We routinely talk about how the interface paradigm of a computer — screen, QWERTY, trackpad – isn’t optimal for music. But how many of you have, in a pinch, done a live laptop set with just your computer, and found some way to make it work? The Stanford University Laptop Orchestra, set to play this year’s Macworld, natch, is making the most of what it has:
“We tilt the notebook and use its built-in accelerometer to expressively control sound. We use the trackpad as a kind of violin bow,” explains Ge Wang, SLOrk’s founder. ”You can make some wild, diverse music with the MacBook.”
And why not? Designing expressive interfaces can pay off in something that’s satisfying, absolutely. But however you decide to play, a lot of it comes down to how you approach an object compositionally and musically. So, there’s two ways to look at this: on one level, it’s a novelty, and while to most of us seeing people playing behind Apple logos is nothing new, I’m sure Apple enjoys seeing a swarm of their machines. But on another, the real point is that the Stanford orchestra is getting the most mileage out of the machine. Trackpad? Check. Accelerometer? Keyboard? (Why stop there – Apple Remote? Webcam?) You’ve got quite a lot on the laptop itself to use.
We’ve looked at laptop orchestras before, but here’s still more:
Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk): Musical Macs [Story for Apple Pro by Dustin Driver]
How to Record Laptop Performances – And Make Them Sound Live (linking to a story on the topic I wrote for Keyboard Magazine)
And for the mother of modern laptop orchestras, recently winning a MacArthur Foundation grant, see PLOrk at Princeton