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Welcome to this year's Music 128 / CS 170: Stanford Laptop Orchestra! This wiki is your portal to useful SLOrk-related info. See also the SLOrk FAQ and the station setup guide. Feel free to use our Piazza forum for rapid communication with the class.

Regular Class Meetings

Times: Wednesdays, 7:30 pm - 10:20 pm

Room: CCRMA Stage (Knoll 315)


Course Description

This course explores composing and coding for, and performance with, laptop orchestra. Topics and activities include issues of instrument design, sound synthesis, programming, composing for laptop orchestra, and live performance. Coursework includes designing laptop-mediated software musical instruments, crafting musical works, and live performance.

To engage with these ideas most fully, students will write compositions and perform them live in two concerts during the spring quarter.

Musical Works

Student output in this class will consist of at least 2 musical works (approximately one by the end of the 4th week, and the second by the end of the 8th week) – including instrument design, sound design, programming, and crafting musical presentation – to be first performed in a dress rehearsal in class and then at a public performance. The first musical work will be a piece of ‘chamber music’ (for a small number of players – between 2-4), and the second musical work will be a piece for the full ensemble.

Pieces typically average 4-7 minutes. Group work is encouraged – multiple students may work on the same composition.


The importance of timely attendance and active participation in this class cannot be overstated. As a performance ensemble, we are relying on each other to be present to perform and critique each other’s work. Therefore, by joining this class, you are committing to attending every class period, as well as the following rehearsals/concerts:

  • May 1st – noon-6pm – group rehearsal by piece (by appt)
  • May 1st – 6:00pm on – SLOrktastic Chamber Music (concert at 7:30pm)
  • June 1st – 4pm-10pm – dress rehearsal #1 in Bing Concert Hall
  • June 2nd – 12pm on – dress rehearsal #2 in Bing Concert Hall (final concert at 8:00pm)

If you miss a concert or dress rehearsal for any reason other than an excusable emergency, it will result in the lowering of your grade by 2 letter grades. Missing a regular class period will lower it one letter grade; being late for a regular class period will lower it by 1/3 letter grade (e.g. A goes to A-).

With your attendance grade as the baseline, grades will be modulated by participation. Each class you will receive a ✓ if you come prepared to participate, are attentive in class, and demonstrate progress on your work. If you come and do not participate, are inattentive, or are unprepared, you’ll receive a ✓-. Two ✓-’s will result in the lowering of a full letter grade. ✓+’s may be given out on occasion, and may result in the raising of your final grade.

You must come to class 30 minutes early (i.e. at 7pm) for at least three (3) class sessions to help set up the equipment. This counts toward your participation grade. You can sign up at this page: SLOrk/2016/setup_signup.


The unofficial textbook of the course is Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists: Creating music with ChucK (ISBN: 1617291706). It provides many good examples of features in ChucK, and will be useful for quickly gaining fluency in the language.

For ChucK beginners, we also recommend Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists, an online course from You can access course videos freely by signing up for a free account at, and then navigating to

Additionally, you will be engaged in topics such as the embodiment of sound in technology-mediated performance, meaningful instrument interaction between players, and indeed, the point of a laptop orchestra. As such, we’ve amalgamated a short reading list. The readings will be made available on Coursework the week they are assigned. Although we may not necessarily be discussing them directly in class, ideas will be drawn from them to frame activities and discussions in class. They will be good perspective for the course, and indeed, for your musical life.

Laptop Orchestra

Gesture in Performance


Dress Code

For concerts, the dress code will be concert black, colored socks optional.


If you need accommodations for any physical, psychological, or learning disability, or if you want to inform me about a medical situation, please speak to me (Ge) outside of class.

Weekly Schedule (subject to change)

Week 1: Introduction (March 30th)

Syllabus discussion, introduction to the ideas of laptop orchestra, how to set up laptop orchestra gear. Learn pieces from the laptop orchestra repertoire, first ChucK instrument example.

Week 2: (April 6th)

Initial instrument design presentation and critique; each person to give a mini-performance of 1-2 minutes; presentation on physical interaction design.

Week 3: (April 13th)

SLOrktastic milestone #1: initial work in-progress of piece; 3 minute performance.

  • Homework: Milestone 2.
  • Reading: TBA

Week 4: (April 20th)

SLOrktastic milestone #2: complete composition/performance.

  • Homework: Polish your piece – the concert is next week!

Week 5: (April 27th, May 1st)

April 27th: Dress rehearsal of pieces for the performance (schedule and order to be emailed by day previous)

May 1st: Tech run-through during the day (by appt). 6:00pm call (dinner provided) for 7:30pm SLOrktastic Chamber Music Concert. Invite your friends!

Week 6: (May 4th)

Proposal & sketch for final composition/performance; strategies and tools; networking.

  • Homework: Final Milestone #1
  • Reading: Cook, N.

Week 7: (May 11th)

Final Milestone #1: initial full ensemble rehearsal for each piece in-progress

  • Homework: Final Milestone #2

Week 8: (May 18th)

Final Milestone #2: full ensemble rehearsal for complete piece in-progress, with score presentation as you see fit.

  • Homework: Polish your work!

Week 9: (May 25th)

Normal class period, last workshopping and rehearsal of pieces for the Bing concert. The pieces should be finished by this date; this rehearsal will be focused on ensemble coordination and performance.

Week 10: (June 1st, June 2nd)

June 1st:

  • 4pm-10pm Dress rehearsal #1 of pieces for the performance (schedule and order to be emailed by day previous)

June 2nd: