Carnegie Mellon University
April 03, 2012

Press Release: Laptop Orchestras in Seven Cities Unite via Internet for First-of-its-Kind Concert

Carnegie Mellon’s Roger Dannenberg Will Direct Musicians in US and UK

Contact: Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

Roger DannenbergPITTSBURGH—Orchestras playing laptop computers at Carnegie Mellon University and six other universities in the United States and the United Kingdom will use audio and video links over the Internet to perform an unprecedented joint performance on April 16.

The performance by the Federation of Laptop Orchestras (FLO) will be part of a concert at the first Symposium on Laptop Ensembles and Orchestras (SLEO) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Roger Dannenberg, associate research professor of computer science, music and art at Carnegie Mellon, will direct FLO’s multi-city “collective improvisation” from Baton Rouge.

FLO will include live performances by laptop orchestras in Baton Rouge and at Carnegie Mellon, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, the University of Colorado, the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England, and Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The performances will be streamed online; information will be available prior to the performances on the SLEO website,

At Carnegie Mellon, the concert will be in the University Center’s McConomy Auditorium at 8:30 p.m. EDT, April 16 and is open to the public. About 18 students will play in the CMU laptop orchestra.

Orchestras in each location will be able to hear and respond to their counterparts’ performances occurring simultaneously across thousands of miles.

“The speed of light is a limitation for us,” Dannenberg said, “so I won’t be able to control the beat. But I can give cues for the orchestras to play with different textures or sounds.” Acoustic soloists at each location will provide contrast to the electronic sounds generated by the laptops, which are played through external speaker systems for the live audiences.

Laptop computers — and, increasingly, smartphones and tablet computers — provide computer music researchers an opportunity to explore new ways of generating and manipulating musical sounds. This makes possible the use of a variety of input devices — from the QWERTY keyboard of a laptop to the accelerometer of a smartphone — that can respond to different types of finger, hand and body movements.

“We’ve found it’s a great way for students to become involved in electronic music,” Dannenberg said. A number of orchestras and ensembles of laptop players have been organized, primarily at universities. The international symposium at LSU, April 15-17, reflects the growing interest.

Individual laptop players previously have collaborated over the Internet and groups of two or three orchestras or ensembles have attempted similar performances, but linking as many orchestras simultaneously as FLO is unprecedented, Dannenberg said.

The software that makes the joint performance possible is being developed this semester by approximately 30 students enrolled in Dannenberg’s Computer Music Systems and Information Processing course.

Dannenberg said the music performed by each orchestra will be streamed to computers in Baton Rouge, where the sounds will be mixed electronically and fed back to each performance site.

“Each concert will be a slightly different experience,” he said, because of the time delays between the distant venues.

Follow the School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU.


Roger Dannenberg, associate research professor of computer science, music and art at Carnegie Mellon, will direct the unprecedented joint performance of laptop orchestras.