PLOrk : Listen! Watch!

PLOrk @=> Spring 2011 Concerts

Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall, Princeton University

and 2011.04.29
92Y Tribeca, NYC

The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) presents an evening of music performed by members of the Spring 2011 PLOrk seminar and ensemble:

Thomas Abend | Ben Siegfried | Jeffrey A Snyder | Griffin Telljohann | Victoria Tan | Carl Thunman | Sherry Xu | Zeerak Ahmed | Bodo Buetzler | Alex Gerson | Christina Hummel | Adrienne Joy | Simon Krauss | John Morris | Karis Shneider

Visiting Director: Dan Iglesia
Associate Director: Jeffrey O Snyder

In Line, by Jascha Narveson

In Line by Jascha Narveson, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

In Line plays with different tempos, letting players move a stream of pulses through faster and slower speeds. When players intersect, interesting things happen.

Slip, by Michael Early

Slip by Michael Early, PLOrk 2011 Concerts from PLOrk on Vimeo.

Slip was originally inspired by karaoke, but I’m honestly not quite sure how to describe what it’s turned into. The six laptop performers in PLOrk see themselves and each of their fellow performers on their screen as six differently colored spheres, which they move around by sliding a joystick up, down, left, or right. Their position controls the speed of their notes and sounds, and they quality of the sound they produce. Each performer receives text messages on their screen that give them general instructions – including what pitches to set on their computers and how to behave in relationship to their fellow performers. Sometimes, for example, they are all instructed to ‘flock’ and follow one player’s sphere – red, yellow, etc. – as one single-minded group. At other times, they must be ‘loners’ and avoid all contact with their neighbors.

Whac-A-Note, by Jeff Snyder

Whac-A-Note by Jeff Snyder, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

Whac-A-Note is both a musical composition and a multi-player video game. By playing the game, the performers create the music. In the creation of the piece, I sought to balance game- play design goals with musical intent and compositional considerations.

Each player in the game uses a Manta, a controller I designed. The Manta has 48 hexagonal sensors which represent pitches. In the normal mode of play, if a sensor lights up red, it is a note that the player should hit. Correct hits produce pitches, mistakes produce noise. The players receive a click track over headphones for tempo information, and the score achieved by a correct hit is based on how close to the beat the note was hit. All notes must be played one at a time, creating an arpeggio texture, and the direction the arpeggio should go is indicated by LEDs on the Manta every time a collection of notes is presented. Playing notes in the wrong direction scores no points.

There is also an alternate play mode, which I call the Noise Race, which occurs occasionally in the piece. In this mode, every sensor touch is worth 1 point, and the players race to get as many points as they can. However, a soon as one player reaches a certain score, the race ends, and the game immediately enters the normal mode of play.

There are two Power-Ups in the piece - Melody Notes and the Slider Bonus. If a sensor lights up amber, that means that it's a Melody Note, and the performer can touch it and hold it down for at least 2 seconds to get a bonus. The Slider Bonus is a power up that becomes available once in a while and passes around the ensemble. If the Slider Bonus is available, it is indicated by an LED on the Manta. This means the player has the option of turning up a slider to receive five times the normal score for any correct hits while the Slider Bonus LED remains active. It also effects their sound, modulating it with another oscillator of random frequency, to produce a more discordant timbre.

You can follow the "pole position" of the players by watching the 3D video generated from the game data. You see a representation of each player's Manta, and their position moves to reflect their ranking based on their current score. The value of the slider (used to collect the Slider Bonus) pushes their image toward you in the z-axis.

Musical materials (chords, tonal centers, melodic pitches) are generated on the fly by a server computer, and are dynamically controlled by the actions of the players. Each performance of the piece will be substantially different.

Schismatics, by Alex Ness

Schismatics by Alex Ness, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r"5j5&?OWTY Z0d –The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator

Lathyrus, by Paula Matthusen

Lathyrus by Paula Matthusen, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

Lathyrus is a structured, improvisatory, game-like piece modeled much like the choose-your-adventure books. The ensemble travels down various musical ‘paths' in search of a suitable ending. Multiple endings are possible. Some may be expected, others sudden, and still others may be at times undesirable if not dangerous. The performers self-organize, interrupting the navigation of the score, until agreeing upon a path. Each musical choice is negotiated, a balance between coherence and surprise.

In Space, by Blake Carrington

In Space by Blake Carrington, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

Is Space is a composition made of smoothed-out loops of field recordings that are converted to rhythmic beats. Each performer chooses a source recording, then creates various complex rhythms by manipulating a custom sequencer. The sound's timbre can also be modified by expanding or shrinking the brief window through which the source recording is heard.

The piece is structured in seven phases, each with particular parameters. Within each phase the performer has control over the note-to-note details. The first few phases allow a small number of active beats in each performer's sequencer, resulting in a general sense of sparseness and non-rhythm. In phase 4, the performers must then try to match one other person's sequence. This initially results in a bit of a circular chase, since Performer 01 might be trying to match Performer 05's sequence, but Performer 05 might be trying to match Performer 02, and so on. Eventually an equilibrium is reached. Phase 5 instructs the performers to increase the number of active beats in their sequencer, disregarding the sequences of their colleagues. This results in the fullest and most polyrhythmic passage in the composition. From here, in Phase 6, everyone comes back together, shifting toward a single shared sequence.

Conceptually, the piece is grounded in a quote from philosopher Henri Lefebvre: "people don't act in space, peoples' actions define space".

24 Axes, by Daniel Iglesia

24 Axes by Daniel Iglesia, PLOrk Concerts 2011 from PLOrk on Vimeo.

24 Axes builds upon the composer’s solo performance work for a single 3D oscilloscope. In that, the performer controlled three audio signals; one which plotted on the X axis, one on the Y axis, and one on the Z axis. Via the relative frequencies and shapes of the three signals, various forms take shape. These shapes are the literal representations of the sound, nothing more.

Now, each of the eight performers controls his/her own 3D oscilloscope. They follow a score that is being broadcast in real time to each laptop screen, with symbolic performance data traveling towards the performer in 3D space.

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