Live Performance Systems

An Idea to Keep in Mind

New music suggests

  • repertoire of sounds
  • form
  • rhythmic, melodic, harmonic complexity
  • algorithms, processes
  • aesthetic movements
  • cultural roles
  • performance scenarios




  • Who?
  • How many?
  • Where?

In traditional music, much of the context for performance is already established. With new interactive systems, how do we create context?

Identity and Metaphor

What IS it? How does a spectator make sense of it?
Is it a toy? A game? A puzzle? A musical instrument? A drum machine?


Purpose suggests identity: What is it FOR?

What is the performer TRYING to accomplish?
Is the system the primary locus of attention, or is it sonifying some eternal process?


Who can use it?
Floors + Ceilings

  • Threshold/entry fee: what prior knowledge, experience or ability is required? How much practice?
  • Ceiling: Ability to develop virtuosity? Will an expert be distinguishable from a novice?

Is the dream of “meaningful control” or “meaningful contribution” from a complete beginner attainable? Should it be?

Temporal Dynamics

Control ………… Create
Performing ……. Programming

(Other models: turn-taking, conversation, physical modeling)


  • Degrees of freedom
  • Dynamic range of input
  • Frequency range of input
  • Dynamic range of output
  • Spectral/timbral/textural range of output



Beyond ceilings and floors –– Walls: Range of activities supported
Jorda: Macrodiversity…Mid-diversity…Microdiversity

  • Macrodiversity: How musically specialized or generic? Can you play solo free jazz as well as symphonic music?
  • Mid-diversity: How different will two different compositions sound? Does it sound like you’re “always playing the same piece?”
  • Microdiversity: How different will two different performances of the SAME composition sound?