Random notes from the Live Code Festival, Karlsruhe

During his talk at the live code festival Karlsruhe 2013, David Ogborn (to paraphrase from my faulty memory) said that livecoding seems a very current thing, that something about it seems to be in the air, so much of what we are doing seems to stick and thrive like a form of bacteria.

Yorgos Diapoulis talking about his minimal interface for live hardware coding.

This festival made it obvious that communities surrounding livecoding are thriving, with representation from Australia, Mexico and Canada as well as European regions and accordingly a wild variety of approaches, techniques and styles that now make up livecoding. The symposium was fundamentally a celebration of this and a chance to experience the diversity directly.

From my scrappy notes and in no particular order, Andrew Brown focused on a describing livecoding technique as an interplay between ‘complexity and succinctness’ in the context of musical research involving data mining large quantities of musical material. Here, as in many issues of creativity in livecoding, the critical decision is where to abstract away details in order to provide a usable and flexible creative environment. His approach is to look for patterns in musical data in order to provide a ground truth, and then make subjective decisions based on practice and performance to build a livecoding interface. Andrew mapped out other useful dichotomies we battle with such as the tension between modelling and simulations of creative understanding vs inspiration, which can come from many places.

A rare appearance of Click Nilson (the British tabloid press was unfair to him.)

Catching up with the rapid development of the phenomenon that is Benoit and the Mandelbrots, their side project “Delbots and the man” is a doomcore livecoding band involving a live drummer – a promising new sonic direction for livecoding. Also on a more technical level their drop function provides a means to allow code to be executed simultaneously in all performers machines, used as a way to accelerate or amplify ‘from scratch’ livecoding techniques in groups.

Propelling livecoding into the chaotic world of web development, Chad McKinney‘s project Lich.js is a new general purpose programming language for browser based livecoding, built on top of javascript. The recent explosion of programming languages based on/built with javascript is due to the fact that it’s interpreter is available everywhere, and this will be (IMHO) increasingly be where livecoding happens in the future.

Section 9 live coded both progressive and recursive house, simultaneously.

In contrast, Andrew Sorenson demonstrated the potential to provide liveness and ‘hot swapping’ of code down to the lowest computing levels with Extempore, which can now run on a large number of architectures and levels of concurrency, and now generates code approaching the efficiency of C compilation in many situations.

More reports on the festival, and associated Algorave events to follow.