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24 May 2011 | 18:30 - 22:30 | Workshop | €15 presale, €20 at the door. (online rsvp)

Drive-By Workshop

Netbook Orchestras, Open-Source Instruments

Laptop and Hemispherical speaker setup


The laptop orchestra has been a unique emerging phenomenon in the world of live electronic music over the last few years. Stemming from the early efforts of laptop pioneers who took to the stage in the late 90's and early 2000's claiming the laptop as a new modern real-time digital instrument, the laptop orchestra concept seeks to take things a step further, bringing an ensemble of networked laptop performers into the setting of the classical concert hall. Along with this new stage comes a new approach to musical practice, a new aesthetic, and a still-forming performance tradition.

In this workshop, STEIM is happy to be hosting Virginia Tech's Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork), who will guide you through the aesthetic and performative considerations that arise when using a laptop on-stage, explore composition and choreography for laptop ensembles, and help you to turn any Linux laptop or netbook into a powerful performance instrument using L2Ork's own home-brewed version of the popular open music software PureData and some basic DIY building knowledge.

Topics we will cover include:

  • How to get a laptop orchestra started
  • Exploring a sense of physical presence in laptop-based performance
  • Strategies for playing with acoustic musicians and solo-ists in a laptop orchestra
  • Designing the infrastructure to support a laptop orchestra, building omni-directional speakers from DIY parts, optimizing Linux for real-time music performance
  • Introduction to Linux audio and programming using PD-L2Ork, a custom version of PureData optimized for use in laptop instruments and ensembles

Workshop attendees will be given access to all of L2Ork's resources, including an optimized version of Linux, PD-L2Ork, and all documentation/abstractions designed specifically by and for the orchestra and it's input devices. In the hands-on portion of this workshop we will design basic laptop instruments using PD-L2Ork. We will also discuss composition for laptop orchestras and performance issues which arise when considering the choreography of a laptop performance.

Netbook Orchestras, Open-source Instruments is presented as part of STEIM's Drive-By workshop series. Short and illuminating hands-on workshops which deal with relevant and eccentric uses of technology intended to teach and inspire artists working with sound.


Date: May 24, 2011
Time: 18:30 - 22:30
Cost: €15 presale, €20 at the door
Location: STEIM, Achtergracht 19, Amsterdam
Maximum number of participants: 16
Reserve a spot online through the registration link above no later than one week before the workshop!


Participants must bring their own laptops with a Linux distribution pre-installed. Some knowledge of PureData or a similar visual programming language like MaxMSP is assumed for this workshop.



L2Ork, founded by Dr. Ivica Ico Bukvic in May 2009, is part of the latest interdisciplinary initiative by the Virginia Tech Music Department’s Digital Interactive Sound & Intermedia Studio (DISIS). As an emerging contemporary intermedia ensemble with a uniquely open design, L2Ork thrives upon the quintessential form of collaboration found in the western classical orchestra and its cross-pollination with increasingly accessible human-computer interaction technologies for the purpose of exploring expressive power of gesture, communal interaction, discipline-agnostic environment, and the multidimensionality of arts.


Watch a video about L2Ork on YouTube


L2Ork group photo

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