ISSTA 2017

ISSTA is happening in Dundalk this year, thanks to the great efforts of Dr Niall Coghlan and the Department of Creative Arts, Media and Music. We have a great lineup this year, with gigs, installations, workshops and keynotes from Peter Kirn (Create Digital Music), Prof. Teresa Dillon (University of the West of England and Watershed) and sonic artist Dr Luca Forucci.

We’ll also have a free late night gig at Dundalk’s Spirit Store featuring Sunken Foal.

You can find the full programme (including orientation information) here.


We always strive to keep registration costs as low as possible, and this year’s ISSTA can be attended for as little as €25 (unwaged or undergraduate student), €50 (postgraduate student) or €70 (professional), which also includes ISSTA memership for one year. (It is also possible to buy a one-day ticket (€40) or a non-member two-day ticket (€80).)

Registration includes free tea/coffee and lunch as well as the refreshments for the opening reception.

To get the best rates, joint ISSTA first, then proceed to members’ registration.

Join Us

ISSTA 2017 Member’s Registration Page

2017 Non-member’s Registration Page


Festival/conference theme:

This year’s theme of ‘Sound-Makers: technologies, practices and cultures’ brings together practitioners and researchers in the field to share their experiences, creativity and skills over 2 days in Dundalk Institute of Technology. Custom–made and repurposed controllers and intentionally hackable instruments now support the creation and control of new music and AV work outside the mouse and keyboard paradigm. These technologies are increasingly being championed by grassroots movements which are driven by the designers, makers and creators who build and use them. Maker groups, festivals and social spaces––frequently more diverse and inclusive than those of academia and industrial R&D––have emerged to engage new creators and audiences through music, visual and sound art performances.

ISSTA-17 promises to offer audiences and participants an exposure to the exciting new creative experiences afforded by these new approaches!


Outline Schedule: Day 1, Thurs 7th

09.00 Registration (Entrance PJ Carroll’s building)

09.30 Welcome (P1080, PJ Carroll’s building)
Head of School, Dr. Gerard (Bob) McKiernan, School of Informatics and Creative Arts Dr Linda O Keeffe, President of ISSTA

10.00 Papers I (P1080)
11.30 Coffee Break
12.00 Keynote 1: Peter Kirn (P1080)
13.00 Buffet Lunch (Winter Garden, PJ Carroll’s Building)
13:30 Workshop I: DIY Oscillator (P1077)
14.00 Artworks Tour (various rooms in PJ Carroll’s – meet at entrance) 14.00 Papers 2: (P1080)
16:00 Keynote 2: Dr. Luca Forcucci (Recital Room)
17.00 Concert I (Mac Anna Theatre)
18.30 ISSTA reception (Winter Garden, PJ Carroll’s Building)
21.00 ISSTA ‘Late Night’ (Spirit Store): Sunken Foal & Joni LIVE + ISSTA DJ’s


Outline Schedule: Day 2, Fri 8th

09.30 Papers 3 (P1080) 09.30 Papers 3a (P1081)

11.30 Coffee (Winter Garden)
11.45 Keynote 2: Prof. Teresa Dillon (P1080)
13.00 Buffet Lunch (Winter Garden, PJ Carroll’s Building)
13:30 Workshop 2: Springs & Coils (P1077)
14.00 Artworks Tour (various rooms in PJ Carroll’s – meet at entrance) 14.00 Concert 2 (Mac Anna Theatre)
16:00 Closing Ceremony & ISSTA AGM (Mac Anna Theatre)


In particular, we’d like to highlight the workshops:

Instrument maker and designer, Andy Wilson will guide participants through building their own Sine Wave Oscillator. No previous soldering or electronics experience is required and everything you need to build the oscillator will be provided. Participation in this workshop requires a fee of €30 but you get to leave with your very own oscillator! NOTE: you do not need to be registered for the conference to take part in this workshop.

David Strang will then explore the potential of Springs and Coils as sound generating devices, taking participants through spring reverb, magnetic pickup coils and mini FM broadcasting ( ).
Participation in this workshop requires registration for the conference and advance booking.

Please contact Niall Coghlan to book a place on the workshops: niall.coghla [at]






NIME2017 paper with Ricky Graham et al. Exploring Pitch and Timbre through 3D Spaces: Embodied Models in Virtual Reality as a Basis for Performance Systems Design

Just a quick preview of some stuff that’s coming up in our NIME 2017 paper (with Ricky Graham and Christopher Manzione of Stevens Institute of Technology and William Brent of American University).

Exploring Pitch and Timbre through 3D Spaces: Embodied Models in Virtual Reality as a Basis for Performance Systems Design


Our paper builds on an ongoing collaboration between theorists and practitioners within the computer music community, with a specific focus on three-dimensional environments as an incubator for performance systems design. In particular, we are concerned with how to provide accessible means of controlling spatialization and timbral shaping in an integrated manner through the collection of performance data from various modalities from an electric guitar with a multichannel audio output. This paper will focus specifically on the combination of pitch data treated within tonal models and the detection of physical performance gestures using timbral feature extraction algorithms. We discuss how these tracked gestures may be connected to concepts and dynamic relationships from embodied cognition, expanding on performative models for pitch and timbre spaces. Finally, we explore how these ideas support connections between sonic, formal and performative dimensions. This includes instrumental technique detection scenes and mapping strategies aimed at bridging music performance gestures across physical and conceptual planes.



Gesture, embodied, schemas, mapping, metaphor, spatialization, timbre, feature, tracking.


Further details

The paper uses Unity to explore embodied ideas within musical gestures (including the use of Brent’s timbreID feature detection library). I contributed some ideas on embodied structures which can be used in mapping.


Figure 3. An embodied timbre–space; concepts from Smalley (1997) and Johnson (2008), after Bridges and Graham (2015)


Embodied Dynamics – Potential Mapping Strategies
Dynamic 1: Temporal Synchronicity of Attack Envelopes X ranges from motion launching (rapid dynamic change, more synchronous entry) to gradual contour energy (asynchronous entry of partials).
Dynamic 2: Spectral Energy Distribution: Height vs. Rootedness Y via the spectral centroid gives us two scales and dynamics: contour energy (verticality schema: pitch height) and associated motion rootedness; regions of stability.
Dynamic 3: Spatial Clarity within Individual Sound Sources Z via presence or absence of attack transients articulates motion rootedness or tension (audible transient products of inertia) to ungrounded events (diffuse or sustained tones). This is related to a diffuse–to–point source spatial coverage schema.

Table 3. Mapping Strategies based on Embodied Dynamics


Gesture Sonic Affordance
Short, repetitive movements; cycles if complete repetition Detached individual sound events, cycle–loops.
Expansive gesture Clear path or projection outward (versus inertia)
Less expansive gesture and small gesture again Weak projection (inertial) and chaotic path.

Table 4. Using Bodily Gestures to Drive Parametric Change


Ricky and Christopher have made some great demo videos of how performance gestures can be creatively mapped within a 3D/VR space.

I’m only sorry I won’t be able to be at the conference in Copenhagen in person!

Inclusive Creativity: Digital Practices (31st May at Magee campus)

Inclusive Creativity: Digital Practices (Hearts of STEM 2017) is a public engagement symposium which is being organised by Dr Brendan McCloskey, Dr Brian Bridges and Prof. Frank Lyons at Ulster University, Magee campus on May 31st 2017. The event is being held in association with the Walled City Music Festival and is being supported by Garfield Weston.

The event is FREE to anyone interested in inclusion within the arts, education and community sectors.

Our first confirmed keynote is Prof. Tony Brooks (Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University, Denmark)

Further details on the event Facebook page.

If you have questions about the event, please email brendanmac2017 [at] gmail [dot] com.


All symposium events will be held at the Foyle Arts Building (MQ building), Magee campus.

(Some associated concert events will be held at Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin as part of the Walled City Music Festival.)

See also this link for orientation info on visiting Derry.

Video of ISSTA 2016 Festival and Conference

Here’s a video documentary about our ISSTA 2016 International Festival and Conference on Sound (made by Pillarpix Media).

The event took place September 7th-9th at Ulster University, Magee campus and partner venues throughout the city of Derry~Londonderry, including the Void Gallery, the Nerve Centre, Garden of Reflection gallery, Echo Echo Dance Theatre, the Craft Village, Visit Derry, Bennigans and Sandinos.

Find out more at

Helicopter Study ’83 for Paul Devlin

Helicopter Study ’83 for Paul Devlin (13’53)

Our talks about sound frequently came back to the helicopters. I remember you telling me that you grew up next to a busy heliport. You even went so far as to get up on the roof of your house to watch them take off and land; not the safest thing to do!

I can only imagine what the sound must have been like; so this is an attempt at an impressionistic soundscape of a ‘flock’ of helicopters.

We’d also chat about the various types of presence of helicopters in today’s soundscape in Derry. At least I have some idea what this sounds like!

We’d talk about the particularly diffuse, yet immersive sound quality as a helicopter would draw farther away; a sense of omnipresence replacing a singular location, almost synaesthetically blending with the clouds.

And all the better to blend with memories, I suppose, but you’d have a better way to put that and understand that than I would, Paul!

Take care, mate.

Call for submissions: ISSTA International Festival and Conference (Derry/Londonderry, 7th-9th September)



Professor Leigh Landy (De Montfort University, Editor of Organised Sound)
Dr Liz Dobson (Yorkshire Womens’ Sound Network, University of Huddersfield)

Headline Workshop:
Gregory Taylor (Education R&D, Cycling 74)


Full call details:


One of the reasons we value sound as a perceptual and phenomenological event is that it allows for the creation of new types of sensory engagement with space. Creative processes of sounding allow us to design different types of sound worlds; places which can become autonomous zones. Lefebvre, in his seminal text The Production of Space, alludes to the concept of autonomous zones or imagined spaces; places which are imagined and created by community.

The idea of how we create and respond to autonomous zones is the subject of this year’s ISSTA festival as it comes to Northern Ireland for the first time, fostering a range of artistic, technological and academic interventions in Derry/Londonderry entitled Temporary Autonomous Zones 2016. A Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), as defined by the poet and anarchist cultural theorist Hakim Bey, is more than just a distinct space; it is a space in control of itself, in that it does not recognise outside authority.

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Bey suggests that a festival or event has the potential to act as a moment of intense uprising and creative disruption, which allows for the creation of a TAZ, a guerrilla moment of positive revolutionary acts and art. In our present period of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, mass movements of people across territories are coinciding with the beginnings of exclusionary zones in Europe. It is in this context that this year’s ISSTA festival seeks to create a series of Temporary Autonomous Zones–new unmapped and self-determining sonic, conceptual and social spaces–which assert, for a time, their independence from existing structures through discussions of creative and technological practices and research, and through the artistic works themselves.

We look forward to inviting artists, scholars, technologists and other practitioners to Derry/Londonderry to investigate and play with some of these questions. From the historic autonomous zones of the 17th–century walled city of Londonderry to the autonomous commune of Free Derry (1969–72) to the highs, lows and contradictions of becoming the first UK City of Culture and even to its contested name and identity, we hope that Derry/Londonderry will offer a stimulating context for sharing participants’ work and ideas.

This year, we are seeking works of art, research papers, performances, compositions and workshops that engage with the concept of autonomous zones and the social spaces of sound and technology:

  • We hope that designers and technologists will take advantage of the temporary autonomous zones of our interdisciplinary conference to engage with more ‘blue sky’, speculative or conceptual aspects of their work.
  • We hope that artists, cultural researchers and thinkers will find inspiration from these various perspectives on space as defined, expressed and contested through sound, technology and culture.

We will be working in the city of Derry/Londonderry, a space traditionally defined by zones of ethno–religious and political difference, spaces that are mapped, marked and articulated by performances of difference, but also by creative communities. We are therefore particularly open to the idea of collaborative projects which have a community outreach aspect to them.

We propose to take the approach of the TAZ guerrilla ontologist: making a mark, a difference, without violence!

Artists are encouraged to submit proposals for site-specific work involving Derry/Londonderry as urban environment (we will be circulating more information about the environs). We will also have partnerships with local galleries and may also provide for situating pieces at various sites in the city in consultation with artists. Supplementary details will be made available on some of the sites and spaces.

The call is open to all practitioners regardless of nationality. Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation. Registration for ISSTC 2016 is required for participation.

Submissions will be due April 4th, 2016. Notifications will be sent by June 4th, 2016.

Further details here:

Infographics for assignment briefs

I’m on a bit of an infographics buzz at the moment…so I’ve made some infographic versions of assignment briefs to help students rememeber what they’re meant to be doing.

I’ve had a few responses to my (addmittedly small-scale) survey on this and the response has been pretty positive when the infographics have been used to support the traditional text-based brief, rather than in isolation from it. (I’ll have more information about how successful it’s been in drawing attention to key assignment components when I get through my semester 1 corrections!)

I will be presenting on this topic at the annual conference of Ulster’s Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice; more details will be updated here soon.

CRE317 FPC Assignment 1 infographic

CRE305 infographic brief assignment 1