LEGO Projects

Play House Prototype Videos

Before putting the proposal for this piece together I had to check that various mechanisms worked. It’s the most complex LEGO Technic mechanism I’ve put together and there is a lot that could go wrong (or maybe better put, a lot to get right).

These three videos cover the fundamentals of the sequencer, random number generator and other bits and bobs to get it working.

The sequencer keeps time and controls the main melody. Electrical contacts complete the circuit to a TB303 synth to create the main bass line:

Ball runs are used to create random numbers that control the sequencer and fire off events in the score:

Other mechanisms required to glue the whole thing together:

LEGO Projects

Play House Blog Primer

I’m working on an exciting new project with Oxford Contemporary Music for AudioGraft 2014 this March. It’s a mechanical sequencer that generates an acid house score. The intention is to have a deep hypnotic sound inspired by Richie Hawtin’s slower tempo work. As the title suggests, play is the central idea here, not just in its presentation but in the process of making the piece, so I’m going to blog the development progress on what will be an incredibly fun build.

Play House sketch

Most of my posts will be technical notes on circuits and mechanisms and also – and this bit is tricky because I have a difficult relationship with the language of contemporary art – I will talk about the conceptual development of the piece. ‘Artspeak’ at its worst is used for artistic posturing: ‘working in relation with…’, ‘questioning the boundaries of…’, ‘investigating the interplay of…’ (shudder). This is very frustrating because, like an overused swearword, it dilutes what is trying to be said. Art can work outside language so cobbling such text together reads as a) the artist thinks the audience is stupid, b) the artist is trying to impress a gallery, or worst-case c) the artist is just making shit up.

Anyway, rant ends. My problem here is that because like many others I find artspeak oppressive which makes me reluctant to talk about my work. I don’t put text with work unless the text is part of the piece itself. Perhaps it’s just laziness but I’d rather avoid setting up the wrong expectations, instead I’d rather see how close the audience get to my experience without cues.

Despite this everything I do starts from a conceptual root, and it is something that means a hell of a lot to me – I wouldn’t be doing this stuff otherwise! – so I’m going to use the blog to practice talking about it without feeling like a bell end. We shall see.

LEGO Projects

Ride with Me: table build

It’s great having a uni workshop to hand.  9am today: a crude layout in masking tape on my carpet; 1pm today: table finished!


This is the main frame for my new LEGO piece ‘Ride with Me’ which will be showing at the BEAM Festival in June. This was a good day for learning as Derek at Brookes let me loose on the power tools.

LEGO Music PhD Projects

Pythagorean Polyrhythmic Piano

This machine is a prototype for a concept ‘rhythm piano’ I started designing during my MA which allows a performer to play beat equivalents of tonal ratios. It forces you to compose using rhythm rather than pitch which is a very exploratory process. Feeling your way around the counter-rhythms allows you to discover unusual structures in swing and syncopation, whilst ensuring everything is easily reproducible.


Music of the Gears Development

June-September 2011