What: Boulder Laptop Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Black Box Theatre in Atlas
More info: http://tinyurl.com/BLOrkShow
When most people think of laptops and computers, they think of YouTube and iTunes, but the Boulder Laptop Orchestra (BLOrk) is flipping the switch on that idea. The ensemble will bring their unique combination of electronic and acoustic sound to Atlas Friday night.
BLOrk was formed in 2008 by CU professors John Gunther and John Drumheller. Gunther says the Princeton Laptop Orchestra was a big influence for the ensemble at CU.
The hemispherical speakers BLOrk uses were also developed at Princeton. Gunther says the speakers send out sound in a 180-degree field to create sound the way an acoustic instrument would.
The ensemble combines this sound with that of CU faculty guest performers Lina Bahn (violin) and Brad Goode (trumpet). Gunther also adds some jazz flavor with his saxophone.
“I’m approaching it like any other kind of band where we have compositions and some kind of musical structure that allows everybody to play and communicate and also to improvise,” Gunther says. “I like the mix of how you can have the acoustic instruments along with the electronic music.”
The ensemble includes students from music technology classes on campus. Derek Poppe says he has a scattered musical background, including violin, trombone and drums, but has recently become interested in DJing. He says BLOrk gives him a great opportunity to improvise in different styles.
Gunther believes that the combination of electronics and acoustics in the ensemble allows for a democratization of music making.
Graduate student Austin Fracchia has experience in world percussion, particularly in marimba ensembles, and web programming and design. His two interests come together in BLOrk.
“BLOrk has been a great experience in discovering not only how to integrate technology into musical performance, but moreso, how the art and music is influenced by the technology,” Fracchia says. “Simply put, my entire creative and performance process has been enhanced by the idea that the sky is the limit when it comes to music and technology in a creative, collaborative setting.”
The music ranges from familiar sounding to abstract. Gunther says some of the pieces are pretty danceable, driving electronic music, while others are more solo-driven, with violins and spoken word. BLOrk will also perform “Radio Music” by John Cage. The song was originally written in the 1950s for eight radios. Gunther says Cage was so ahead of his time, the song is still distinctive today.
Friday’s performance will include dancers and the work of visual artist David Fodel. The show will conclude with “In C” by Terry Riley. Gunther encourages audience members to bring their own instruments to join in on that performance. Gunther wants to create a sense of community with the ensemble’s blend of music.
“You have to have kind of a sense of humor and open mind when working in this,” Gunther says. “This is a new medium so we approach it with a sense of enthusiasm and risk — trying things and seeing how they work.”