Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Boston Pop-Ups

It’s the newest thing in wireless networking: the “laptop orchestra.”

Computer musicians fiddle with sampled sounds and write software, but theirs is often a lonely pursuit. Now a few at the vanguard are tapping the musical potential of networked laptop computers. In April, an ensemble called the Princeton Laptop Orchestra will hold its first concert – and solemnly perform a piece inspired by the social call-and-response patterns of swamp frogs.

Fifteen student musicians will sit atop pillows before their laptop-instruments, awaiting their conductor’s signals, which will arrive via instant messages or pop-ups. Then they’ll tap into all sorts of presampled, live, and computer-generated sounds (such as sampled drumbeats, or their own voices reciting the alphabet) and manipulate them with gizmos like glove-mounted accelerometers. Like the frogs, who reply to one another with different sorts of croakings, the musicians will reply to one another with different noises. Tod Machover, the avant-garde musical inventor and composer at MIT’s Media Lab, calls the orchestra “a cooler, better way to teach a new music environment than any I’ve heard of.”

The orchestra’s cocreator, Perry Cook, a Princeton professor of computer science and music, acknowledges that the computers haven’t made performing easier or cheaper; it takes 40 minutes just to set up the wireless network that synchronizes the expensive laptops. So traditional musicians need not see the technology as a threat; if you wanted to play a Beethoven symphony, “it’d be much cheaper to use a traditional orchestra” than the laptop version, Cook says. For now, the ensemble’s aspirations are modest: to survive the semester and become a Princeton fixture.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.