Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk)

Princeton, NJ, USA

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 they create?; how can they physically control these sounds?; how do they compose with these sounds? There are also social questions with musical and technical ramifications: how do they organize a dozen players in this context? with a conductor? via a wireless network?

In its first year of PLOrk’s existence, composers and performers from Princeton and elsewhere developed new pieces for this unprecedented ensemble, including Paul Lansky (Professor of Music at Princeton), Brad Garton (Director of the Columbia Computer Music Center), PLOrk co-founders Dan Trueman (who received this commission) and Perry Cook, and several graduate students. They have made extensive use of a new music programming language created by Princeton graduate student (now assistant professor at Stanford University|CCRMA) Ge Wang, called ChucK, which allows the performers to develop new code in performance.

In their first major performance (April 2006, Richardson Auditorium) we were joined by the renowned tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, legendary accordianist and composer Pauline Oliveros, and the exciting young percussion quartet from New York City, So Percussion. PLOrk was featured in the April issues of the MIT Press Technology Review and Wired Magazine, and performed at the Dartmouth College “Orchestras of Sameness” festival in May 2006.