The following resource contains a list of laptop ensembles of diverse size and approach, with a focus on ensembles with continuing performances and/or recordings over some more or less long period of time (i.e. not temporary, ad hoc ensembles) and on ensembles with a larger or open number of participants (a.k.a. "laptop orchestras"). A brief description of the approach of each ensemble is given, together with one or more recommended publications for further reading.

Laptop Ensembles (alphabetical by name)

Cybernetic Orchestra

Huddersfield Experimental Laptop Orchestra (HELO):
  • Established 2008 by Scott Hewitt at the University of Huddersfield. HELO (and a second graduate group, HELOpg) rejects hardware and software uniformity, in favour of a "DIY" approach (their words) where each member of the ensemble is expected to bring their own, working, individual instruments to the ensemble. The members of the ensemble are primarily "technically inclined and competent music technologists" registered in an undergraduate music technology program.
  • cf. Hewitt, S., Tremblay, P.-A., Freedman, S. and Booth, G. (2010) "HELO: The Laptop Ensemble As An Incubator for Individual Laptop Performance Practices." In Proceedings of the 2010 ICMC (New York, USA).

Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2ORK)
  • Established 2008 by Ivica Ico Bukvic at the Virgina Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). A 15-member ensemble (like PLOrk) where each member uses an identical Linux-equipped computer and a hemispherical speaker (like PLOrk). The privileged mode of performance is gestural control via a Nintendo Wiimote+Nunchuk, leading to a "performance aesthetics that emphasizes physical presence, gesture, choreography, and even theatre." The exclusive use of free and open-source software (FOSS) is motivated by considerations of growing and developing a laptop orchestra repertoire. The group uses a traditional conductor as little as possible - in favour of "a wide range of possibilities, from a conductor-less ensemble to an environment where every performer also partakes in a role of a conductor."
  • cf. Bukvic, I., Martin, T., Standley, E., and Matthews, M. (2010) "Introducing L2Ork: Linux Laptop Orchestra." In Proceedings of the 2010 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 2010), Sydney, Australia
  • Website: http://l2ork.music.vt.edu

Powerbooks Unplugged (PB_UP)
  • Powerbooks Unplugged perform on built-in laptop speakers only, using a software system (Republic, part of SuperCollider) that allows small pieces of code (codelets) to be executed on any machine in the ensemble (which is interconnected via WiFi). This improvisational performance practice is positioned explicitly as an alternative to "historical remnants of display of power: the stage, amplification and artistic individuality" as well as, somewhat more generally, as an interest in live coding as a form of "public reasoning".
  • cf. Julian Rohrhuber, Alberto de Campo, Renate Wieser, Jan-Kees van Kampen, Echo Ho, and Hannes Hölzl. "Purloined Letters and Distributed Persons." Proceedings of Music in a Global Village conference, Budapest, 2010.
  • Also: Rohrhuber, J. and de Campo, A. (2004) "Waiting and Uncertainty in Computer Music Networks." In Proceedings of the ICMC (Miami, USA). Describes some ideas and experiments that were explored in the symposium that established TOPLAP, as well as two preceding special seminars. There are a large number of SuperCollider code examples intended to explore uncertainty (time vs. frequency vs. where) in electroacoustic performance and audition. The authors present the idea of a continuum of waiting (i.e. of time displacements) spanning "stereophonic merge - delocalisation - movement - conversation" together with code examples.
  • Also: Rohrhuber, J., de Campo, A. and Wieser, R. (2005) "Algorithms Today: Notes on Language Design for Just in Time Programming." In Proceedings of the ICMC (Barcelona, Spain). Discusses a key challenge of live coding: the contradiction between the history of an algorithm as it is modified, and the history of each running process spawned from the algorithm. The SuperCollider Just In Time Programming library is presented as one "solution", together with a concluding caution that "Interactive programming can't fulfill the desire for complete and immediate control of a sound process... This immediacy must constantly escape, thwarted by the temporal structure of the symbolic system." Brief discussion of code sharing in Powerbooks Unplugged, which includes the maintenance of a common pool of code snippets that can be varied and extended from engagement to engagement.

Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk)
  • Established Fall 2005 by Dan Trueman and Perry Cook at Princeton University, and consisting of 15 performers each equipped with a PLOrk Meta-Instrument (Apple laptop, audio interface, 6-channels of audio amplification and a 6-channel hemispherical speaker). The ensemble has a definite engagement with the traditional acoustic orchestra (broadly conceived) - there is a standard seating arrangement for the 15 stations and the group has performed and even commissioned many compositions/pieces. cf. Dan Trueman, Perry R. Cook, Scott Smallwood and Ge Wang. (2006) "PLOrk: Princeton Laptop Orchestra, Year 1." In Proceedings of the 2006 ICMC (New Orleans, USA)
  • The hemispherical speakers used by the Princeton Laptop Orchestra were developed (before the orchestra) out of a desire to make speakers that behaved more like acoustic instruments, above all in terms of their spatial signature – speakers that “localize well”, “engage the reverberant qualities of performance spaces” and “create a soundfield somewhat similar to a conventional chamber ensemble”. cf. Dan Trueman, Curtis Bahn, and Perry Cook (2000). "Alternative Voices for Electronic Sound." Proceedings of the 2000 International Computer Music Conference, Berlin, Germany.
  • Website: http://plork.cs.princeton.edu

Additional References/Ensembles:
Trueman, Dan (2007) "Why a Laptop Orchestra?" Organised Sound, 12(2): 171-179.
Wang, G., Trueman, D., Smallwood, S., and Cook, P. (2008) "The Laptop Orchestra as Classroom." Computer Music Journal, 32(1): 26-37.
Smallwood, S., Trueman, D., Wang, G. and Cook, P. (2008) "Composing for laptop orchestra." Computer Music Journal, 32(1): 9-25.
Fiebrink, R., Wang, G., and Cook, P. R. (2007) "Don't Forget the Laptop: Using Native Input Capabilities for Expressive Musical Control." In Proceedings of the International Conference of NIME, 2007.
Fiebrink, R., Cook, P. R., Smallwood, S., Trueman, D. and Wang, G. (2009) "Laptop Orchestras and Machine Learning in Real-time Music Performance." ACM CHI 2009, Computational Creativity Support Workshop.
Cook, P. and Smallwood, S. (2010) "SOLA: Sustainable Orchestras of Laptops and Analog." Leonardo Music Journal, 20: 89-95.
Fiebrink, Rebecca (2011) "Real-time Human Interaction with Supervised Learning Algorithms for Music Composition and Performance." PhD Dissertation, Princeton University.
Dannenberg, R. et al (2007) "The Carnegie Mellon Laptop Orchestra." In Proceedings of the 2007 ICMC (Copenhagen, Denmark).
Collective. (2008). "Moscow Laptop Cyber Orchestra (CybOrk): Cyberjam 0307." Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 18, p. 90-1.
Harker, A., Atmadjaja, A., Bagust, J. and Field, A. (2008) "Worldscape Laptop Orchestra." In Proceedings of the 2008 ICMC (SARC, Belfast, N. Ireland).
Wang, G., Bryan, N., Oh, J., Hamilton, R. (2009) "Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk)." In Proceedings of the 2009 ICMC (Montreal, Quebec, Canada).
Ogborn, D. (2009) "The Regina Electroacoustic Performance Orchestra: Heterogeneity and Participation." eContact! 11.4
Bernal, A. and Pais, J. (2008) "Endphase: Origin and Analysis of an Ongoing Project." eContact! 10.4.
Philipps, Dave (2010) "Introducing L2Ork: the Linux Laptop Orchestra." Linux Journal, 2010(193).
Contemporary Music Review, 22(4), 2003 : "Laptop Music"
Bach, Glenn (2003) "The Extra-Digital Axis Mundi: Myth, Magic and Metaphor in Laptop Music." p. 3-9.
Redell, Trace (2003) "Laptopia: The Spatial Poetics of Networked Laptop Performance." p. 11-23.
Ashline, William (2003) "The Pariahs of Sound: On the Post-Duchampian Aesthetics of Electro-acoustic Improv." p. 23-33.
Monroe, Alexei (2003) "Ice on the Circuits/Coldness as Crisis: The Re-suborbination of Laptop Sound." p. 35-43.
Vanhanen, Janne (2003) "Virtual Sound: Examining Glitch and Production." p. 45-52.
Jaeger, Timothy (2003) "The (Anti-)Laptop Aesthetic." p. 53-57.
Stuart, Caleb (2003) "The Object of Performance: Aural Performativity in Contemporary Laptop Music." p. 59-65.
Collins, Nick (2003) "Generative Music and Laptop Performance." p. 67-79.
Turner, Tad (2003) "The Resonance of the Cubicle: Laptop Performance in Post-digital Musics." p. 81-92.
Whitelaw, Mitchell (2003) "Sound Particles and Microsonic Materialism." p. 93-101.
Cascone, Kim (2003) "Grain, Sequence, System: Three Levels of Reception in the Performance of Laptop Music." p. 101-104.