[chuck-users] live coding: methods and motivations

Michal Seta mis at artengine.ca
Tue Sep 18 12:08:46 EDT 2007

The very first "live coding" performance I have seen (in 2002), was
Alex Burton using MaxMSP, starting with blank canvas, putting down
first objects in silence until there was a possibility of making sound
and taking it from there for about 30 minutes and eventually taking it
apart, piece by piece until he was back to blank canvas again.  The
title of he piece was "Live programming of an improvised musical
structure".  I have done similar things with pd but never in a solo

While many will argue that MaxMSP, pd and other visual/dataflow
programming environments are not "real" programming languages, they
seem to be closer to the "sound" rather than "programming" in live
performance (perhaps because of the "patching" paradigm of
programming, similar to the modular analogue synthesisers).  Also,
visually they are more appealing to the non-geek members in an
audience (if the coding is, in fact, projected, as seems to be the
trend with live coding events) as, apparently, the dataflow is easier
to follow than textual control structures.

I have tinkered with ChucK and realized that using a system which
forces me to think in algorithms is not "natural" enough for me.  It
does not have the tangibility I am used to (I come from music
background, I played with analog synths, I've built acoustic and
electronic instruments and controllers and much of my noise making
activity was based on the cause-effect principle rather than
algorithmic virtuosity). Yes, I realize that one can set up scripts
that will allow some control of various aspects of sound with a
variety of interfaces but this would be getting further from "live
coding".  Not that live coding is an absolute must for me, but
attractive enough to keep on lurking.  ChucK's simple syntax and shred
approach seems like a good compromise for a text-based programming
language to make noise quickly.

All that said, I think that there are limits as to what we can do
"live" through programming.  One needs some pre-made code snippets.
While simply chucking and unchucking pre-made code would qualify
simply as sequencing,  I do not think that live coding an audio driver
to be used in a performance would qualify as an interesting experience
(for the listener, providing that s/he came for the music, not the
hacking).  there needs to be a middle ground and ChucK is one of the
valid solutions.


On 9/18/07, robin.escalation <robin.escalation at acm.org> wrote:
> While we're on the topic, the term "live coding" seems deficient to
> me, because it totally fails to mention the sound. None of the common
> alternatives remedy this fundamental (music pun) problem.

More information about the chuck-users mailing list