Phonos Frenzy

Have been working slavishly on several pieces for the Barcelona Laptop Orchestra.  Among them, an optical-recognition piece that took Steve Reich’s Six Pianos as its starting point (or — more accurately — it’s ultimate goal, and we’re not quite there yet!), and a piece we call CliX ReduX, inspired by Ge Wang and the Princeton Laptop Orchestra’s original CliX.

We have our Phonos concert coming up next Thursday (January 31, 2013), at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.  Full details of the repertoire we’ll be performing is available on another page (only in Catalan, sorry). You can also read a description of the pieces, by director Josep Comajuncosas (also in Catalan) here.

First up, a sample of CliX ReduX, showing several enhancements, such as the audio and video snippets seen in this video.  In the video, I just run through the alphabet a few times, giving a taste of how it looks and sounds (when in “Vox” mode). The audio and UI components are written in SuperCollider, the video sampler program in Openframeworks.

Next, I show the more “classic” version of CliX ReduX. This one has sound that’s more in keeping with Ge Wang’s original piece, but adds visual display of “flying letters”, and also the possibility of multiple syncopated character streams per player.  The text here is from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, and runs from: “To be, or not to be, that is the question” through to: “Tis a consummation / Devoutly to be wished.” At first there is only one stream, so it’s relatively easy to follow the letters (if you know what to expect!), but after a few lines I put it into “syncopated” mode, where more than one letter can play simultaneously.  It’s like a spelling bee on steroids…

Finally, here’s another example of the CliX ReduX piece (this one featuring another BLO member, Andrés, “speaking” the first part of the famous Hamlet soliloquy — “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.“):

Tintineo refrescante

I recorded myself dropping and shaking ice in a pint glass. Then I used this single sample (of about 7 seconds) to produce all the sounds (percussion, drones, semi-pitched) in this track. Produced entirely in SuperCollider.

Produced for Disquiet Junto project 0053.

Instructions: Please record the sound of an ice cube rattling in a glass, and make something of it.

Background: Longtime participants in, and observers of, the Disquiet Junto series will recognize this single sentence as the very first Disquiet Junto project, the same one that launched the series on the first Thursday of 2012. Revisiting it a year later provides a fitting way to begin the new year. A weekly project series can come to overemphasize novelty, and it’s helpful to revisit old projects as much as it is to engage with new ones. Also, by its very nature, the Disquiet Junto suggests itself as a fast pace: a four-day production window, a weekly habit. It’s beneficial to step back and see things from a longer perspective.

Of Laptops and Orchestras

This fall I joined the Barcelona Laptop Orchestra, a technically-saavy musical ensemble founded by folks from the Sonology Group at ESMUC (l’Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya) and the Music Technology Group at UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra). They also allow a few of us non-affiliated “outsiders” to join, thankfully…

If you’re up for a bit of Catalan practice, you can read this great blog post/interview about us (essentially, trying to answer the question: “what is a laptop orchestra?”).

If you’re up for more Catalan practice (hey, you can never have enough), there was a TV report about our most recent performance (with wine pairings!) on November 10, at the Claustre Sant Francesc in Vilafranca del Penedès. This was for Vinfonies, a sonically-experimental wine festival. It had several major benefits (for us, at least):

  • try out new repertoire in a low-stress setting
  • drink some really good, performance-enhancing, wine (for free)
  • have a chance to perform in an unusual and beautiful setting

Barcelona Laptop Orchestra Vinfonies 2012

You can watch the report from RTV Vilafranca here.

I am busily (and happily) coding away on the framework for some of our next pieces.

I think we all realize that “laptop orchestra” can be a confusing term…what does it mean? Does it have some dubious connotation (e.g. if the music is lively, might it lead to “laptop dancing”?). Thankfully, my friend Roger (who introduced me to the group) — a wonderful illustrator — has given us this clarifying comic: