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*LOrk Digression #5 — "Dance" music?
By using external controllers of various sorts (usually of a more “gestural” nature, beyond the keyboard-and-trackpad paradigm), a laptop performer engages on gestural activity that reconnects her, at least on one level, with the dimension of movement as discussed in my previous tentative definition of musical instrument. The performer is not anymore motionless, and the laptop may be a step closer to being a “musical instrument.” Interestingly, however, the more we focus our attention on gestural activity that is only indirectly connected to the body of the laptop, the less the visual importance of the laptop itself on stage. The actual laptop begins to look as an accessory, a mere processor of instructions; it appears less, or not at all, as the instrument.
In addition, very soon a pocket device as small as an iPhone will have enough processing power to do anything a laptop can do today. At that point, the actual presence of the object “laptop” on stage will have become completely irrelevant. The only hardware visible to the audience will be those the performer chooses to make visible, possibly for an artistic reason. Everything else that does not strictly need to be seen on stage will naturally disappear from the scene (either because its size will be small enough, or because it can be off-stage and wirelessly controlled). With increasing portability and miniaturization, visibility of any hardware will more and more become a creative option rather than a fact of life.
The focus of attention, the theater of a performance, will consequently shift toward the actual gestures made by humans,1 sometimes with specific musical interfaces (“instruments”), but sometimes completely unmediated by any visible device. In any case, the expression “laptop performance,” in the unlikely event that it remains in use, will become as dated as the expression “tape music” today.
Will some trends of electronic music performance, then, tend to naturally merge with dance? As more sophisticated motion capture sensors become available and easier to use, will performers rely more and more on the coreography of their bodies alone to control musical actions, with zero or minimum interaction with visible, physical devices? Can non-tactile music-making become as lively and important to humans as tactile instruments have been?
1At least until we get to Max Mathew's imagined future (in his science fiction story “Letrowski's will”) in which virutoso musicians play by simply moving their eyes in front of an eye-tracking device; but nevermind, since audiences will no longer be admitted to auditory performances by then: “any live performance of any index work would be bound to be far inferior to the flawless recordings released (...) and reproduced to noiseless technical perfection over the quadraspeakers built into every room.” Mathews, Max. Letrowski's Will, in Portraits Polychromes No. 12: Max Mathews, INA/GRM, 2007, p. 88.
"laptop" performers of the future?
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