Finding a New Solution

In music, I am primarily concerned with improvisation, as - like Sanden (2013) - I believe that "music is live when, in its utterance, it demonstrates the spontaneity and unpredictability of human performance". Consequently - from this point forward - when using the terms 'performance' or 'music', I am referring specifically to improvisation. There is much to be said about liveness in composed (non-improvised) music and its performance; however, these topics will not be the focus of this text.

It is my opinion that - in order to be effective and durable - any strategy for creating engagement in live improvised laptop performance must itself be discovered in the moment of performance. According to Prévost, (1995) material developed in isolation will never be appropriate when reproduced in the context of a live improvisation. In order to develop suitable techniques, I limited my research to situations where an audience was present.

The laptop performance scene is laden with pervasive conventions and expectations. In order to develop an individual strategy for liveness in such an atmosphere, a radical approach to the instrument and the audience would be required. Following Green's (2011) conception of 'playfulness' towards technology, I made a concerted effort to not engage with the laptop in any standardised way. Instead, I began "searching for sounds and the responses that attach to them" (Cardew, 1971). In the case of the audience, I worked to cultivate a 'dense atmosphere' (Mattin, 2011, p.47) by deliberately transgressing the implicit rituals and hierarchies of the performance spaces I worked in. 


An impetus for this subversive attitude was the confrontational laptop performances of Russell Haswell, who developed a notoriety between 1997 and 2007 "people would pull the cables out, or close the laptop – close the laptop on me, in some cases.” (FACT, 2012). I feel that this level of audience engagement is missing from modern laptop performance, with audiences receding into passivity. Mattin writes of improvisation as "a way of intensifying the moment through changing social relations", and suggests that "The goal is to create an unprecedented situation – strange for everybody, without a didactic or presupposed agenda". Audience interaction is another tenet of Sanden's theory of liveness.