Alex McLean

I am an interdisciplinary researcher, with interests surrounding computer programming as a cultural activity, particularly in music performance.

I completed my PhD thesis Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts under the supervision of Geraint Wiggins within the Computing department of Goldsmiths, University of London. In this work I explored up through the layers of representation in computer programming — symbols, words, notation, and language, at each level relating computer code with human language, with pattern, perception, movement, metaphor and conceptual space as a bridge between them.

Core to my work has been the collaborative development of the field of Live Coding, where computer languages are used as creative, live interfaces for interacting with the world. Most of my work here has been in live performance, for example by instigating TidalCycles, a domain specific language for describing musical pattern, designed for improvisation of live music — particularly techno and other forms of electronic dance music, but also Jazz improv. TidalCycles has been developed alongside my creative practice, performing music at hundreds of events since the year 2000. During this time I have enjoyed being an active member of this growing community, co-founding both the TOPLAP live coding and Algorave algorithmic dance music movements.

Another important aspect of my work is the organisation of often experimental events, well over a hundred at the last count, including co-founding conferences (International Conference on Live Coding, International Conference on Live Interfaces), electronic art events (e.g. dorkbot meetings in London and Sheffield) and festivals (e.g. the Festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Movement). I also co-organised the Dagstuhl Seminar on Collaboration and Learning through Live Coding, and it was here that I met Dr Ellen Harlizius-Klück, who had seen the possibilities of applying live coding to an investigation of the thought processes of weaving. Thus began a fruitful collaboration that has lead to my position as post-doc researcher within the team of Ellen’s present project PENELOPE, by way of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves, which we jointly lead.

You can also read my personal blog.