Covid-19 in the UK – sonified

Data Sonification – using sound to make data easier to understand – is fascinating, and I think an incredibly powerful way to understand something quickly and instinctively – more so than just looking at the numbers alone.

Coronavirus Data from the UK made into music

The rising numbers of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK have become difficult to comprehend, so I wanted to use sound to create a more meaningful interaction with the statistics.

Listen out for the following:

Harp = Total cases | Violin = R number | Church Organ = new cases per month.

I used two tone for the data sonification after cleaning the data, then exported each ‘data song’ file into Logic Pro X to mix. The piece goes up at the end because of the rising case numbers. However, I felt the piece needed something extra to make it more ‘listenable’ and therefore easier to understand – instead of just hearing a series of musical notes. So the challenge: how do we balance any accompanying instruments – adding ambience and atmosphere without obstructing the data?

The hardest thing was choosing how to orchestrate the data itself: for fast moving numbers I felt the sound needed to be more percussive – but for the R number I felt there needed to be a more constant sound. I suspect there are some innate rules for data sonification I’m tapping into here, which might be interesting to research further.

Finally I used deep music visualiser to generate an #AI video which responds to the pitch and tempo, then onto Final Cut Pro X to edit on the captions and statistics to help listeners detect how the changes in pitch correlate to the numbers.

I hope that the next time I’m turning coronavirus data into music that the piece ends up lower at the end.

The UK #Coronavirus data was correct at 20 Dec. Stats taken from Our World In Data

3 Surprising AI Music Mashups that will make you question your musical tastes

24-hour streaming AI-generated heavy metal on YouTube completely fascinated me – created by the eccentric Dadabots, half of whom I’ve regularly collaborated with on various strange musical projects. Their outputs inspired me to start my own journey of intersecting music with machine learning.

I’ve been composing since I was a kid on whatever platform I could find. Classically trained with a music degree while hungry for as much new music as possible makes for a strange hybrid, a musician and performer trying to understand a technologist’s world.

Amid much struggling and general frustration and many false starts, the stubbornness and late night wrangling paid off. I had my first track and plucked up the courage to share some of my experiments online.

So, here’s one of my first flirtations with Music and Machine Learning on Instagram – the Beatles singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ – because for some reason I thought it needed to exist. And, buoyed by my coding success, I learned how to generate some eye-bending video based on pitch and tempo too.

Each track takes quite a few hours to generate – even 45 seconds or so is a whole evening of attention. The way I’ve been doing it is heavily supervising the code, I need to intervene every few seconds to suggest a new direction for the algorithm in order for it to fit the direction I want it to go in. A lot of the decisions I’m making are not technical – they’re based on my musical knowledge. Then I listen repeatedly to the slowly lengthening audio to see if there’s a recognisable tune being created. Is it sounding like something a human can sing? Plus the ‘upsampling’ process, where some of the noise is removed, can take many hours. A lot of the time I’ll crash out of the virtual machine I’m using because I’m on the free tier. Sometimes I’ll lose everything.

Sounds frustrating, and it’s even more annoying in practice. Yet I find the ultimately infuriating nature of co-composing this way rather addictive. And, wow, when it actually does work, the results are incredibly rewarding.

So, ‘my’ new song made up of thousands of tiny bites of Beatles was compiled. And it is undeniably the Beatles singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ – so much so that a few of my friends thought this could easily be a demo tape or an unheard song if not for the lyrics.

My work received admiration from those familiar with AI music generation – they could tell how much effort was required to create it. And as well as praise, this short tune also generated unsettling feelings for others – which weirdly excited me – to have made something so conversation-worthy – especially in a field as wide as AI and Machine Learning felt like I was onto something, that my musical approach could add value in its own way.

Here’s another one – Queen singing ‘Let It Go’.

So why do I think this might make you question your musical tastes? Well, many of us are quite specific about the music we like. But if a fifty-year-old Beatles recording can be rehashed for a 21st Century Audience, would this track encourage a non-Beatles listener to explore more of this kind of music? Or would a devout 1960s music fan be persuaded to venture outside their comfort decade into the world of sugary pop music? I think it does.

Here’s U2 singing ‘Bat Out Of Hell’.

I’m surprised how much the original artist maintains their presence in each of these examples. And I’m somewhat tickled that the processing and supervision of each track makes this a very labour-intensive activity – not unlike standard music production.

As a new composing method, I am in awe of the sheer amount of work that must have gone into creating this program, and the brilliant minds behind it who conceived and created such a formidable tool for co-creation.

It even seems possible to train the AI on any kind of music as long as the artist has made enough material to be sampled adequately. Which is great news for those of us keen to create cross-cultural artworks – even though there are thousands of artists in the current Jukebox library, the content does appear to skew toward English-speaking music – a useful reminder that bias is built in to every system with humans at one end of it. So one of my next quests will be to see whether I can create my own training set (which might prove taxing on the free tier).

Finally, from a musical perspective, human composers still have quite a few advantages over machines, though generating music with AI is like a whole band writing all its parts at once, which can be very satisfying, if erratic. Sometimes the algorithm is temperamental – and doesn’t work at all. Other times, sublimely beautiful chords and ad-libs come out. No one can know whether the next track is a hit or a miss.

Even controlling the output is gloriously elusive: for example I can’t force a tune to go up or down at any point (though I can choose one of the alternatives that fits roughly where I’d like the tune to go). I don’t have much choice over the rate or meter of the lyrics – though there is some leeway when paginating them in the code. And changing the rate of intervention also affects what’s being generated – in short, the illusion of pulling order from chaos, a pleasing reflection of what composing music means to me.

In quite a few instances the AI has surprised me musically, and that is intriguing enough on its own for me to want to continue creating and co-composing with a machine. With so many possibilities in this field right now, I’m looking forward to exploring more.

Virtual Presenting

Virtual conferences and events are becoming the norm; here are a few things I’ve done at home this month…

AI for Good virtual summit - video conference call hosted by LJ Rich for the United Nations
Hosting the AI For Good United Nations | Global Esports Federation panel – Virtually
Remote Recording for BBC Click Week 1 – working while shielding.
Remote Recording for BBC Click Week 2 – more time for set dressing as the equipment was already working. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice Bender the Robot in the background.

Getting into Flow states during difficult times – like going through Breast Cancer

Stories of my disappearance are greatly exaggerated.

I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, so now looking forward to playlists such as “Now that’s what I call Chemo!” followed by the hotly anticipated “Last Night a Surgeon Saved my Life” slated for release in the new year. *

I’ll still present and perform occasionally when going through treatment. We’ll play it by ear, depending on how everything progresses and energy levels. Short Notice bookings might work. I’m optimistic that normal service will slowly resume if the results are encouraging.

To those of you unlucky enough to have some experience of the disease (either yourself, or someone you know) I send positivity and love.


My mum died of cancer when I was a child – details of her medical treatment were whispered in hushed tones in separate rooms, out of earshot and in secrecy. Yet attempts to conceal her terminal diagnosis were pointless as I knew what was going on. With nobody to ask, I felt powerless.

It’s why this very personal post exists: to try the opposite track. Knowledge (and Music) has always been a great comfort, and my curiosity to learn has helped me overcome so many obstacles, achieve so much and connect with frankly extraordinary people while performing or presenting. I’ve explained as openly and as age appropriately as possible to my toddler. Telling children early on is advised by Macmillan and other cancer charities -such a difficult experience to do but it was taken well and felt like the best decision for him.


I may be dealing with cancer now, but as anyone different has always known, there’s simply so much more to us than how we look, our personal struggles, or what equipment we use to access the world. We are still artists, engineers, writers, thinkers, comics, poets, AI magicians, coders, hackers, lockpickers, DJs, storytellers. We laugh at great jokes, cry at terrible movies on planes (well, OK, I do) and enjoy connecting with others through our love of creativity, unconventional thinking. Best of all we love to collaborate with those who challenge and excite us. We crave pure connections which at their best transcend physical and mental capabilities, creating that elusive and magical experience of flow for audiences and performers to share.

In short, you are welcome to ask cancer questions, which I will answer if I feel up to it…. or, we can talk about stuff I still really love, like music, technology and performing. Any great, fun audio books with happy endings? Wholesome comedy video clips and podcasts? let me know!

Want to lend me some Interesting VR/Immersive kit for a day to try out during or after a chemo treatment in London? I’m down for any entertaining tech distractions during my many medically enhanced hours over the next weeks and months. Some things feel rather unpleasant, so if you think it might be fun to see how creative tech could help make procedures more palatable – that sounds kind of awesome to me too. Interested? Do click here to contact.

Finally, to everyone reading this far, thank you so much for our connection – whether it’s IRL or online  – however brief, however close, through TV, presenting or hacker / music circles, please know that many of you have been responsible for so many of my happiest thoughts. Your impact has been so positive in helping me want to be better – authentic, inspiring, thoughtful, uplifting – and kind. I wish you all the very best.

Love, LJ

P.S *These playlists don’t exist – yet. Want me to make some?


Those asking about my health:

Thankyou! I may be in lockdown but I’m now IN REMISSION from Breast Cancer!

Still recovering from surgery, some procedures remain, but they’ve got to be easier than chemo! Sending love and see you online soon x

Under new management!

…excited to announce that I’m now exclusively represented by JLA Management.

It’s great timing as I’m being asked to present and perform at so many incredible events!

Do please contact Hannah Oldman on +442079072800 for further information.

United Nations Performance May 2019

This Week: The Musical


I’ve been super busy because I have a new show!! It’s called This Week: The Musical and we are soft launching it today… you’re some of the first humans to hear it!

Listening links right here:  

This Week: The Musical is a comedy tech news podcast,  complete with songs and sketches and special guests. Totally free to listen and very silly.

Leila Johnston and I have wanted to make something like this for ages!

So if you’d like to listen to our podcast right now, that would be utterly amazing.

This week’s episode includes songs about Spice Girls being replaced by machines and also an interview with the formidable Gretchen Greene, an artist who’s building her own AI to assist her in her creations.

p.s. if do you like it, please do subscriiiiiiibe and/or chat about it with us on #ThisweekTM. We live at  and have a facebook page too. Plus we’re on instagram and twitter @the2ljs

Yay! thanks for reading this far, I love you all dearly. I hope you like it 🙂

This Week: The Musical

Tech News Comedy Podcast with songs, sketches, special guests and silliness. Includes against-the-clock innovation and a rogue pikachu.

LJ x


What’s The Best World Cup England Football Song?

OK, I enjoy the world cup, and understand the off-side rule, but generally prefer playing football to watching it. But when my friend from Great British Chefs posted a query: What’s The Best World Cup England Football Song? World in Motion or Three Lions? – for many days now I’ve been thinking about it. So much so that my response simply does not fit into a social media reply… Mecca, here’s your answer.

“World in Motion” works brilliantly as a standalone pop song, but is it ‘catchy’?  

Harmonically, “World In Motion” is musically complex (apart from the ‘rap’) and there’s a lot going on in terms of chords, percussion and orchestration. It’s interesting, but also demands effort from the listener, meaning cognitively you have to think about where the song is going and pay attention to it. 

Melodically, “World In Motion” is quite gentle – there’s no descending melodies or musical ‘jumps’; it’s tuneful but stays in one place. Yes, the rap segment was distinctive and served to make the song very memorable – but not for musical reasons.  

“World In Motion” is also a little slow for singing along – most people sing football songs while excited, so their heart rate will be higher – faster tempo songs will come to mind more easily in a heightened state like this!

Apart from tempo, both songs have a lot in common – two choruses: ‘Love’s got the World in Motion / Let’s hear it for England’ and ‘Three Lions on a shirt / It’s Coming Home’,  both largely in major (happy) keys, and both are quite sparsely orchestrated. Both songs also do not require particularly good vocal skills.

And so, to catchiness –  have you heard anyone singing “World In Motion” in the street? Personally I haven’t, but “It’s Coming Home” is everywhere.

So what’s happening here? How are they different?

I think the answer lies in melody. Despite great orchestration and production of New Order’s “World in Motion”, the “Three Lions” musical phrases are much more likely to be sung in the wild. They are easier to remember, easier to sing along to and more physically pleasant to sing out loud.

I’ll tell you how this works: The descending tune of the “Three Lions on a shirt” call is followed by an upward response “Jules Rimet still gleaming”.  Wow, super catchy and melodically pleasant –  it’s a classic gospel song call and response: You know where it’s going, there’s a clear musical path that you only need to hear once to sing along, and you’re excited to hear it resolve. A great pop example of this is ‘Twist and Shout’

The second is the clincher “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…” – what an anthem! There’s a built-in melodic jump – you can hear these in a lot of Abba songs (Winner Takes it All, Take a Chance on Me) and many existing football chants. There’s also repetition – this simple phrase is a natural ear-worm, there’s no effort involved in remembering this even after hearing it once.  Listening to this phrase takes low cognitive effort in contrast to “World In Motion”, plus there’s yet another embedded ‘call and response’ too. 

Finally ‘It’s Coming Home’  is a semi-unresolved melody. Getting to the end of the phrase, you want to sing it again. You can see this unresolved effect at work in notable examples like ‘Song 2’ by Blur, ‘My Shorrona’ and ‘Living on a Prayer’. Catchy? Absolutely. And now you know why my considered answer is “Three Lions”, musically the most suited football song for England’s World Cup 2018 journey.

Understanding the Connection Between Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch

Interview with ‘The Scientist’ Magazine (2017)

Understanding the Connection Between Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch

Fascinating reading about the research into Synaesthesia and Perfect Pitch – brilliantly researched and written by Science Writer Catherine Offord

*post added in 2018, article written 2017


Why Superheroes all have different Super Powers

Reflections on International Women’s Day 2018  (6 minute read)

Today the world celebrates International Women’s Day. A time to celebrate Inspirational Women, but today I also want to include inspirational people. That is – humans – I’m not bothered about the gender.

There is a collective role that all leaders, influencers, and team members have. That responsibility is to create meaningful progress to inclusion. Inclusion of not just women but different people, people that think, look, and behave in ways that might not be the same as you or I.

To get ahead as a woman we’re given a lot of advice, in fact in my line of work there is a nice long queue of people all to ready to give advice on what I should do to progress – including: don’t be so outspoken, dress less sparkly, cover your arms, be more like a man, be more feminine, don’t show off, get a new job, get a real job, wear less lip gloss, lose weight, wear thinner and higher heels, learn more STEM, speak with less of an accent,  and so on.

The reality is that while the women’s movement has come a long way, its progress is slow and not reflective of the contribution that women have to make.

It’s also true that people find their skills underused, unknown and untapped.

I suspect that everyone regardless of colour and class will have their own version of unwanted advice that gets thrown at them. Advice on what one should and shouldn’t do or say. Advice on what’s feasible for them to try to achieve, and what society expects from their role, and how high they are expected to aim, because some things are simply not possible. Luckily for me I ignored quite a lot of advice – from ‘you’re not pretty/thin/tall enough to be on TV’, ‘you’ll never be taken seriously’ to ‘You? Learn soldering? …But you’ll burn yourself’. Oh and so many more. You’ll have your own ones I’m sure.

Some people are already doing the thing they’ve always wanted to do for a salary that suits them. And I’ve decided they fall into two main groups. I call the first group Peacocks* – those who feel threatened by others and want to stop anyone getting on their patch. Peacocks worry about their mortgage or their profile and do everything in their power to hold on to their social status and the status quo. They are likely not to want to learn new things and would rather stick to ‘the way it’s always been done’.

I call the second group Phoenixes. Phoenixes are glorious. They dream and they do. They become positive mentors, helping the next generation realise their potential. They know how to innovate and always find ways to live well. They know there is enough to go round and that they can always find new ways to create opportunities for prosperity. They are still ambitious but want to accomplish their goals while being supportive, kind, and socially responsible to those around them. Like you, I’ve interacted with both types of these people. I think you can guess which type is happier, more fulfilled and more likely to have authentic connections with others. I grew up around peacocks, but I’m optimistic that there are more and more Phoenixes around. People are realising that making their environment better has a direct effect on their own well-being. Phoenixes know that helping others to fly could be construed as a healthy selfishness as it makes them feel part of something bigger – the magic of ‘self-actualisation’ at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I want to be a Phoenix when I grow up.

(*yes, Peacocks are male but I’ve decided in this context my made-up term can also include women who use the same ‘gatekeeping’ tactics)

There’s a difference between recognising truth when a person tells us the truth,  and being thrown harsh words by someone for their own peace of mind.

Those harsh words repeated by many voices as we go through life erode our hopes, and threaten to compress our dreaming souls into quiet grey conformity.

Those harsh words are spoken so freely and thoughtlessly to many of us who are different. From outspoken or unsolicited anonymous online commentary to well-meaning yet undermining advice from loved ones, those harsh words have the potential to stop an amazing idea from being born.

Which is why I think it’s time more of us stopped listening to ‘society’ when it’s used as a lazy way to maintain a status quo which works for just a few peacocks.

I think society would benefit massively from becoming inclusive – a community where ideas from women and people who think differently are welcomed. Wouldn’t it be such a refreshing energy boost? New insights into existing challenges could create an amazingly fertile environment, and that’s when big problems get solved with good humour. Instead of feeling threatened, great leaders and strong people can hear previously unheard voices – and harness these ideas based on merit, not on what kind of human created it.

A group’s strength and reach is amplified because everyone’s strengths are diverse, not duplicated. How boring would a superhero ensemble movie be if everyone had the same super-power? They save the day by having different abilities and learning how to work together and combine their talents.

While the data shows us that there are fewer women than men working in and with technology, everyone reading this article knows that technology itself is not the problem. It can be learned by anyone – class, race, gender, age – it does not matter. There is no reason why technology needs to be aligned with a particular gender. It is neutral, but a great lever in which to accelerate your reach, your ability, and power to connect with others.

I’m glad I stopped listening to the people who told me I couldn’t do anything, that I’d never amount to anything, that I was not worth bothering with.  I have met many people who have sadly been told something similar. Well, if no-one has said this to you yet, you can do anything. You are worth bothering with. You have the potential to change the world.

Like many people, trying to gain new skills makes my brain hurt and I will get stuck. But that just makes me more determined. I will ask for help. I will keep learning, I will find a community and contribute to it – or create one if it doesn’t exist yet. And at the same time I will keep giving talks and performances that hopefully inspire people despite the fact that a few still find it a novelty that I am female. Occasionally people tell me this in person.

Judging from all the advice I have been given, I never fitted in. I am not what society expects from a person. But that’s OK. When I wanted to fix my broken iPad, so many people told me it was impossible, and it wasn’t worth trying. But I kept trying. I failed the first time, but succeeded on my second attempt. I filmed the whole thing for the BBC at the same time. After I fixed it, many people contacted me to say they saw me do it and realised that they could do it too. Lots of people replaced their phone screens because they could see it was possible and felt confident enough to try it themselves.

So if after reading this one extra person aims to be a Phoenix, a community builder, a world-changer, a coder or even feels that today they can get out of bed and do the washing up –  if you can do something, one thing that you are proud of after reading this, then I shall celebrate International Women’s Day with you, and so will many others, regardless of how different we might be.

LJ Rich

Adapted from a talk given on International Women’s Day, March 6th 2018 to Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds University as part of an ACCAGlobal event.