Category: events

Patterns of Movement in Live Languages

I’m giving a paper at the CHArt conference in Birkbeck tomorrow. I’ll edit it a little after the conference for publication, but here’s a draft of the paper, here’s the presentation (which I’m currently editing) and here’s the abstract:

Programmers do their work by writing — a piece of software is a structure made from words. These structures are generally too big to comprehend in their entirety, so programmers instead focus on small detail and overall plans; zooming in to find parts to combine and simplify and zooming out to find places to build. But this is not architecture: these structures are more like machines than static buildings. A programmer’s work is set in motion by a program interpreter, with information flowing in and around processing units before being directed outward in response.

Usually a programmer will write some text, and then step back to start it up, watch it work and decide upon the next edit. Live coding programmers however work on their software while it is running, as if they were modifying a machine without switching it off first. Because software is built from words, this is done by editing it as text, adding new routines or changing the character of an existing one. Such a change takes immediate effect, allowing fast creative feedback.

Where a written novel exists to describe human activity, written software exists to simulate it. Therefore the live coder can take the role of an artist, constructing simulators in order to generate patterns of movement, either as music, video animation or both. This can be done in front of a live audience, so that the process of writing software becomes the process of improvising music or video in performance art.

Programmers are finally taking to the stage. Introspecting and encoding their musical thoughts before an audience. A tradition of live coding has quickly formed where computer screens are projected, making the programmer’s reactions to their work visible. Questions of authorship disappear; the performance is live, the programmer improvising through the medium of written language.

Dorkcamp ’09

Douglas Repetto started dorkbot in nyc in late 2000, as a free forum for “people doing strange things with electricity”, with each meeting consisting of a few informal presentations within the broad remit of electronic/electric/robotic/software art.  After meeting Douglas at a crummy generative art conference, some friends and I decided to start dorkbotlondon.  We had our first event in late 2001 and it was an immediate success, there’s something about the combination of artist geeks, geek artists, free entry and cheap beer that makes things flow.  The Belgians had the same idea, and it has since spread to something like 60 different cities…

We’re about to have our 62nd dorkbotlondon event this Tuesday 23rd June ’09, a really great lineup including Douglas himself.

The reason I’m posting though is dorkcamp (aka burningdork), dorkbotlondon’s annual camp.  It happens late summer, somewhere an hour or so out of London, and features workshops, presentations, performances etc.  It’s an actual camp, although we’ve done it on campsites with kitchen, indoor space, showers etc so isn’t a great hardship…  To get a flavour, here’s video documentation of the first one in 2006:

We’re looking for a venue, and for people who want to join in (this is one of those ‘everyone is a volunteer’ type events).  If you’re interested, head over to the wiki page and/or join the mailing list to find out more.

Saturday night stream

I’m going to do a live a/v stream from my sofa 10pm GMT this Saturday 13th December ’08, livecoding with Perl and hopefully also a little language parsed with Haskell.  You can find info about how to watch, listen to the stream and join the chat over on the toplap site.

I did something similar last weekend, a remote performance to the Piksel festival in Norway, and I enjoyed it so much I had to repeat it.  Hopefully it’ll become a regular thing, yeeking has already offered to do the next one.

I’m doing the streaming with gstreamer, I don’t know if it’s possible to do live screencasts in this way with anything else and it offers a huge amount of control.  I reached the limits of gst-launch so have written a little gstreamer app to use for this weekend.  I’ll be releasing that soon…

Another thing – it’s the xmas dorkboteastlondon tomorrow (thurs) and one of our best line-ups ever.  Unmissable if you’re in around…

Dorkcamp and new demo

Two posts rolled in to one, to annoy the aggregators a bit less (sorry haskellers, more haskell stuff soon).

First, dorkcamp is a lovely event in its third year.  The idea is for around 60 of us to go to a campsite an hour out of London, well equipped with showers, toilets, a big kitchen and hall, and do fun dorky stuff like soldering and knitting.  It happens at the end of August, tickets are running low so grab yours now.  More info on the website and wiki.

Second here’s a new demo, this time with two drum simulations, one high and one low:

Live coding @ Goldsmiths College, this Thursday 5th June

I’m doing a talk with Dave Griffiths about live coding this Thursday, from 6pm til 8pm in the Seminar Rooms at Ben Pimlott Building (Ground Floor, right), Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, SE14 6NW

Here’s the blurb:

Live coders program in conversation with their machine, dynamically adding instructions and functions to running programs. Here there is no distinction between creating and running a piece of software – its execution is controlled through edits to its source code. Live coding has recently become popular in performance, where software is written
before an audience in order to generate music and video for them to enjoy. McLean and Griffiths have played around Europe together with Adrian Ward as the live coding band “slub”. They will talk about the history and practice of live coding, and give some demos of their own live coding environments.

Alex has been triggering distorted kick drum samples with Perl scripts for far too long. He is a PhD student at Goldsmiths Digital Studios.

Dave Griffiths writes programs to make noises, pictures and animations. He makes film effects software and computer games.

Dave & Alex are both members of the Openlab free software artists collective and the TOPLAP organisation for live algorithm promotion. ; ; ; ;


THE THURSDAY CLUB is an open forum discussion group for anyone interested in the theories and practices of cross-disciplinarity, interactivity, technologies and philosophies of the state-of-the-art in today’s (and tomorrow’s) cultural landscape(s).

For more information check or email Maria X at drp01mc [at]

To find Goldsmiths check

Openlab this Sunday 25th Nov

I’ll be talking about my adventures with vocable synthesis  at OpenLab 4 this Sunday.  Openlab are a collective of people doing artistic and musical things with (or as) free software, putting on top notch free events such as this.

Full details here: