William Duckworth 13 January 1943-13 September 2012

On my commute home this evening, I heard of the passing of Bill Duckworth, a wonderful and loyal friend, a lovely human being, and a fantastic and imaginative composer.  My condolences to Nora Farrell, his partner, and shared grief with all of us in the new music community who valued Bill so much.

I was working on this when I heard the news, so this is for you, Bill:


In Memoriam William Duckworth


Nightshade Etudes, Book 2, available now

Earlier this year I began working on a series of electronic etudes based on the use of DNA patterns from the Solanum family, and made the first six etudes available in a blog post about 3 items down.  Now I've finished the next six, so Nightshade Etudes Book Two is now available by clicking here.  It's a 24MB zip file, and it contains the 6 tracks totalling 18 minutes, the album cover, and some brief program notes.  Once again, it's part of a longer project which I hope to complete later this year - 4 sets of 6 etudes each, which will then become a CD.  So download away, and enjoy, especially the bit where I get to play a celesta with a capsicum (bell pepper).  Art-science music for your dining and dancing pleasure.


GRM Tools 3.3 - the review

My review of GRM Tools 3.3 has just been published in Wusik Sound Magazine.  For those who came in late, GRM Tools are a fabulous bunch of plugins, each of which has been conceived compositionally (as opposed to simply implementing a function), which offer a lot of potential to folks in search of sound modifications.  You can read the whole issue of Wusik Sound Magazine on-line at  My review is in the current (August 2012) issue beginning on page 76.  (Also, for those who came in late, my review of Wellspring Music's Process Pack software is in the June 2011 issue, on page 144, on the same website.) Enjoy! 


Brisbane Nocturne Revisited Revisited

Back in 2000, I wrote an electronic piece for that year's Australasian Computer Music Conference called Brisbane Nocturne. I also wrote a paper in which I described the processes and the patch for the piece in great detail. Recently, a number of us have been talking about the issue of the preservation of live electronic music pieces. So for this year's ACMC, I decided to see if I could reassemble Brisbane Nocturne from my description of it. The piece was written using John Dunn's SoftStep, the predecessor to ArtWonk, controlling Martin Fay's Vaz Modular virtual analogue synthesizer. I resurrected SoftStep from the software vault – it still works just fine – and following the paper line by line, reassembled the original SoftStep patch based on the description in the paper. I should mention that after deciding to do this project, I did not listen to the original piece. One of the aims of the project was to reassemble the piece without reference to the original, and only after the performance, see how close I came.

I was successful in reassembling the patch, and performed it at ACMC 2012, in Brisbane, in a pretty successful performance. A few days after getting back from the conference, I made a studio recording of it, and then I listened to the new version and the original. My reconstruction was largely successful. What was different in the two versions was that the original was a lot more controlled and balanced than the new version. Dynamics vary more widely in the new version, and my average tempo is slower than the original, but varies more from moment to moment. So, for those that have an interest in such things, here is the original performance:


 Brisbane Nocturne (2000) for live computer performance

 and here is the new version:

 Brisbane Nocturne Revisited (2012) for live computer performance

 And for those interested in the details, click here for the original paper.

I don't know if I actually proved that it's possible to resurrect live electronic pieces based on a verbal description. It worked in this case, but the fact that the software still worked on current computers (I've been using XP since it first came out – that's more than a decade, right?) helped things a lot. The unavailability of the original patch, due to the fact that I archived all my backups around 2000-2002 with a program I no longer have (!) is one thing that makes me think that verbal descriptions are very important. I remember back in 1970, at Darmstadt, Karlheinz Stockhausen described notating one of his early electronic pieces in great detail, then said it was, in the end, futile because the filters he used to make the piece no longer existed, and the copies of the filter still in existence had capacitors which had corroded and changed their sound. So I still don't know what the “ideal life-span” of a live electronic piece is. But at least in this case, I was able to make a recording which sounds fairly close to the original. Perhaps recordings really are the way this music is going to survive.


Nightshade Etudes Book 1 - a new mini-album

Friends and visitors to this website are invited to download a new piece - a six-track mini-album - Nightshade Etudes Book One. Just click here to download the zip file with the six mp3 files, pdf notes and album cover. (The file is only 24mb in size.)  This is a set of six pieces which were made by using protein patterns from six members of the nightshade family as musical data to make small etudes.  There are some interesting experiments with microtonal harmony and counterpoint in the pieces.  The pieces were made on my netbook using John Dunn's ArtWonk and the Modartt Pianoteq physical modelling synthesizer.  So if you're interested in hearing me play a harpsichord with a potato, now's your chance.