Th Laptop-orchestra and the nature of live performance

Laptoporchestra Berlin
I just got back from MAGISTRALE Kulturnacht‘s Medialounge in which a good friend of mine has some photos on exhibit. There was a series of laptop audio performances by various artists which climaxed with a live performance of the so called Laptoporchester Berlin. Seven guys on laptops nodding their heads.They opened with a couple of pieces that were lead by a guy on a cool seven string electric guitar which had a body that was just snap on bars in the shape of a traditional guitar (see picture). They then ended with a cover of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ which I’d only recently discovered being a big fan of Steve Riech.

Terry RileyIn C

I think they were more successful working with a live musician, sampling and generating harmonic noise. Overall it was quite a harmonic sounds. The Terry Riley piece was less successful as you couldn’t really tell weather it was one laptop or seven.

This started me thinking about the nature of live music performance. Someone was just in front of me filming the seven guys on their laptops. People were getting stroppy if someone was blocking their view. I was thinking that he should have been filming from the other side so he could see the screens and what they are doing, as when the guitar player was on up front we all eagerly watched his playing, as if we needed to see that it was live in order to believe it, not that its much of a spectacle or that most people know how to play guitar and know what hes doing, but when we could see that some aspect of the show was live then what the guys were doing with the sound on the laptops became legitimate. The same way Jamie Lidell seems amazing to see but for me not so exciting to listen too.

Is music about the actual music or the spectacle of the skilled musician?

UPDATE, 26th Nov. 2007:

I found this point where the author defines something called “performance energy” to explain/justify the role of the conductor as part of the input to a musical performance:

Apart from creating the sound energy, there’s the energy required to control it. An organist may be creating none of the acoustic energy, but the physical demands of playing the organ (requiring activity of all four limbs) are certainly as great as those of any other performer. A musical performer is, in some sense, an athlete, and a conductor is perhaps the most athletic of musical performers — there’s no question that a conductor is doing physical work. We might call this performance energy — energy required to control and modulate the sounds.

Like organists or conductors, users of the conductor program are supplying none of the acoustic energy (at least, not in any modern implementations), but they are supplying a certain amount of performance energy. Would it be advantageous for them to supply more? If you’ve done the work, have you performed the piece? If you haven’t done any work, have you not performed the piece? I don’t think there’s a single answer to this …

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