Gilbert Lister Research


Gilbert Lister Research is a music research micro-laboratory, working on new ideas and products at the intersection of music and coding. And with a particular interest in, and emphasis on, melody.

We love a good tune. And we want to know why. How to make one. And how to encourage more of them.

At the moment, the microlab has three main research threads:


GoldenPond is an evolving library / domain specific language for describing chord progressions and other higher-level concepts of music composition and theory in code. The goal is to help computer based composers and live-coders understand and apply more "advanced" music theory ideas by making them explicit in the language.

Examples from GoldenPond FL Studio Script.

Chords, arpeggiation and bass from GoldenPond. Drums and sometimes extra melodies have been added by human composition in FL Studio

As a simple concrete example, GoldenPond has secondary dominants as an explicit element of the language, allowing composers to invoke them when required, without having to manually calculate the notes that make them up.

GoldenPond is ultimately guided by the question: "could a music programming language be expressive enough that it would be possible to live-code music of the complexity of a Mahler Symphony on the fly?" What abstractions would such a language need? And would such a practice be viable, either technically or artistically?

Gates of Dawn

Gates of Dawn is a set of experiments for describing DSP and synthesis engines in code. It started as a Python library to generate Pure Data patches but is expanding to cover further cases (such as Clojure EDN representations of Axoloti patches).

Gates of Dawn : Python -> Pure Data

Here the main research question is how to overcome the fundamental mismatch between text (linear or tree-shaped languages) and the graph shape of most audio / DSP architecture.

Art Toys

The final major research strand is in interactive tools / instruments for composers and performers. The products of this research are released as libraries and software apps or "Art Toys", including, but not limited to, Gbloink! and derivatives such as Zewp!

The research explores a particular theory or aesthetic of interactive art we sometimes call "synaesmedia", which is focused on proportionality between complexity of mechanism and effect, a sense of "semi-control" or balance between the contributions of the user and the computer. Another way of putting it is "semi-control", where the user manages processes in the instrument that have a "life" or "autonomy" of their own.

These ideas are increasingly conceptualised around the notion of "slow controllers", that is, controls where a gesture by the user at time leads to an effect extended in time beyond the gesture itself.

Beat Store

GL Research has an interest in reaching and influencing the state of popular music. Both by making tools widely available to beatmakers and other practitioners in the field. And by providing beats / musical fragments in the market, for other musicians to work with. We recognise music is now the output of a complex ecosystem, not individual genius composers. And seek to participate within that ecosystem.

We will soon be launching our "beat-store" where musicians can buy melodic loops and components reflecting our musical explorations.

Who We Are

The founder and principal researcher of Gilbert Lister Research is the musician Mentufacturer : a self-styled "industrial kid who grew up to admit a love of melody".

But we welcome collaboration with other musicians and researchers who share our interests and values. One near term goal is to create virtual residencies for collaborators, where we host both research and music in the lab.

For a couple of years Mentufacturer has also run the Synaesmedia YouTube Channel whose ideas and content we are going to start folding into Gilbert Lister Research. At some point the Synaesmedia channel will officially become the GLR channel. And we'll start documenting some of the experiments discussed there, over here.