Sean Williams Research Blog

The site is being redesigned so the recording and mastering pages are temporarily unavailable.

See below for all the research and performance activity.

Friday, December 2, 2011

DAAD grant award!

On the 2nd of December I heard that my research proposal to the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) had been successful, thus enabling me to carry out three months research in Germany in 2012 on the electronic instruments used by the Stockhausen Ensemble between 1964 and 1979.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Death's Cabaret - sound projection

On 29th November I did the sound projection for Death's Cabaret.
Written by Martin Riley
Composed by Stephen Deazley, Music at the Brewhouse
Performed by Matthew Sharp and the Sacconi Quartet
Produced by Sharp Productions in collaboration with Music at the Brewhouse

This was performed at The Caves in Edinburgh to a packed house who absolutely loved the show.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Spiral Performance

Grind Sight Open Eye booked me to perform Stockhausen's Spiral in the Labyrinth in Edinburgh on the 1st of October 2011, sharing a bill with Lambs Gamble/Usurper/Grant Smith + Graham Stewart/Sean Williams.

This is the section of the score which I played. (Image courtesy of Stockhausen Verlag, Kürten, Germany).

I changed my setup for this performance and have incorporated a vocoder as well as a new portable Roberts R871 world-band radio which has much better reception over 12 different shortwave bands than the old Telefunken Bajazzo TS-201 that I was using before, and is much easier to tune than the Realistic DX-300 that used for the Soundings festival performance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Testing Testing performance

My piece Testing, Testing was to be performed in Coventry on the 23rd 24th or 25th of September 2011 but due to an alarming lack of information by the organisers - the actual performance date was not confirmed until the day before!!!), it was impossible to plan travel from Scotland so a number of us were compelled to cancel our various performances and papers.

What a shame!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Visit to WDR Studios Köln

After the Stockhausen Courses I managed to arrange a visit to the WDR Studios in Köln along with Juan Verdaguer and Ignacio xxxx as a guest of retired engineer Volker Müller.

The studio equipment was rescued by Herr Müller after the WDR closed the studio and wanted to throw it away!!!! Since most equipment was designed so brilliantly and at enormous expense, most of it still works perfectly despite being over 50 years old.

Stockhausen Courses 2011

6th to 16th August 2011 saw my second visit to the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten, and this time I took my synths and all the equipment necessary for a performance of Spiral. I was lucky enough to attend a whole seminar course given by Michael Vetter and Natascha Nikeprelevic on Pole, and Spiral. Michael Vetter performed these pieces dozens of times at the 1970 Worlds' Fair in Osaka and subsequently and has recorded an integral version of Spiral for the Stockhausen Verlag.

A highlight of the courses was getting to work on both Pole, and Spiral with Frauke Aulbert, although sessions were a little daunting to start with since I had to use my voice (which I seldom use in a musical context) instead of my synth.

Here we are working on Pole, using Michael and Natascha's notes projected on the wall behind us.

The other main course that I attended was the Intuitive Music Course run by Intuitive Music Weimar. This inspired me to set up an Intuitive Music group in Edinburgh on my return.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview with Rolf Gehlhaar

On the 15th of June 2011 I had the great privilege of interviewing Rolf Gehlhaar - composer (and Stockhausen's assistant from 1967-1970). Rolf gave me so much information and made such a great contribution to my research on the performance practices surrounding electronic instruments in Stockhausen's Mikrophonie I that I will be processing it for months!

Here's a screenshot from a short video I took in which Rolf demonstrates some of the filter and fader techniques used in Mikrophonie I on a mock-up of the original machines that I built as part of my PhD research.

Thanks Rolf!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stockhausen's Spiral

Robert Dow's Soundings Festival gave me the opportunity to perform a version of Stockhausen's Spiral für Solisten on the 24 speaker diffusion system in the Reid Hall i Edinburgh on the 14th of May. My version is for synthesizer and the piece also requires shortwave radio. This has been in development for a few months and I was ably assisted, both in rehearsals and on the night for sound projection by Owen Green.

I built a quadraphonic mixer for the sound projection of this and other pieces.
It's based around two Panny & Giles quad panpots and uses some P&G faders from a Neve mixer as well as a Neumann aux send module and four Studer VCAs robbed from some broken 990 channel strips. It has oak end-cheeks rescued from an abandoned wardrobe.

The main idea is that it has a small enough footprint so that the sound projectionist only takes up one seat in the auditorium. For Soundings of course, with 24 speakers, we still needed the big DDA mixer, but for other four channel performances this mixer will be great. Chris Watson was the first to actually use it in a live situation and people seem to like it, which is nice.

This is a shot from a rehearsal. The photos from the performance didn't come out very well unfortunately.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This year's LLEAPP (Laboratory for Live Electronic Audio Performance Practice) was held between the 4th and 8th of May at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Organised this year by the wonderful Bill Vine (PhD candidate at UEA) this was well attended by postgrads from Edinburgh, Norwich and London, although, unfortunately, the Belfast contingent failed to appear this year.

We also had the provocative and challenging presence of Dr. Bennett Hogg (University of Newcastle) and Dr. Simon Waters (UEA) to keep us on our toes and to stimulate more heavyweight discussion, and Prof Georgie Born was also observing us as part of a large AHRC project.

Pingpong by lleapp
I worked on two ideas, one with Lauren Hayes and Anon based on structuring a piece around a game of table tennis.

3 minute(ish) pop song by lleapp

The other piece was structured around a three minute pop song and featured Owen Green on bowed box and voice, and Bill Vine on his custom electronic controller for computer. Listen here.

Videos of the LLEAPP performances are available on Vimeo, although this year's are not up yet...

LLEAPP videos

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The end of the Tape Rooms

25th of April marked the closing of the Tape rooms, an analogue studio that I set up with a colleague in Bristol two years previously. It had a good run and we learned an awful lot about tape machine maintenance and picked up some valuable skills regarding studio techniques of the 60s and 70s.

Drezz has since gone on to set up another studio in the Stoke's Croft area of Bristol and I have been refurbishing the equipment and carrying out some modifications to the mixing desk with a view to setting up another studio once the PhD is submitted.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chris Watson workshop

Chris Watson was in Edinburgh from the 20th to the 22nd of April 2011 and gave a wonderful workshop in which he was amazingly generous with sharing his tips tricks and techniques on field recording. Having worked for the BBC for years he had brilliant stories and he has been able to develop some really useful and unusual techniques for recording all sorts of things.

I made some parabolic reflectors specially for this workshop and all three were used to excellent effect.

The focus of our activities was to record the dawn chorus in George Square in the centre of Edinburgh, and after a bit of editing we presented our recordings as part of an evenings concert for Martin Parker's Dialogues festival in Inspace.

Chris played a selection of sound recordings and soundscapes through a quadraphonic sound system and I lent him my homemade quadraphonic panner for the gig. He was able to pan the echo-location sounds of Orcas around the audience to create a thrilling underwater soundscape, and the whole range of sounds was absolutely fascinating.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Edison Cylinder Recording Session

Aleks Kolkowski, hardcore phonographer, invited me to his studio on the 6th of April to record two Edison Cylinders as a contribution to his Phonographies project.

For the session I used a homemade circuit based on the STEIM Cracklebox but with three similar circuits all joined together. The 9V battery powers a 12" Celestion G12 speaker and the sound is projected from there straight into the recording horn of the Edison Phonograph.

We recorded two pieces both lasting two minutes (the maximum length for a brown wax cylinder at 160rpm).  The first was fairly straightforward but for the second Aleks experimented with a sound-on-sound technique, actually cutting the groove in two passes.
You can hear the results here.

Photos by Aleks Kolkowski.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Research Seminar - Liverpool Hope

Robin Hartwell very kindly invited me to give a music research seminar on 2nd of March 2011 at Liverpool Hope University.

The seminar was based on the research presented at the ICMPC in Seattle in 2010 and was entitled:
Noise and Fidelity: Poles Apart? or What we might have lost by getting computers to do things for us.

Robin is an excellent host and  had a great setup of a decent record player and some lovely old speakers - B&W or Altec (I can't quote remember), which sounded lovely and allowed me to play lots of records in an appropriate setting.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Philip Thomas Workshop

I organised a two day workshop by the pianist Philip Thomas on 24-25th February 2011, based on the music of Christian Wolff. We also had a masterclass for composer's for piano, and it was a great pleasure to be able to invite Philip to Edinburgh after first meeting him at the ICMSN in Keele in 2009.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sound Thought, Glasgow

On the 4th of February 2011 I was due to perform a new piece Testing, Testing for three record players and ring modulators in the Arches in Glasgow as part of the Sound Thought festival. Unfortunately I had to cancel due to ill health which was a great smae as the rest of the bill looked really good. I had played the piece in Edinburgh in 2010 and was looking forward to taking to a new city.