Brand Niu Video

I finally managed to put together a video of my live coding performance at Niu. Enjoy! (that is, if you have 23 minutes to kill)

2nd annual “Live Coding Sessions” evening at Niu, on March 22, 2013

Coding was done in SuperCollider 3.6, and I set myself the constraint of only using the most basic building blocks of sound: sine waves (as oscillators, LFOs, envelopes, even as arpeggiators driving patterns of scale degrees). I also tried to create everything pretty much from scratch, although I did “cheat” a few times (cheating, perhaps, according to live coding purists). As I’m still wishing for macro functionality in SC’s new IDE (if I had some time I ought to just contribute it myself), I decided to use an external macro program to speed the coding in a few cases (just a marginally sexier version of cut & paste). It’s too bad you have to strain a bit to read the projected text in the video — that’s the most interesting part of live coding: seeing the code that goes along with the sounds you’re hearing! Otherwise, it can be a bit long… (-;

Audio was captured on a Zoom H1 recorder, including room ambience (not to mention me pounding the keyboard). I also taped a contact mic to my laptop, giving an enhanced sense of “liveness” to the coding). The sound is probably best appreciated with headphones (for the lower sine wave frequencies).

(Spot the glitch! From about 4:10 to 5:10, I make a mistake, and have to work my way through it. In trying to pack a lot into 20 minutes, I make an error and it takes me a moment to figure out where I’ve gone wrong… I should have scrolled back to read the errors in the post window right away, but my pride was trying to avoid doing that, to make it seem as if all were under control. Live coding is an interesting mental challenge — It’s easy to code from the comfort of home or office, but your brain works differently (or doesn’t ;-)) under “live” (i.e. people watching you) conditions! It’s not unlike meditation, in that it needs extreme focus and concentration. Turns out I just needed to keep calm and carry on…and add that missing variable name!

Merci beaucoup à Anna Duriez — for bringing her SLR camera and recording the video (and letting me use it)! It was quite flickery (a strobing effect from the shutter speed interfering with the lights and projector), but I managed to even it out by blending frames together — luckily there’s not a lot of action or camera moves in live coding, so I could get away with it.

Teatrillu for the masses

El Teatrillu (a Catalan diminutive of teatre, meaning: “little theatre”) is software for the performing arts. It’s an application I’ve been working on with the other members of the Wù:: collective. Alex and Roger had already created the first version of this software — a mix of interactive theatre, live stop-motion animation, puppeteering and digital sleight of hand — when I came along last summer and asked if I could join the party. Once indoctrinated into their “collective”, I helped organize and tidy the code, added some new features, and started thinking about how to take the ideas from their prototype and develop them more completely in a rewrite. Then, in November 2012, we won a grant from Telenoika, a Barcelona-based “creative audiovisual community”, to continue this work and ultimately release a more refined second version to the public as open source software.

Since the start of this year, we’ve been working with the folks from Insectotròpics, with the idea that they use our software in their upcoming theatre production. We’ve found (not surprisingly) that speaking with real users has helped us to discover the possibilities and limitations of our own program, to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and to add to our never-ending list of “cool ideas” we’d like to implement. (Unfortunately, each of us likes to keep many plates spinning at the same time, so work recently has lagged on Teatrillu.)

In order to get more feedback, and to re-energize us, tomorrow we have an “evening of open experimentation” with our current Teatrillu software, to let the public play with it, give us their thoughts, ask us questions. It’s not a workshop — hopefully that will come in the future — but more of an open (play)house. Thanks to Telenoika for offering us their space in el Raval (c/ Sant Pau, 58) to hold this event, Thursday April 4, from 18h to 21h.

Live coding: I know, I haven’t yet posted any comment on my live coding performance of March 22. It went well; a small but enthusiastic crowd of maybe 25-30 people(?) came out. After weeks of trying all kinds of experiments, fretting and rehearsing, I was glad to get on with it, and ended up quite happy with my performance. The reaction from the crowd and comments afterwards were very favourable (Josep, the Laptop Orchestra’s director, even said that it: “…reminded [him] of the image of Bach improvising a fugue” — then again, he’s known for being extremely generous with his praise!). For me, it was a nice, relatively stress-free introduction to this new kind of performance. Thanks to Gerard and Graham for letting me in on this, their 2nd annual event!

I recorded ambient audio in the room, but it’s not too exciting without also seeing what’s going on on the screen at the same time (and even then…). I’m still hoping to get ahold of some video footage that was shot at the event and that shows the screen and code clearly enough. If I get some, I’ll put something up on Youtube or Vimeo, and link to it here.