The Aftermath of Music Tech Fest

I don’t often talk much on this site about what I do or why I do it. I’ve tried to avoid any sort of personal theology and let the instruments just talk for themselves. But this past weekend I attended Music Tech Fest in the wonderful city of Ljubljana in Slovenia and it’s made me re-think a lot of things.

The festival itself is such an incredible event, full of open encouraging beyond-talented people on the forefront of music research in every possible perspective of music you can think of. The projects and ideas that are presented on stage are mind-blowing and inspirational but also the bits in-between were just as important.
For example, seeing Hakan Lidbo speak about his work was incredible. But discussing it over a pint at 2 in the morning was even better. Everybody there was so like-minded, that even someone like me with no academic background who tinkers and experiments with instruments can have great, open discussions with giants in the field.
The Hack Camp under the watchful eye of Adam John Williams was a massive highlight, it was essentially one giant problem-solving sleepover. Instead of blanket forts and pillow fights we experimented with what we had available to us. I spent a great deal of time with Elio Icaza brainstorming ideas that hopefully for him would stretch well beyond this weekend, I like to think we’re now bff’s.
After an entire night of no sleep due to the hackcamp I was asked to run an impromptu workshop with kids. No problem! I ran to what appeared to be the only shop in Slovenia open on a Sunday and bought pringle tubes, chopsticks and string and we made my ‘simplest tuneable instrument’ creation. Which they then went and played on stage.


One other highlight that is a bit surreal was recording samples and loops for Matt Black of NinjaTune and Coldcut for the NinjaJamm app

So so much happened over the weekend I can’t begin to list off everything, but there were some things that resonated with me quite strongly:

Rolf Gehlaar gave some advise about what Stockhausen taught him, one of those lessons was about not doing anything you’ve done before. He also had an amazing involvement with creating accessible platforms for disabled musicians which got me really thinking.
Andrew Dubber discussed Human Music Interaction on the Monday after the main event and that got more cogs in my head spinning. It was great hearing him talk about what MTF stands for and what MTFResearch hopes to achieve and I’m really excited to feel like I can be a part of that. That I can offer something to the grand scheme of things whereas before I was mostly just tinkering for fun and self-indulgences.
It was really interesting seeing peoples reactions to my instruments, I love making people realise how simple something can be that would still create complex noises and unique sounds. I’ve always enjoyed trying to reduce things to their simplest construct which can be a very challenging thing to do. So being able to show people the simplicity of how to create and watching their faces for that moment of realisation was a massive joy. I had that same moment of realisation with other peoples projects and ideas maybe a hundred times over the weekend.
I basically now have a lot of thinking to do, I will be re-focusing my efforts into newer directions and changing how I work. I will still continue my Vulpestruments work but expect quite a few variations and more concise and meaningful developments from me in the future.

The Hummingbird @ the Tate Modern

One of my newest creations that I developed at my time at machinesroom is The Hummingbird. It’s a twitter – controlled instrument that I recently showcased at the Tate modern as part of the Turbine Festival.

It consists of a series of 8 motors that play 2 strings each in a randomised sequence. The motors were from old tape players and the strings from bike brake cable.
Every time I get sent a tweet, the sequence changes! So a brand new, completely unique melody is generated.
It uses a raspberry pi for its brains which controls the on/off signals to a bank of 8 small relays.
It was incredibly loud during the festival so was very hard to hear it being played. A few videos were taken of it in action though:
I owe a MASSIVE thanks to Tim Yates and Saif Bunni of Hackoustic for the invite and the help!


Things have been pretty busy over here lately, so first i’ll let you know what’s coming up, then I’ll let you know how amazing the past few weeks have been!
First up, I’ve been invited by the Acoustic Hack group of the London hackspace to join them at THE TATE MODERN on the 25th as part of the turbine hall festival!
It is a massive honour and the day looks to be one of the most fun days you could possibly have, ever. More details are here:
Secondly, I have my next scrap instrument building workshop at Machinesroom set for August 1st, half the tickets have gone already so catch them fast if you’d like to come! Tickets are here:
Last weekend was Childwickbury Arts fair. Which was an amazing and busy weekend full of some very incredible artists. Thank you to everyone who came and chatted and played the instruments and took a business card! I’m going to prepare some stock for the christmas market later in the year and see if they’ll have me back!
Also recently, was my residency at machinesroom, which was not only super-fun but reeeaaalllly inspiring to see the potential of what their machines can produce. I’ve come up with a prototype instrument that uses a single sheet of plywood on the laser cutter. So once that’s finished i’ll post the results here!

Upcoming events, of which there are many.

I have a ton of events coming up, all of which I will add to the events tab on the right hand side over there –>
First up is my workshop at Machinesroom, ‘An introduction to scrap instrument building’. It is currently sold-out which means I’ll have to organise another one for soonly afterwards!
Machinesroom have also amazingly and kindly invited me to be their Artist-in-residence for the month of June! SO I will have a bunch of my creations on display in their space and I will be using their machines to create something special too.
I have a gig in Watford at the LP cafe on June 6th, details here:
I have also been asked to play in an Art Gallery by on Saturday 13th of June, I will post more details of that when I know more but it will be during the day.
And finally, for now, I will also be one of the artists selling/demonstrating my work at this years Childwickbury Arts Fair. It’s an incredible event set up and run by Christiane Kubrick. Yes, Kubrick… It’s a really incredible event that I’ve been to before and am really really excited to be there this year.

Luke Gottelier’s Painting guitar

I’ve found myself recently in a really fun new role of consulting on instrument building for various people. Recently, I helped Luke Gottelier turn one of his old paintings into a working guitar for an exhibition here in London.
From the Press release:
Luke Gottelier will be responding to the DOLPH brief by moving into the space for the month and adding to his ongoing ‘Home Improvement’ series. This involves torturing and re-utilizing a group of failed paintings from 2004-2005. So far he has made a painting into a remote control car, an ashtray, a postcard, an electric guitar and a candlestick. Temporarily relocating his studio to Streatham and surrounding himself with the books, music and resources that inspire, Gottelier will aim to make sense of the upheaval by producing a piece of work that explores his predicament.
For more info on the exhibition check the gallery’s website here: