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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.

Perhaps we will make a Piazza forum (or something like it) 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 11th – noon-6pm – group rehearsal by piece (by appt)
  • May 11th – 6pm on – SLOrktastic Chamber Music (concert at 7:30pm)
  • June 1st – 2pm-10pm – load-in, set up, and dress rehearsal #1 in Bing Concert Hall
  • June 2nd – 2pm-10pm dress rehearsal #2 in Bing Concert Hall
  • June 3rd – 2pm-6pm dress rehearsal #3 in Bing Concert Hall
  • June 3rd 7:30pm final concert

Dress Code

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


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/2017/setup_signup.


We 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. This ranges from the philosophy of aesthetics to the technical nuts and bolts of hardware and software.

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.


The textbook for ChucK 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


Laptop Orchestra

Gesture in Performance



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 Matt outside of class.

Weekly Schedule (subject to change)

Week 1: Introduction (April 5th)

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

Week 2: (April 12th)

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 19th)

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

  • Homework: Milestone 2.
  • Reading: TBA

Week 4: (April 26th)

SLOrktastic milestone #2: complete composition/performance.

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

Week 5: (May 3rd)

Week 6: (May 10th and 11th)

May 10th: Dress rehearsal of pieces for the performance (schedule and order to be emailed by day previous)

May 11th: Tech run-through during the day (by appt). 6:00pm call (dinner provided) for 7:30pm SLOrktastic Chamber Music Concert. Invite your friends!

Week 7: (May 17th)

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

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

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

  • Homework: Final Milestone #2

Week 8: (May 24th)

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 31st, June 1, June 2, June 3)

May 31st: Normal class period (our last on the CCRMA Stage), 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.

June 1st:

  • 2pm-10pm Load-in, set up, and dress rehearsal #1 of pieces for the performance, in Bing Concert Hall

June 2nd:

  • 2pm-10pm: Dress rehearsal #2 of pieces for the performance (schedule and order to be emailed by day previous)

June 3rd:

  • 2pm-6pm Dress rehearsal #3 in Bing Concert Hall
  • 7:30pm: SLOrk @ Bing 2017 (Spring Concert)

Week 10: (June 7th)

Last day of classes but SLOrk will not meet.