With our preview concert behind us, we are preparing for our formal “debut” on April 14th. Part of our concert post-mortem has tried to identify, understand and address the challenges which are inherent in a Laptop Orchestra performance. Some of the critical issues are:
Rehearsals: Just as with an “analog” orchestra, performers in a laptop orchestra need to practice, and they need to practice a good bit. While this may seem intuitively obvious, we have been so focused on creating the software for our performances that we have assumed that players would intuitively know how to perform the pieces. We can definitively state that this is not entirely the case.
Coordination/Configuration: One of the great challenges we discovered was the coordination and configuration of the laptops themselves between each piece. For our current program, we play 8-9 compositions, each of which uses an entirely different technical and software configuration. Sometimes, the pieces require nothing but the laptops and some ChucK code. Some pieces use laptops, Max 5 patches and Wiimotes. Others involve live musicians, microphones, ChucK, and M-Audio Trigger Fingers. And with each configuration, there are subtle (and sometimes forgetful) variations that must be addressed. This can become a very time-consuming process, and is a problem when you are trying to limit the time between pieces.
New Interfaces: At CCT, we have lots of cool technology that has been applied to scientific visualization and tangible interaction. At the LOLs last meeting, we discussed with some of the CCT students and staff how we could build new interaction devices or leverage existing technologies. In the latter case, we have a student who is developing an interface for our TacTile, a 50″ multi-touch LCD tabletop developed by researchers at the Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL) at the University of Illinois – Chicago and built at LSU. It’s always interesting when we have to really focus on interface design, because it forces us to really think about intelligent and intuitive interactions.
I have no doubt that we will not finish any of these recent discussions by our next concert. But we may at least have a few small ideas that will help us figure out a set of best practices.