Worldscape Laptop Orchesta

Our research paper describing the music and technology behind the Worldscape Laptop Orchestra has had the good fortune of being selected for the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) in Belfast this August.

(c)Phil McPhee

photo: (c)Phil McPhee

In creating the Worldscape Laptop Orchestra I wanted to push the available technology as far as possible in enabling group musical expression on a mass scale. Seeing no point in duplicating the work of other well known laptop orchestras (such as Princeton’s notable ‘Plork’), we instead chose to focus our work on concerns specifically relating to musical and technological scalability. New music was written for the ensemble by composers Alex Harker, Jethro Bagust, Angie Atmadjaja and myself, examining the aesthetic dynamic which results from having 50 digital performers in the same room at the same time.

The Worldscape Laptop Orchestra does not constrain people aesthetically, and the works created represent a whole spectrum of digital music from chip-tune to Jazz inspired sonic exploration. We’ll get some video up shortly. The relationship between participants, their music and the technology changes with each piece we perform.

The worldscape laptop orchestra rehearses with Google Earth Video Interface

photo: (c) Phil McPhee

The ensemble has little in common with traditional ‘orchestras’: we are not attempting to emulate the sounds or performance practice of the nineteenth century. Instead, we hope to contribute in a small way to the massive expansion in digital arts exploration being conducted today, searching for new aesthetics and technologies which rely on the intersection of art and science. We developed our own in-house software in C, pure data, and max/msp for machine and performer communication, specifically using new wi-fi ‘N’ technology standards to cope with the high data rates. All performances were entirely wire free!

The Worldscape Laptop Orchestra was supported by Apple Computer Inc, and was part of a three hour immersive media production ‘Worldscape’ presented at the University of York, UK. in Sept 2007. I’d like to thank everyone who took part in this remarkable event for making it possible.