SLOrk consists of a musical ensemble of laptop computers, hemispherical speaker systems, gametrak controllers, and student performers. (via Stanford)
Big music fan? Thought so. With quickly evolving technologies influencing most facets of our daily lives, it is fun to speculate how much of an effect new gadgetry will have on the creation of music. We’ve recently reviewed a project by start-up Lumigeek in partnership with Autodesk that resulted in a spherical speaker system equipped with an array of addressable LEDs; these LEDs are then capable of outputting visuals that are syncopated to a user's music of choice to create a captivating audio-visual experience. The Stanford Laptop Orchestra is one group that is working on new and exciting ways to transform musical experience - and they’re doing by way of computer-mediated orchestra performances.
Otherwise known as SLOrk, the Stanford Laptop Orchestra comprises of computer performers in addition to a classroom of students developing the novel musical systems. Ge Wang, co-founder of iDevice interactive music app developer Smule, founded SLOrk in 2008 at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). The orchestra has since grown to embody several human performers, over 20 laptops, gametrak controllers, and an arrangement of custom multi-channel speakers.
A typical SLOrk “performer,” or music station if you will, consists of a laptop computer and a six-channel addressable hemispherical speaker. Most of the SLOrk orchestra was built rather resourcefully - using IKEA salad bowls, car speakers, amplifier kits, and even meditation pillows. Gametrak controllers, the 2006 position tracking based game control systems, are used to interact with software running on the laptops; the device works with the computer to map motion to sound for a completely unique form of expressive music generation.
When not performing, SLOrk students focus on an interdisciplinary (Music and Computer Science) approach to improving its musical ensemble utilizing the Princeton-developed ChucK programming language for instrument design, audio synthesis and analysis.
It seems as though forms of music creation are also evolving with technology. Spencer Salazar, member of Stanford’s SLOrk group, explains that the aim is not so much too only focus on the computer coding aspect of the technology, but on enabling unique forms of gestural expression that result in a music experience that is fun for both performers and audience members.
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