Last Sunday I took part in a very unconventional story/experiential theatre event run by a friend of mine. I live-composed the music. The event involved taking an audience on a fictional journey into space. Then (whilst in that context) they were given amazing lectures by real rocket scientists (Dr David McKeown), artists (Toby Harris, Sinead McDonald, Jeffrey Roe and more. The talks were diverse but relevant. Imagine hearing what space travel would feel like – as if you and the whole theatre was in fact in a spaceship – travelling through space. Kate Genevieve, a visual artist talked about the messages sent with the Voyager space probe. A man from SETI (Alan Penny) informed us of the best way to survive first contact in a suitably realist approach. There was more, but I’ll get to that nearer the end.
And I? I powered the spaceship with music.
It’s because of Leila Johnston – Hack Circus is her thing. She asked if I would like to create music to simulate ‘hypersleep’ during extended space travel, I went one step further and wrote the following email reply…
I have a great job of being the hyperspace engineer – the piano keyboard is in fact my console muwahaha
Leila responded with;
Oh I love that. Yes! Play us into hyperspace! What a lovely lovely idea.
This really captured my imagination, so much so that I appeared to send the following response:
Yes, the equations are quite complicated to most people. But hyperspace mathematics calculations actually have more in common with Bach fugues than physics, turns out those aren’t musical pieces but formulae all along. A fantastically complicated spatial equation can be surprisingly easy to solve musically which is why the keyboard is my usual preference for transport consoles. Bach was a hyperspace engineer from the future who got stuck in a time travel incident. Before he got transferred back to his timeline he enjoyed annotating his equations in musical form and confusing the natives.
Though the sustain pedal just puts the kettle on
I found this in my ‘sent’ items the next morning, and hurriedly dashed off an apology for sleep-emailing. Clearly I had really taken my role as Hyperspace Engineer to heart.
For some reason this didn’t put her off, and the event was quite literally a blast.
There were cabin crew. There were flashing lights. There was hazard tape. Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist, played some amazing sounds from space that triggered my synaesthesia like you wouldn’t believe.
The sound of Saturn’s rings original, courtesy Cassini Radio & Plasma Wave Science team:
“…the sounds produced are exciting! You can listen to the sound of passing through the ring dust by clicking here. Listen ” (nb the ‘Listen’ link opens up a video file)
Wow! What magical unearthly sounds! What a weird recording! I had to share how wonderful it felt to absorb these strange vibrations! I attempted to convey my synaesthetic response to the sound of Saturn’s rings – what I hear when I hear them… and this is the result.
For those interested, here’s the mission page. Off topic, I’m joyous to report that the Sun in our solar system plays a giant Major 7th.
MTV: Hack The Gig: Music fans’ current digital interface with live performances is generally passive and flat. Using the provided exclusive stems, recorded especially for the Music Tech Fest, invent completely new ways for audiences to experience a filmed concert. The winner will get to develop their project with the MTV UK Digital Media team
MY ENTRY (it won!)
I had 24 hours to create something – and this is what I made:
Absorb more data in Less time! Welcome to my ADHDTV concept (Always Deliver Heavy Data*)! Innovative ways to consume content – especially music content – with a real emphasis on the viewer/listener being able to directly influence what they are being shown.
It’s a bit rough and ready (anything is with 24 hours’ continuous work) and of course these are just concepts that would benefit from a design approach and a bit more development of these ideas. The prize: develop this further with the MTV team, something I’m really excited about.
My concept (which hit me at 0330 after much caffeine) consists of the following premise:
We are bombarded with information and there’s loads of ways to filter it. But what if we want to have it all? Watch everything, listen to everything? Why not say goodbye to curation and discretion, and instead drink from the firehose – and say hello to
Always Deliver Heavy Data TV or ADHDTV*
As it’s aimed at the ultra-connected, two-screen viewing ‘high consumption on mobile’ uber-trendy crowd, I’ve also come up with a hipster term that makes me both proud and disgusted with myself. “Non-Linear Sideways-Relevant Transmedia”.
The basic premise is that the viewer is able to take a much more active role in the content they are served. This can be done through the following interactive modes. I mocked up each of these in Final Cut Express on my rather wobbly MacBookPro. For the audio manipulation I used Logic Studio 9.
Press a button to go straight to the chorus / hook.
INVERSE DJ / BLURRED LINES
If the artist is being interviewed and you like the background music, toggle the volume between the interview and the music underneath. Could even swipe up or press a button (say, the spacebar) to transition to the music video attached to the background music.
Plays at 1.5, 2 and 4x speed without changing pitch. Listen to ALL the music!
Bits that other people have marked as good, much like highlighting a favourite section of text. People can skip to the bit that most people marked as pleasurable.
EXTRAS SERVED instead of Searching
As well as song by the artist, the option to switch to remixes, songs that sound really similar, fan-made footage or tributes on youtube – but in time (quantised to the beat) so the listener doesn’t experience ‘jarring’.
With this option engaged, viewers will only see clips of the artist talking about their music – any mention of social media, events, fan interaction or non-musical content won’t get viewed. Can also work the other way around.
NB MTV provided the video : the Artist’s name is Kwabs.
*I am reliably informed by Adam John Williams that this is known as a ‘Backronym’
It really did feel like I was ‘inside the machine’ even though the resolution was low!
I composed the music especially for this feature, there is something very pleasing about a digger in C.
Full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28425844