University of Sussex

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Generative music and laptop performance

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 14:04 authored by Nick Collins
Live computer music is the perfect medium for generative music systems, for non-linear compositional constructions and for interactive manipulation of sound processing. Unfortunately, much of the complexity of these real-time systems is lost on a potential audience, excepting those few connoisseurs who sneak round the back to check the laptop screen. An artist using powerful software like SuperCollider or PD cannot be readily distinguished from someone checking their e-mail whilst DJ-ing with iTunes. Without a culture of understanding of both the laptop performer and current generation graphical and text-programming languages for audio, audiences tend to respond most to often gimmicky controllers, or to the tools they have had more exposure to - the (yawn) superstar DJs and their decks. This article attempts to convey the exciting things that are being explored with algorithmic composition and interactive synthesis techniques in live performance. The reasons for building generative music systems and the forms of control attainable over algorithmic processes are investigated. Direct manual control is set against the use of autonomous software agents. In line with this, four techniques for software control during live performance are introduced, namely presets, previewing, autopilot, and the powerful method of live coding. Finally, audio-visual collaboration is discussed.


Publication status

  • Published


Contemporary Music Review





Page range


Department affiliated with

  • Informatics Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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