A Manifesto for Laptop Ensembles

I just got round to consolidating BiLE’s aims in starting a laptop ensemble into something coherent… Thoughts, comments, criticisms welcome!


On the forming of a Laptop Ensemble:

–          Democratic approach: BiLE rejects the notion of an autocratic ensemble with a top down approach in which the roles of composer/programmer, leader, performer are discrete and hierarchical. BiLE instead supports the approach of integration, collaboration and the blurring of the distinctions between, composer-performer-collaborator in a democratic non-authoritarian ensemble.

–          Collaboration: BiLE supports the production of scores and collaborative compositions where the framework is such that each composer-performer is free to interpret the sound production elements of the piece. Thereby allowing each member to contribute their ideas and imagination to every performance.

–          Musicality: BiLE asserts that Musicality should be at the forefront of the priorities of any music making ensemble. Therefore technological concerns are subservient to musical intentions and musicality is central to the criteria set out to define the ensemble.

–          Inclusivity: BiLE is an inclusive ensemble with criteria for membership based on similar musical aesthetics and a high quality and complementary musical output rather than specific technical skills. This makes BiLE a creatively rather than technically focussed ensemble. BiLE members should be experienced in Composition and/or performance and dedicated to ensuring all creative output is of high quality.

–          Cross-Platform: BiLE’s commitment to inclusiveness necessitates the ensemble to be cross-platform. Any ensemble member is free to use the software they feel is most suited to the performance and their technical skill level. BiLE has developed their own networking tools in order to facilitate this cross-platform approach.

–          Open Support Forum: BiLE members should support each other in the creation of quality musical performances and in the production of new works through technical and musical guidance shared with other members of the ensemble. The rehearsals should be an open forum for ideas and discussion on music, technology, performance, improvisation and other matters relating to the ensemble.

–          Communication: BiLE are committed to sharing their creative output with their audiences in as inclusive a way as possible. BiLE feel that visual aspects are an important communication tool in any performance and as such include visuals and movement as appropriate to the aesthetics of the piece being performed. BiLE shall also engage in talks and demo’s before or during performances to facilitate audience understanding of BiLE’s creative process and performance aesthetic

–          Progressive Experimentalism: BiLE should be a progressive ensemble priotritising experimentalism over historicism. BiLE should consider and utilisie the possibilities available by virtue of being a networked laptop ensemble and should not rely on old musical forms and structures to develop their creative output.  Exploring the new forms and creativity that can be developed by the use of this technology is desirable so long as an emphasis on musicality is maintained.

(Author: Shelly Knotts)

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