The Laptop Orchestra

“You see,” says the sceptic, stroking his beard, “one of the big problems I have with electronic music has to do with its insularity.¬† Not that that’s the only problem I have with it, of course!” He guffaws, compromising the integrity of the buttons on his tweed blazer. “The music – if we are to call it such – is produced by an individual sitting at a computer, feverishly typing and blinking at a screen, without any possibility of interaction with others. And surely, is not the interaction with other musicians one of the most compelling reasons we have to produce music in the first place?”

He’s right, of course. Music is, ultimately, a way of communicating. And certainly, I can see how electronic music, thus construed, might be seen as inherently introspective, possibly ruling it out of being considered as music at all. However, it doesn’t have to be so. Enter the Laptop Orchestra. Electronic musicians all over the world are emerging from their dingy basements and coming together to improvise in jam sessions with fellow enthusiasts. The only difference is that, instead of guitars and keyboards, their instrument is the computer. Electronic music doesn’t have to be insular after all.

Sam Aaron and I are currently working on setting up a laptop orchestra in Cambridge. This would be by no means limited to bespectacled, Star-Trek-merchandise-collecting ubernerds – the idea is that anybody who’s capable of pressing buttons and executing simple commands can join in an impromptu, improvised electronic jam session. More traditional musicians can even bring along their acoustic instruments and play along. We use our computers for almost everything else: why not use them to make music together? Watch this space.

2 comments to The Laptop Orchestra

  • Alison

    I’m starting to get music phobia, and I found your blog incredible and I really am believing in the funk/Scale/ ‚Ķdiptheria emotions that I get when I think about how acoustic has replaced electronic, and alternative voice Bop has been slid over by hip hop. But that’s just the times, I guess. How does noise actually make it before it can become music, I’d love to ask my pre-nerdy friends who forgot their virginity at the disco bar (damn that noise in the jukebox). How does it happen? I’m really pulling for music history here. Whenever noise turns into music, I really believe that music is for everyone.

    • admin

      Yes, Alison, I think there’s a sense in which the advent of new technology, and noise in particular, can really force a re-think of what music even is in the first place. It’s exciting!

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