Open Boat Orchestra

True Wind - Click Me!
True Wind - Click Me!

I have been experimenting with algorithmic composition tools recently for a project which will create bespoke meditation music for people.

As a lot of things in my life tend to be synchronistic, it was no surprise for me to find out one of my previous colleagues at startle plc, where I managed a music digitization project similar to iTunes, is a friend of a yachtswoman with an interesting music technology problem to solve.

Lia Ditton is a woman with a passion for sailing and art.

What Lia wants to create with Open Boat Orchestra, is music from the ocean.

Having been around boats from birth, my father George Tinley has been
a member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club since 1957 and himself a
yachtsman of some note, and faced with the prospect of marrying
sailing with sound, I am somewhat excited.

I am also taken with the idea that the main driver behind the music
will be an ego-less entity. While the project itself will be based on
unique compositional rules, no individual person will be writing the
music. It will be down to the elements.

Enter my brother Rich’s marine electronics company

Some of his work drives my studio and even the electronic ignition on
one of my motorcycles, so the obvious solution is to build a black box
that does it all.

I have had various meetings with Lia to discuss technologies that
might make this possible and we have looked at software behind
artists like ambient forefather Brian Eno such as Koan/Noatikl as well
as the more obvious Max/MSP.

Lia asked me what the data would sound like at various stages.

Playing back the datalogger output from the boat using Tom Erbe’s
Soundhack sounded like this:
OBO – Datalogger Sonified by Mark Ty-Wharton

While building an orchestra using Miroslav Philharmonik and splitting
some of the data to represent brass, strings and woodwind instruments
then mapping the True Wind Data (Angle, Direction, Speed) from the
datalogger directly to chromatic MIDI note values with fixed velocity
and duration sounded like this:
OBO – True Wind by Mark Ty-Wharton

Our invitation is that you log into Soundcloud and flag the track with your comments.

Your favourite section will appear on Lia’s website.

We are now looking at how we will map tempo, choose moods that define
the various states of the boat using polar diagrams and the input of
the yachting fraternity who will help define typical melodic
reflections of sailing styles.

We are some way off creating something that sounds like an orchestra.

You are crashing down the side of a wave the height of a three story
house in a 75 mile per hour wind, what music would you choose?

See you on the other side of the looking glass

Mark Ty-Wharton

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mark Ty-Wharton



  1. I would suggest if you haven’t already discovered him, checking out Dave Seidel’s (he of the Autism Hub) .

    You have a lot of common ground, I feel.

    I would particularly recommend ‘Nur’ (Light) – it’s available on his website, and I also came across a very interesting remix of it on YouTube, where it had been combined with the audio from external cameras strapped to the Space Shuttle’s rocket-motors. It’s called something like “Symphony for Seidel and Space Shuttle” – I’m sure Google will answer all Prayers.


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