A Diary of Structured Behaviors from Sept – Nov 2021.

The text outlines my practice as research between Sept-Nov 2021 during completion of Structured Behaviors an audio/visual composition for the ZKM Gigahertz production prize 2021. Presenting a series of daily entries outlining my creative processes, everyday observations and artistic insights. The process of composition is not always based on output generated in the confines of the studio. Sharing this ‘outside activity’ is crucial to understand the motivations of the artist to develop a broader overview of experiential encounters with society, environment and research.

01/09/2021 – The day began by selecting photographs of drawings made during the Lockdown of 2020.  The images are graphic scores to diffuse sound material in space. As a visual interface they will control a series of algorithmic sound processes linked to digital and analogue synthesis. As a sonic map the image demarcates space to assist in the navigation of spatial audio.  Also, provides an aesthetic insight into the thoughts of the artist.

Firstly, manually rotoscoping shapes to identify the numerical value of sets of vertices. The process is slow and time consuming. The monotony of the process allows me time to reflect on how the plurality of shapes will form a structure of active musical ‘zones’.

Alongside visual processes; I’m building an interactive sound patch with max/MSP 4.6 consisting of various sound algorithms. Using Open Sound Control (OSC) will link the visual programming language Processing with max/MSP 4.6.



Fig1. Hand drawn sketch (2021)

02/09/21 – In the morning edited a stream of sounds generated using a custom designed algorithm. Continued to plot vectors using the Processing’s shape code. Investigating animation techniques using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) by accessing XML path elements. Shaped vertices and SVG point curve to Processing. Implement into the code svgDisplay.


Method of tracking vertices of an SVG using Geomerative lib. This only works with Processing version 2 onwards  https://github.com/R4ph3rd/generative/tree/master/svg_to_array

03/09/21 – Adding an overlay of Bézier curves. Tracing and marking vectors onto image1 to coordinate the position of coded animations. The identification of each zone assists in mapping the interface to parametric sound processes. Applying cubic Bézier curves. Displayed an SVG (svgDisplay) and parsed data to construct shapes (tabulator data).

04/09/21 – Awoke this morning to find a series of corrupted files – doh!  Always remember to backup your work! Now frantically searching for previous versions. Not sure what caused the problem. Thinking of applying computer vision of edge detection to access pixels based color thresholds.

In the afternoon, visited an artist friend Kevin Pocock (@KevinJohnPocock). Not seen him since the beginning of lockdown. He showed me around his studio and his new painting Dream Home Heartache. A reference to a Roxy Music song of the same name.  

06/09/2021 – Today, organised a timetable for my piano pupils. Begin teaching in school next week, attended an inset day with One Education. Looking forward to return to face to face teaching.

07/09/2021 – Awoke this morning feeling tense and pressured. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed by the noise of my own thoughts. Ideas rush in and out of my mind at such a rate that I struggle to know what to do creatively. Panic ensues as the energy of my thoughts cloud judgment and lead me to question my own ability. It’s at this point of not being able to recognise myself that an act of creativity allows me to make sense of my place in the world.

Last night, I watched a TV documentary about the painter Maggi Hambling ‘Making Love to the Paint’. Really enjoyed hearing how each morning she simulates an emotional connection through a process of free drawing in order to subconsciously connect with her memories and feelings

08/09/2021 – Played through two piano pieces, Donna 2 and Children. Planning to record and release on my record label TUM. They will make a good contrast to the mainly electronic derived pieces.

Edited field recordings made during recent trips to Devon and West Yorkshire. Listening to the recordings evokes memories and feelings. Recollections of time, of being with people in different places. One moment I recall is with my son Luke in Devon. Feeling proud of his patience whilst out recording, staying silent during the stop/start process. As we ventured out into the countryside. We sat together overlooking a path as it meandered through a forest. In the blazing sunlight of a summer’s day we listened to the sound of a ship’s horn out in the bay. It’s like a colossus instrument being blown by a mythical sea creature alluring us to its presence. Like photographs, the sound recordings contain an awareness of silent contemplation. My son laughs, as I tap a metal railing and shout out into a disused quarry to capture echoes. It’s our own personal sonic adventure we are paired together in a moment. I feel he finds it embarrassing to witness the lengths I will go to record sounds in public spaces.

Back to the present day. I noticed the leaves on a nearby tree suddenly begin to fall to the ground. It’s as if at that very precise moment the tree suddenly decided to release all its leaves. As the leaves land they chatter all around producing an immersive sonic experience. This subtle expression makes me think of the larger impacts of how climate change is affecting nature and emerging generations. We are connected with our very own nature; it’s how together we shape the world.

Decided on dates for the residency at ZKM 19.10.21 to 30.11.21. Completed the tech. rider.

Investigating autonomous agents using Craig Reynolds ‘steering algorithm’ as s method to draw algorithmic patterns linked to sound parameters. Using Daniel Shiffman’s Nature of Code video tutorial

Tip: Sketch out on paper the motion of objects in order to determine the procedural function. Find a way to count the initiation of a loop its elapsed time using Javascript.

09/09/21 – Today, taught music technology at a local secondary school. The students use FL Studio to produce hip-hop beats and melodic motifs. We discuss how technology influences our approach to music composition. How software design is often based on hardware technologies from the past. How they acquired mythical status and their impact on music culture.

10/09/21 – As I look out of the window. I see a man in a fluorescent jacket inspecting the tree mentioned earlier in the text. The tree stands at the rear of the house. He touches its bark and carefully examines the leaves. My neighbors and I are concerned about the tress health. As Autumn approaches the tree is diminished and devoid of life. Its out of sync with its surroundings, reduced from its former glory. Carved into the bark are initials of courting couples. As the tree has grown the marks have moved out of reach. The inscriptions of loved ones extend upwards following a path towards the sky.

Implementing code from Jeffery Thompson’s collision detection. Making interactive rollover buttons to control individual objects and animations in maskGiga code.

11/09/21 – Begin to create animations on the surface of img2. Mapped rotObj to a max/MSP object linked via OSC. Hearing the sound alongside the image stimulates creative thoughts. I feel a necessity to interact with the sound, so I begin to live code in order to alter the playback of the sound. It’s an exciting moment, I feel myself become immersed in the process. Physical tension lifts and I enter a level of engagement. At this present time, I’m not concern or thinking about the typology of sound material. I’m just letting the process flow freely and enjoy the experience.

Early that day, I walked in the park, even ran a little, under open sky. It’s feels good to reconnect with your body after sitting at the computer for so long. Chatted with passers by and even stroked a dog called ‘Bertie’ on Chorlton meadows. Chatted extensively to a local family about piano lessons, engineering ventilation systems and an experimental theatre company in London called Shunt. Heading home now across the park, feeling refreshed and inspired after impromptu conversations.

12/09/21 – In the morning began preparing the program note for Structured Behavior. Finally, decided on a title, that I feel reflects the approach of the composition.

Visited Macclesfield forest to recorded sounds, trickling streams, its a favourite place of mine. I was on a date, with kissing adventures under a canopy of sticks and twigs. Its a place where the hum of traffic disappears to be replaced by the sound of nature, it’s refreshing, like quenching your thirst by drinking a cold glass of water. It’s was a fun day out.

13/09/21 – Continued to write the program note. Read through my notes from Synergies (2020). Note to myself, work faster to build a patch using frameCount as a timing reference. Ah, done it again, naively thinking that speed and efficiency will assist the creative process. Ah, I should know better the creative process always craves out its own time frame. Listening to hi-frequencies, collisions of sounds that punctuate, stimulate the senses leading the way to creative plateaus.

My local soundscape in Manchester carries the drone of motorway traffic. Like a barometer measuring the mechanised sound of progress. The hum of engines contour the outline of our society. Echoing off hard surfaces of the built environment causing disorientation all around. Perhaps in the future architects will use building materials that redirect and absorb sound. 

14/09/21 – Working in the studio. Trying to invoke meaningful connections with sonic material. Having a positive frame of mind through reading helps craft meaningfully connections to sculpt the work. I’m struggling and becoming more frustrated by the attachment of finding a technical solution with meaningful artistic connection. It’s having a detrimental effect, need to reflect by taking time out to appreciate what has already been achieved. Taking regular breaks helps release the tension. Domestic house work or sketching freely unbounded by concept is another method of dealing with uncertainty.

15/09/21 – Listening to and editing sound recordings of a piano, electronic noises and the sounds of nature. I’m drawn to the unintentional noises, how suddenly and unexpectedly they appear from what you originally conceived. Making conditions of instability so directions can change to challenge perception. The allure is inspiring, evolving through the indeterminate systems of chaos and chance. At each stage of the experimental process the output of media is recorded and replayed back into the system to create recursion. The ability to interact with audio/visual material allows us to communicate across networks remotely, reshaping and reclaiming our own media

Contacted Robin Wood at EMS about an inoperative spring reverb in the VCS3. In order to test, patch OSC1 directly into the Reverb listen for signals inside the unit. If you can hear a signal check for resistance on the output of the spring rev unit this should read 880 ohms. If there is no resistance fix by reattaching a hair width wire inside the unit. If there is resistance the amplifier will be at fault. But first I need to find the spring reverb unit. Going to order new caps and pins.

16/09/21 – no text

17/09/21 – no text

18/09/21 – Adapted a long drone sample I made a few weeks earlier working title Ritual. Over layered it with a distorted bass guitar filtered through the analog circuitry of the VCS3.  Searched my sample library for inspiration. But its never as much fun as creating new material.

In the evening had a lovely time with local residents exploring Ryebank fields; a green space situated in Chorlton, Manchester. There was a concert by local artists and a sound walk. This pastoral space is currently under threat of being developed for housing. As the city expands the need for housing grows, green spaces rapidly disappear. For future generations it’s imperative to retain green spaces for recreation, relaxation and wellbeing.

19/09/21 – During the morning taught Jacob piano. He lives in Switzerland, and is learning Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

In the afternoon, attended a Brazilian drumming session with artist friend Kelly Jayne Jones outside in Longford Park. Spent the rest of day at Ryebank Fields chatting with environmental activists camped on site to protect the land.

23/09/21 – Today’s tasks: Control circle to SVG single code in order present a circular path to rotate shapes over the SVG. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/34842502/processing-how-do-i-make-an-object-move-in-a-circular-path

24/09/21 – Awoke with swollen glands, feeling like a large lump of flesh has lodged itself in my throat. It lasted for most of the day. I thought I was having an anaphylaxis shock and went to A and E to get it checked out. It turned I caught a throat infection after too much kissing from the previous night.

SVG https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/ getVertexCount only works with Processing 3 and only with path or geometry shapes. Giga html dash array – locate current9.html to create dasharray of img 1 for a webpage.

25/09/21 – Taught piano in the morning.

In the evening cycled to a venue called White Hotel in Salford to support a former piano pupil Otis Jordan and his band. It was nice to be meeting people again. The event was organised by Them These records. Had a great night chatting with friends old and new. After the concert cycled back home along the canal. Really enjoy cycling through the city at night it has a altogether different charm and energy.

26/09/21 – Today awoke feeling seriously hung over and lacking in energy from drinking too much the night before. Clumsiness kicked in, accidentally blown three 5A fuses and tripped up over cables. This was a disaster. Decided binge by eating a full caramel trifle and then starred into space, for seemed like a lifetime, basically contemplating nothing.

27/09/21 – Emailed Dominik the travel arrangements and dates for the residency 19th Oct – 30th Nov 2021. 

28/09/21 – Set a durational audio piece to run in max (review hidden forest max patch) – devised a colour scheme based the colours within in Img2.

Access 2D arrays to plot lines and ‘hotspots’ of objects – programmed max- email gigaPS from  laptop – worked late. 

29/09/21 – In the morning had a cycle ride to Sale – booked train tickets to Germany – sent text to ZKM and emailed for loop array code to Steve.

05/10/21 – CODE REVIEW

pixelRedraw2 – rotateX around centre with radians – image pixel appears but blows out the image no threshold on brightness. Save out frames as png. Set loop up and down threshold on b1 0-255.

loop2dArrayv2 – add an event timer to jump to the next shape position.

TimedArrays_Steve_ emailed to Steve 20/10/21 to ask about how to loop through arrays and change the color of each selected zone, added horizontal and vertical indicator lines.

13/10/21 – Sitting on an old comfy chair keeping watch over a local green space under threat of development. The drive to build new houses in order to accommodate a growing population is bursting the city at its seams.

Reading about Max Bense https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Bense and sketching on graph paper thinking about developing a series of ideograms. 

Fig 2. Max Bense und die Kunste exhibition poster at ZKM

22/10/21 – Sat outside immersed in glorious sunshine. I’m here protecting a local green space called Ryebank Fields. The land is under threat of being sold by MMU to a property developer to make prestigious housing. I’m writing notes and planning my composition within a rural setting right in the heart of Manchester. The bird sounds are stimulating and refreshing to hear in comparison to all to frequent traffic noise that usually dominates the soundscape. In the evening, went to my brothers who lives in Marple, nice to see him and his family.

23/10/21 – Its the day of my journey to Germany. Awoke early, nervously decided to repack my luggage. What to take, I’m not too sure. Caught a taxi, arrived at Manchester Piccadilly train station in good time. One of the guards helped me with my luggage. Travelling on the train to London. The chatter of fellow passengers, criss-crossing conversations, excitement fills the air. Reading ‘Kafka on the Shore’ by Murakami. Finally, arrive in London to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. Once onboard there is plenty of room to relax. The train is running late due an electric fault in the channel tunnel. I imagine they are busy trying to fix a light bulb. Due to the late arrival in Brussels Midi had to catch a series of trains across Belgium. Onto Welkenraedt, Aachen and Koln and finally Karlsruhe Hbf. During the journey chatted with a couple and a young Danish man also delayed and faced a long journey’s home.

24/10/21 – Had a restful sleep, feeling refreshed, a little stiff in my lower back though after carrying the synth ‘on’ and ‘off’ trains the previous day. It’s a beautiful, the air is fresh and the sun is shining. Walked around a lovely landscaped park called Gunter Klotz Park – Anlage. The colours of Autumn are so vivid, the leaves look amazing against blue skies. Drank a coffee, feel refreshed. Made my way to the top of a hill. Sat enjoying panoramic views of distant hills. I feel a strong sense of being in the moment; a sense  of humanity. Overhearing conversations, I watch a man wearing red trainers climb to the top of the hill. Later, go swimming and had a sauna. The health suite is amazing, sat outside in hot tubs under blue skies. People walking around nude in the freshness of an autumnal day, amazing!

Fig 3. Autumn leaves in Gunter Klotz Park

26/10/21 – Slept long into the morning. Awoke, had coffee and bagels at Klauprecht cafe. Named after a well known environmentalist who developed ideas for surrounding forests.  Tasks today: begin to develop multi-channel material. Edited sets of sound, focused listening and produced stems of differing durations with the EMS VCS3 Continued coding, drawn out some sketches on graph paper to visually describe the process of mapping space. 

02/11/21 – Task: create visual triggers/cues with arrays of numbers adapting the code sequential1. Creating animated ideograms to loop over time. looping occurrences of flickering repetition that produce a perceptual field. Flickering light patterns that clunk and pound a mechanical opera. Learned how to push code to github repository. Drone piece, circle analog sounds minimal and clear. On screen tracking and interactions.

03/11/21 – Sketched ideograms and visual methods to highlight the perimeter of a shape once active.

Fig 4. sketch of ideograms (2021)

05/11/21 – Working on main and redshapes code with the aim to position sounds across an eight channel loudspeaker array. Set up a GitHub repository using command line. Followed Dan Shiffman’s tutorial. Creating a base layer for shape duration 4min to support a drone of beating oscillators that escalates into a noise plane. Configured another set of vertices added to blueLayer.

06/11/21  – Awoke this morning to glorious sunshine sun, drank a nice coffee on my way to the studio. Feel so privileged to be able to have the opportunity to work at the ZKM, it’s an amazing place! Found a collection of sounds on my phone dating back to 2017, they bring back nice memories, decide to edit them into the mix.

07/11/21 – Today, decided take sometime out to visit a spa town called Bad WildBad in Schwarzwald. Travelled by train. Walked up a hill on the outskirts of town. Following a path until I reach the forest. The further I go the deeper and more enormous the forest gets. The slope becomes steeper and the ground more overgrown. Passing moss covered branches as they lay strewn across the ground. The light from the sky is filtered through the canopy and the air’s thick with the smell of plants. The silence gets even deeper, as the forest rejects the presence of human beings. Sometimes the path disappears in a sea of ferns and grasses, as I push ahead the path continues to reveal itself. The forest has its own rules it’s patterns of repetition are reinforced and resemble my own thoughts. The sheer labor of my movements become charged with emotions, tapping into voices and memories.

I see nobody, until I approach a forest track. A maze of crisscrossing paths run in all directions. Eventually, I reach the ‘high line’, a suspended walkway strung out across the valley and the Baumwipfelpfad a spiral walkway that rises above the trees to give panoramic views of the Black forest.

14/11/21 – Ate cakes and drank coffee. A chap called ‘Cola’ who works at the Hostel has lent me his old bike. Cycled along the banks of the river Alb, passing a power station and plenty of Sunday walkers. Eventually, arrived at the river Rhine. Sat, watched a large barge go by as families gathered together on a Sunday afternoon.

In the evening, whilst walking back to my accommodation, decide to make some recordings on my phone. As soon as I focus my attention to listening all manner of sounds appear. Passing traffic, echoes of conversations and even the hum of a helicopter overhead. Karlsruhe is alive with its own sonic signature. For me the art of recording provides a way to connect directly with the environment. Its through attentive listening that you realise all sounds coexist and form in space. From a compositional perspective its interesting to listen back to how sound emerges and behaves. Sound is the first sense to provide a meditative flow by connecting people with their surroundings. Society relates to space and is situated in space.

15/11/21 – On my way to the studio I photograph buildings, impressed by architectural details and the colour of the  painted walls. In the evenings, I often stopped off to buy a kebab at the ‘Best Imbliss in Town’, the food is cheap and filling. Some nights, after eating out, I would return to the studio to continue working. Filled with energy of food to keep pushing forward. Late at night I often bumped in the security staff at ZKM. Thy empathized with me, they understood my predicament of not being able to speak the language.

16/11/21 – Today feel good about the direction of the work, even euphoric, punching the air!  So, I decide to take some time out to explore the city and to look for a bar called The Electric Eel. On my way, I past illuminated graffiti on a subway wall, as cyclist whizz by animal cry’s ring out from the local zoo. It’s sounds like someone is being tortured, people walk hand in hand oblivious to the sound, with thoughts of children on their minds. I find the bar and start drinking. Firstly, an IPA from Norway, its refreshing and tasty. As I pay and begin to leave, I over hear an American accent, its the bar owner. Will start a dialogue, we talk into the evening, he is kind, giving me free drinks. I walk out, quite drunk and beginning heading back to the hostel. As I pass the Konzerthaus of Messe Karlsruhe. In a drunken haze I stare up at the embossed figures of musicians neatly in line.  Blurring in and of focus, I think how the music I make with electronic instruments seems so far away from traditional music the figures represent.




20/11/21 – Had a lovely Chinese meal in the afternoon in the city centre. Had chilled fired chicken, I struggle to eat the dish as the bones where hidden in the flesh.

21/11/21 – I suddenly awake at 5.00 am to sound of voices. The time of fun and enjoyment is finishing late for some people. I open the door and find a man asleep in the bathroom of the hostel. I phone the hostel , a young girl appears, asks him to return to the room. The guests all leave at 6.30am.

23/11/21 – Full day of rehearsals in the KUBUS at ZKM.

26/11/21 – Visited Heldelburg a town on the Neckar River in southwestern Germany. It’s known for venerable Heidelberg University, founded in the 14th century. Visited the historic castle and climbed to the top of Königstuhl hill. Was greeted by a sea of mist blocking the view. Had a warm mulled wine before descending back to the old castle on a old cable car.

27/11/21 – Today is the day of the GigaHertz concert. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation prevailing in the air. Performers and composers take notes and rehearse their pieces. The composers from the SWR Experimental Studio are busily dashing around checking systems and spatial positions. There is an amazing array of equipment set out in the middle of the room. Waiting patiently for my turn, I hope that everything still works, can’t wait to make sounds! During my rehearsal everything that could go wrong, did go wrong! I even had to open the back of the VCS3 to re-plug the circuit board. In the end, all was fine though thanks to the support of Sebastian Schottke (schottke@zkm.de) and his technical crew. the crew applauded at the end of my run through . Even the piano tuner, who was laid out on the floor was taking it all in, so nice of them, thanks!

Link to the full GigaHertz 2021 concert.

Mark Pilkington

© Thought Universe 2021