I've been meaning to send this essay to the list for a while; It provides
interactive examples of the annotations and visualizations used in Gibber /
gibberwocky to display the current state of patterns and function output.
Currently works in Chrome only... any feedback would be appreciated!
I posted this, with some ensuing discussion, on Facebook and Twitter. Here it is for the "open" Internet...
I am back from the 4th International Conference on Live Coding (ICLC 2019) and, as a first, am going to provide relatively ample, free-ranging personal reflections on the conference. I was neither organizer nor steering committee member this year, so am feeling rather free to offer more candid observations. In no particular order, here they are!
1. Visualism was more strongly present than ever before, including in papers, workshops, and most noticeably in performances, where so many performances had a generative visual component in them. What I find most exciting in this trend is the idea of new artistic identities that are not predicated on being just a "musician", just a "visualist" etc. Live coding could become a scene in which such multimodal artistic identities (and parallel interpretive traditions) germinate and mature.
2. Computer science was less strongly present than ever before. Hopefully the hosting of next year's conference in a CS-oriented environment will help reverse this tendency, because CS research has undoubtedly contributed in so many fundamental ways to the vigour and energy of the artistic things one sees at ICLC, and could continue to do so. I wonder what else we can do - now, before next year's conference - to keep CS in live coding?
3. The decibel level at the algoraves was extremely high. Eldad Tsabary kindly gave me some extra ear protection which made the events both more enjoyable and sustainable for me. I encouraged a few others to seek out ear protection and, interestingly, all who did so said it improved their experience as well. I found myself wondering how many people in the algorave audience would also have appreciated such a basic measure of (self-)care, but found themselves unsure what to do in that unfamiliar context. I would humbly suggest there are three things algoraves can do to encourage people to take care of themselves in this regard: (a) provide cheapo ear plugs at the door for those that want them, (b) normalize the use of ear plugs by talking about them as a culturally acceptable option, and (c) cultivate awareness of ear care issues in between shows.
4. I have observed over the years some artists in our community habitually use punishing levels of high frequency content in particular. I think we should all do hearing tests and when they indicate particular types of problems, be conscious of what we cannot hear and so cannot protect our audience from by aural means alone. Algorithms could be calibrated to identify and contain dangers. For that matter, differential monitoring (eg. different EQ or multiband compression for artist than audience) could help give an artist the extra boost they personally feel they need while presenting something less extreme to the audience in their hands. For me this is one part of a broader issue I am hoping to develop some thinking and writing about in the coming years: safety, security, and resilience in the computational arts. (That reminds me that I haven't tested my own hearing recently - time to get on that!)
5. The decibel level question dovetails with another set of questions that came up productively at several points during the conference - questions about the spatial logics of live coding performances. Alba G. Corral's keynote called attention to the inevitable visual interpretation of these logics, while provoking some controversy by, at least in my interpretation, giving rather short shrift to highly valued non-representational features of live coding practice: participation, collaboration, DIY, compromise, improvisation, etc. Algoraves, in particular, could be spatially organised in ways more appropriate to their own cultural goals, departing from the DJ tropes that probably help bring people in the door (and which excite music journalists) but which probably don't help keep them inside or coming back - at least this is my willful gloss of some points in the discussion of the paper by Street et al. I had some informal conversations with people about the potential of adopting "acousmatic" practices for the algorave: placing the performers in the middle of the audience, with the main loudspeakers quite far away. Such an orientation might expand out to the creative addition of extra loudspeakers and displays (not as powerful) close to the centre, in the ceiling, behind the audience, etc.
6. Benoit and the Mandelbrots' reunion performance had me thinking about and appreciating how they each use SuperCollider with different styles and idioms, and how one mark of the success and viability of a (musical) programming language is how it can support not only different ends but also different means.
7. I was not quite sure what to make of performances that were very highly scripted in advance. Certainly I am not naively suggesting that everything has to be from scratch (as if that was even possible). Even so, what I crave in live coding performances are those moments of uncertainty, decision, ambiguity, learning, struggle, play. When people seem to walk through decisions they've already made, making relatively minor tweaks, I'm personally less interested. I'd rather just listen to the fixed track of their decisions, which will have no performance uncertainty but will also be optimized as a representation of that fixed set of decisions. It's different if the piece is anchored at other levels of representation - both the Mandelbrots performance mentioned above, and Marije Baalman's performance, for example, involved very explicit intentions to "re-create" something else, and so became more interesting because of the resistances inherent to such mimicry.
8. Watching performances and papers from, and listening to questions posed by, all the people at the conference from the McMaster live coding community had me thinking, over and over again, about what an enormous privilege it is to work with each of these people on a nearly daily basis.
9. Last but not least: The organization of the conference (by La Verbena Electrónica, Lina Bautista, Ivan Paz, Juan A. Romero, Enrike Hurtado, Joaquín Díaz Durán, Maite Camacho, Adrián Cano, Jana Domínguez, and Live Code Mad) was effective and friendly, the venues and technical staff were awesome and a lot of fun, and Madrid is a beautiful city I hope to return to at some point.