Skip to content

Live Lessons: Data Music with BBC micro:bits

April 26, 2016

Here’s a thing that I did using the BBC’s micro:bits to make a music band, then slightly surreally being interviewed by people from TV shows I don’t watch about it. Part of the BBC’s Live Lessons education series promoting computing education in schools.

The micro:bits use the accelerometers to change a 4-note melody, changing one note for each direction you can tilt it. The buttons change the octave and tempo and if you turn it upside down it goes silent. Tried to get a bit of network interaction on the go – if you shake it it plays a different melody on your micro:bit and forces a 4-bar rest on the next micro:bit in the chain.

Programmed in MicroPython.

Check out the video here:

I’ve been documented!

April 4, 2016

Despite my best efforts to remain mysterious, rare documentation of me live coding beats has emerged on the internet! :O

Performance was a very impromptu Algorave set from the International Conference of Live Coding, Leeds, UK in July 2015. Performance is at the awesome Wharf Chamber. Sound is in SuperCollider. Obi Wan Codenobi is on the visuals.

Things coming up…

February 20, 2016


The Orchestra For Females and Laptops have their first 2 gigs coming up: 27th Feb as part of Audioblast #4, an audio streaming festival run by APO33 collective in Nantes, France; and 8th March for International Women’s Day.

Making Museum

I’m facilitating a Making workshop at the Great North Museum in partnership with Future Everything. The students will learn to use Sonic Pi and video editing software to create audio visual works out of data from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.

Yorkshire Sound Women Network @ National Media Museum 

I’ll be running informal show-and-tell and workshops in electronic music making along with members of Yorkshire Sound Women Network as part of a number of public events at the National Media Museum in March.

Women/Music/Technology Gig

8th March at the Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds I’ll be playing a live coding gig with Leeds-based noise and synth artists Joanne and Marlo Eggplant

Commons Are Forever

I’ll be running a workshop and giving a public talk and performance as part of Newcastle City Library’s Common’s Are Forever Project on 19th/21st March. The workshop will be on downloading and editing samples with a Creative Commons license and using them as part of a live coding performance in Ixi Lang.

Things coming up…

March 25, 2015

25th March 2015: Talk about ‘collaboration in network music’ @ Dorkbot#8, Sheffield.

27th April 2015: Unleashing a twitter-bot at Babble @ Baltic, Newcastle.

6th May 2015: Improvisation performance with Rhodri Davies and Mariam Rezaei @ Baltic 39 in Newcastle.

16th May 2015: Talk about network music and collaborative performance with Norah Lorway at Network Agora event @ LICA Gallery, Lancaster University.

5th June 2015: Debut performance of FLO (Female Laptop Ensemble) @ Klang Festival, Durham University Music Department, Durham.

21-24th June 2015: FLO (Female Laptop Ensemble) performance at Sound Kitchen @ Prague Quadrennial 2015, Prague.

25th June 2015: Performing at an Algorave @ xCoAx 2015, Glasgow.

Coming up…

September 11, 2013

… here’s what the immediate future holds at Shelly Knotts HQ: 


September 15th-21st: Dagstuhl Live Coding Seminar

October 1st til 2015: PhD at Durham University – my research topic is ‘Social systems and structures for improvisation in live computer music’ 

October 12-15th: Performing and presenting at Earzoom Festival in Slovenia

October 22nd – November 3rd: Presenting ‘Machine #2’ at Machine-Music Exhibition, La Fabrique, Nantes

November 8-9th: Running a beginners SuperCollider workshop at FLOSSIE 2014, London

November 29th: Performing and presenting Valevari with Alo Allik at Zeppelin Festival, Barcelona

Feb – June 2014: Taking part in Sound and Music’s Portfolio Improvisors residency with Steve Beresford in Cornwall/London. 


… hopefully there’s also some time to sleep in there…

Thoughts on engaging women in tech communities…

April 10, 2012

This morning I read an email thread on 80c (a group for artists using free software) discussing the underrepresentation of women in F/LOSS (Free, Libre and Open Source Software) – although the discussion relates to women in tech and computer music more generally also, it seems to be a much greater problem in F/LOSS.

This report has some useful discussion and statistics:

As a follow up to this Alex Mclean wrote a post suggesting a theory for exclusion in free software as lying in general boundaries to entry into programming and a lack of confidence preventing  long term commitment  (later edited removing the comments about confidence).

I had been thinking a lot last summer about how positive discrimination and attempts to engage women in tech – if not well thought out – can be just as damaging and off-putting to women involved in or interested in tech so I posted the following reply to Alex’s post (apologies that I was too lazy to turn it into a proper blog post!):

Interesting theory… but im not sure i agree. I think its more likely a problem with deep rooted gender stereotyping not yet having been addressed in this area. 

Your final paragraph appears to characterise excluded groups (women being one of them) as being low in confidence and therefore not being able to apply themselves to the difficult task of learning how to programme. But I dont think it the case that women are inherently low in confidence for technical tasks. They are however culturally conditioned to have low confidence in this area. 

I really think that a large amount of the exclusion of women stems from their objectification in tech. I’ve regularly had people say thing along the lines of (paraphrasing obviously) ‘oh, it’s weird your into this, women usually aren’t’, or ‘oh it’s great that you’re into this even though you’re a woman’. i.e. the reaction is not ‘what do you do in this community’ but rather ‘oh, you’re a woman in this community’. This isn’t to say that people are often reacting negatively (although this has been an occaisional experience – for example when i once got completely cut out of a conversation that I had been part of because it got a little technical and the men conversing assumed that I would no longer be able to participate!), but they are often acting as though I’m a novelty or an oddity.

I also had a frustrating experience at ICMC last year where someone decided to organise an unofficial ‘Ladies Dinner’. This isn’t something i would usually attend as i dont believe in gender segregation but a couple of people that I wanted to speak to were going so I went along. However the result of this was that I then spent the majority of the rest of the week talking about how women are underepresented in computer music and the problems with this rather than talking about computer music, which is what I went there for! In the same week i was asked to apply for a commission specifically for female composers, which i did slightly begrudgingly as I have mixed feelings about whether this type of commission is promoting or segregating women. (i had intended to blog about this at the time but didnt want to jeopardise the commission by having ‘anti-feminist’ online rants!)

So, it seems as though women who are in tech are expected to talk about being a woman in tech, rather than talking about the tech itself. Early on in my masters degree i got labelled a feminist by my course mates – the vast majority of whom were male. As far as i could see I hadn’t really done much at this point to warrant this title aside from occaisionally complain about chauvinistic or mysogynst comments idly made by people who didnt realise what they had said was sexist. 

Since then I’ve been involved in a large amount of discourse about being a woman in computer music and have in a sense accidentally – but willingly – lived up to the feminist title that was put upon me. 

I also have had a number of opportunities come my way where my first thought has been that probably I’ve been asked to do this as they needed a token woman, I could be being paranoid here but when you’re in a serious minority and often judged on your gender rather than your merit it’s hard to know when someone genuinely likes your work, so I often find positive discrimination as much of a problem as negative discrimination. 

My point of this being (finally), that maybe if we weren’t told so often that women are low in confidence in tech and need extra help to get into it then maybe we wouldn’t be so low in confidence in tech. 

I really do care about the fact that women are underrepresented in tech communities and I do think that more should be done to discourage their exclusion. But i sometimes find that postiviley discriminatory discourse that characterises women as an other or seperate category or as needing extra help to reach the same technical and confidence levels as men is often as unhelpful as the negatively discriminatory cultural conditioning of women being objectified or less able to carry out tech tasks, and maybe if men in tech could talk to the women in tech on the same level as they talk to other men, with the same amount of confidence in their abilities and about what they’re doing rather than about the fact they’re a woman (celebratory or otherwise) maybe there would be less of a problem.


August 28, 2011

The piece XYZ that I worte for BiLE has been featured in a new e-zine, CNCPTN by Simon Kinch. The e-zine is available online at: and is also available as a downloadable pdf.  The e-zine aims to showcase music from young composers with a strong conceptual or design element.

BiLE have performed XYZ in Oslo, Venice and Birmingham and it was also recently performed at ton:art 2011by Benoit and the Mandelbrots.


10 works by 10 young composers and artists; where each piece has been conceived not only with the final sonic result in mind, but also to express or represent some pre-conceived concept or design.

CNCPTN is a new bi-monthly e-zine focusing on the concepts and designs behind the work by selected young composers and artists.

Each issue will profile the concepts and designs behind this type of composition and artwork, providing a platform for composers and artists to display more than just the audio they create, no matter how detailed or abstracted the original stimulus may be.’