Category Archives: Music

irama live!

irama live at Tago Mago

Thanks to an invite from incrementalist, I had the wonderful opportunity to perform live in Melbourne last Wednesday (at Tago Mago). It was my first ever live electronic performance, so lots of lessons to be had there. But it was a fantastic experience and I had a blast!

My style is evolving, but still a bit mad. Here’s a mixdown of the set if you’re up for a listen…

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Akebono Diddle

Akebono Diddle, roughly scribbled score

In between bouts of jet-lag-induced lethargy, I’ve been playing with a new toy.

It’s really a lot of fun. The pitch-set (G, C, D, Eb, G, Ab, C, D, Eb) has some nice tight intervals allowing a little crunch for good effect, but generally it’s foolproof—it doesn’t really matter what you hit, it sounds great. Which makes playing ludic and relaxing.

While messing around, I find myself coming up with riff-based diddies, then—assuming I’ll soon forget—recording them onto the nearest capable device (usually an iPhone) and/or scribbling them down.

Here’s the result of one such diddie/scribble.

Which (performed and recorded hastily) sounds a little like…

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C.I.A. Security Briefing

In information security terms, C.I.A. is an initialism for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. To protect the security of information, threats to the three aspects are analysed, risks assessed and security controls implemented to mitigate them.

This piece is the soundtrack for a humourous, yet educational video I created as a scene-setting and warmup activity before workshopping the topic of information security and cyber threats (in a non-commercial setting).

I would love to be able link you to a copy of the video, but it contains excerpts of copyrighted material from movies and news broadcasts. I’m pretty confident it would qualify under US Fair Use and Australian Fair Dealing legislation—e.g. it was created for non-profit educational purposes, is a parody and uses only small excerpts in a ‘transformative’ way (it juxtaposed fact and fiction to transform the meaning of both)—but I really would rather not take the risk, especially since Australian Fair Dealing law seems less supportive of this type of use than US Fair Use law.

Suffice to say, the video was largely tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top and needed some typically crass Action Music!! to tie it together. Luckily, being cheesy action music it all came together quite quickly over the weekend—good thing too, the workshop is on Tuesday.

This is my first attempt to write music to underscore video, well, recently. I did arrange and record music to sit under a Bond film excerpt once for high school music class. The technology has come a long way since then! I had fun passing versions of the music into video editing software and versions of the video back into Ableton Live to ensure the music fit the video and vice versa—and learned a lot in the process. I suspect most film composers don’t have the luxury of being able to iteratively edit music and video to fit nicely together.

It features tragically trite action music tropes, so enjoy a listen and a laugh…

This piece is distributed under the Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution Share Alike licence.

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Revenge of C.H.A.D.

Cover Art: 8bit Hoodie ninja confronting C.H.A.D. with 8-bit volcano erupting on the distant horizon

I celebrated the end of my eduvacation by publishing a piece of music. It’s titled Revenge of C.H.A.D., a reference to Super Meat Boy—a diabolically difficult but fun modern-retro platformer. The piece was also inspired by vintage games I enjoyed playing when I was younger (I hear echos of Mario in there, Tetris perhaps?).

This creation helped me practice techniques I’ve been learning and get to know Ableton (I bit the bullet and bought Live 9 Suite). It also let me indulge a hidden passion, I’m secretly a drum and bass (and even Wubstep) fan, please don’t tell anyone. I’ve always been obsessed with rhythm and as an ex-Tuba player, drum and bass is the perfect combination! 😉

Dubstep’s use of timbral variation to create rhythm I find compelling. Traditionally almost all rhythm is created using discrete articulations (i.e. separate notes), in Dubstep rhythm is just as likely to be the result of a series of throbs or wubs without starting a new note. I’m sure there have been pockets of use before—indigenous Australians playing didgeridoo mastered the concept thousands of years ago—however DubStep has taken the idea well beyond the niches, such that it has now become a mainstream musical technique.

There’s also something really special and charming about chiptunes. The sound of the old hardware is charming, and their limitations meant that retro game music composers were forced to be really creative to get the most out of devices. There are still people avidly composing chiptunes. More than a gimic, many create really interesting and exciting music.

I gave myself a deadline, just four days to produce something from scratch. The time flew by! There’s so much more work in pulling a piece together than you’d think, it catches me by surprise every time. I feel like I could have easily spent another four days just tweaking. I’ve just uploaded it, and there are already aspects about it that make me cringe. But a deadline is a deadline, I need to move on. The artist’s dilemma?

Melodically it’s deliberately trite, trying to tap into some of the inanity found in the genres for humorous effect—to be fair, I’m sure there’s inanity to be found in most genres. The challenge was then to try to generate interest from the combination of the melodies and genres. There are a lot of ideas in the mix, too many probably for such a short piece, I’ll remember that for next time.

At any rate, I had a lot of fun creating it, I hope you enjoy listening to it.

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An early work in progress, just playing with some new techniques I’m learning, synthesis, spatial effects and automation mostly. It uses the Cthulu arpeggiator and Massive synth.

The inexorable descending bass reminded me so much of Koyanisqaatsi that I kept hearing bold trumpets in my head, so I added them in, for a laugh. If I ever finish this as a piece I think it will sound quite different, it won’t be so Philip Glass-like—which is kinda’ a shame, I very much like his music.

Cover art: Hoodie ninja standing on a small moon in space

While pulling the piece together I had flashbacks to the electronic music I created when I was studying music—in my youth. So the artwork is a reference to a piece I created back then. It was a (quite theatrical) electronic music performance-piece involving myself and four friends dressed in black robes with white masks. An underlying soundtrack I’d created played over a loudspeaker system, they paraded boom-boxes around the audience blasting a series of electronic sounds (somewhat randomly) while I issued seemingly cryptic symbolic instructions from the front. It was deep, I promise 😉

I might use this little guy again, it certainly ties into that vintage irama symbolism.

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