Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Introducting Plork.

Should I change careers?

I don't know, I feel like Della Fitzgerald (that's my laptop) would be intimidated by the Powerbooks. Signal processing is not her thing. She's better equipped for simple things, like searching for screencaps of Janel Maloney in her underwear from last week's West Wing (don't bother, I already looked).

Some information & relevant questions, from the site:

The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) is a newly established ensemble of computer-based musical meta-instruments. Each instrument consists of a laptop, a multi-channel hemispherical speaker, and a variety of control devices (keyboards, graphics tablets, sensors, etc...). The students who make up the ensemble act as performers, researchers, composers, and software developers. The challenges are many: what kinds of sounds can we create? how can we physically control these sounds? how do we compose with these sounds? There are also social questions with musical and technical ramifications: how do we organize a dozen players in this context? with a conductor? via a wireless network?
It's too early (obviously) to tell whether this will turn out to be a novelty or the start of a widespread phenomenon. Computers have been a critical component of new music for decades now, and of live performance for nearly as long. Their capacity for use in an interactive context is based on the quality of the hardware design and the software programming. Plork is currently composed of people who participate in all aspects of the process, from research to design to composition. The success of this model beyond Princeton will rely on the quality of the ideas at all these levels. Will non-CS majors be able to learn & perform this music? If so, will the software for instrument design be flexible and friendly enough for them to design and play their own instruments? Will composers without a background in computer music be able to do the same?

This isn't to suggest that making the Plork idea available beyond the Princeton CS department is a necessary or even a good idea. But the unbounded nature of computer technology (not to mention wireless networking) prompts these kinds of questions. Friendliness and flexibility are two of the main advantages "meta-instruments" ought to have over the conventional variety, and the same should go for sound design and composition. To my mind, the prospect of those open, unexplored vistas (and not the novelty of 15 people sitting on pillows with Powerbooks) is the most exciting thing about Plork.

PS: I found while browsing around that, in Dutch, the word "PLORK" can also be used to describe a girl with a "Prachtige Lichaam, Onwijs Rot Kop" (sp?), which translates into English as "wonderful body, unbelievably ugly face."

In my freshman dorm room, I regret to inform you, the preferred term was "butter face." As in, "She has a nice body, but her face..." I don't think I need to explain that I never used this term. It's just one of the many gifts I received from Eric Eskenazi.

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