More about Multimodal

Back in January, I heard about a new night / experiment that was coming to Notts and started to anticipate the details. This night was Multimodal.

Since then, we know a lot more about the night such as the venue (One Thoresby Street) the date (This Saturday, 8th April) and what to expect (a 5 hour live A/V performance, with founder Matt Woodham taking care of the visuals while Lukas Wigflex sets the sonic scene) however, there still remains a lot of mystery about Multimodal.

It’s clear that I wasn’t the only one intrigued by this announcement, with tickets selling out well in advance. But maybe due to its newness or simply its unfathomable concept, there is only one person who can explain exactly what Multimodal is all about.

Here, I spoke to Matt about his new project:

It sold out very quickly and this is your first event! Did you think it would be as popular as that?

Not at all! It’s so hard to predict these things. I kept the prices low and the format as simple as possible as I was worried nobody would be interested. I was totally amazed by people’s response, I definitely think it helps having Lukas (Wigflex) involved with the project. His knowledge and esteem definitely got the event out to the right people.

How many more will you be doing?

There will be many more if all goes to plan. This specific performance will hopefully tour around a few venues. As it sold out so fast there’s a possibility I’ll use One Thoresby Street again to allow those who missed out to catch it in this incarnation. It’s also nice bringing people into my studio building as well. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a few more events which push the concept of the events further in somethings quite different. I’m planning to perform an AV experiment on the audience in a participatory installation – gathering data which will inform a visual neuroscience study in the future.

Why do you think it’s struck a chord with so many people?

It’s hard to say really. I’d love to think that people have an interest in the concept behind Multimodal and the theory of the event, although I feel it’s more likely that people are just looking for something a bit different. A unique experience with a bunch of visuals does seem to grab people’s attention quite well. Regardless of the motives I’m just happy for people to turn up and engage with any aspect of the event. My plan with Multimodal is for it to be a bit of a Trojan horse – keeping it accessible to all but with an extra layer of theory.

Since my initial post, the secret is out and many of my questions have been answered, such as where the event will be. Why One Thoresby Street?

That’s a simple one – as my studio is next door to the event space, I know it very well. The size of the Attic is perfect for testing the waters with my first event. An added bonus is that there are large white walls which are great to project onto.

Which space will it be in? The smaller, upstairs studio or the downstairs hall (or is this still kept under wraps?)

It’s in the Attic gallery, there hasn’t been an event here in a good while so it’ll be great to have people dancing up there again!

The performance is 10pm – 2am. What can we expect for the rest of the night?

Doors at 9pm and we’ll slowly ease people into the visuals from 10pm. It can be quite full-on so we just thought we’d start slow. From 9-10pm will be mainly ambient music.

Will you pre-create or design visuals that then react to the sounds, or will they be totally generated on the night?

The visuals are generated live, in response to the music Lukas is playing. I’ve designed a custom controller to adjust specific parameters of the patterns such as spatial frequency, colour, spacing, width, angle, tiling parameters etc. The visuals are automatically kept in sync with the music, it’s just up to me and Lukas to create a performance together on the night!

What level of control will you have over the appearance of the visuals?

Pretty much complete control. I’ve designed the controller in two halves, each controlling one of the two layers. As each layer is generated from an extremely simple pattern with only a few parameters to adjust, it’s the specific interaction between the two layers which causes the intense, shifting geometry.

What kind of sounds can we expect while the performance is on? Will Lukas perform these?

As I mentioned earlier, we’ll start slow, with ambience and soundscapes, slowly building and increasing tempo towards the end of the night. If you’re familiar with Lukas’ sets, expect to hear his more experimental side.

Please explain “the computational processes involved in the summation of sinusoidal grating responses” or simply, tell us more about the research behind this project!

The research behind the project is from an electroencephalogram (EEG) study I conducted for my dissertation at the University of Nottingham. The study was attempting to uncover the mechanisms of ‘mid-level’ vision.

While much is known about both ‘low-level’ vision, early in the cortical visual processing hierarchy, and ‘high-level’ vision in the later semantic processing of vision, the intermediary stage remains a mystery at this point. As we know that single neurons selectively respond to sinusoidal gratings with a specific orientation and spatial frequency, the next step is to understand how the brain processes combined grating patters, or ‘plaids’. Current visual neuroscience is attempting to understand how the neural signals are combined to create the visual experience of perception, although many see the task as challenging due to the large degree of complexity.

Is this research something you are doing yourself or is it part of a wider study?

It’s part of wider research on mid-level vision lead by Prof. Jon Peirce at the University of Nottingham. I’ve been keeping in touch with Jon since graduating and following the progress of the research. The experimental method has evolved in some very interesting ways since I’ve graduated. Future events will explore this new method a bit deeper and I’m hoping to collaborate with Jon to figure out how we might present this.

Tell us more about your background – I know you practice the visual arts but are obviously involved in science too. What role do both of these disciplines play in your educational/professional life?

I graduated in 2014 studying Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience at The University of Nottingham, specialising in visual neuroscience. Since then I’ve been working freelance on various projects, while continuing my experimental audio-visual practice. I try to combine my interest in arts, science and technology as much as possible with my practice.

I created Multimodal as a platform for the intersection between these disciplines – creating engaging experiences for the public but also continuing my research. I’m currently applying for funding for Multimodal which will enable new research to be conducted. I’ve recently been focusing on Complexity Science which combines many areas of my interest, so future Multimodal events will be exploring specific themes of complexity a bit deeper.

“This simple pattern is combined and processed through the visual pathway with Fourier-like principles to create our complex visual experience contributing to our overall perception.” – could the visuals you create mimic the ‘visuals’ that are produced in our brains when processing sensory information?

Yep exactly.

The visuals aim to represent the computational processing of the simple sinusoidal grating stimuli, while also directly stimulating these early-mid regions. When playing around with the idea using the same patterns as my EEG study within my visual software I was immediately struck by the vast increase in complexity with just a few simple transformations of 2 combined layers. My hope is that this emergent behaviour is clear – while the patterns are incredibly basic, the viewing experience certainly doesn’t feel that way!

You talk about creating a new layer of perceptual experience. Can you even being to describe what this might be, or is it one to leave for the night?

The new layer, which wasn’t present in my EEG study, is the introduction of music. Auditory and visual stimuli interact within the brain, with perception erring to the sense which is most likely to be ‘true’ in a given circumstance.

This ‘Multisensory (or Multimodal) Integration’ gives rise to a number of perceptual illusions. Understanding the mechanisms behind them might allow us to understand why AV experiences often seem to have an element of ‘magic’ to them. Once again, these ideas will be explored in future events!

What was the spark that generated the idea for Multimodal?

While I’ve been working for a few years performing visuals and building installations for events, I’ve not been able to explore ideas or themes related to my research and interest in science and technology. These are ultimately the projects I want to work on, so I had to build a platform for them. I’m just super happy that people seem interested so far! I’d be extremely grateful to continue exploring these ideas while making experiences for people to enjoy and learn from.

 

Multimodal will stage its first performance on Saturday 8th April at One Thoresby Street.

Tickets are sold out – but more nights are sure to come.

Get a sneak peak of what to expect in this video.

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Hail Queen Hito

A few years ago I wrote a post explaining why I love Maya Jane Coles for Skiddle’s ‘DJ Love’ series, and I had lots of fun doing it. Now, the time has come to share my feelings about another incredible talent. Namley, Hito ❤

A few years ago I wrote a post explaining why I love Maya Jane Coles for Skiddle’s ‘DJ Love’ series, and I had lots of fun doing it. Now, the time has come to share my feelings about another incredible talent. Namley, Hito

I first discovered this lady after spending a summer in Ibiza in 2013. Although the island was filled with a plethora of nights to choose from, Richie Hawtin’s Enter party became a regular event for myself and many more of the ‘locals’. Those that headed to Space early doors, around 9pm, could gain entry to Space for around €10. The exact price is blurry in my mind, but it was a fraction of the cost of a standard ticket, offering exceedingly good value for money both in terms of time (the club staying open for at least 12 hours) and talent.

In the clubbing world, heading out at 9pm is incredibly early however, after downing a bottle of 20 cent water outside the club to ensure you stayed hydrated inside (with each minute bottle of water costing at least €5?!) , this great deal offered by Enter meant that I experienced many incredible warm up sets on a weekly basis. In fact, some of those sets have gone down in history of my favourite musical experiences to date, enabling many artist’s to push their musical boundaries with sometimes unexpected but incredible results.

The warm up at Enter was as carefully planned by Hawtin as the rest of his impeccably curated event and was its own party in itself. When arriving to Space so early you were only let into the SAKE bar room, with the rest of the club shut off until around 12. Not an overly large space, it was still light inside and was an excellent way to begin proceedings. Often, you’d see Richie running around amongst the crowd sipping his own-brand rice wine…I’m pretty sure we spotted Marco Carola mingling at the SAKE bar once too. While this occurred, the audience was left totally controlled by whoever graced the decks.

This space, in my eyes, IS the domain of Hito. While guest DJs would often be invited to play here, there weren’t many weeks when this vinyl queen didn’t take over – either during the warm up period, or owning the stage for the rest of the evening. More often than not, Bella Sarris would also be there, marking the start of a long career for both of them.

With her kimonoed silhouette instantly recognisable Hito’s captivating aesthetic is like no other, yet it is her ability to select that won me over. An avid record collector and sonic searcher, this love of music saw her relocate from Japan to Berlin in the late 90’s, honing the sophisticated taste and diverse collection that we hear in her sets today, and will continue to for many more years to come.

The internet can be a harsh place, and when finding videos to use in this post it became noticeable that many ‘trolls’ would comment on her mixing ability. This is news to me, and throughout that entire Ibiza season there was not one moment during her sets where the flow was interrupted – Hito has an underlying ability to choose the perfect tunes for every moment, causing bodies and minds to get lost in the hard-hitting techno groove. The debate between mixing vs. tune selection will surely go on for eternity however, on a dance floor environment, I know which one matters the most to me…

A quote from Hito in her Vinyl Factory interview couldn’t say it better:

I like the touch-y feeling, you know? I can control it directly…I think it’s good for people to see needle skipping or vibrating. This is humanity: mistakes are human. But how you solve it is more important. I used to be very ashamed about my mistakes but now I think it’s about how you recreate from these points. That’s more important than 100% technically mixing.

 

Regardless of what these commenters may say, long-time Berlin buddy, professional collaborator and techno-mad innovator, Mr.Hawtin chose her to join a long list of esteemed ambassadors for his Model 1 / PLAY differently mixer, testament to her credentials.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to see Hito play since my Ibiza days, although she still remains one of my go-to DJs for when I’m in need of some mix based up lifting. But now, as her career has well and truly taken off, I can’t wait to stand in front of her booth once more to listen to her sounds, four years on.