Final Live Piece

After working to the equations as stated before, I have developed my final product using just Conduit pipes, Elastic bands, balloons and i’ve had to use electrical tape to get the stand to secure itself together properly.


This is the final product. All pipes are tuned to the correct pitch to correspond with the notes in the 4th octave, and it is a fully functioning instrument than anyone can play. The Stand is held together by electrical tape wrapped around them, and the playable pipes are attached using elastic bands. This was the most secure way of attaching the piped without requiring a central bar to hold the pipes in place, doing it that way works just fine.

There is no score to follow while playing these instruments because these were created with simplicity in mind. While I was playing with them I realised that the music should not be written down for this instrument and they should be played from the heart. This also came around after I realised that kids would love to play them and most of the young children I know do not know how to read sheet music or graphical scores so this was a major influence on the use of rules over a score to play. The rules are quite simple:


This instrument is designed to be played with passions so that is what it asks of the player.

This project was incredibly intertesing. It allowed me to push the limits of minimalistic music when provided with minimal amount of materials, it also allowed me to explore objects that I would not previously have thought about creating a sound out of. This allowed a lot of creativity and freedom in what I could create, and this freedom is what was passed on for the player to embrace. It gave me the opportunity to explore new things, as well as expolring physical uses of everyday objects to create something that could be used in a musical composition.

If I was to do this project again, I would look into the possibility of making a larger scale model of what I have created. With the minimalistic materials, it would be interesting to see what it would take to create a fill set of notes starting from the first octave through to the seventh octave, and as to how large the instrument would become. this is a possiblity for a project in the future.

-Mikalah Houghton


Final Recorded Piece – 22/05/18

Over the past couple of weeks I have been re-arranging the sounds I had previously gathered to make the final piece. I have also been developing a graphical score to accompany how this piece plays out.

A graphical score is a score that goes against the use of traditional scoring sheets with the composers being allowed full freedom to express and present their work. Looking into ways I could represent my piece of work, the graphical score stood out to me more than the traditional score. This was because I dont know how to traditionally score a piece of music, and that if I was going to traditionally score this piece it would work as well. It would be too structured and I wanted the piece to be free flowing and interpretted as the listener and reader wished to do so.

There are many ways it could be done with many famous composers using drawings, paintings and even manipulating the traditional score structure to work with the piece of music they have created. When researching into the type of scoring I wanted to use, I found that classical fm that collected 20 graphical scores from many composers and every one was unique. With one taking the solar system and using that as a guide, one using a photographs and there was one of just a paint splatter as a score (Classical FM). This was where I decided I wanted to do my score by a hand drawn picture representing my piece.

I have chosen to create a graphical score in the design of a basic drawing of war. The reson behind this is because no matter how you interpret the drawing, you can get an idea of how you could read this piece. A picture is worth 1000 words and this is one reason as to why I chose to use a pircture. As this piece is the documentation of a soldiers march through the battle field amidst gunfire, I wanted to present this in a way t(hat can be read but when looked as it whole it creates an overal picture of what is trying to be portrayed in the piece. The piece follows the soldiers footsteps down the centre of the trench, with the gun fire being spaced out to indicate the power of the weaponary being used through the piece. as you reach the middle that is where the most guns are where as at the beginning and end of the walk, there is only a single gun on either side. This is a good representation on how this piece works, and with different interpretations, each composition following this graphical score will be completely different.


(Houghton, 2018)

Along with this graphical score there are a set of rules to creating this composition. those rules are as follows:

  • All sounds used have to occur in the rain.
  • All sounds used have to consist of anything found in a domestic garden.
  • Sounds can be modified to sound like they belong in the design above.
  • The backing track to accompany should be minimal and follow the central path.

By following these rules and leaving the interpretation of the picture to the reader, every composition will be different however should end in the same theme.

By following my design and intended format, my final piece follows the idea of the soldiers marching in the middle of the war. It uses the sounds of gun fire on both sides with mortar fire, rifle fire and submachine guns created out of banging on a garden shed and 4 soldiers marching together created out of marching on the mossy patch of pavement in the garden. The backing track is using just one guitar with a little reverb on to create a ominous yet slightly uplifting backing to the main sound effect design.

Here is the sound from my final Project:

(Houghton, 2018)

When looking at the graphical score and listening at them together yu can follow them seeing that I have followed the soldiers joining and marching together, with gunfire which increases in weaponary in the background. The backing track I feel is something that gives an onimous feel however has a slight uplifting feel to it as the soliders know they will be headed home by the end of the march.

Creating this project was a learning curve, I have learnt how using minimal sounds with a clear end goal can work to create a scene. Working to a picture to create an audible scene is something that can be difficult, however when creativity is allowed to express itself within the guidelines, it can work well. One thing I have learnt from this project is that even when working with the most minimal of sounds, an impact can be caused when a score and the final piece are put together as a visual and audio pairing.

I feel that if I was to do this project again, I would possibly allow more sounds to be used rather than having so many restrictions. This is because I feel that if provided with the extra freedom and the same score, the composition could be something completely different and this would be an area that would be interesting to explore. I would also open it up to any war, this would allow more freedom in the weaponary replicated and could allow for more freedom when it comes to the sounds that could be used and atmosphere surrounding the score given.

-Mikalah Houghton


Classical FM. (n.d). Art and music collide in these 20 stunning graphic scores. Available: Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

Houghton, M. (2018) WW2 [Audio File]. Available From Last Accessed 22nd May 2018.

Houghton, M. (2018) WW2 [Image]. Last Accessed 22nd May 2018.

Recorded Piece Update – 17/05/18

I have been working on recording sounds for the recorded compositions, and whilst recording I decided that I would like to keep my approach as minimalistic as possible. To do this I decided to narrow down the objects I could use to recreate the sounds of the Guns and morters that I will be recreating. I decided that the whole track had to be composed using a Guitar for the backing track, My metal shed for any sounds I needed, a metal washing line post and the noise of footsteps. I also decided that I would like to record all the sounds in one specific weather to try to replicate the bad conditions, the weather I chose was rain, and being spring in the UK meant that there were plenty of opportunities to record the sounds I needed. This meant it was going to be more difficult however it wasn’t impossible.

When field recording there are a few aspects that have to be decided and taken into account. One of these is the weather conditions, as it can make it incredibly hard to record in bad weather. This was going to be one thing that would be taken into account as when I needed to do my recordings, I required the wet weather. To help prevent catching the unwanted sounds of the wind interfearing or the rain messing with the microphones, I used a thick sock on the microphone to try to imitate the windscreens that you can buy to prevent the unwanted sounds.

“In field recording, wind is often the most challenging opponent to good recording. There are numerous ways to block or reduce wind, however, if you’re willing to spend some money or get creative. On the high end, companies such as Rycote offer high quality windscreens for specific microphone types, which results in a dramatic reduction of wind noise in your recordings. On the low-end, a trip to the fabric store and some DIY know-how can result in a perfectly useful windscreen using a wireframe and some fur-like fabric.” (Latta, 2009)

There are a few good websites that give some good tips when it comes to field recording and one that I found helped the most was a Beginners Guide on Field recording. This discussed a variety of tips looking at the equipment used,  it discusses some pre recording tips and  what to expect on a field recording day.

Another decision I had to make was what it was I was going to try to portray to the listener. This was were I decided I would try to replicate one soldier joining other soldiers and marching through the battlefront out to the other side where it is safer. The reason I decided to do this is that it is my aim to create a scene where a soldier is proudly marching through the battle to come out and head back home to where their family will be waiting for them. It allows the listener to experience the beginning and the exit of what a war could sound like with guns in the distance and the march in gets closer and the slowing guns in the distance where the soldier is walking out of the battle victorious. this allows me to experiment with methods of editing sound effects while also working on creating a piece only using the theme of war and the minimalist approach I am taking.

When Putting it all together in the cubase project I have to make sure that the sounds had variation and were all put together to follow the vision I was going for. This was more difficult than I had expected as most of the sounds I had gathered all sounded similar. This ended up in me choosing all the ones that did not sound the same and using these to recreate different weapon sounds. This was quite effetive as I was able to create two machine guns and two different rifles with one of the recordings thad the most variation. From two other recording I was able to put them together to create the sound of a morter being reloaded and fired. This is quite an effective sound as it was a popluar type of fire power in many different wars so I thought this could be a good incorperation into the track.  For the marching sound effect I enlisted the help of my niece who was more than happy to help. I found a mossy section of pavement towards the end of my garden that happened to produce a very wet marching sound, this gave me the idea of having me and her marching in the spot to produce the sound I was looking for. This idea gave me a piece of the atmosphere that I was looking for, and it allowed me to use this recording to get across the muddy, wet conditions that the soldiers had to walk through in the trenches. The final piece for this project is to put all the pieces into the final project.

-Mikalah Houghton



Latta, W. (2009). A Beginner’s Guide to Field Recording, Pt 1. Available:–audio-1785. Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

Live Piece Update – 04/05/2018

My tasks to work upon were to research into the frequency of my pipes and their relative pitch, and to see if there is a way for the instrument to be played without human contact.

I looking into different methods that could be used for playing the instrument that would require human contact, however all of the methods I could think of would compromise of the sound created from the pipes. for example if I was to use marbles to drop on the balloon, it wouldnt create the same sound that could be created by the human touch.
Another method I looked into was using a dippy bird which is a novelty toy. the problem with this is that the dippy bird required to be wet to function, and to do this the balloon would ahve to have a pool of water on top of the skin, this would comprimise the sound of the instrument and wouldn’t work. (How Stuff Works, 2001)

After looking into the ideas I had thought of I decided that I would like to use the human touch however prepare rules for playing so that the instrument got played in a manner that is already specified.

I then wanted to tackle was founding out the frequencies of my pre cut pipes. The way I could find out was by following a pre-determined equation. I followed this equation and got the frequencies that all the pipes already emitted. To find the frequency of a closed end pipe, it is the speed of sound / 4 x the length of the pipe. (Study Physics, n.d)


After I found out the frequency of my pipes I already have, I then had to work out what length I required to make the pipes fit into a pitch. I want to make my pipes into a tuned set of pipes that covers a single octave of all 7 notes between Note C and Note B. I would like to aim for the 4th octave, as I already have a rough idea as to what the frequencies are to the note pitches. The following Document shows all of my workings as to the lengths I needed for a one open ended pipe. This allowed me to look at my already existing pipes and change the lengths of them so that they were pitched.

To work out the length it required a re-arrangement of the original equation. As I already knew what the frequency I desired was,  it was able to re-work the question. The final equation that worked ended up being:  speed of sound / frequency desired, the result remaining is then divided by 4 to reveal the length you require in meters.


I also had to look into the stand that the pipes will be held in. I decided I wanted to take a minimalistic approach by only using elastic bands and more of the plastic tubings to create a stand and secure the pipes to the stand. I created a basic design that would allow me to follow and that would be simple to create.


By following this design and all of the equations stated my final project should be a pitched set of pipes that are played like a drum set with less power, that are encased within a stand made out of minimalistic materials.

-Mikalah Houghton



How Stuff Works (2001) “How does a Dippy Bird work?”. Available: Last Accessed:  23 May 2018

Study Physics. (n.d). Lesson 51: Closed & Open Ended Pipes. Available: Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

Live Piece Update – 25th April 2018

After experimenting with some pre cut pipes, I have found a great way of turning smaller plastic tubing into a percussion instrument without the requirement of banging or the use of paddles. By following the basic design for a drum I realised if I want to turn the plastic tubing into a percussion instrument then there will require some kind of contact with another surface. For example with a regular drum it is required to be hit by a drum stick or the pedal beater to activate the sound. This is something I wish to try to minimise.

I have created the instrument by picking a piece of pipe and stretching a balloon over it. The balloon creates a drum skin however over all of the different pipes I noticed there were pitch differences. The length of the pipes will change the pitches of the instrument. this is something I wish to work out. What pitches are the pipes? and how can I make them a certain pitch?

To get the drum to play, you don’t have to powerfully play them. The best way to play is by using the flats of the finger tips and tapping the balloon on top. This is powerful enough for the sound produced to be audible and does not require a large amount of power and energy to play the instrument.

My next questions is how can I get the instrument to play without human contact? and is their a way? If there is a way does it need human power?

My next task is to look into the different pitches of my pipes, and if possible make a scale of the pipes so that 7 pipes cover an octave. Another task is to look into playing the constructed instrument and how to amplify the sound of the pipes.

-Mikalah Houghton


Live Piece Ideas

For my live piece, I decided I want to explore the sounds that can be created by using Plastic pipes and any means nessisary to gain a sound out of them. Exploring one sound source requires me to be creative in ways to achieve a sound. I went out and I have purchased some Balloons, Some small plastic cars with wheels, I have some rice and I have some elastic bands. Using these sounds I am going to experiment to see in there are any sounds created by the pipes in which I can turn into a Composition.

I have seen on youtube many videos of people exploiting PVC Piping as part of their instumentation during live performances. one of these is the Blue Man Group who regularly use PVC piping as a kind of percussion isntrument.

(Simply Awesome, 2015)

What I would like to explore is if there are any ways of making smaller pipes into a percussion instrument and if so then how is it possible? Are there any ways of being able to play them as an instrument that doesn’t require a heavy hit to the floor or to use a paddle to play them? Is it possible to make a finger played percussion instrument out of pipes? Due to the way they play the PVC Pipes, are there any ways that don’t require the power and energy of the human body to be part of the performance and it be focused soley on the sound produced?

There are many questions I have that through experimentation I wish to find out if there are anyways to complete these questions. Also through the experimentation, I would like to be able to see if there are any other ways I could use the pipes to create a musical composition.

-Mikalah Houghton



Simply Awesome (2015, November 2). Blue Man Group | Live in Concert | Best Performance [Video File]. Retrieved From

Recorded piece update – 05/04/18

Working on the recorded piece has lead me to look into other areas of historical exploration. I have decided that instead of looking into an historical overview of the 20th century, I will look into one of the major events that had a major affect on all countries involved and that lead on to plenty of technological advances . I have chosen to look into and research around WW2 to create a piece that replicates and explores the emotion, the advances in technology and the atmosphere around the war time. This includes the advances in radio technology, the advances of war technology, the atmosphere and regular sounds that would be associated to the war.

One section of old footage that had an influence on what I wanted to do was a documentary based around the events during early 1940. This footage shows what was occuring in the streets of belguim, the effects of what was happening back at home as well as showing the start of Blitzkrieg. This was an influence as it showed mainly what was happening while the troups were fighting in belgium, showing the use of tanks, morter fire and lots of gun fighting. (British Pathe, n.d)

My influences I wish to follow would be the theme of the war, and also the creative way that the band ‘public service broadcasting’ expolre the historical events.
Following the theme of war, I will be using sounds to replicate gun shots, tanks, and airplanes to create the harsh side of the war, I will also use sounds to replicate what was happening back in the homeland. This will include the sounds of gardening, the sounds of the evacuation, and the sound of an air raid.
Using the influence of public service broadcasting I will be intergrating the sounds into a composed piece of music. The music will be the component of the composition that will explore the emotions felt through the war both in the battle and in the home land.

The piece of work that I have taken most inspiration for the piece of work is “Everest”. The track is based around the exploration of mount everest, and it tracks the explorers journey up the mountain. This is something I would like to achieve with my project, the ability to follow a jouney through history.

(PSBHQ, 2012)

“PSB’s uniquely spell-binding live AV transmissions see them weave samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material around live drums, guitar, banjo and electronics as they teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future – beaming our past back at us through vintage tv sets and state of the art modern video projection devices.” (Public Service Broadcasting, 2018)

In an interview discussing their new single and the opportunity to play at the wickerman festival, PSB were discussing the creation of one of their war based pieces. They had created a piece that revolved around the spitfire airplane, and in an interview it was said that they got stuck after listening to it too much.

““I had listened to Spitfire so much that I kind of hit a bit of a wall with it. I had worked so much on the chorus, the verse, the underlying guitar, but no melody was coming to me and it was doing my head in.

“Then one day that guitar riff came to me and it kind of all came together from there. You get so close to songs sometimes that you lose all perscpective of things and you know, I would listen to it and think – that song is alright. And then other times I would think it sounded a bit boring. The Mrs said it was good, she said it sounded like a hit! She is quite honest with me, she quite liked it so that helps.”” (Walker, 2013)

For my porject, I have decided that instead of using clips and pre made sound based around the war, my track will soley be based around the sound design elements and not so much of the compositional element. The track will also differ in the the way aproached, PSB look into revolutionary moments in history and explore those musically, where as my track will be based around expolring the moments in history and recreating those moments through sound.

-Mikalah Houghton



British Pathe. (n.d). Time To Remember – Run Rabbit Run 1940. Available: Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

Public Service Broadcasting. (2018). Biography. Available: Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

PSBHQ (2012, September 2) PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING – Everest [Video File]. Retrived From

Walker, N. (2013). PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING CHAT ABOUT THEIR SAMPLING METHODS. Available: Last accessed 22nd May 2018.

Recorded Piece First Ideas – 8/3/18

After a conversation with my lecturer I have developed a strong theme I wish to follow. I wanted to look into work around the futuristic manifesto, and specifically into the sounds that the manifesto states as to how the music of the world is changing. Looking at the base research and where I feel the project could go, I had the idea of taking a timeline of the evolution of technology and using the sounds that would have occured along the timeline to create a recorded piece that expresses the change in times.

This will allow me to explore into many areas of research, this will require me to look into the technology development, the different sounds that would occur during the timeline and also explore the different environments of the world through sounds.

I will start my research by looking into podcasts and shows based around the noise of the world. There are many BBC documentaries based around the world of sounds, this will allow me to get an insight of what sounds are in the world and how they have an effect on modern society. As a start of the research, I will be listening to and watching:

Alongside listening and watching these I will be conducting a lot of research into the technological developments, the historical events that could inspire a part of the composition and also look into research that is happening for the development of technology at the moment.

My Action plan for the 22/3/18

  • Listen to the documentaries and podcasts stated above, and look for more documentaries that could help out with any other research
  • Research into the technological developments throughout history
  • Look at historical events and compile a list of events that could be used through each decade
  • Look into the technological experimentation and look at the environmental factors of what is occuring at the moment

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