The emergence of the laptop orchestra in the last several years has given improvisers innovative tools for creating novel musical experiences. The Boulder Laptop Orchestra (BLOrk) integrates technology with improvisers in an ensemble setting providing live interaction between the two. The ensemble consists of 8 performers each equipped with a laptop, a hemispherical speaker, and a variety of control devices, which can include traditional instruments, MIDI controllers, video game accessories, bodily movement, or voice. The use of hemispherical speakers projects sound in a way similar to that of an acoustic instrument, which allows musicians to hear and interact with each other without monitors or headphones.
Compositions by students and faculty explore the application of traditional sound processing technology as well as the integration of powerful programming languages such as MAX, Jitter and Super Collider. The Technology is interwoven with composition and improvisation in unique ways. Additionally, the use of electronic sensors that link the performers body movements to sound are explored. The ensemble builds on the research of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) begun by Perry Cook and Dan Trueman in 2006 which has featured collaborations with Pauline Oliveros and Zakir Hussain among many others.
In 2007, University of Colorado professors John Gunther (woodwind) and John Drumheller (computer) performed “Wild Orphan,” utilizing composition, spoken word, improvisation, and real-time sound processing. In 2008 CISMAT began expanding on this model of composition and performance to include a larger ensemble forming the Boulder Laptop Orchestra.