It’s funny that people used to talk doubtfully about what a laptop musician was — or, more to the point, perhaps wasn’t — doing up there on stage. There was for a long time a significant gap between the effort a laptop musician exerted, and the impact that was experienced by the audience. That gap will persist, even as it diminishes. (Much as there are still “Sushi isn’t a fad” stories being published.) One reason it’s funny is because of the proliferation of instruments people don’t even have to “play,” in the continuous, hands-on sense of the word — instruments such as the Monome, which are pleasant to watch all on their lonesome: “Look, Ma, no hands.”
Case in point is this video by Josh Saddler, aka ioflow, who is based in Southern California. His hands appear early on, but once the sequence is triggered, it’s hands-free. The only digits involved are the ones being processed by a computer. It’s lovely, as with most Monome video documents, to trace the correlation between sound and light, melody and motion:
Titled “Lines and Angles,” the piece is also streaming, and freely downloadable, as video-less audio at soundcloud.com/ioflow. (The video is hosted at Saddler’s vimeo.com account, where there are several others like it.) It’s an elegant, twitchy bit of minimal techno whose main success is how it manages to feel simultaneously anxious and sedate.
But it also means you, as a listener, are faced with liner notes like “grayscale monome 128, ricochet 0.3.1, renoise 2.7, ardour 2.8.11, gentoo linux,” which, clearly, is community-only reading. (I believe Ricochet is the Monome port of the Game of Life–inspired Otomata, which I’ve written about previously, including an interview with the creator of Otomata.) Fortunately, Saddler provided more background information at his livejournal.com, in which he traces his frustrations and the input of fellow Monome users that guided him to the end result. He also lists the three audio sources for the samples he employed (1, 2, 3).