Make Do Bend

make do bend wordle 2.pngOver the weekend I got to work on an extraordinary series of e mails ahead of The Hub / London Sinfonietta’s MAKE DO BEND hack which is being delivered in partnership with Sound and Music and NESTA. It takes place on Tuesday and you can find out more about the event here (which includes several other Liverpool participants including Adrian McEwan of MCQN, Stefan Kazassoglou of Company Kinicho Ltd and Erika Shorter of Uniform ….. it was  Uniform workshop which resulted in this moment…).


It’s going to be a real privilege to witness the hack, particularly as I’m hoping to run a similar event in due course which brings together artists, theatre technicians and technologists…..but more of that another day.

The original blog can be read on the Sinfonietta mini site for the project here , for now heres just the first bit…


Adam Stark: I actually hope it looks like nothing I can imagine. Certainly many of the great musical innovations didn’t come from using technology, but rather from mis-using technology (overdriven amplifiers, scratching turntables, guitar feedback, misuse of auto-tune [NB, this last one is rarely done well]). So I think we need to create possibilities for performers to use digital technologies in many new and interesting ways – and then watch as they ritually misuse them and dismay us with their lack of regard for our intentions. 🙂

Andrew Hugill: I think the challenge for artists is, as always, to find ways to “creatively abuse” the technologies. This will continue to provide the most fertile and imaginative solutions. We must embrace the engineers (indeed, become engineers ourselves), but we must do so in ways which embed humanity in the systems. We must find a way to reconcile the subjective ambiguities of human beings with the objective precisions of computers.

Hopefully like nothing in particular or, rather, like anything it wants to look like. There is room for everything, from a conventional performance ritual with screens to an immersive interactive experience using augmented reality in a locative situation, and many many other permutations. This is not to dodge the issue, however. What is ‘liveness’? How do we understand non-human agency? What’s our role as performer, or audience, or creator? And what will be the future role of, for example, an orchestra – is it inevitably a museum piece? All these questions are in the mix when contemplating digital performance, which will continually offer creative answers almost on a work-by-work basis. So, the exceptional is encountered more often than not. This is the sign of an active and flourishing area that has yet to settle into conservatism.

Daniel Jones: A whole-hearted yes to creative abuse of new technology.

Adrian McEwan: I love your call for the artists to “creatively abuse” the technology. What does public space look like online? How does that impact what can or can’t be performed?

Leo Amico: I join you guys in praising “Creatively abuse” – such a great term! (On the topic, I LOVED Simon Reynolds joint review of Guns N’Roses “Chinese Democracy” and Kanye’s “808s & Heartbreak”. How technology is used in totally opposite ways by each artist – Kanye abusing the auto-tune for artistic purposes and GNR abusing compression for commercial purposes –

Digital broke the barrier between the instrument and the music it produces. Both became malleable, fluid, in evolution. Making music/performing music with digital tools allows artists to create and interact with both the making the music and making the instrument (i.e. in live coding). What are the implications of this? How can this be used in live performances? What improvisation become when we are not just creating the music on the spot, but the instrument itself?

Thor Magnusson: It looks like live coding : ) – But seriously, there is no easy answer to this question. The research field of NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) studies this topic at great depth, but the answers are many, emerging, and diverging. The exciting thing about being part of this creative field of new musical technologies is that the practices are innumerable: there are no compositional constrains, and people are confident in crossing art forms for new explorative expression. The explosion of creative coders is a positive force as it’s dangerous when commercial interests drive musical innovation, but today I’d argue we have the opposite: innovation by creative people drives commercial companies to up their game and follow what’s going on.

Duncan Chapman: Can I tell the difference between it and ‘analogue’ performance?
And I was reminded (when talking with Julia) about visiting the wonderful instrument museum in Brussels. Lots of prototype saxophones made by Adolphe Sax in the process of designing the instrument that was intended to be portable, stable, “cross platform” (learn one and you can play them all), simple to learn the basics and able to be played in the rain in military bands. All this invention with no idea that it might have other completely unimagined voices.



Adam: I’m definitely very interested in this idea. I like the idea of a performance whereby the music created is very much collaborative with a group of people – so it is an experience for the audience, and something that exists only in that room at that time.

However, I feel there is a limit to the size of an audience for such an experience. If the audience becomes too large, then nobody can tell what effect they have on the performance anymore. So perhaps there is a critical point where the collective moves from ‘active’ to ‘passive’?

Andrew: I suspect there will be ever more dissolving of the distinction between the two. Performances wil become more of a shared, pro-active, experience, like multi-player gaming. However, this does not remove the possibility of a collective appreciation of virtuosity, for example. Sometimes we like to be passive recipients, especially when one individual’s contribution stands out. So, more traditional modes of interaction will survive. But the hierarchical relationship which always places one person (or group) in the role of ‘genius’ performer and the rest in the role of grateful recipients is changing. Audiences reasonably expect to be able to shape their musical experience and today have a degree of control over that process that far exceeds anything imagined even a decade ago.

The discussion continues over at the MakeDoBend mini site – to read the full – and fascinating discussion see here

To find out more about the participants see here

Keep an eye on the #makedobend for updates from the room tomorrow!



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