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Sussex researchers to ‘programme a human’ at live coding conference

Dr Chris Kiefer performs at a live coding event. Live coding brings the worlds of performance and computer programming together, as programmers create improvised sounds and visuals from computer code in front of an audience.

Dr Thor Magnusson improvises with code during a performance. Researchers from the University of Sussex will be playing a key role at the first ever international conference on live coding next week (13-15 July).

Dr Magnusson, pictured here, will be composing music live at the conference by writing code that will be interpreted by a human marimba player.

Researchers from Sussex will be ‘programming’ a human performer at the first ever international conference on live coding next week (13-15 July).

Live coding brings the worlds of performance and computer programming together, as programmers create improvised sounds and visuals from computer code in front of an audience. 

The International Conference on Live Coding (ICLC), jointly organised by Sussex and the University of Leeds, will see researchers and performers from over 20 countries heading to Leeds for a series of talks and performances related to live coding.

The ICLC is part of a two-year Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Live Code Research Network, led by Dr Thor Magnusson at Sussex, which brings together researchers from different disciplines to explore this emerging field of study.

Dr Magnusson, a Lecturer in Music in the School of Media, Film and Music (MFM), co-organised the ICLC and will be giving a very special musical performance at the conference on Monday (13 July): he will be composing music on the spot by writing code that will be interpreted by the marimba player Greta Eacott.

Dr Magnusson says: “Live coding is an innovative way of performing electronic music. The code is projected behind the performer, which spreads the message that code is a creative material that we can use to express ourselves, rather than just a tool for building databases.

“Sussex’s involvement in co-organising the conference shows that we are at the cutting edge of this active and growing research field.”

Other Sussex academics will also be contributing to the ICLC. Dr Chris Kiefer, a Teaching Fellow in the School of Engineering and Informatics who is joining the Sussex Humanities Lab in September, will be performing at an ‘algorave’ – an event where performers use computer algorithms to build up a soundtrack for the audience to dance to. 

Rather than typing all of the code on a laptop, Dr Kiefer will be relying on a range of purpose-made objects and sculptures to control the music at Leeds’ Left Bank venue on Monday.

The objects, including a foam shape and an interactive plant-like sculpture, come with sensors that translate movement into code and allow for a hands-on approach to programming.

Sally Jane Norman, Professor of Performance Technologies in MFM, will be giving one of the ICLC’s three keynote speeches, in which she will situate live coding within a wider history of performance.

Professor Norman, who is also Co-Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab, says: “It’s exciting for me to be invited as a keynote to this pioneering event, which is drawing a remarkable mix of artistic and computational skills.

“This is a wonderful international platform for sharing themes key to those being developed by the Sussex Humanities Lab, which stands to benefit hugely from Dr Thor Magnusson's and Dr Chris Kiefer's energies.”

Dr Magnusson heads up Sussex’s Music Informatics and Performance Technologies Lab, which brings together expertise in music technology from across the University as part of the Digital technologies/ Digital performance strand of the Sussex Humanities Lab.

A video of Dr Magnusson performing at a previous live coding event can be seen below.

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Posted on behalf of: School of Media, Film and Music
Last updated: Friday, 10 July 2015

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