In a competitive show of virtuosity, artists at an event in San Francisco over the summer battled to show that live electronic and laptop performance can be physical. It’s dance music that makes the artist sweat, and not just the audience.

Hosted by the new blog with San Francisco’s LoveTech and Slayer’s Club communities, the West Coast Championship Controller battle saw some fierce competition from some top names in live laptop music. The events itself was back on June 25, but this week, full video documentation has become available, so those of us who couldn’t be there can get a glimpse of what took place.

Event host Matt Moldover, himself a champion for the notion of “controllerism” in performance, shares with CDM his three favorite videos from the event, which we pass along here. That includes monome legend Daedelus (and the instrument’s creator, Brian Crabtree) with the hall of fame induction, Tim Thompson working with Kinect to amaze with the Space Palette, and Edison versus Rich DDT in the final. If that’s not enough for you, though, you can make your eyeballs fall out with the full set:
YouTube Playlist with all the vids

The winners, great artists, all:
Edison, champion
Rich DDT, 2nd place
Artful Codger (aka Tim Thompson), tied for 3rd with Sabotage (though Tim, a regular in these parts, deserves extra credit for a top-scoring final round and some serious audience love)

Other highlights: Ean Golden of djtechtools, another controllerism cheerleader, was on hand to perform and host, as was Future Mouse-Pet (Mochipet + Future Freddie + Joey Mousepad).

The event looks amazing, and there’s plenty of inspiration in the performances. I’m curious what readers think of “controllerism” as a moniker, and of doing battle-style events like this. (Both seem, to me, to advance the state of the art and help push performances, even if not all artists may work in a virtuosic way. But I’d love to hear what you think.)

And, as always, we’re keen to hear more about how you and artists you love play.

Congrats to Matt, Ean, Rich, and everybody who put together this event – and to the well-deserving winners!

Updated – here’s a “playshop” presentation starring Laura Escudé – “new music in the first part and the Wii + Kinect motion stuff happening in the later part.”

  • Evan Bogunia

    I think that events like this are a fantastic way to hear/see what others are doing in the realm of electronic performance. As one of the competitors in this event, i didn't feel a lot of pressure to 'win' necessarily, but I did feel pressure to PERFORM, which often gets lost behind a laptop screen.  The event was a fantastic experience, and am looking forward to similar ones in the future as a way of brining this controllerist community together in an environment where we can learn from each other and enjoy the wonderful music that is being created. 

  • Marsha Vdovin

    This is super cool!

  • ALTZ

    I am not a big fan of 'Visual Music'. I like focusing on the actual music what I listen only. It is the abstractness of sound and noise that attracts me into music. I respect everything from turntablism to controllerism. However, to me, it is the actual music that really matters. Cheers.=]

  • Evan Bogunia


    Of course it's the music that really matters, but what of performance?. Without some sort of musicality, or vocabulary with one's instrument, there ceases to be any identifier of skill (don't take this as me saying that composition in and of itself isn't a skill).  There is a difference between presentation and performance, and I think it is important not to overlook the connection between performer and audience.

  • Peter Kirn

    According to the organizers, judging was evaluated based on "musicality, virtuosity, innovation, showpersonship and audience reaction."

    So, they tried to balance all these issues.

    I think of course in practice people fall in all sorts of places – sometimes virtuosity is less important; sometimes "innovation" is far, far less important. But this was a competition, and so having to do all of those things can be compelling.

  • Controllerism is a great description.  it says that you are in control of the music and that you are using a device that is purpose built for the job.  

    music is ancient.  and now we have the tools to create not only raw sound but personalized instruments to play and manipulate that sound.  we are witnessing  the upswing of an exponential curve that started many years ago.

     Moldovers Warper parties we're dope and now this.  and in a few years,he'll be doing something else that pushes the art forward.  long live controllerism!

  • Smash Hat

    Seeing stuff like that Artful Codger vid make's me happy to be alive. That was wicked. 

  • Blob

    Artful Codger's performance = cool !!! 😀

  • I've played Artful Codger's controller (he had it up at SubZero in San Jose), and it is way cool. That having been said, I can't stand the name 'controllerism'. However, I'm hard pressed to come up with anything better, so we're probably stuck with it.

  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, I've been thinking about that term a lot lately. In the context of dj techtools, and this blog called controllerism, I think it makes sense. The reason I shy away from the term on CDM is that "live performance" for us really covers it, in the context of what we talk about. And that might include discussion of controllers, but it very rarely *doesn't* involve controllers, meaning that it's tough for us to say controllerism is different from something else.

  • ALTZ

    I think "controllerism" the term came from "turntablism", meaning the misuse and abuse of normal controllers.

  • Peter Kirn

    @ALTZ: No, that's precisely correct, and that's the context in which the term is really quite clever.

  • If we see as controllerism the art of producing and interacting with electronic music in a performative and real-time way, through a controller then controllerism has been around for a long time, it just never had a real name. So I think it's great it now has one, because things that have no name, don't really exist since we can't really talk about them.
    And controllerism really deserved to get a name, since it's the one thing that has been and still is bringing innovation to the pretty dull landscape of laptop based performances. So yeah! I want to be a controllerist too! Or should it be just controller? The next step is to find a name for people doing controllerism I guess…

  • the only downside of the term is that it is very tech-bound. But who cares? The term "electronic music" itself is also really technology-bound, since it defines a certain area of music referring to the way it's technically made.

  • not a nerd

    this is whack!

  • Evan

    This is so silly…It reminds me of the warhammer community or world of warcraft shit, a bunch of people who paint litlle figures and exchange magic cards…just so they can be a community
    Obviously a lot of these people don't have any musical talent or skills, but try to make up for that by pressing buttons and moving sliders…waw! He pushed the buttons so good! he's a champion button pusher!
    The music is totally unimportant to these guys, just some plugins generating loops or presets, but triggered in the most unthinkable ways! yikes! If I shit in the toilet ableton triggers a max patch of 2000 presets that go of at the same time!
    It's the kind of music you hear when you are installing a crack vst plugin….
    Sorry if I upset the "community" but would'nt it be nice if you guys could rock out some real tunes or original music? instead of waving your hands like some david copperfield?

  • @Evan: are talking out of personal and direct experience or is this just plain hate for things you don't understand?
    please post a video of you "pressing buttons and sliders" in a total awesome way and we might take your opinion into account.

  • dan

    Loved all these performances, but come on: how does Artful Codger not wind up on top?!!! I love the over-the-top showmanship of someone like Rich DDT, but you also have to give props to the understadedly smug stage persona of Artful Codger! What a performance!

  • @evan
    i strictly only use presets and magic M4L dust to make my music….
    but seriously, don't say the music isn't important… what the fuck do you know about any of these people personally?
    you sound like an angry 9th grader….

    man, i seriously thought artful codger had this whole thing in the bag…
    when dude dropped the tennis ball…
    pfff…. the whole show should have been over…

  • Ben

    yeah it's pretty clear artful codger should have won. edison was pretty good and deserved to place but holy shit Rich DDT was absolutely awful

  • problem is…
    artful codger did the same exact thing 3 times inna row…
    the first time was incredible…
    lost the luster after that though…
    either way… this was an awesome evening…
    it brought the bay area electronic music folks together… contollerists and not…
    if that bugs you … then… you're doing it wrong…

  • I do not use a computer or any plugins for my music and that all samples and 80% of patches (100% of synth patches) and all my arrangements are self made.  
    You won't find my sounds in logic or ableton because they don't exist in that capacity, since I recorded or programmed them. 
    I also know that edison makes all his own samples as well. 
    This was a controllerism dj battle but I believe it showcased our abiliities as performers and as a producers because without something really creative and well put together there was no chance. 
    All the competitors were extremely talented and it was a very hard job for the judges. I was very impressed by a midi wind controllerist early in the night. I totally did not expect to make it as far as I did. 🙂 
    Anyway thanks for everything to Rich, Moldover, and the LoveTech crew!

  • Also please contact me at twitter @sabotagebeats or email