On April 19, 2011, the Cincinnati Composers Laptop Orchestra Project had its first live performance as part of the Sonic Explorations concert series through the College Conservatory of Music’s theory and composition department. Their debut performance was Clix, a piece written by cutting edge electronic music artist Ge Wang. The piece was totally improvised, and accompanied by a visual element that was interacting with the computer code during the performance.
Started in February 2011, the orchestra is the brainchild of composition doctorate student Joel Matthys. As director and founder of the group, Matthys is responsible for composition and computer programming. Fellow composition doctorate student Paul Schuette assists Matthys in his duties and performs with the orchestra.
I asked Matthys why he brought a laptop orchestra to CCM. He said:
Computers are here to stay. This is something that’s going to continue happening, and we should be exploring it and trying to answer some questions about it. In a way, CCM is very conservative. This is the perfect place to try to explore some of these issues from a standpoint not just of experimentalism, but trying to deal with the aesthetics of it, how it fits into the history of music and the world of music.
Laptop orchestras were born in the 80s, before most people even had computers. These “laptops” were actually individual computers on separate circuit boards small enough to snap into a three-ring binder. They were networked together and performers could send lines of code to each other while playing music. CiCLOP uses modern technology to the same end. According to Matthys, “We’ve moved past the digital age. We’re in the networking age. Social networking. This is what our lives have become. So an ensemble, a musical ensemble that does this is dealing with our culture in a really direct way.”
There is a performance of the Sonic Explorations series every quarter. They feature a wide variety of computer music performances, interactive electro acoustic pieces, and fixed format video projects.