The Meaning of Live

Live coding is a creative practice centering on live interaction via programming languages, often in performance in music, choreography, video animation or other time-based artform. Live coding has been around for over two decades now, and I (Alex) have had a great time being involved from the early days, including attending the first live coding/live programming workshop Changing Grammars, organised by Renate Wieser and Julian Rohrhuber back in 2004. Developing my algorithmic music practice in the context of live coding is what brought me to the topic of algorithmic pattern making.

It was great then to collaborate on a paper with Renate and Julian for last year’s International Conference on Live Coding in Utrecht titled The Meaning of Live: From Art Without Audience to Programs Without Users. We wanted to clarify some of the radical roots of live coding, at a time when live coding continues to expand and enjoy vibrant communities in many cities around the world. In particular, we highlight “displacement of the relation between programmers and programs, and the emancipatory potential of public thought”, and more generally live coding’s capacity to break from the assumptions of software engineering and stage-based performance, by using programming languages to interact with the world, while rethinking rules and conditions on-the-fly.

Julian and I presented some of the ideas from the paper in a session recorded below. Our talk is from 2h08m (a click should take you there) although the previous talk from Alejandro Franco Briones was well paired so I encourage you to watch that as well.

McLean, Alex, Julian Rohrhuber, and Renate Wieser. ‘The Meaning of Live: From Art Without Audience to Programs Without Users’. Utrecht, Netherlands: Zenodo, 2023.






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