Simon Belshaw: Music Machine 4



Simon Belshaw studied composition with Gavin Bryars and completed his PhD at the University of Hertfordshire in 2005. He has had pieces performed by various ensembles in various locations, including New York, Montreal, Belfast and the UK. He has produced multimedia installations and has had pieces sited at Sonorities, Audiograft, Punctual and other festivals. He is currently a resident of Kaleider studios, a DAISI artist and an associate of the University of Exeter.


Music Machine 4 for 8 players is an audio installation piece that was funded by the Arts Council. It uses Raspberry Pi computers, Novation Launchpads and twenty-four musical cells of varying length to create an eight-minute piece. It was intended to be sited in AWEsome Arts Space, Exeter in March 2020 and to be part of the Exeter Game>Play festival in May; both events were cancelled due to Covid-19.


Between April and July the piece was adapted so that a performance by eight people could take place via Zoom and this happened on 31st July.


The piece uses eight Novation Launchpads and eight Raspberry Pi computers. The launchpads have an 8x8 grid of buttons, and when one of these lights up the performer presses it and a short cell of music is played. The piece runs for eight minutes and begins by playing a single note, then two and develops from there. It starts slowly with short cells and (fairly) lengthy intervals between them and ends playing long cells with short intervals. By the end there is a mass (wall) of sound with many parts overlapping. Throughout its course the piece sounds as if it is about to get going but falters, never settling into a steady state. It is similar to a mechanical machine that has trouble starting and, when it does, malfunctions.

You can play the video here: