The exciting thing about the CoDi ELECTRONIC program for me is the strong focus on performance. A pet peeve of mine is performers staring at their laptops while doing little to engage the audience during electronic music performances. The avoidance of this practice is what first led me to work with physical gesture capture devices. During the initial workshop day, the first couple of hours were spent explaining the technical possibilities and what the Swansea Laptop Orchestra is about. As I am a massive nerd when it comes to computer wizardry I did enjoy this, however, we were soon active and performing with a wide collection of digital instruments. This injected a sense of energy and experimentation into the day that made it an incredibly fun and inspiring experience. This is where ideas for the performance started to flow, not just the technical details.
The compositional process for devices such as these is quite different from writing for an acoustic ensemble. Becoming a good composer for acoustic ensemble involves learning the techniques for the instruments and getting to grips with what their nuances are. Creating music for physical gesture devices starts a stage earlier than that. First, we design the instrument that we are going to compose for. This design of the instrument is very much linked in how the piece will be created. It is very technical, very frustrating as you struggle with code, but also very exciting as you are presented with a world of possibilities that slowly evolve into the instrument and piece ideas.
The piece that I am writing involves a gamepad controller that will track the movement of the performers' hands to trigger sounds. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jenn and Simon approach my instrument at the next workshop. Even though I design the instrument, performers have a habit of doing something that you have not predicted with it. I will be coming to the next workshop without a plan for the piece, but with the instrument that I intend to be used. From here I am interested in seeing how the performers interact with it and any suggestions that they have. This collaboration and dialogue between performers and composers is the most enriching part of any compositional process.