Towards the open outcome record
A portfolio of works exploring strategies of freeing the record from fixity
PhD thesis

Towards the open outcome record

The advent of sound recording in the late nineteenth-century has altered fundamentally how music is made, distributed and experienced. The technology around the record has advanced considerably since then, be it through improvements in sound quality, spatial presentation or listener convenience.

The form of the sound-structure contained on the record, however, has seen very little change; it remains a fixed sound-structure encapsulated within a containing physical or virtual format.

Presented here is a body of works that looks toward a next-generation record medium, one which embraces new currents of mobile digital technology and encompasses a change in how sonic content is presented to the listener: instead of containing a single predetermined and fixed sound-structure, this medium would have the capacity to vary the sound-structures it outputs, thereby offering new listening experiences on each playback.

If developed correctly, this medium, which I call the open outcome record, might put into place the conditions necessary for a revolution in the creation and experiencing of recorded music.


dieTunes icon

dieTunes is an audio player which applies a corruption process to any played file automatically. By bringing playback-based decay to digital audio media, dieTunes allows that audio to attain a life, at the cost of an inevitable death.

In much the same way that a record player needle destroys the LP disc it plays, dieTunes applies its corruption process to the actual sample data of the playing file, leading to an irreparable degradation of that audio. Indeed, the parallel to the LP doesn't end there, as the sonic artefacts of the process sound quite like LP crackle.

dieTunes was created originally as a Mac application, in 2009. Below is an example of the dieTunes effect.

Futures EP icon

Embodying a next-generation record medium known as the open outcome record, Futures EP is a two-track music release created by Adam Jansch, designed to present a different sonic outcome every time it is played.

The philosophy behind the open outcome record comes from the perspective that recorded music shouldn't be shackled by the fixity of the record medium. Instead, the record artist should have the power to instil a degree of variety between renditions, through processes that operate within the record during playback.

The two tracks of Futures EP are constructed from audio file segments which are shuffled upon playback, a system which allows many trillion of variations for each of the EP's two tracks, Tapes and Futures.

Futures EP is available for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (iOS 8+) through Apple's iOS App Store.

Human jukebox x n icon

Human jukebox x n sees the performers of a pop band put under the direct control of an audience, by way of custom-designed jukebox software that plays songs from commercial records to each performer independently, over headphones.

The performers are isolated from one another through their personal headphone mixes, and are instructed to make the music that they hear 'their own' through their performance.

The video above shows highlights of the premiere performance of Human jukebox x n, held at in tones: brass/jukebox/television/glitch, hosted at the University of Huddersfield on April 3 2011.

I am... icon

I am... is a simple open form audio work designed to inform the listener of its own age, as derived from when the piece was born (12.33pm on Saturday February 28th 2009).

Upon playback, looped audio sections are formed for each age denomination, using the value of the denomination to decide which audio files to loop and for how long.

Created with Max/MSP, I am... was a small step towards the open outcome record.

nullTV analog icon

nullTV analog is an art installation in which three live broadcast television signals are multiplexed in the analogue domain to form a hybrid stream containing elements of all three in an ever-changing flux.

The conceptual weight of nullTV analog considers Marshall McLuhan's saying "the medium is the message". By opening the broadcast aperture up just a small amount, the content is received in a jumble and no longer makes sense.

Viewer attention thus falls on the medium (the television in this case), which, according to McLuhan, is where the real significance of such methods of communication lies.

One man band x n icon

In One man band x n a group of performers don MP3 players and, through headphones, play along to tracks picked at random from favourite song playlists whilst their instrumental outputs pass freely out into the venue. There is no restriction on song style and instrumentation and the maximum duration for any single playing of One man band x n is five minutes.

Through the piece many themes of the MP3 player come to the fore: societal disconnection, local environmental control and the ability to shuffle one's musical experience are just three.

Head to the documents section for the instructions for One man band x n.

Synth Radio icon

"Synth and Radio were introduced to each other through my friend Max. Though they argue a bit I know that deep down they're in love."

In Synth Radio, multiple recordings of dirty buzzing synthesizers are sequenced with live broadcast talk radio across an eight-channel speaker system. Structured in block sections with hard cut editing, it could be seen as an argument between the two sets of materials, one confident in its fixity, the other resplendent in the knowledge that it is the here (hear?) and now.

The premiere of Synth Radio took place at Fylkingen, Stockholm in November 2009.

The Chaos Engine icon

The Chaos Engine is a work with a unique form – a hardware-based open outcome pop song which integrates live broadcast radio.

Built as a proof of concept, The Chaos Engine merges a fixed pop song element with a serial-linked FM radio receiver, united by a sequencer which has control over source volume levels and radio tuning parameters. Controls for play/stop and output volume are provided for the listener.

The tune from this version of The Chaos Engine was reworked by Jansch in 2014 to be released as a fixed media single of the same name under his studio project Dorian Zoyd.

Travelling icon

Travelling is a live electronic video piece which integrates the fixed audio/visual content from a self-made film with a stream of live broadcast radio, which serves as a diegetic sound source.

The use of live radio in Travelling was an attempt to override the fixity of the visual media. Its deployment is weaved into the narrative of the piece by means of particular gestures in the video which serve as synchronisation points to alter parameters of the radio stream, such as tuning and volume. This parameter alteration is handled by a MIDI-controlled radio built specially for the piece.

As a piece, Travelling straddles the past and the present, with the video setting up the piece's fixed credentials whilst its reliance on a live and essentially unknowable stream establishes an existence in ever-occurring now, making every viewing unique. Monty Adkins stars as driver.


'Headphone hits and corrupting bits' was written originally for the Sound, Sight, Space and Play Conference, held at De Montfort University in 2011.

The paper covers my record 'reanimation' works: One man band x n, Human jukebox x n and dieTunes; also, it became the basis for chapter 2 of my thesis commentary.

These are the instructions for my performative MP3 player/headphone piece One man band x n.

Presented at the Sonic Artists in Wales (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff) and Sight, Sound, Space and Play (De Montfort University, Leicester) conferences in 2010, 'The voice and the vehicle' looks at my three radio pieces.

These pieces—Synth Radio, The Chaos Engine and Travelling—and the topic of using live radio as a material would become the focus of chapter 3 of my thesis commentary.