It’s going to be a busy week this week, here’s what I’ve got on my list for this week

There’s a lot happening this week, so I thought it would be worth talking about what’s coming up so that you don’t miss anything. Here’s what I’ve got on my list for this week.

  • Tomorrow, the 6th: Fluxpad launches – I posted about Fluxpad the other day and you can expect it tomorrow, which is great as I think we’ve been waiting for this a long time.
  • Wednesday, the 7th: Apple launches the iPhone 7, and maybe we’ll see them say goodbye to the venerable headphone jack. Who knows. I’m sure all will be revealed on Wednesday.
  • Friday, the 9th: Roland have a lot in store apparently. According to them they’ve got 30 new products and services to tell us about on 909 day!
  • Friday, the 9th: Of course what’s more is that on Friday the 9th we’ll have the Beautiful Octopus Club and SoundLab at the Royal Festival Hall. If you can come along then I’d love to see you there, and do say hello.

So it’s a busy week, will it be good news or sadness on Wednesday? Who knows! Either way you can celebrate or commiserate with us on Friday at the Beautiful Octopus Club at the Festival Hall.

Who’s going to be at the Beautiful Octopus Club on Friday …


I’ve mentioned it before, but expect to hear a fair amount about the Beautiful Octopus Club over the next few days and we count down to Friday the 9th of September. In the next few days I wanted to mention a few of the people you can expect to see at the BOC this year on the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall.

This year we have a bigger SoundLab presence than any before and so much to try out and play with that you’re going to want a lot more than one evening to do it in. But BOC will only be there for one night, on the 9th. So please do come along.

For today I want to let you know about one of the great companies we’re going to have with us on Friday the 9th. I plan to tell you about them one at a time, but by the end of the week you’ll know exactly who to expect.

Let’s start with someone amazing. On Friday we’ll have Ableton with us showing Push 2 and making some great sounds. Of course the mobile music world is no stranger to Ableton as we now rely so heavily on Link for so much/

It’s great that we’ll have Ableton with us for the Beautiful Octopus Club this year. The fifth floor of the Festival Hall is going to be a great place to be on Friday. Come along, try stuff out and play. I’m looking forward to see you there.

It’s not long to wait now …

I’ve posted about it before and you’ll be hearing a lot more about it soon enough. The Beautiful Octopus club is coming on the 9th of September. I posted about it here before, and if you’re interested in showing your music technology there, read this then get in touch.

If you’re planning to come along then please say hi!

In just over a month I’ll be at the Beautiful Octopus Club, and I want you there too

You may well have heard me talking about this event in the past. I’ve been involved in Heart n Soul’s Beautiful Octopus Club for quite a few years now. It’s an amazing event and as a part of it I try and bring some of the best and most interesting music technologies to the event to show them to the public.

Well this year the Beautiful Octopus Club is bigger and better than ever and I’d really love you to be a part of it!

Every year Heart n Soul takes over the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and turns it into the most amazing club night for people with learning disabilities. This year the Beautiful Octopus Club is on the 9th of September from 7pm until midnight and it is open to all. There’s no tickets, no entrance free, and everyone is welcome.

The event normally attracts between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors so it’s a great way to engage audiences you haven’t met and to generate PR and social content.

This year there’s loads going on over 3 floors with 6 stages, 2 dance floors, 20 acts performing, 9 DJ crews, 11 Taking Part areas and on the 5th floor there’s going to be the biggest SoundLab ever and I’d love you to be a part of it.

With just over a month to go there are some great companies taking part on the 9th, but there are still a few spaces left.

What I’m looking for is:

  • Engaging interactive experience for people visiting the club
  • An experience that encourages people to continue their music making after the event
  • Ideally experiences that can be delivered over headphones, as it’s going to be very busy and very noisy!

I really want you to be a part of it and would love to hear any ideas you have for being involved. Also if you know anyone else who might like to know about our event then please feel free to share this page!

If you’re interested please contact me as possible and we can start to talk about what’s possible. Contact details here.


Serious play at SoundLab with Ableton, Mogees and the AC Sabre

As you’re probably aware I’ve been involved with Heart n Soul and their SoundLab project for some time now. I help to pull together events like the one you can see above. This was a SoundLab Play Space event where we bring together technology and people with learning disabilities to see how well a small handful of technologies work for us.

It’s a format we’ve been experimenting with this year, and I have to say it really is taking off now. But not just for us at Heart n Soul and for the technology companies we’re working with. We’re hearing from more and more people who are interested in working with us and understanding how to improve accessibility in music technology.

In the session you can see above, which was at the end of June we worked with:

  • Ableton – Using Push
  • Mogees – Using their sensor and app
  • Air-Craft – Experimenting with the upcoming AC Sabre app

At these sessions we aim to only have two or three companies per session and that seems to work well for everyone involved and means that just about everyone gets to test just about everything.

The most important thing at these events is to make sure that everyone has fun, but as part of having fun we spend some serious time in understanding these technologies and finding out what works for our participants and in making some often very useful suggestions into how they could be made better. It’s that element that works really well for the technology companies who are involved with us, and we already have a list of people who want to work with us in the future.

So what is ‘Serious Play’?

Well, in the context of these events it’s a whole range ofthings, including being able to mix having fun, being creative, understanding new technology and how it can be used with testing and providing useful feedback. Yep, there’s a lot in there. It isn’t an easy balance to strike, but it’s one that I think we manage very well.

But why do it?

You may be wondering this? It’s a good question. The reason stems for a very firm belief that music technology is for everyone, that making music is for everyone, and that making music should be as accessible as possible. I talked a lot about that in the interview I did with Marc Weidenbaum last year, which you can find here if you’re interested.

Heart n Soul’s SoundLab events are all about exploring accessibility and helping to find ways to enable creative vision through better technology. Often the difference between something that is very accessible and something that isn’t is only a tiny shift, often something very easy to achieve and yet not alway obvious. That’s why we do this, we try and show how to make technologies more accessible.

We’re at the start of this journey in many ways, and there’s a long way to go to perfect this process. The only way to understand how to make music technology more accessible is to work with it regularly and continually refine and explore the process of uncovering what works and what doesn’t. That’s what we’re doing and will continue to do to make music more accessible for everyone.

That’s the plan. If you’d like to help us, be a part of it, or just give us a shout out, then I’d love to hear from you.


Recollections of PalmSounds: Justin – Unthinkable

It’s been lovely to get so many responses from so many people to celebrate PalmSounds turning 10 years old this month. But this one from Justin really tells a story …

“I can’t quite remember when I first found Palm Sounds, but it went something like this. I’d just bought my first iPhone and wanted to know what music making stuff was available for it. One google search later and I couldn’t believe my luck. It seemed that someone was dedicating their life to answering my question in the fullest way possible. The Palm Sounds blog was one of those things, that hopefully we all have, that reminded my why the web is still a very good thing. This was not just a website but a human mission to fill a gap in our understanding of the world, and its emerging potential.

Can you imagine my stages of grief then when about a year later I read a post saying that it was all coming to an end – the mission was eating up too much its creators life. Ashley Elsdon the man behind Palm Sounds was telling me the party was over. Well I simply stayed in the denial phase. I left his blog in my feed reader, dead as a donut. Every few weeks I’d check in again and re-read that final post for clues.

My own interest in digital music making is a long one and at this time I had started doing creative projects with the fabulous arts organisation Heart n Soul. I was starting to think about ways that iPhones and iPads could be used by people with learning disabilities to make their own music and develop their expressivity. Of course I turned to Palm Sounds, now an immense archive and showed my boss at Heart n Soul what was now possible. To my joy and surprise the constant pressure that Ashley’s fans had put on him to get back in the saddle had worked – Palm Sounds was back!

Well this time I wasn’t going to let this slip through my fingers, so I got in touch and asked if we could meet for lunch, like a proper stalker. We met, we got on, we had the most expansive of conversations and I determined that this was a man I’d like to work with. As soon as an opportunity arose I pulled Ashley in to my own company Unthinkable as an expert advisor. I now know why Palm Sounds is so good and was so ahead of its time, it is driven by the most humble and dedicated visionary I’ve met. Here is to the next 10 years – cheers!”

Justin – Director at Unthinkable.

I have to add that it’s been great to be a part of the work that Justin pulled me into at SoundLab and to be a part of the team at Unthinkable too.

SoundLab working with Blocs Wave, MiMu and AlphaSphere

So, last week was a really busy week for me, but one of the highlights for me was on Wednesday when we ran the first SoundLab session of this year. This was quite a different from the sessions we run before as we’re taking a different approach and one that we hope will be really useful to the music technology as a whole.

Since the SoundLab project started we’ve utilised a wide variety of digital technology for creating music. The first part of the project was all about understanding issues around accessibility in digital music technology, and that’s still a very big part of what we’re about. But now we’re adding something new, and this is what we were piloting with Blocs Wave, MiMu and AlphaSphere on Wednesday.

The latest iteration of SoundLab is about inviting in new and existing music technologies and working with those companies alongside our artists and participants so that we can provide useful feedback on how those technologies and products can either be improved to make them more accessible or can be presented in such a way that they become more accessible.

At SoundLab we have a unique perspective on music technology. Our artists and participants love making music and love trying out new technology. So we’re very able to provide good feedback. Whilst information and feedback on accessibility is important it actually has real commercial benefits, because when you can make music technology more accessible you can get to a wider audience, and that means selling more, which is really important if you want to keep you business going.

At SoundLab we want to provide real actionable and commercial feedback to developers and music technology companies, and that’s what we’re planning to do this year.

In this session we worked with some amazing companies, Blocs Wave, AlphaSphere, and MiMu, and they were all really interesting to work with.

MiMu Gloves ….

I’ve been interested in the MiMu gloves for a long time now and we were really lucky to be able to have Kris Halpin with us for the day to demo the gloves and work with us to show how they can be used.

I have to say that since I’ve seen these gloves for real I am just so impressed with how they can be used and how expressive they are. But the gloves are real instruments, not just a gestural toy. To learn to use them takes time and care. The gloves can deliver some amazing expression to an artist and we were only able to scratch the surface of their potential last week.

Blocs Wave …

When Novation announced their new Blocs brand and the Blocs Wave app I knew that this was going to be important for mobile music. I’m a huge fan of apps that democratise music making and Blocs Wave does just that.

So it was great to have Toby from Blocs with us for the day.

Blocs is such an immediate app for creating sound and enjoying it so it was really good to work with them for the day, and especially it being only a day or so after Blocs Wave added Ableton Link integration, which is excellent in itself.

Lastly we worked with something new from AlphaSphere ….


We’ve been using an AlphaSphere at SoundLab for quite some time now. Last week we were working with something quite new from them. In fact so new that I can’t even tell you about it at all! Even so, it was great to be able to work with AlphaSphere at SoundLab.

It was a great day and we made a lot of sound!

Bit it wasn’t just about those technologies. On top of all of that we had an amazing jam session using Link.

Link has been a massive step forward for SoundLab. It’s allowed us to integrate apps and hardware so easily now. In this session we used these apps:

As you can see above we also used a lot of hardware and Ableton to drive the MIDI out to all of the hardware. As jams go, this one was really awesome!

So that was last Wednesday and SoundLab. You’ll be hearing a lot more about what we do there over the coming months, and if it’s something of interest to you then please do get in touch.

SoundLab is a winner, and that’s a win for mobile music too

Last night I was luck enough to be at the ‘Music Teacher Awards for Excellence’ dinner in London. I was there because SoundLab, a project that explores ways of using cutting-edge technology to encourage people with learning disabilities to create sound and music experiences, was nominated for the ‘Best SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) Resource category. For those who don’t know, I’ve been working on this project for around 18 months now, and it’s a topic that’s very important to me.

I’ve been to awards events before, and I’ve always gone along thinking that it was highly unlikely that I was going to win anything, and this event was no different. We were up against some very stiff competition from the likes of Moog’s Theremini, AlphaSphere, Drake Music Scotland, and Skoog.

But guess what? WE WON!

No you might be thinking that whilst this is great, and very nice for me and the project etc, but what has this got to do with mobile music? Well that’s a good question, but also a simple one to answer.

Since the project started we’ve been using apps in lots of different ways. We’ve shown them in live events we’ve run at the Royal Festival Hall and the Liberty Festival. We’ve used them in workshops to see which apps worked well for people and which didn’t, and we’ve given feedback to developers on the basis of our research. Mobile is a very important part of accessible music making, and it is getting better all the time.

SoundLab has been recommending apps to people and encouraging them to make music for a couple of years now, and we’re not about to stop. In fact, just yesterday, one of our bands ‘Electric Fire’ we showing Head Teachers in Lewisham how to make music with their equipment.

Spreading the word is important.

But I can’t put it much better than my friend Lilly:

Heart n Soul and SoundLab will keep finding new ways to engage people with music making in ways that make sense for them, and I’m very happy to be a part of that.

Accessibility isn’t just a win for organisations like Heart n Soul, it’s a win for everyone. When we make technologies better for people with learning disabilities, we make them more accessible to everyone who wants to make music, and that has to be a good thing.

What we aim to do through SoundLab is probably best summed by Heart n Soul’s Artist Director Mark Williams:

“We are thrilled to have the recognition of the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence Best SEND resource award for how our work at SoundLab is opening up and sharing the creative possibilities of new and emerging music technologies to become more connected and accessible for people with learning disabilities and as a result of that, for everyone.”

If you’d like to read our press release you can find it below, please do share it, it’s important.

SoundLab MTA press release

SoundLab is up for an award next month!

I had no idea until last week, but it is great to be up for an award for the week we did at SoundLab. If you’re interested you can find the details here. If you’re planning to be at the Music Education Expo then let me know as I’m planning to be there too.

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