• Demonstrating the SIDSYNTH: an 8-bit synthesizer combining obsolete and open hardware

      Hassell, Rob; Dalgleish, Mat (Coventry University, 2018-10-25)
      After the introduction of programmable sound generator integrated circuits (ICs) in the 8-bit video game hardware of the 1980s, the industry quickly moved on to more sophisticated sound generation methods such as frequency modulation (FM) synthesis and CD-quality audio file playback. Nevertheless, if once largely forgotten, the last decade has seen a significant and sustained revival of interest in the early video game sound technologies, and the rise of a vibrant ‘chiptunes’ community intent on exploring their distinctive musical possibilities. Developed by Rob Hassell between May 2017 and May 2018 as part of the BA (Hons) Music Technology programme at the University of Wolverhampton, SIDsynth is a multi-voice chiptunes synthesizer based around the use of obsolete MOS Technology 6581/8580 Sound Interface Device (SID) chips; a specialised IC originally found in the Commodore 64 computer. Despite the age of the SID chip, the SIDsynth draws heavily on contemporary developments and could arguably not have existed until relatively recently. Online marketplaces enable increasingly scarce and revered second-hand ICs to be sourced from individual sellers worldwide. Dedicated enthusiasts have made crucial but previously rarely accessible technical documentation freely available in online repositories such as SIDmusic and archive6502. Additionally, by using open source and low-cost Arduino microcontrollers to interface otherwise disparate elements (three SID ICs, contemporary computer hardware and a physical user interface), the project has been able to benefit from the Arduino platform’s extensive documentation and community expertise.
    • Embracing openness: music technology pedagogy and curricula after the decline of the studio

      Dalgleish, Mat; Bellingham, Matt (Coventry University, 2018-10-25)
    • Loop: A Circular Ferric Memory in Slow Decline

      Dalgleish, Mat (MIT Press, 2017-12-01)
      The author describes the manipulation of time and memory in LOOP, a tape-based sound installation started in 2004. Many of my artworks are hybrid assemblages of obsolete and contemporary technology. The use of the obsolete is most immediately apparent in LOOP, a long-running (2004-present) sound installation built out of a Fostex X-34 four track recorder and C90 cassette tape. The Fostex X-34 is in many ways unexceptional: its sound and build quality are adequate at best. Indeed, most notable is perhaps that, by the time of its release in April 2000, it was arguably already rendered obsolete by the rise of MiniDisc recorders and audio-capable home computers. Nevertheless, the X-34 fitted the modest budget of a Birmingham schoolboy, and I acquired a lightly used and moderately discounted ex-demo unit about three months after its launch. The accessibility of the cassette tape was also key: while its popularity had significantly diminished after its late 1980s peak, blank tapes remained readily locally available.
    • MAMIC: a visual programming library for amalgamating Mathematics and Coding through Music

      Dalgleish, Mat; Payne, Chris (Group for Learning in Art & Design (GLAD), 2015-12)
      The role of computing within the National Curriculum framework has changed dramatically in recent times. Traditionally, the computing curriculum in schools focussed on software competency and proficiency in common but basic tasks such as word processing, delivered through the subject of Information Communication Technology (ICT). In other words, students became perfunctory but perhaps uninspired end users, closely tied to ubiquitous commercial packages such as Microsoft Office. However, in September 2014, then Education Secretary Michael Gove made significant changes to the National Curriculum that affected both primary and secondary education in the UK. This has consisted in essence of an enforced shift from the prior ICT model to one that, at least in theory, embraces coding as a fundamental tenet of computing (i.e. active creation rather than end use, closely related to Rushkoff’s notion of “programmed or be programmed” [7]) and promotes computational thinking more broadly [1]. For instance, Key Stage 1 now asks that students actively consider program structure and sequential design as well as demonstrate core competency [2]. The inclusion of computational thinking seems particularly prescient and important: if the ability to cheaply outsource the drudgery of basic software development (particularly to the far east) may mean that the ability to code is, in and of itself, becoming less important from a UK labour perspective, it could be argued that students able to adopt a computational mindset, may be better prepared to apply computing principles to a range of scenarios.
    • Seeing with one's own ears: soundtrack as interface for theatre

      Dalgleish, Mat; Reading, Neil (University of Aveiro, 2019-03-30)
    • Soundtrack as Auditory Interface: Exploring an Alternative to Audio Description for Theatre

      Dalgleish, Mat; Reading, Neil (Institute of Acoustics, 2017-11-23)
      Theatre conventionally relies heavily on the visual, for instance to convey narrative and context, and to set the scene. This reliance can significantly hinder the experience of blind and visually impaired people, and can in some cases exclude them entirely. Audio description for theatre attempts to make performances accessible for blind and visually impaired patrons by translating the visual aspects of a performance into a spoken commentary that fits between the gaps in actors’ dialogue. However, while 40% of UK theatres have offered at least one recent audio-described performance,1 its methods remain largely untested and potentially problematic. We describe the use of an ambiently diffused soundtrack as an alternative to audio description for theatre as part of a recent research project at the University of Wolverhampton. Informed by conceptualisations of the soundtrack posed by theorist-composers Michel Chion and Stephen Deutsch, our approach is to use an assemblage of informative and emotive sounds to provide a kind of auditory interface or "way in" to the performance. Crucially, the soundtrack evokes and implies but, contrary to audio-description, does not enforce a single rigid or fixed interpretation. Additionally, use of the house sound reinforcement system also removes the need for specialised and potentially othering personal equipment. The remainder of this paper provides background to the project and related work, outlines the theoretical basis of the project, discusses two trial performances and initial findings, and finally offers suggestions for future work.
    • Unconventional inputs: New/old instruments, design, DIY and disability

      Dalgleish, Mat (Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), 2016-12-01)
      Musical instruments today exhibit a split between old and new. On one side, there are a modest number of canonical forms that have slowly evolved over millennia; they are now extremely familiar and a few can reasonably be labelled “iconic”. However, rather than idealized or even near-optimal designs, they are necessarily the product of compromise between incompatible acoustical and human factors, and therefore invariably imperfect. For some musicians and composers these limitations are a source of creative stimulation (Eno 1996; Strauss 2004), but many more rarely deeply consider their interaction possibilities — good or bad. In either case there may be little to no demand for changes to be made in the design of an individual instrument, let alone to a family of instruments
    • Whole body interaction in abstract domains

      Holland, SImon; Wilkie, Katie; Bouwer, Anders; Dalgleish, Mat; Mulholland, Paul; England, David; England, David (Springer Verlag, 2011)
      Whole Body Interaction appears to be a good fit of interaction style for some categories of application domain, such as the motion capture of gestures for computer games and virtual physical sports. However, the suitability of whole body interaction for more abstract application domains is less apparent, and the creation of appropriate whole body interaction designs for complex abstract areas such as mathematics, programming and musical harmony remains challenging. We argue, illustrated by a detailed case study, that conceptual metaphor theory and sensory motor contingency theory offer analytic and synthetic tools whereby whole body interaction can in principle be applied usefully to arbitrary abstract application domains. We present the case study of a whole body interaction system for a highly abstract application area, tonal harmony in music. We demonstrate ways in which whole body interaction offers strong affordances for action and insight in this domain when appropriate conceptual metaphors are harnessed in the design. We outline how this approach can be applied to abstract domains in general, and discuss its limitations.