Stanford laptop orchestra jams with China

April 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
We're used to orchestras combining different groups of instruments to make music, but on Tuesday night at Stanford University, conductor led musicians played laptop computers. The technology allowed the laptop orchestra to showcase a musical collaboration with China.

It's a new age sound made by 20 meta instruments. The sound came from Stanford's laptop orchestra.

The Mac books are programmed to create sound, notes, and music. It's a concept assistant professor Ge Wang, Ph.D., created three years ago while at Princeton.

"We want to play music with laptops. We want to make new instruments, find new sounds, make new music," said Wang.

He brought the idea of musical computers to Stanford this year. Students learn not only to play on the computers, but musical composition and sound design as well. The final step is the performance.

"I love it," said Jason Riggs, from the Stanford laptop orchestra. "It's very refreshing to do something new and innovative."

To get that surround sound so to speak, it requires attaching the computers to this speaker, which is actually a salad bowl from Ikea. They've drilled six different car speakers to it and inside there's an amplifier.

"What this gives us is an intimate sonic identity for each lap top station," said Wang.

On Tuesday night, the advanced technology didn't stop here, it traveled 6,000 miles to Beijing.

The high definition inter-connectivity line allows traditional Chinese musicians to accompany the multi-media American musicians during a first of its kind, real time, jam session.

"We just want to play music together and be able to do this without planning months ahead, actually get a plane ticket, find a venue and actually meet up in the same place," said Wang.

Playing music and being on stage is a first for most in the lap top orchestra. In fact, the majority like their professor, have a background in computer science, but after Tuesday night, they're getting used to being in the spotlight.


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