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Algorave: The live coding movement that makes next-level electronic music

Artists across the world are redefining what it means to create music with a laptop

  • Words: Steph Kretowicz | Illustrations: Patch Keyes | Photos: Vitalija Glovackyte, Antonio Roberts
  • 23 January 2017
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Alexandra Cárdenas, often working under the CyberID tiemposdelruido, also sees live coding as something revealing, where it frees music “aesthetically and technically from consumerism.” As a composer of a classical music background, Cárdenas grew tired of the limitations of commercial software, moving on to open-source environments for creative production. In doing so she became a part of a vital live-coding scene in Mexico City, where she organised two festivals. The relative accessibility of using open-source software was an important factor, among others, for its embrace by the new economy of the capital city, in turn becoming a social force that resonates with many Mexican artists. “Identity, resistance, interest, curiosity, respect,” writes Cárdenas about the host country of the next International Conference on Live Coding. “Live coders are quite an inclusive and transparent community, and this is very important in such a troubled country with so much discrimination against women, and with such racial and other social issues. It opens a safe space to create. This is the hacker philosophy. And generally speaking, the mix of artists and hackers tend to be a happy mix.”

That happy mix of inclusivity extends to Huddersfield in England, where Shelly Knotts and Joanne Armitage have previously worked with Yorkshire Sound Women Network & AHRC Live Coding Research Network to offer workshops for women open to learning about how to get involved. “There is often a misperception of live coding as a hyper-technical form,” offers Armitage, “Languages like ixi Lang and Tidal allow us to present live coding as accessible and easy to those with little to no experience of coding.” YSWN is just one part of an open community that also includes Orchestra for Females and/at Laptops collective (OFFAL). It too boast Knotts and Armitage as members, as well as self-described “computer witch” Ada Adhiyatma’s Madam Data project from Philadelphia and Libertad Figueroa of Mexico, among others. “Now we have quite a few music and visuals performers,” writes Knotts, “I think it's really important to have a visibly diverse scene in terms of new people feeling like it would be a welcoming community to them.”

Lil Data, on the other hand, looks at live-coding as a purely aesthetic experience. Not only an Algoraver but also a part of London’s PC Music label roster, he presented his clattering bundles of clean and clipped sound objects alongside the soaring live-coded graphics of noise artist Miri Kat at Amersham Arms. “There's no big realisation to be had by coding, other than that it's not magic, nor a panacea,” writes Lil Data, otherwise known as Jack Armitage. “Education is a political imperative but these things shouldn't be confused.”

Yet it’s confusion, or at least opacity, that Algorave itself attempts to dispel – for performer and audience member alike – while producing something fresh and idiosyncratic in the mean time. “It's always a matter of taste, of aesthetics, of personal preference,” writes Cárdenas. “The power of art is not determined by the tools you use to make it, but by what you have to say.”

Visit the Algorave website here. Listen to a mix of Algorave tunes below (there's a YouTube playlist here too)

Steph Kretowicz is a freelance journalist based in London. Visit her website here

Patch Keyes is a freelance illustrator based in Bristol. Visit his website here

Welcome to Algorave – mixed by Yaxu

Polinski - flatland
Anny - Juliese (live)
Holly x Lil Data - Untitled MMXVII (Preview)
Belisha Beacon - live
Calum Gunn - double deriv
Renick Bell - Beats for Traditional Dancing in 4 at 130 161214b
ALGOBABEZ - bedroomsessions 1
Sondervan - Automatic3cc
Sick Lincoln - Step change
SK+YX - live in barrow
Madam Data - Short Stories from Outside
Yecto - tr808
Kindohm - Mint
Spednar - Shit jungle II (ft 0h85)
Canute - live repetition
Tapage - two of five
Benoit and the Mandelbrots - Tranceposition
Daniel M Karlsson - Proper no proper
Sondervan - Three molecules one
Kindohm - 06
Dane Law - Garf
Slub - live from Penryn

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