Music Machine 4 for 8 players is an audio installation piece that was funded by the Arts Council.
Between April and July, the piece was adapted so that a performance by 8 people could take place via Zoom. This was achieved at the end of July.
The piece uses 8 Novation Launchpads and 8 Raspberry Pi computers. The Launchpads have an 8×8 grid of buttons, when one of these lights up the performer presses it and a short cell of music is played. The piece runs for 8 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 it malfunctions. As Michael Nyman wrote about John White’s music, ‘… being English they are ambling, friendly, self-effacing systems, which may break down …’
For the Zoom project, Simon asked 8 friends to be involved. He delivered the Launchpads and Raspberry Pis around Exeter (following Covid-19 safe guidelines) and made a video that explained how to set it all up. He ran a couple of trial events with 2 or 3 participants before going ahead with the full thing. The Zoom meeting was recorded on Friday 31st July and then Simon edited the audio to match.
There is also a web based version of the piece that can be performed using a tablet, mobile phone or computer which can be found on his website.