Stanford Laptop Orchestra Performs Virtually with Beijing Musicians

This week, Stanford University's Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) gave its first public concerts at the school. Founded this year by Department of Music assistant professor Ge Wang, the orchestra has 20 laptops played by human performers, as well as controllers and custom multi-channel speaker arrays.

Each key on the computer represents a note, but tilting the laptop can change the sound. Each speaker array consists of six channels of sound. The speakers were made by the musicians out of IKEA salad bowls turned upside down.

The concert, which featured musicians from Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, connected with musicians in Beijing via Webcast. According to coverage in the Mercury News, "With the aid of giant video screens, both groups will hear, watch and play along with each other."

As the orchestra's website explains, "The ensemble serves as a one-of-a-kind learning environment that explores music, computer science, composition, and live performance in a naturally interdisciplinary way."

The application used by the performers to play the music was written in ChucK, a Princeton University-developed "strongly-timed, concurrent and on-the-fly audio programming language." Wang was one of the co-creators.

A brief news report on one of the performances is shown here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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