Channel 5 ident

Lucy and I were asked to write the music for a couple of idents for the Channel 5 rebrand, the first of which is being broadcast today:

Keep an eye out for it when you’re watching the Gadget Show or CSI!

The second ident is due next week sometime; I’ll update this post when it’s on.

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Maracatu & Samba-Reggae tomorrow!

Come to a lovely free gig of awesome drumming and dancing and Brazilian music:

(Tom DG – you have to come because you live round the corner!)

Maracatu and Samba Reggae Drum and Dance Workshops every month with Umbela Arts

Lets kick start the year with the first rehearsals for Maracatu and Samba Reggae, start 2011 with a bang!

Umbela Arts Presents…FESTA UMBELA!

Kicking off from 7.30pm, Umbela Arts host their regular residency; an entertainment filled evening which is totally FREE!

Our DJ’s will bring you the best in African, Brazilian and World Music. You will not be able to stop yourself from dancing!!

Dance performances to live drumming to amaze you and get your senses overflowing, and guess what, we haven’t stopped there, as there will also be live music from two of London’s finest Brazilian bands bringing roots music from North East Brazil to dazzle you!

Come to RICH MIX Cultural Foundation and party the night away with us!


Irineu Nogueira
Maracatu Estrela do Norte


There is also a dance and drumming workshop beforehand to which you all most welcome!

On Sunday 30th January 2011, two Carnival Groups based in London: Maracatu Estrela do Norte and Bloco-Afro ERI OKAN, will be hosting open workshops at Rich Mix 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA Map. The classes will be in traditional drumming and dancing from the North East of Brazil, in preparation for Notting Hill Carnival 2011.

These classes are part of a series of monthly sessions that finish in August 2011.
Participation in the workshops does not oblige anyone to take part in the Notting Hill Carnival, and likewise, if there are people who would like to take part in carnival but cannot make all the sessions, that’s OK too!

1pm – 3pm – Maracatu drumming
3.30pm – 5.30pm – Samba Reggae drumming

3.30pm-5pm – Afro Brazilian dance

Classes are £6 each. (£10 for two, if also participating in another class on the same day)


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Pseudo-science and BBC and choir singing

Arrgh, what an irritating load of piffle this story is:
Choir boys’ and girls’ distinctive voices studied

The gist (according to the World’s Greatest Media Outlet) is that there is some ‘magic frequency’ around 8KHz in choir boys’ and girls’ voices that makes it ‘something that communicates with the soul. It’s way beyond the words, it’s way beyond the music’.

Whilst Dr Howard, who is the researcher responsible for the above, appears to be a serious acoustic researcher – his credited papers include Intonation drift in a capella soprano, alto, tenor, bass quartet singing with key modulation and Nonlinear modelling of double and triple period pitch breaks in vocal fold vibration – he is also quoted as saying “maybe you can get to the point where maybe the computer could be at the back of the choir.”

Yeah, a computer – they can do anything!

All he’s really discovered is that a well trained voice has a frequency response with a peak in a certain area, which happens to be around 8KHz. Well, yes, I would expect a trained voice to have a strong response in certain frequencies, that’s why they sound different (and louder) than untrained voices. It’s quite a step though to claim that there’s something ‘beyond music’ about it, or that there’s something peculiarly magical about it.

Although Mr Howard is obsessed with choirs (which is no bad thing in itself!), he’s going into the realms of pseudo-science with this claim. And of course, the media lapped it up – they love being told that computers operated by, ooh, scientists have discovered the secret of something.

I just hate the way way science is presented by main stream media, as typified by this non-story. It’s always the secret of something being revealed by boffins, when usually nothing of the sort has happened. They’ve either misunderstood the science, extrapolated unreasonably, or, as is the case here, made a whole story (5 minutes on BBC 1 BreakfastNews, 5 minutes on the Today Programme) out of absolutely nothing.

I think choirs are more likely to sound lovely because of the music they sing . Highly harmonious choral music sung in very reverberant spaces is something that appeals to the human ear. It took hundreds of years of singing in churches to develop these combinations of voice, music and space to create these particular emotional effects. And the reasons  it works on the human emotions are lot more complex than a simple boost to the 8KHz region in the individual voices, that’s for sure.

And we definitely don’t need to be told that this so-called discovery could ‘in the future even help scientists to develop a synthetic choir’. FFS.

…especially as they already exist:







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Roland’s missing Bassline synth…

Roland is well known for it’s TB-303, TR-808 & TR 909 synths and drum machines, but it also made others in this numeric series: the SH-101, MC-202, and so on. However, it never made a ‘404’ of any sort, which leads me to create this HILARIOUS info-graphic:

Pat is partly to blame for this joke – though he’s sensible enough not to actually make a picture of it and upload it to his blog.

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Neu! Live – 21st Oct 2010

Grabbed a few seconds of Neu! encore at their gig last Thursday at the Barbican..

Neu! – Negativland (the slow bit)

Neu! – Negativland (the fast bit)

Let me know if you want a long and rambling description of the gig.

Fun fact: the drummer playing with Neu!’s original member here is Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley.

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Fiona Banner at Tate Britain

Wasn’t expecting big aircraft at Tate Britain when we popped in today, but they seemed to have some.


Although the caption was going on about it being a Harrier aircraft and looking like a dead bird, we thought it looked much more like a dead shark being lifted out of the sea. And painting a sort of feather effect on the wings and fuselage we thought was over egging the pudding a bit.

But that apart from that, you can’t deny the impact of a decommissioned warplane hanging vertically in an art gallery!


Meg patiently stood by the archway so I could take my ‘arty’ shot. It was well worth the effort, yeah?

Anyway, it was a good exhibition and the TB has more good stuff in than I thought, including modern art….the Tate Modern hasn’t nicked it all, after all!

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Notting Hill Carnival!

Wow, bit of long time since I last posted – too damn busy innit!

But this is a fun update of some video taken of the two bands I played with over the weekend at Notting Hill Carnival.

Too many tales to tell of rain, sun, a wicked gig at Guanabara Saturday night, 6 hours of maracatu on Sunday, 4 hours of samba-reggae on Monday, playing a tribute to London School of Samba on Sunday, being re-united with good friends, playing with guests from Brazil, France, Australia, Edinburgh, Ireland, etc, etc. Jerk chicken.

In short, a life affirming weekend.

Here’s some short clips of video for an impression of some of the drumming action. The first 30 seconds is maracatu, the rest samba reggae.

Warming Up

Part 1

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3rd November 2000

As you might expect, I was performing a live set of hard house at Heaven on Friday 3rd November 2000, in front of an audience of about 3,000.  This was with Contact Assist, my hard house ‘outfit’ of the time.

I knew I’d wonder what this gig would sound like in 2010, so I  recorded it onto DAT and sent it a decade into the future. And here it is:

Contact Assist Live – 3rd Nov 2000
(stream/download the mp3 from Dropbox)

We played a lot of gigs and released quite a few records between 1999-2001 – before an ‘hilarious’ Spinal Tap type implosion just as we were about to sign a deal with Sanctuary Records, at the time the UK’s largest independent record label, and the world’s largest independent music publisher. (Sanctuary subsequently also imploded in 2007 due to financial mismanagement and such)

Still, was fun to be part of a genuine underground movement, before the Ministry of Sound moved in and the whole thing became ultra-formulaic and boring.

If, for some weird reason, you want the individual tracks, here they are:
Contact Assist Live (Zipped)

…well, they’re not doing any good sitting around on my hard drives at home are they? Go little mp3 files – be free!

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Musical Museum, Kew

Visited this excellent museum last weekend.

The 1850’s equivalent of an iPod: musical box

This is a 185o’s Swiss-made barrel driven music box. Along with the usual ‘comb teeth’ tines, it also has an organ, bells (hammered by little brass wasps) and a little snare drum. The museum’s director freely admitted that the organ drowned out the other instruments and could only play four (non-changeable) tunes.

It would have cost £50,000 in today’s money.

Four tunes!!!

It’s violin stretching time!

It’s a bit difficult to see from this picture, but it’s a coin operated music machine that automatically plays a violin accompanied by a piano. The violin reminded me of nothing so much as the Dalek being tortured in the last series of Dr Who. It’s strings have been lifted away from the body and a complicated system of levers press the strings at the right points to get the desired note, whilst rotating celluloid disks are held against the string to sound it. The little disks have two speeds and the strings are further made unhappy by being stretched back and forth to give two speeds of vibrato.

The overall effect was surprisingly good and has the advantage of being able to play all four strings at once.

Not a Record Player

At the same time as gramophone records were being developed, music boxes with disks instead of barrels were also immensely popular. Their advantage over the £50k  Swiss models was that they had interchangeable disks and could thus play more than 4 songs. Owners of the Swiss box claimed theirs ‘had better sound quality’ and ‘why would anyone need more than four light classical songs played by bells hammered by brass wasps?’. Those people went onto to buy Zunes for similar reasons.

Gramophonic Excitations

Before electricity gramophones were clockwork and the sound had to be reproduced by careful use of a big horn.

They were also recorded by shouting down a big horn to cut the disks. This is roughly as convenient as syncing a Zune to a PC and slightly less absurd than ‘squirting’ an expirable mp3 to another Zune user.

(I don’t know why I’ve suddenly got it in for Zunes. I guess this all reminds me of pointless format wars which are almost obselete the moment they’re won.)

The Wurlitzer

They even have a Wurlitzer rising through the auditorium floor. It’s the 40’s equivalent of a sampler. Every sound under the sun required to accompany silent films – it’s based around a full size pipe organ with meaty 16″ sub-bass pipes and tiny 2″ pipes that I couldn’t flippin’ hear they were that high!!. Not only that, it has xlyophones, marimbas, drums, waterphone, and sound effects like waves on a seashore, sirens, woodblock and a hilariously unconvincing horse trot created with a coconut.

Typically, the idea for the Wurlitzer was invented by an Englishman, but the unimaginative English at the time weren’t interested and he had to go to America to realise his vision.

I highly recommend a trip to the museum – the above is a tiny tiny selection of their player pianos, theremins, music boxes, orchestions, and much more.

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