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Mozart on the mousepad

If you like the idea of going to an orchestra concert but hate the thought of having to watch flesh-and-blood musicians perform (two words: spit valve), an event called SLEO may have you covered.

The Symposium on Laptop Ensembles and Orchestras, which is being held April 15-17 at Louisiana State University, will showcase group performances by musicians using laptops and smartphones, instead of violas and violins.

The event will also feature a novel performance by seven different university laptop orchestras at once, coordinating their efforts via Internet video and audio. Its conductor, Carnegie Mellon University associate professor Roger Dannenberg, said in a statement that "the speed of light is a limitation for us, so I won't be able to control the beat. But I can give cues for the orchestras to play with different textures or sounds."

The idea behind the laptop orchestra concept is to explore various ways of interacting with electronic devices to produce music. Performers might move their fingers across a mousepad to create one effect and tap their smartphone's touchscreen to make another.

A quick YouTube search for "laptop orchestra" provided several samples. The electronic, abstract music produced probably isn't for everyone - you're not going to hear anything that sounds like, for example, the Brahms Violin Concerto - but the concept itself is certainly groundbreaking.

Electronically generated sound has held a unique role in the music world since the futurist movement of the early 20th Century. The idea that music could be created and experienced independently of performance - and that it could gain a wide array of new textures and sounds - has long intrigued innovative composers.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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