for laptop orchestra
Composer: Stephen David Beck
inChucK (2010, v3 2011) is an homage and recomposition of the minimalist masterpiece In C by Terry Riley, written specifically for laptop orchestras. As with In C, each performer has a series of musical snippets to play, in sequence with some discretion as to when, octave, loudness, and for how long. Against this backdrop is a constant percussive pulse that fades into the musical fabric created by the mini-sequences.
While this is clearly an homage to the Riley work, it also is designed to be a metaphor for grid-based distributed computing, where a single computational problem is split between many computers scattered across a network – a “computational grid” in scientific terms. Each player receives messages from a master computer telling them to run a computer process or script. They run the script based on the environment that they are in (both musically and physically) and add additional processes as needed. The master computer continues to send messages throughout the piece, guiding the individual computers through the sequence of steps that defines the total composition. Each musical fragment is in fact a computer process, with a start and an end, and configurable parameters that determine the length the process runs and the pitch register of musical output. This piece is meant to articulate the concept and process of grid computing through the laptop orchestra as a reflection of its conceptual and aesthetic beauty.