I graduated from Leeds College Music in Jazz and Contemporary Music in 1989. At the time, LCM was one of only a handful of places that was preparing jobbing musicians; most of us ran bands and made an okay portfolio living whilst we studied. This was a conservatoire environment with 1st and 2nd study instrumental studies and with a level of extra-curricular ensemble work that you rarely hear of now. I studied as a pianist (with guitar as 2nd) and we covered arranging and composition for all sizes of bands in all styles of jazz and popular music. Improvisation was core and amongst others I was taught by the late Joe Palin, an amazing person, so amiable and one of the UK’s finest bebop pianists.
On graduating, I did what most other LCM graduates did at that time. We had already set up various bands and this was a time when there were plenty of opportunities for live work at all levels so I worked in and ran various small ensembles depending on what was called for. The real bread-and-butter gigs came by way of function work in the main and that would typically be a quartet plus vocalist switching between standards and pop covers.
In the 90s, home computers arrived on the scene with the Atari ST becoming a game changer for many people working in music at the time. This thing had MIDI I/O and suddenly there are sequencers and score writing packages and a plethora of MIDI synths to work with. Stunning by itself but even more so if you taught yourself a bit of coding; I was hooked. The idea that just several lines of code is enough to create a musical texture that is nigh on impossible to perform never ceases to impress me. It changes what performance is. No longer are you restrained by the physicality of the performer(s) - whatever you can internalise musically you can externalise if you are prepared to create the tools to achieve your ideas. I went to the University of York where they specialised in this kind of approach - designing and building tools for performance. What I didn’t appreciate though was that York was also leading the way with Assistive Music Technology - making music accessible people with individual needs and challenges. I was hooked again … and everything that has followed seems to have this main interest bubbling away beneath the surface.
Some years later I returned to York to research towards my PhD which explored methods for displaying music notation to people with visual impairments. My research has since settled more into the design of accessible instruments and musical environments and much of my creative work has tended to make use of these same technologies and concepts as they evolved.
I am a lecturer now and have been since 2001, teaching Music Technology, Popular Music and Music Production on various undergraduate courses at Leeds Met, University of South Wales and currently at Manchester Met. My research is still active with a real focus on establishing design principles for multisensory environments and my compositional work seem to mainly lean towards game design now. I am finding connections between the two now - exploring musical game play using adaptive audio techniques in MSEs. I'm always interested to hear of any opportunities for collaboration.