Saturday, October 24, 2009

Velocity Sensitive Drums on iPhone

New app that magics velocity data from the iPhone touch screen. It's using the mic to detect the strength of the tap which is really clever and seems to work well. If that wasn't sweet cool enough the finger drum skills of the guy in the demo are amazing!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Cool steampunk exhibition in history of science museum, Oxford.
Including original period pieces and new imaginings.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Flickr Embed Test

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Another contract closes

End of the summer and end of my work for Symbian. Not quite sure what
to do. I don't feel like looking for a new job right away but the
thought of not going to the mountains in the winter due to lack of
money is a bit crap too. Guess I'll have to see where next week takes

Monday, August 31, 2009

Something about gift horses and mouths.

What seemed like a good offer (500 quid and a free hotel) has become a Fucking nightmare. Too long a story to deal with now but know that i have discovered several circles of hell in palma airport.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stay another day

Got to the airport in good time to be told the flight is full and would we mind awfully staying another day. Free hotel and £500 for a shopping trip in palma made it a fairly easy to take.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beach beer

Waiting for paella

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mobile studio setup in action

Sitting by the pool sipping beer and working on some tunes. Korg nano
control and keys make up a classy little mobile studio.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Hapless potter and the spacecake of mong

Sunshine for the suns

Suns of arqua kicking things off. Going to be a scorcher.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Around Random Corners

One finds really cool dual flamenco guitarist hippies.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Joy of Filter

Been getting increasingly obsessed by a kind of filtered reverb/delay/reversed stabby sound that is part post Berlin techno dub and part deep house synth.
Thinking of artists like Yagna, Lucine ICL and Pezzner here.

So when I came across some remix stubs for Pezzner's Valldemossa I found it impossible to remix playing with. The result is hardly sophisticated, I haven't really done much but throw some beats at it but getting it into my Lemur jamming/production interface it was a whole heap of fun jamming out this little remix "live". No edits, no EQ or levelling yet, just a jam.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minor moment of beauty in an otherwise bleak day.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Last party of the weekend

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Rained in

Luckily the tent is enormous

Friday, July 03, 2009

Turned out nice again

Shitty rainy start to the festival weekend but the sun is shining now
and I have a beer in my hand. Sorted.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Real world agile framework?

Spotted outside the Symbian office. Perhaps they are here to show us
the way. And top marks for the erection innuendo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hexagon Square Sun

I have mentioned the coolness that is the harmonic table layout and devices that use them before. Being a bit fascinated by the layout and also in possession of a programmable touch screen control surface I set out this morning to try and build myself one.

After a bit of messing and a substitute of squares for hexagons I had myself a harmonic table on the lemur. Add a couple of sliders for velocity and note length, a global hold and it was done.

The results are most pleasing. I find the layout to be much easier to play than a standard piano keyboard with scale and chord patterns much simpler to see. I have never really been any good on a keyboard but after a few hours of learning some chord and scale shapes it's very easy to plonk away on.

Here is a totally live recording, no sequencers or arpeggiators just a single synth voice and my new UI.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Demo Day

Big demo to the Symbian board today. Side by side comparison of the
mobile developer experience. I'm running the iPhone section and will
be coding a hello world application live to various VPs and execs of
global mobile corporations. The scary bit is live coding the app from
scratch to device in under 6 minutes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Lemur/Ableton control surface project

I have had the Lemur for a few weeks now and have been (between various career and personal crisis) climbing the learning curve of:

  1. The Lemur scripting language- A fairly standard Javascript like thing.
  2. The Lemur Object reference - Very cool but still a bit odd and buggy in places.
  3. Python - Never used it before, for the shame.
  4. The Python Live API - Access to the objects (clips, tracks, devices, scenes) in Ableton. talk about in at the deep end.
  5. OSC - The open sound protocol, think Midi 2.0. Seriously as Deadmau5 has already said, "Midi should fuck off and die already".
All of this means that I haven't got much actual writing of music done and although I would have deeply loved to take Alex up on his offer of a slot at BeatHerder it's looking like there ain't no way in hell I can have a set ready in time.

Also I am struggling with exactly what a "set" entails. There are so many ways I can make noise now that are all quite satisfying ranging from semi random, set it off and see what happens kind of things to very tightly controlled scene by scene progression.

Anyway I thought I would share a piccy of the UI I have been working on so hard. This bank holiday was pretty good as I finally got the Python code to send and receive mixer data patched into the Jazzmutant clip launcher scripts. This means that I have added a bank selectable row of faders below the clip launch grid.

I am still trying to work out how best to utilise the new track group function in Ableton and wondering how much (if at all) I want to use scene triggers. See a well constructed group is like a mini scene and I think that sits better with me rather than just stepping through the scenes to progress a track.

At some point when I have it all working nice I will try an do a video of it in action with a bit of a walkthrough.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Looking up

Friday, May 08, 2009

Teh Awwsuum has landed

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Open Source music part 2 - A tale of two mixes.

Some time ago I bemoaned how solo production lacked the creative frisson of having a band-mate to bounce ideas off and to tell you that the synth line you just spent 3 hours fiddling with is actually crap.

So last night I finally resurrected one of my old (like 15 years!) arpeggios - the tale of how I completely forgot how it went even though I have heard it in my head for years is another post entirely - and because he was online fired it over to a work colleague who just happens to be a talented (and published) producer as well as a PHP developer.

The completely raw arp+variation+4x4 sounded like this.

download mp3

While I continued down my comfortable rabbit hole of layered bleeps and freq/res tweaks fed into long tail delays Ryan got all Euro on my ass. He popped the BPM up a couple of notches, added a nice - if aggressive - pad/lead thing, a second melody and a bassline change.

Rick's morning trance noodler...

download mp3

Ryan's Euro mankini...

download mp3

I think this could be a winner. Think the 36 minute ambient version of "Kincajou" versus the bass and lead heavy upbeat live version. Or perhaps the 3 different mixes of "Song for Life" mixed back to back by Sasha at the start of the very first Renaissance mix.

Oh and I have 5 days off work from tomorrow to noodle and I have received news that my Lemur is shipping this week too. Happy days!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Headlong into thunderstorm.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Arkham Asylum might not suck.

Not too sure how this game snuck up on me but it looks like we might finally have a Batman game that doesn't suck balls. Don't want to get too excited just yet but this gameplay video looks interesting. Not too sure what's going on with the camera changes in the combat however. I guess we wait and see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sushi lunch feast

Monday, April 20, 2009

Westminster still blocked

So you still can't get through parlement square two weeks on. How come
this "illegal" protest is left to run for two weeks no kettle and
disperse and the G20 gets crushed right away? Which one had more
strings pulled and better political reasons for the action or lack of

Friday, April 17, 2009


Friday, April 10, 2009

Job's a good'un

Re-arranged everything to my satisfaction, almost. Still need to get
something to lift either the laptops or the mixer out of the way and
there is a question mark over where the lemur will sit. Still it's
better than it was before.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Diversion pleasurable

A forced diversion due to the Tamil protest offered a different view
of my twice daily river crossing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Equestrian Crossing

On my way to and from work I cross Hyde Park Corner using the Wellington Arch. There are two variations of the button working the crossing. One for pedestrians and cyclists and one for those on horseback.

Tongue Biter Jailed

A bloke in Newcastle had his tongue bitten off by his psycho hose beast girlfriend because she was upset that she wasn't pregnant. Having asked for a "smoochy kiss" the lass turned into a "massive monster" and bit through his tongue then spat it out. Apparently two bottles of vodka were involved.

The best bit of the story is the judge's quote:

"These courts have had plenty of experience of people biting noses off a person, or ears, or parts of noses and parts of ears"

Well it is Newcastle after all.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Schott’s Vocab

Friday, March 27, 2009

Heavy traffic in Hyde park

On my commute this morning ran into a troop of Queens Guards on
horseback. The took up the entire width of serpentine road. They did a
little shimmy to let me past.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Way too true.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Booka Shade vs. Mandy How-To

This is a really nice demo of how easy it is in Operator to make that lovely warm Booka Shade/M.A.N.D.Y. sound. I think I need to spend some quality time in a comfy chair with Operator and a cup of coffee or three.

Still unsure as to why it's taken me this long to discover Ableton.

Monday, March 23, 2009


My new bike sat next to my desk. So cool. Can do Paddington to Waterloo in 20/25 minutes.

Takes 30/35 on the way back as its a little bit more uphill.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Listen with your eyes.

I've spent most of the weekend hacking away at the detection grid project for creating generative ambient music from video input. As is usual in these kinds of experiments the end result is quite a long way from my expectations, fortunately pleasingly so.

Snap To Grid

My first challenge was one of granularity. To create pleasing tonal compositions I needed to restrict the number of possible active notes. After a bit of trial and error I figured that around 16 notes was optimal. However using only a 4x4 grid across the video didn't provide enough granularity for detection. Increasing the size of the matrix really slows down the frame rate however and quickly adds too many notes into the mix.

Short And Snappy

Next issue was that the notes themselves were very short and often repeated very quickly. This is great for quick glitchy noises but not so great for the ambient soundscape I was trying to create. I tried making patches that had a very short (zero) attack phase with a long release and these worked well for sparse hits, the repeating notes however still didn't sound right.

Messing around a bit more I fired up my favorite Ableton arpeggiators and tried feeding the notes into a held pattern. This has the effect of negating the displeasing rapid repeating notes but leads to a continually sounding arpeggio.

Less Is More

The original composer patch I used as the base for my work used a bit of Javascript to restrict the notes to a specific scale. This worked well but I found it more pleasing to have the generator output from the full chromatic scale and use the Ableton scale plugin to filter the notes. This allows for me to tweak the scale in use and it's tonal qualities in realtime in Ableton should I want to. It also means I can optimise the Quartz composition to use math expression patches to calculate the note output rather than Javascript that runs significantly slower.

Invoking Reich

At some point in the proceedings I ended up with an arpeggio and scale that produced a repeating composition with the period equal to that of the video clip. It's sound and mood was immediately reminiscent of Steve Reich so I tweaked the hell out if it to make it more so. Unfortunately during recording it Quartz Composer crashed and I hadn't saved in ages! I managed to get most of the way back to where I was and decided that the whole point of this was to be generative so shouldn't sweat it too much.

Didcot Plays Reich from Rick Hawkins on Vimeo.

This video shows four movements of Didcot Plays Reich (a working title). The frame rate sucks ass as performing the analysis, generating the OSC messages and rendering to disk all at once strains even my new Macbook pro. This means that the video and soundtrack have become a bit out of sync in the final render. I have ideas on how I can optimise the processing by swapping out Javascript for math expressions and programming my own Quartz plugin in Cocoa to do the grid analysis and reduce the load on the iterator macro in Quartz. As it is intended to be a "live" piece (if generative can be called that) I am not too worried about it right now. You will just have to trust me that it looks and sounds pretty cool in realtime.

Although a long way off from being perfected I am very happy with the results of this weekend's hacking and am looking forward to working up my improvements.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Motion detector for ambient music generator

I have been hacking away at an idea burning its way through my skull for the last couple of days. This morning on the train to work I made a breakthrough and got the motion detection grid up and running.

I based this on a patch by the fantastically talented Memo Akten but even following that it has taken me a couple of days to understand the processing and how to represent that in Quartz Composer. The biggest challenge was getting all the layers to render in realtime to a video file on disk. Took me most of the time to get my head around output buffer redirection in Quartz and compiling plugins.

I will write about the overall vision for the project later but for now you can have a look at the pretty squares.

Motion Detection Test 1 from Rick Hawkins on Vimeo.

I think I am going to have to write a custom plugin in Cocoa to do the heavy lifting work of splitting the input into the grid and iterating over them. Memo's patch (which was in itself a proof of concept test) does this using an iterator that generates as many cubes as needed along with the outputs. However this doesn't scale too well if you want very granular control or sensitivity. I know that he recoded the whole thing in C++ and processing for his installation, I want to try and keep it in QC if I can.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

White Board Addiction

As anyone who has ever worked with me will attest, I have a similar affliction.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Power Station Flare

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A thousand things well

I've been kicking a bass line around for a couple of weeks with various kicks, hats, glitches and samples on top. It felt like it wanted to be minimal, perhaps glitchy but neither of those is really in my bag of tricks. With that in mind I set out to finish off the track today and promptly ran out of disk space on my macbook (I suppose trying to install the full 40G Ableton library was never going to work out).

Anyway 2 cycle journeys, 1 new hard disk, a large cappuccino, half a bottle of red a spliff and 14 hours later I have this:

download mp3

I suppose it's about as minimal as I am likely to get given my trance tendencies and again all the progression transitions, filters and effects are tweaked live so don't go expecting timing perfection. It also needs serious attention in the mix (soundsticks+sub woofer sound great but do not a reference monitor set make). If only I knew someone with a decent mixing setup, reference monitors and time on their hands who could help me out with a mix. (cough, Kirk, cough)

Oh, and yes I am using that Facebook fake album cover meme as a way of naming these tracks. Random quote generator FTW!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A place with its own harvest

Some more live ambient performance. This time no video, I didn't use the Tenori-On so didn't really have any pretties to look at.

I have been learning how to use Ableton and this is my first effort with its wonderful instrument racks and effects chains.

This is an unfinished, unmixed work in progress. I need to do all kinds of things to this before I am done, but seeing as it was sounding kind of nice at 3am I thought I'd stick it up for comments.

download mp3

Friday, February 27, 2009

Radioactive Paedophile On The Run In Ireland

That's the headline the BBC should have gone with if they had any guts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Do video games do enough to prepare our children for the post apocalyptic future?

Another turn of genius from The Onion.

Playing video games all day alone, friendless is still the best way to prepare for the solitude of the apocalyptic wasteland.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Late winter sun

After what feels like a very long month of rain and snow it's starting
to get dry enough to cycle to work comfortably. I'm looking forward to
my Brompton so that I can ride both sides of the train.
Right now I'm sitting on the train staring at the cloudy sunset and
fiddling with arpeggios.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Star Trek Future is now.

Well a little tiny bit of it is at least and unfortunately not the whole no-need-for-money and united-earth bit either. Nope, it's the groovy touch screen interfaces bit I am thinking about.

Take a look at this:
Now compare with this:
Every time I see that control surface in action I can't help but think Star Trek NG. It's so damn pretty. And flashy lighty. And touch screeny. /goes into homer like head back drool/.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work

Elysium Hexagonal Generator

First I got excited by this thing. That was the first time I heard about harmonic tables and any other way of grouping notes than ebony and ivory (I'm not counting guitars etc. here I'm thinking about interfaces to electronic production).

Then I got super excited about this thing. But that was just way too expensive to get into (Lemur + Ableton + MAX/MSP = big $$). Then came this other thing.

Now if only I bothered to blog them all as I found them eh?

Anyway now I have found this thing. This one is free, Mac only (suits me) and very cool indeed. Spent the evening feeding it into Garage Band and stacking effects and generally making noise. I definitely think I can find a space for this in my (currently being but together) semi generative ambient noise performance set up.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Analogue Bubblebath

Ambient Music for Snowscapes

I got my Tenori-on a few weeks back and have had no time to fiddle or get inspired by it so I resolved to spend some quality time with its flashy lights over the weekend. What little time I had spent with it told me that I needed to get it hooked up to some other stuff to make the most of it so I spent the first half of Saturday pulling my old music kit out of storage and trying to remember how to get it all connected. One fried multi-voltage power supply and a couple of hours later I had a bare bones synth rack and a floor covered in discarded cables.

I was going to use the Tenori as the only sequencing midi controller in the set up as it was the interface I wanted to inspire me. I wanted to poke around, assign a few noises and noodle along. It took me a while to get to grips with what midi messages the Tenori was sending out to the other synths and I still cant figure out how it is doing bank select but the happy side effect is that selecting random positions in the grid yields sounds I didn't know were there on my CS1x.

Many cups of lesbian tea later I had enough layers to improvise a pretty rich soundscape. I am using no sequence layers at all for this just push, bounce and random. All fed through a shitload of delay and phase. It's hardly going to rock a dance floor but I am pretty pleased with it. I can probably tweak a couple of layers and add a better counterpoint to the pad but there is enough depth here for a decent length ambient piece.

For those that care the Tenori is feeding midi to my Yamaha CS1x and a Novation Super Bass Station. These are being routed through a (now getting scratchy) Macki 1202 mixer in and out of a DigiTech Studio Quad effects processor. Tape out being recorded off the crappy line in on my laptop. As was ever the case I am using the CS1x for too many voices which ends up making it sound muddy as it only has one output. At some point I'll grab ableton or something and use some VST voices so I can separate them in the mix.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fuck, Cunt.

Proper snow

The things you find in a kebab shop at 2:30 am

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Computer Tan, it's TanTastic!

Do you want to look great in the office? Are you tired, overworked, pasty? Then just go to and you can have that just come back from holiday look all year round!
At first I thought this was a joke, I mean it has to be right? Upon looking at the website and its accompanying bullshit it seems as if it is for real, well at least its real that they will take your money for looking into a blue screen on your monitor for an hour a day.

Computer tan is claiming that it is able to convince the backlight in your LCD monitor to emit ultra violet radiation strong enough to give you a "just got back from holiday" tan while you sit and eat your lunch. at your desk. in the office.

The on site infomercial has that well known orange faced "TV Presenter" Hannah Yasmin take you through all the tricky science of how the "revolutionary" technology "converts the electrical impulse delivered to your PC into radiated, factor free UVC rays". Hannah struts, poses and grins like the desperate media whore she so obviously is round an office where people sit at desks basking in the blue glow of their PCs. Some of the safety concious ones are even wearing those little over the eye black goggle things.

Call me cynical but considering the site also offers tanning creams and other products I am guessing that best results are only had when used in conjunction with their own creams. I'm going to try out the free trial at lunchtime I think.

After trying the five minute trial I finally got to the punchline. It is a genius piece of public safety campaign warning about overexposure to UV. Complete with some nasty pics of people's burnt faces. I am really disapointed. I really wanted this to be a real scam but full marks to the production company.

Sunrise. Time to go

At least it's light by 7 these mornings. For a while there I was only
seeing daylight through windows.

Friday, January 30, 2009

XKCD vs. LOL-Cats FTW!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slow burn start to the day

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fake banksy in shoreditch.

Mind you there is a banksy shop these days.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The view from the back

A bag is for life?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Monday, January 19, 2009

Blurry Brain

Friday, January 16, 2009

Requirements to Features

Pink gate, yellow lock