How To Put Life Into Laptop Gigs?

For computer musicians, performing live can be somewhat problematic. Despite the fact that it is entirely possible to craft an electronic set ‘on the fly’ with a laptop, there is no real visual feedback for the audience to respond to. I call this ’email checking syndrome’, because from the crowd’s point of view you might as well just press play on a premixed set and sit there reading the latest gossip from your friends…

Music Beyond The Small Screen

The most obvious way of opening up a visual angle for a laptop performance is by using a projector. One method would be to project the performer’s small laptop display onto a large screen for the audience to observe, so they can see what the artist is doing (to some extent at least).

However, this is not very satisfying, as the movements of a cursor over arrays of knobs and switches won’t mean much to anyone who isn’t an electronic musician themselves.

An alternative is to project visuals that complement the music, providing a more interesting backdrop to the sonic adventures. This can be successful, and there are plenty of programs out there that create beat-sensitive computer-generated visuals.

Of course, this is veering very much towards the experiential domain of the DJ/VJ, and away from the instrumental performance side of things.

This Is Not A Canabrism Gig

Tomorrow night in Thisisnotashop, Canabrism will be employing a variation of the visual projection method, in what is billed as a screening with a live soundtrack. Here’s the blurb:

For Culture Night Canabrism presents a screening of ‘uberglobule’ in the intimate setting of Thisisnotashop. The screening event features a variety of video, animation and custom imagery accompanied by a live mix soundtrack of Canabrism music. Running time is approx. 45 minutes and will commence at 9 pm.

So, it’s a screening of visuals with some laptop twiddling in the background. Not exactly revolutionary, but a step up from watching someone who might be playing Tetris.

This Is Not A Canabrism Gig Either

Although a big improvement as a live event spectacle, it’s still not as much of a musical performance as, for example, Battles, who use laptops combined with instruments in a very dynamic way. The New Yorker has an article discussing the band’s technological leanings, their use of computers onstage and the use of laptops in a live situation generally. Here’s a video of Battles doing their thing…


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