why not have a conversation with your computer

29 Nov 2022

Hi readers

I hope you don’t mind the peripatetic nature of this newsletter. Every month I put ‘newsletter’ on my to-do list, and it sits there like a smiling face reassuring me that I don’t really need to do any of the things on my to-do list.

what am i doing

The other day I met up with Alex for a chat and a cup of tea (liquorice and cinnamon!). I haven’t seen him really for ages and certainly not to sit down and talk shop about live coding. I think we were both in kindof a reflective mood and thinking about our relative positions and what the hell are we trying to do anyway and what have we been doing in and with live coding for the last however many years (7 in my case!).

What I’m thinking and what I tried to say to Alex was that when I started out I felt like I could be the three chord punk of live coding, like I didn’t know what I was doing and that it was fine and that I was flying the flag for other people who didn’t know what they were doing. Everyone was saying “embrace error” and I didn’t really have a choice on that front which felt fun!

Obviously I can’t really occupy that space now - so wtf am I doing? I started this as an experiment and to prove something to myself - like have I got the guts to stand up there with a blank screen and a PA and make everyone listen to out-of-tune george michael samples? But I think I’ve kinda proved that at this point so what now?

When I was at Alex’s studio he gave me a copy of ‘live coding: a user’s manual’ - btw you can read it for free online - I wrote an exposition for that a while ago (I think 2020) and in there I’m talking about embracing error again and live coding being a low-risk environment for experimentation. I always feel like with Tidal I never really know what’s coming next - like I can have an idea, but even with very simple code I quickly become unable to predict what something will sound like, beyond maybe a sense of texture or density. (Actually, Mike talks about this too in the book!) For me the main difference between making music in a DAW vs live coding is that element of unpredictability (not in the sense of computational randomness, although I like that too, but in the sense that the transformations are too complex for my brain to map out in real time). So it feels much more like a collaboration with the computer - I provide some instructions, but then I have to listen and respond to what the computer is doing. Alex was also talking about a similar thing - in that so much of programming is about creating a defined final product (a website; an app) - but live coding isn’t (or doesn’t have to be!) like that.

Live coding for me has created a dialogue with the computer - I’m not just telling it what to do. It made me think, if you can’t talk to your computer then who can you talk to? My friend Zach has a lot of interesting things to say on this front, and our conversations throughout the pandemic really help me crystallise a lot of the nebulous thoughts I had in this space.

All that to say, none of it probably matters, and I just want to keep on being friends with my computer and making silly music together, and supporting and encouraging other people to do that too, if they want!!

actual news

If you live in/near Sheffield you should definitely come to the Cherche Encore takeover/showcase at Hatch on 2nd December. I’m not playing but I am excited to watch everyone else play!!! Cherche Encore is great and everyone playing at this gig is great too. I’m pretty excited to just go to a live coding gig and not be playing.

Alex has started some new regular meetups in Sheffield for people doing pattern stuff called pattern club, a bit like the old tidal club but spreading the net a bit wider into textiles and other non-computery patterns. I’m helping a bit and so is Ray. We are gonna make a website but it doesn’t exist yet, there is some info on Alex’s alpaca website though - algorithmicpattern.org. Think the next one is 20th December.

My album with Graham Dunning hurlothrumbo is sold out except I have got a few copies left that I will be selling at shows. We also released a live set with accompanying very ltd edition postcards which you can get from Fractal Meat.

I’m playing at Art Machines Utrecht on 10th December. So psyched - I love Utrecht and I love the NL live coding scene. Also I’m staying in a capsule hotel which I’ve never done before. Last time I was in Utrecht I went to the Museum Speelklok and was overcome with emotion.

TRVE YORKSHIRE KVLT ENSEMBLE are gonna be launching our EP on tape via dont drone alone in January - we are pretty pleased with it and it has some amazing artwork courtesy of Christian Harrop which I’m v excited for everyone to see.

We are also playing at the hatch Christmas party on 16th December and there may be a few sneak peak early copies of the cassette available there if you need a last-minute christmas pressie for the ghoul in your life. Can’t find any info for this gig online but I really do sincerely believe it’s happening.

14th Jan DINA are presenting a gig at Sidney and Mathilda curated by Alex also under the pattern club banner. Seems like loads of cool stuff going on there but not sure it’s been announced yet. I’ll be playing in some form, possibly in a big collaboration with other algorave people.

As part of the same series at DINA I think SONA will be doing some workshops on collaboration and visual scores - again no details yet but watch this space!


Lucy xx