The Astromusical House of Aries

This year’s cycle of zodiac themed performances will include bits of this amazing series of vinyl. I originally bought the Scorpio one based on the amazing trousers on the cover, when I found it was an album of muzak style covers selected for the sign and not spoken word, it was obvious I had to try and find the whole set. It has taken nearly 2 years to get them all, Pisces proving particularly tricky to get at reasonable cost.
Discogs is the best.

64k RAM – Fragmented memories

Sometime in the 1980s we got our first family computer, a Commodore 64.
I think at the time it was the market leader in the UK and shipped with the game ‘Purple Turtles’ and possibly another, but the main reason for going with the C64 was the fact that a guy in my Dad’s office had one and we could get copied games from him! It was easy in those days, a simple double tape deck could copy a cassette in real time and would work most of the time, so we quickly had a huge choice of games to play. I guess it was through doing this that I first heard the sound of the data stream on the cassettes. Normally C64 cassettes were loaded using a specific cassette player with an output/input designed for it and the sound was inaudible while it played into the computer. I picked up a Datassette unit in a charity shop a little while ago, I had no memory of what I assume is an earthing cable attached to the plug, interestingly it isn’t pictured or mentioned anywhere in the manual either!

For years we were awed by the impressive graphics in “Way of the Exploding Fist”, would become immersed in the “Zork” series of text only adventure games and frustrated by long loading times and the increasing difficulty in copying games!

By the early 90s we had hundreds of cassettes, many thanks to an Action Replay/Freeze Frame cartridge device that helped copy games. The C64 not only had the now legendary SID chip for generating pioneering computer sound FX and music but had a graphics chip that could produce 16 different colours.

As games design developed with more sophisticated programming we started to see mini games appear during the loading screens, some were even judged better than the game we were waiting to play! I have a memory of a loading screen for the Thalamus Ltd game “Delta” which presented a set of instrument choices allowing us to mix different elements to creat our own loading music mix! Both that and the in-game music (a rework of Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass) were by master C64 composer Rob Hubbard.

The cassettes were still found in charity and second hand junk shops here in the UK for many years after the C64 was discontinued and superseded by 16bit systems like the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST and subsequent Sega and Nintendo games consoles.

I sometimes like to use a cassette in my experimental sound works so keep an eye out for them, but they rarely appear.

Make Noise

In late February/early march 2022 I bought a Make Noise Strega synthesiser and a 0-Control sequencer. Described by the makers as an ‘audio alchemical experiment’, the Strega is deliberately unusual and unpredictable. I found out after buying that Strega is the Italian word for witch and is also the name of an Italian liqueur which I managed to get in a local Italian deli! Bright yellow, sweet and herby it’s a great combination for noise making!

Here are a couple of early streams trying to work out what it does!

A third circle

Another circle completed and the cycle continues.

A huge thanks to you all of my guests for the thoughtful, creative contributions to this last year’s series of improvisations. 

I’ve been really pleased (and slightly surprised!) with how much people have embraced the idea and engaged with the work. The year has flown by and each month has brought different ideas and new interactions to the process, I really hope they enjoyed the experience as much as I have.

This year will see a new series of improvised works with new guests I hope.
I also plan to invite last year’s guests back for another go now they have a greater understanding of how they might contribute.
An interesting feature of the series has been the sense of guests interactions developing in response to the previous, each bringing new material and finding different ways of contributing. Most guests have immediately suggested they would like to do more so it will be fascinating to see what they might bring to a new work.

Circles, cycles, synths and symbols. Alongside the continuing monthly vinyl mixes there will be a series of live works streamed regularly and irregularly through the year. This new cycle will combine more animations, images and symbols with synths and vinyl, themed according to the zodiac sign under which they are created. Working with new technologies and regular guests Jay and Keryl (Virgo and Capricorn contributors this last cycle) brings new structures and opportunities to experiment in different ways. We have loop pedals and hardware synths, multiple cameras, vision mixers and VJ software, the opportunities are endless!

Virtual Synthesis

A circle in 12 parts is a way of bringing together all the different strands of my practice, a way to include all kinds of material and processes, ideas and influences.

Back in 2002, when I first started to find and collect audio objects and make experimental sound works with them, I tried a few software synths – Rebirth and Reason were the go to programs at the time and I can remember using a block sequencer in Reason to make and hear visual patterns but I struggled to get past the limited steps and regular tempos. Not only that but I was trying to develop a practice with minimal cost and the expense of the software was significant! The found objects and their physicality and unpredictable nature of interaction possible with turntables and vinyl became far more interesting and accessible.

20 years on I found myself experimenting with virtual modular synthesis having discovered the amazing free software VCV Rack. I started playing with the synth app as an alternative to playing a dreadful mobile computer game called Marvel Strike Force. Why I got so absorbed in that game I’m not sure but over 3 years it took hours, if not days, of my time, steadily increasing the need to pay for things to stay up to date. I never paid for anything. Finding VCV Rack and it replacing my Marvel habit puts in in a curious place, is it part of my art practice? is it a hobby? entertainment? maybe all three? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.. whatever it is, it feels a lot more wholesome than Marvel US military propaganda!

Almost immediately after starting using VCV Rack I was considering its visual quality and trying to establish a way to make that a more interesting experience. Initially I was recording the sessions locally and trying different visual treatments with the recordings in post. In mid October 2021 I posted this video of a processed recording of a VCV Rack session. I used some databending techniques on the original improvised synth session recording and then further corrupted the recording live while streaming to Youtube.

It was around then that I started streaming most of my experiments with VCV Rack, sharing my screen to Youtube as a way of recording the sessions without filling up my HDD. In hindsight I can see it is in part the uncertainty around what these experiments are and how they relate to my practice that led to my decision to stream them privately, a decision I regret somewhat as my work is very much about process, embracing the failures and getting away from value judgements and hierarchies..oh well. Perhaps they are more interesting in retrospect anyway (perhaps not) as we can see some sort of progression and understanding of the software develop (hopefully).

A fortnight later I posted this glitch video with a bit of improvised synth sound.

Another fortnight later I streamed this next video with a longer bit of live synth sound. The MP4/HEVC glitching process usually gives me a file that just about plays in my streaming software but this file refused. It did play in VLC player so I was able to stream it.

In the following week I started using Vmix to alter colours, add visual. With the exception of 22022022022022 I haven’t posted any more synth videos since mid November but I have been playing a lot and continued experimenting with visual material too, streaming regularly to youtube to record. There is now over 70hrs of recordings of my learning the software and developing a live process with visual material, overlays, circle drawings, animations and extra software to offer more live interactions. I’ll start looking through and posting some soon probably..


Once in a lifetime. The precise second where the palindromic time and date hit last night.

It was 20 years ago in 2002 that I first started playing with virtual synthesisers. I rediscovered them recently and have been finding my way around the amazing free VCV Rack since last September, finding ways to apply live visual effects and overlays to live captured synth improvisations.

This fairly minimal droney one started at 22:00 on 22/02/2022 and lasted 22min. Annoyingly Youtube seems to have cropped a second off to spoil my Twosday!

A circle in 12 parts: Aquarius

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Aquarius is Maria Hayes.

Double Aquarius 14:02:22

We are birthday twins so we created this piece on our birthdays.

Working with Jake is always exciting and invigorating. Our creative conversations happen through initial talking, but mostly through the doing. We each work in our own ways but there is a connection, synchronicity and overlap in how we do what we do.

In making choices for this performance from Jake’s significant record collection and my overloaded image library I decided to be spontaneous. I listened to internal prompts and allowed those to guide me. On reflection I notice that many of the choices are things that have significance in how I have been formed, informed, shaped and made at different stages of my life. There are also sounds and images of my current obsessions. In addition there is the purr of my younger cat. All are soul connections.

This month we both lost our friend and collaborator Sianed Jones. Sianed features in my choices too. How could she not? She appears as butterfly. Psyche – soul – transformation. A butterfly can have the gentlest and most transient of presences yet affect complex systems in dramatic ways. And this can be true of us all.

And birds. Being an air sign birds are of significance to us both. I have worked for many years with the tension between freedom and security. Between trying to establish roots while desiring to fly. Between being of the earth and being other. Perhaps it’s something of the condition of being an artist and freelance working. Never quite belonging, but observing. Taking flight with our imaginations then nest building for the next project. It is so wonderful to find another member of your tribe, or flock, to fly with. Thank you Jake.

A circle in 12 parts: Capricorn

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Capricorn is Keryl Hodges.

“Yours is going to be the most complicated yet!”

“Why of course it is, I’m a Capricorn!”

“So do I need to talk about being a Capricorn, or my ideas, for this video?” I’m questioning, are my ideas for this video born of being a Capricorn or being me, am I truly a Capricorn?
When Jacob asked me to take part in his Circles in 12 Parts projects instantly I thought of at least 300 ideas, mostly fantastical, of things I wanted to do for it. I got super excited, this was in about April last year, plenty of time to plan, create, decide I thought! I wanted to express a lots of things that make me me, then I had to scale back a tad, I do a lot of things!

Visual, it had to be visual. Okay, it’s time. I admit it, I’m a photographer, it’s taken me 43 years to get to this point of true admittance. I don’t like admitting I’m a photographer because it always feels like a sham. I was born with a camera in my hand, I’ll probably die with one, I’m qualified but still. (I wonder if impostor syndrome is part of being a Capricorn too because I definitely suffer with that). So it had to involve images, photographs & film. (Well that’s a start!)
Right, focus…

(459 ideas, they’re growing!)Many things happen in the house of Capricorn, there is the; Winter solstice at the start, Yule, Christmas, the dead days, New Year, National science fiction day, World Braille day, The 12th night, 3 kings, Global word search day, Martin Luther King Day, Winnie the Pooh Day, then there’s my birthday, on the 19th, the last day of Capricorn. (I’m a Capricorn on the edge!) What does being born in the house of Capricorn mean to me? (Now I’m starting to go down a spiral of am I creative because I’m a Capricorn or am I a Capricorn because I’m creative?, no that doesn’t make sense! Hang on, are Capricorns creative? I’m going to have to look that up now!) I know I’m unusual, I’m lucky in the fact I can turn my hand to most creative things very easily. I have a good eye, an artistic bent & love creating things. I have many hats but none I’m comfortable enough to wear for too long. (Don’t give me a title, oh no!) When I have to do something I focus & tend to try and pack as many ideas into one thing as I can because I get over excited (probably because I’m half goat). I get a lot of ideas, some fantastical, some mundane, some doable, some not. Then I question everything. My ideas, my ability, which I suppose is a duality thing? (Hmmm… Duality, that’s a Capricorn thing as well isn’t it? I know I’m bossy & know what I want, I know how to get things done, ask Jacob!) Are Capricorns easily distracted? No they’re supposed to be hardworking, ambitious & determined! Look!! ⬇️

Capricorns are practical (ah-hem!) as well, taking things one step at a time (errrr!) and being as realistic and pragmatic as possible.(guffaw!) Those with a Capricorn zodiac sign are extremely dedicated to their goals,(oh really!) almost to the point of stubbornness (yep!) . Those victories sure smell sweet, though, and that thought alone will keep Capricorns going (nope!).
Depth of field…

For me it has to be being born in the months of the darkest days and longest nights, the still sun, the teetering & tottering on the axis of the Earth, bringing light back into the dark. So I turned my attention to Solstice; the sun standing still, the longest night and shortest day, the unbalance. These thoughts turned to reflection; the old and the new, the looking back and looking forward, the God Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, endings and of motion, after who January is named and the spirit trapped within the tail of the fish. (I want to say fish, is it a fish? It’s definitely a goat, well the top half anyway? A mermaid, no that’s stupid, it’s a goat fish? Isn’t it Babylonian? Ea? A sea goat? That’s it, a sea goat, called Ea. Or is it Greek, something to do with baby Zeus and his baby eating father Cronos and a goat called Almathea.) I made notes. So I started thinking (dangerous!). What could I use to capture that day, that moment , that time, those images, the still sun, natures physical essences of Capricorn. It would take planning, not my strong suit. I Decided it would all have to be created in the time of Capricorn. So I didn’t think much about it again until November.

November arrived. I started by thinking about a time-lapse of the day of the solstice on the first day of Capricorn, the first day of winter, the 21st of December 2021. I thought filming 16 hours time-lapsed was going to be about 15 minutes of video but instead I was duped by new technology in my phone and the 16 hours of filming actually turned into just under three minutes of video, great! (I need more material!) I had been sent flowers because my dog had died, roses to be exact. (What’s the flower of Capricorn? Is there a flower of Capricorn? I’ve looked it up, apparently it can be a pansy, it can be a carnation, it can be whatever the hell one person or another wants to say it is to sell flowers in this gloomy time of year!) The petals had fallen and dried and I kept them on the windowsill, (they become packaging I use for another endeavour!) so I took a photograph because they looked like skin, shedded. I’d been playing with a movie app on my phone that had a kaleidoscope setting, so I started playing with that, then all manner of ideas started coming to me of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something with light, a projector, it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for awhile but with no direction for output, now here was my chance. I started thinking about playing with reflections & time & light & creating a mirror of spirits with projections. I wanted to do something where I projected an image onto a person, a real-time image but slightly out of sync, as to cause a delay, a jarring but capture it in real time rather than using post editing. I wanted Jacob to look like Janus looking backwards and forwards, I wanted Jacob to reflect on himself multiple times. (deep!) I wanted to be playing with time, capturing moments of layered light out of the darkness & spectral imagery and I wanted it all to be captured live, a challenge. (Jacob outright flat refused to wear the all in one white lycra skin-suit I wanted to get for best projection reflection. And even the mere suggestion of white face paint was rejected on the spot, so I had to improvise & luckily he always wears his white performance shirt so….) I wanted to do the projection thing & take photographs, because as I said before, I am, at at my core, a photographer.(another admission, I must be careful!) So there had to be me taking stills while the projections were going on, more reflections. Also it would have to be done & recorded live on the chosen day.
I had the forming of my idea but how to put it into action? I need equipment! “JACOB!!”
Adjust the white balance…

In the meantime I’d got busy making fun short films using my phone. So … there’s a short video of my fire reflected with a representation of the sun, still & fixed in the middle (flamma, another obsession). I, like many, always like to light a fire in the dark and cold months, a yule log so to say, it plays a big part of my life. Then there is a short film which is the reflection of the petals and being able to see images of creatures and people within those petals that you don’t see without the reflection, things within things, looking back at each other but unseen. Then there’s a short film of the solstice time-lapse, which I also reflected as a triple reflection. (There’s a definite theme here).Then there’s the solstice day time-lapse with the film Capricorn One’s intro audio over it, just because it’s Capricorn ‘innit. You will notice the tarot card for Capricorn, The Devil, don’t be alarmed, (it’s not really the devil but Pan on the card & yes I’m learning to read tarot) it’s not an evil card. Ok it does hold a little toxicity, greed guilt, addiction, fear, control & possession but to me it represents being strong willed & ambitious, imagined insecurities & bondage. I may feel trapped but it’s by my own choices, (too many?) but I have the ability to break free at anytime to follow my ambitions, be determined & stop at nothing to obtain my goals. So going with that and truly embracing my full goat there was no stopping me!
Press the shutter…

The auspicious day arrived, the day of the performance & recording and with projector & camera set up and ready & a very nice camera in hand it was over to Jacob. The performance begun & I started shooting, I shot Jacob. (A joke my Dad always used to make about going out & shooting people at a wedding! He was a photographer too.) I was tripping over tripods in the dark, and forgetting that fade to black stops everything, and press that button, don’t press that button, and click over here, then find a better angle, oooh great lens, and gawd this camera is heavy and just when I was really enjoying it, it was over. Done, captured, completed. A little off axis, a lot of reflection and I still don’t know if I’m much of a Capricorn, or if I managed to express it, but I got it done. There’s a few errors, lessons we’ll call them, as they say the devils in the detail, he’s definitely in Capricorn! But much fun was had & I’m looking forward to doing more things in the next cycle.

I’d just like to add that these records I chose were by fellow Capricorns – Patti Smith – Because the Night, David Bowie – Heroes & the BeeGees (Gibb twins; Robin & Maurice) – Night Fever. 

The others were The Beatles (no Capricorns I’m afraid) – Here comes the sun. The Unexplained flexi disc, (because it’s all spirits) And a tone test record (because I like tone/drone sounds).