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Videos, notes and reflections from a series of solo performances

NX Records

NX Records



i began without an introduction, interrupting audience conversations with sudden, loud, microphone feedback

i much prefer starting unannounced like this

it adds an immediacy to the performance that i feel is lost with a formal introduction

in future, I'd like to experiment with using the sounds of the audience to trigger feedback

i could achieve this by slowly raising the microphone gain until the sound of someone talking, coughing, etc tipped the system into feeding back

this would be particularly effective if the audience could discern an imprint of this initial trigger sound in the loop, making them suddenly aware of their agency (Emmerson, 2007, p.3) in the performance

i disconnected from the PA system by unplugging the audio jack from my laptop

this caused a dramatic transformation of the spatial axis, (Frengel, 2010) due to a sudden repositioning of the actual source location (ibid)

the behaviour of the feedback was also altered, owing to the difference in frequency response between the two different sets of speakers, as well as the significant shortening of distance between microphone and speaker

the sudden shifting of sound source seemed to engage the audience

next, I experimented with gradually closing the laptop lid

this filtered the feedback, changing its pitch and behaviour


eventually, I closed the lid completely

i was using the application 'InsomniaX' (James, 2013) to disable 'lid sleep'

this caused the laptop body to resonate, momentarily transforming it into a kind of acoustic/electronic hybrid instrument

the audience seemed surprised by this

i think most people expect that closing a laptop will stop any process it is running at that time

i started to play with plugging and unplugging the audio jack to create loud clicking/clipping sounds

will this eventually damage the audio input on my laptop?

is there a less harmful way to achieve the same effect?


i stood up and walked over to one of the PA speakers with the laptop closed

i held it against a PA speaker, curious to hear how this would effect the feedback

i then placed the laptop on top of the speaker and continued to play

as expected, the microphone feedback dominated the synthetic sounds

perhaps in future I could do an entire performance with my laptop resting on a speaker

later in the performance I began to move the laptop (closed) around the table it was resting on, using the distance between its microphone and the PA to alter the feedback

the audience seemed fascinated by this and closely watched every movement

i haven't experienced engagement this tangible since using extended techniques on the acoustic guitar

this is clearly an efficient strategy for liveness in laptop performance, and one that I will continue to explore

Corpora Aliena

'Corpora Aliena'




unplugging my laptop from the PA was more effective in this venue

this was due to the speakers being located in the far corners of the performance space

the sudden cut from a high-quality, wide stereo image to one that was low-quality and narrow felt quite violent

i dragged the mixing desk across the stage in order to get closer to one of the PA speakers

this allowed me play more with microphone proximity

this felt engaging to me, and seemed to have a similar effect on the audience

i require a longer audio cable so that I have more freedom of movement

can i go wireless?

standing up with a laptop, suddenly the performance becomes something else

a wall is broken

a layer of artifice is removed

Some feedback on the performance from the organiser (demonstrating engagement):

"Hi James It was great to finally meet you and thank you for giving such an incredible performance on Saturday night. I really liked what you did and how you had these long periods of silence that were broken up with explosions of sounds. What was also successful was how you contrasted sounds coming from your computer speakers with sounds coming from the PA at Iklectik creating an interesting movement of the sounds within the space of the auditorium. It really was something. I tried to take photos of you during your performance but I became too absorbed in the music and so couldn’t continue. Thank you again."

(B. Living, personal communication, January 28, 2019)


Brunel University Alumni Concert 16/02/19


sliding my chair across the floor triggered feedback 

the causality between these events was evident

was the audience aware that they can trigger the feedback themselves? 

do they feel this is prohibited?


placed laptop on speaker

does the audience understand audio feedback?

i spoke to an audience member afterwards

at first, they thought something had gone wrong and that I was at the speaker to fix the problem 

this is great 

i like to create this kind of ambiguity


playing with the distance between the laptop and the speaker

making the feedback relationship tangible

laptop speakers are very quiet when the lid is closed

audience member leant forward to hear better

this feels like good evidence of engagement

programme a patch that can move the microphone feedback from speaker to speaker if playing stereo

i implied with my body language that the performance had concluded

the audience clapped

their applause triggered the microphone feedback

play with this more

sometimes the microphone will amplify my key presses and trackpad clicks while I operate the laptop

this adds to the sense of liveness

Click a photo to enlarge it

Hundred Years Gallery

Hundred Years Gallery




i purchased a longer audio cable

laptop on drawers at back of room

feeding back with amp at front of room


audience chairs facing front 

i sit amongst the audience while the loop continues


it's ambiguous as to whether the performance has started or not

people are still talking

somebody tells his friends to be quiet

i’m enjoying watching people navigate the ambiguous situation.


i walk to the guitar amp

start playing with tone and volume dials

this is not what is usually expected of a laptop performance

it’s still ambiguous whether or not the performance has begun

do people think I am performing, or just sound-checking?

using microphone feedback allows me to use the speaker itself as an instrument

playing with the settings (eq, gain, effects etc) has a noticeable effect on the feedback loop

experiment more with this in the future

site-specific availabilism (Pfahler, 2015)


i return to the back of the room, and my laptop

it's interesting that people keep looking at the front of the room even though the performer is at the back


i walk upstairs with the laptop and continue playing

somebody laughs

i’m no longer in the room, but I”m still controlling the sound

the audience continues to look forwards, as if the amp is the performer

extreme dislocation between sound source and performer/instrument


someone begins dancing

did my moving around allow them to feel able to move also?

i return downstairs and sit on cube in corner

this feels informal


moving laptop closer to amp tangibly changes feedback behaviour


call and response with hip-hop gig next door

someone at the front seems to notice, nodding their head in time


i go back upstairs to play with microphone/speaker proximity and how it effects the feedback behaviour


audience still looking forwards


i return downstairs

place the closed laptop at the back of the room

set a timer on Max for 60 secs

i leave the venue

people start talking

“is it done now?”

timer finishes and cuts audio

confused silence

awkward clapping

Click a photo to enlarge it

Deptford Town Hall

Deptford Town Hall

Class Presentation




clicking sound reverberates nicely around space

play with the acoustic of the space more


at one point I disappeared behind the projector screen 

how does losing sight of the performer affect an audience?

is it simply jarring, or does it encourage acousmatic listening? (Schaeffer, 2017)


place closed laptop against subwoofer

this sounds nice

looks engaging


moving around and dragging cable around things is very interesting to watch


using piano to trigger pitches in the microphone feedback

don’t overdo this kind of thing as it is moving away from laptop performance and becoming something else


microphone feedback as gestural control

visually engaging

obvious causality

could of played with this for longer


sitting in the audience

this is intimate, and quite intense

my hands got shaky and I was afraid the person next to me would notice

the microphone feedback techniques could be developed through specific programming

experiment more with feedback

especially with the internal speakers and changing lid position 

what sort of sounds project well through the internal speakers?

which sounds project well with the lid closed? (Low frequencies seem to be effective)

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