New Sounds New Styles conference

The first New Sounds New Styles event, curated by design icon Malcolm Garrett, was a one-day conference and showcase exploring the intersection of music and technology. With a focus on Immersive Audio and VR, it shone a spotlight on current research, authoring, design and performance, and looked at the future environment for creatives.

VR Artist Lee Mason demonstrating Tilt Brush - pic Sam Michel @toodlepip

New Sounds New Styles - Music Technology, Immersive Audio, VR

New Sounds New Styles brought together creatives across different sectors, including music-makers and technologists, and academics, to cross-pollinate in spectacular fashion.

Featuring talks, performance and experiences, and a look at creativity, technology and the role of funding and venues, the event was managed by the AHRC Creative Economy Programme and supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and Digital Catapult which hosted it.

Huge scope for immersive

Co-curator Fred Deakin is Professor of Interactive Digital Arts at the University of the Arts, London, as well as co-founder of electronica band Lemon Jelly, and of Airside design studios.

He spoke about the great opportunity for immersive, and the thirst for those experiences. “Content hasn’t kept pace with technology, and there is enormous scope. As creatives there are plenty of places we should explore before the corporates get there.”

Martyn Ware was part of a panel on Applied Soundscaping and played an extract from an evocative soundscape he had created, set in Paris. Martyn, who runs Illustrious Company specialising in 3D spatialised sound composition painted a compelling picture of the power of immersive experiences, and said the key issue is how you apply the technology, not the technology itself.

“In a secular society this is the new religion.”

Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver on Sam Battle / Look Mum No Computer’s synth bike - pic Sam Michel

Radiophonic Workshop

A highlight of the day saw Mark Ayres and Roger Limb from Radiophonic Workshop give deep insights into their pioneering work and Delia Derbyshire’s methods. They even showed how Delia Derbyshire’s theme for Dr Who was constructed. “The Dr Who bass line is one single plucked string that is sequenced, re-pitched, cut to tape, and re-sequenced. It included grace notes and accents. All from one single piece of tape. Astonishing,” said Mark.

Mark Ayres, Radiophonic Workshop - pic Sam Michel @toodlepip

Hackoustic - the maker movement

Hackoustic had an incredible series of installations at the event, ranging from Sam Battle / Look Mum No Computer’s synth bike to Kuljit Bhamra’s electronic tabla and augmented reality Tabla notation app, Jen Haugan’s Sonic Ensemble, Tim Yates’ Curio, and Tom Fox’s Proximity Mixer.

A group of the artists also spoke at the event, and discussed the maker movement, which Hackoustic co-founder Tom Fox said is the result of a lot of technologies becoming more affordable and accessible in music and beyond.

Tim Yates’ Curio - pic Sam Michel @toodlepip

Helen Steer of Do It Kits, also maker in residence at Machines Room, said she puts music into science classrooms in schools, especially in physics and computer science. That includes making MIDI aintruments, breadboard synths and more. She said it was an exciting time for kids with the BBC Microbit and the Bela board available to make instruments with.

Tahera Aziz - [re]locate

Socio-political artist and Senior Lecturer in Digital Design at London South Bank University, Tahera Aziz, spoke powerfully about the making of her piece [re]locate. This is a sound installation that responds to the tragic events surrounding the racially-motivated murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. She described the process of creating the installation and played a compelling and chilling extract.

Tahera Aziz- pic Sam Michel @toodlepip

Feminist Algorave

Joanne Armitage and Coral Manton had some fascinating things to say on Feminist Algorave and live coding music culture. By creating a supportive space, the scene has attracted many women and there are several groups in Yorkshire based on live coding and feminism. “Live coding can create a space to fail in technologically,” said Joanne who is half of live coding duo ALGOBABEZ.

She is also part of the OFFAL collective - the Orchestra For Females and Laptops - where “people can perform with strangers and we expose our chat and debugging.”

The talk was followed later by an exciting networked evening performance by Joanne and OFFAL members from around the world, including Scotland, Columbia and Mexico. It played out against the London night time skyline in the windows with the live chat on a screen on the other side.

Audience Q&A - funding

During the audience Q&A there were discussions about the need for new spaces and venues. Prof Deakin supported the idea that there should be a Centre for Creative Technology to showcase new work.

Funding also received attention. Martyn Ware said, “People who know how to play the funding game get the funding, creative people find it hard. The amount of seed finding it would take for great new ideas for people who are self-motivated but creative, for them to get small amounts of money that takes very little process to acquire will reap enormous rewards for the AHRC.”

Some participants countered that creative freedom is more important than funding that comes with restrictions, however also spoke of their frustrations at leading institutions and venues asking artists to work without any pay at all.

Malcolm Garrett (right) - pic by Sam Michel @toodlepip

Project 2 - immersive and improvised

An extraordinary improvised performance from Project 2, was another highlight. Fred Deakin, Katy Schutte and Chris Mead created a gripping and frequently comedic sci fi story with dialogue and live sound track. It was the first experience of this style of performance for many of the audience, who became happy converts.

New Sounds New Styles also featured Stereoscopic VR from Focal Point, VR authoring from Lee Mason, and 3D Audio from Kinicho, plus a strong showing of student work from the Interaction Design Arts course at the London College of Communications, and also South Bank Sound Lab (London South Bank University), including installations, instruments and interfaces.

The conference was an instant success, with attendees relishing the chance to explore so many aspects of immersive and music-making technology and exchange ideas.

  • The full New Sounds New Styles video playlist is on YouTube.