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Transdisciplinary Exemplar

After another tremendously busy year, virtual cobwebs have covered L2Ork’s front page. It is time for another mega-post, a year in review, if you like.

2015 has been an exciting year. Following my research leave in 2014, things were slowly revving up, only to kick in the high gear with the onset of the spring 2015 semester. With the highest enrollment yet, in January, 17 L2Orkists performed as part of the Band Camp in the beautiful Fife hall in the new Moss Arts Center. In March we had an opportunity to perform at University of Maryland Architecture’s “Great Space” where we were also interviewed by UMD’s Diamondback who published a really flattering article.

L2Ork performing Between at SEAMUS 2015

Spring was also a really busy time with the national SEAMUS 2015 3-day conference taking place at Virginia Tech with 14 concerts, two listening rooms, two installation locations, and six paper sessions and panels. L2Ork peformed Between in ICAT’s Cube in front of a standing room only audience as part of conference’s opening concert. The performance featured L2Orkist Brock Allen on the sax and the rest of the L2Orkists spread across two levels of catwalks. It was also the first L2Ork performance featuring the new Glasstra app for Google Glass that displayed network and FUDI-enabled GUI that was controlled via pd-l2ork, and a concealed Wiimote and Nunchuk that was used to conduct and switch between sections.

On April 9th, L2Ork had its second visit to the Ferrum College for an evening-long performance, followed by the April 19th School of Performing Arts’ Exposition scholarship fundraiser concert back at the Fife hall. Around the same time L2Ork did another photo session with the Spring 2015 generation of L2Orkists guided by the talented eye of Cooper Long. Finally, on May 4th, L2Ork performed as part of the Spring 2015 DISIS event and the annual ICAT day where we premiered two new works, including a really cool Insomniac composition by the L2Orkist Jacob Stenzel.

Summer was just as intense with two week-long Maker camps, the annual K-12 instrument building camp and the inaugural teachers’ Maker camp. With the addition of new objects, such as the complete General MIDI implementation within pd-l2ork K12 module, this year kids have taken instrument building to a whole new level. Speaking of which, Pd-L2Ork development continues at a rapid pace with a number of releases, including most recently the 20151018 release that introduces rtcmix~ external, Eric Lyon’s fftease and potpourri libraries, as well as the new autotune~ external. There is also a major new version (currently in the alpha stage) we are hoping to release sometime this academic year.

This fall, we also participated in a number of performances, including Virginia Tech’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction‘s 20th anniversary celebration, as part of the Electro-Acoustic Barn Dance festival where we premiered a new work by Eric Lyon, and perhaps most excitingly a recent outreach performance made possible by one of the summer teachers’ Maker camp participants, Stephanie Hufton at Botetourt County’s Read Mountain Middle School, where L2Ork performed in front of 300 incredibly enthusiastic middle school students and teachers. The event was also covered by the regional Roanoke Times whose Saturday newspaper front page and online flattering coverage really made our day.

So, all this brings me to perhaps the most exciting announcement. This summer, the international Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, a non-profit organization with an amazingly exciting goal of establishing and validating the so-called transdisciplinary third space that in many ways defines L2Ork and its mission, put out a call for national transdisciplinary exemplars, the pool of applicants included top national institutions. Only six exemplars were selected  by the national peer review to be showcased at the upcoming a2ru conference scheduled for November 8-11, 2015 at Virginia Tech, and we are thrilled by the fact that L2Ork was one of them!

And so this brings us to roughly today, even though there are a few more pending announcements in the pipeline I will leave for the next blog, so stay tuned for more updates soon! All right, now that we are mostly caught-up, it’s time to get back to preparations for the upcoming a2ru conference. Hope to see you there!


L2Ork @ DISIS Cubed

VT Provost Dr. Mark McNamee Playing a L2Ork Instrument at President Sands' Installation ShowcaseAs we recover from the last night’s DISIS event, first one to harness the full power of ICAT’s newfound Cube and its 128+ audio speaker array, I found myself enjoying a few minutes of downtime and figured it may be a good idea to share the latest updates in the land o’ L2Ork.

First and foremost, last night we had an *amazing,* if not one of the best DISIS events (right up there with the L2Ork debut) with standing room only audience and a number of people turned away due to capacity limitations. Don’t get me wrong–CUBE is not that large. Yet, the level of interest, particularly considering our Facebook event page shows barely 25+ in attendance, left a lasting smile on our faces. Still, we felt bad for those of you who made an effort to show up on a rainy Monday night and support us only to face closed doors. I wish we could somehow redeem ourselves in your eyes (ears?) and I sincerely hope being turned away did not ruin your evening. Perhaps this is a good excuse to start relying on CFA’s amazingly efficient ticketing system for all future DISIS events?

Last night’s event also featured a collection of fantastic guest artists (Elizabeth Hoffman and Sarah Plum), VT faculty artists (Jay Crone), as well as the ICAT’s pillar of all things technical (and artistic!) Tanner Upthegrove. Heck, the program even included my 2-minute Tornado simulation… We indeed pushed Cube’s infrastructural limits, engaging its 128-speaker array through a number of different spatialization approaches, from Wave Field Synthesis to customized Vector Based Amplitude Panning. All in all, a fantastic evening.

Little over a month ago, Virginia Tech installed its new President, Dr. Timothy Sands. L2Ork participated in installation festivities in a form of a student showcase, focusing on its ongoing K-12 outreach. In addition to a number of visitors, faculty, and students, our booth was also visited by Dr. Mark McNamee, Virginia Tech Provost, who stopped by to hone his L2Ork skills. We are truly flattered by the ongoing attention L2Ork continues to enjoy both as an artistic ensemble and a K-12 research hub. I am particularly thrilled by the recent post in that highlighted L2Ork as one of the “8 Awesome Research Projects at Virginia Tech.”

L2Ork repertiore has grown quite a bit this semester with works from Eric Lyon, a reworked version of Between for L2Ork and Saxophone (performed by a talented L2Orkist and saxophonist Brock Allen), and soon we’ll have a piece by Charles Nichols. Our collection of pd-l2ork abstractions has also matured, allowing for rapid prototyping of new compositions. Speaking of pd-l2ork, we are now nearing a new milestone in software’s development with a new major release imminent. For the latest version, please check out our Software page. As we look forward, we will shift our focus to porting core pd-l2ork to the amazing and incredibly maleable Qt UI, thus paving way towards an entirely new iteration of our software of choice and finally moving away from the aging Tcl/Tk framework.

We’ve had an amazing group of L2Orkists this semester–thirteen strong for a thirteenth DISIS event in the Cube, or as we call it the inaugural DISIS Cubed event ;-). As of this semester, the L2Ork student organization is also back online. As we look forward to the next semester and the upcoming SEAMUS national conference that will be hosted here at Virginia Tech (March 26-28), we will be joined by Nicholas Rich who will be assisting with the rehearsals as well as writing for the ensemble. This will be a fantastic opportunity for L2Ork to show off in front of leading national computer music artists and researchers. Indeed, next semester is going to be an exciting one. Hence, if you are interested in joining the ensemble, there could not have been a better time to do so. You can simply register for the course online (look for MUS3314) and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. In the meantime, don’t forget to like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter ;-)


18 Months Later…

Oh dear, where to begin? It’s been 18 months since L2Ork’s last post. This is in good part because I was on a year-long research leave. As can be expected, a lot happened during this time. Our program got formidable reinforcements, Drs. Eric Lyon, and Charles Nichols, the new Moss Arts Center with amazing ICAT facilities opened, DISIS is moving into a new and amazing space at the end of this semester, and we’re hosting SEAMUS national conference this coming March.

All along L2Ork remained active on many fronts. Charles, having taught L2Ork for the past year, joined me in managing the ensemble. We’ve continued development of pd-l2ork at a staggering pace (check out our latest screenshots for screenshots of  SVG-enabled patch canvas goodness). The Raspberry Pi version in particular has seen addition of new objects offering a comprehensive alternative to Arduino platforms. Last week, we utilized pd-l2ork in “Cloud,” an interactive art installation commissioned by the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID), and in part sponsored by Virginia Tech’s ICAT where 50 cloudlets were equipped with Raspberry Pis and programmed through a series of community workshops. We had over 150 participants working in teams and perhaps what I found to be particularly impressive about this experience (apart from the fact that the event and the ensuing art was an overwhelming success), was the age range of participants–we had families with small children all the way to senior citizens, all successfully completing the 75-minute workshop and producing a working cloudlet with no prior progamming experience required! Talk about making pd-l2ork accessible to all ages :-). “Cloud” is currently located in the main lobby of Virginia Tech’s National Captial Region (VT NRC) building and will stay there until the end of this month.

Pd-l2ork has seen dozens upon dozens of new releases, with another big one coming up. We have now more contributors and developers and are preparing for a historical jump away from the aging tcl/tk toolkit to the ubiquitous and Qt library (not to be mistaken with Apple’s Quicktime). We have continued to work with Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Virginia, and in collaboration with the Montgomery County Public Schools have also expanded our summer Maker activities to gifted programs. As a result, this summer we held our inaugural Raspberry Pi Orchestra workshop where dozen children over three days and 9 hours of workshops successfully designed, developed, and utilized their own instruments. Our summer Maker camp was sold in less than 48 hours and was by far the most ambitious and successful yet. Last fall we premiered another exciting project–OPERAcraft, that also utilized pd-l2ork to coordinate real-time opera production our in-house custom Minecraft mod. And the list goes on…

This semester, we have a strong group of dozen energetic performers and I am excited by the upcoming program. We have also refreshed our VT student organization and elected new officers. Stay tuned for further announcements over the next couple of weeks. Until then, L2Ork on!


Meditating on Fruit Pies, Preparing for a Tour


The sparser these posts get the more I am convinced that I need to recruit a full-time blogger. So much happened since the last post. Where to begin?

So we’ve completed our migration to our new laptops (HP dm1 4142nr or their educational variant 3115m). The new puppies are working marvelously well and offer formidable performance improvements. Let’s just say that I don’t have to leave a laptop on overnight just to compile a new version of pd-l2ork :-)

Speaking of pd-l2ork, we’ve had a number of releases, many of which have tackled simplifying the building, dependency, and deployment. We also started maintaining a download page on the main portal. In the light of recent developments, including the Satchmo SuitSup Award L2Ork received last fall for its contributions to the Pd community, as well as last month’s ICAT/IMPACT/DISIS/L2Ork Raspberry Pi workshop (I dare you to try reading that acronym soup in one breath), yep you guessed it, pd-l2ork is now running comfortably on Raspberry Pi (RPi) hardware. New versions will be posted shortly on the updated and vastly simplified software page, including detailed instructions on how to configure and run pd-l2ork on RPi. Needless to mention all the efforts at optimizing GUI operations really come in handy on the ultra-affordable and ultra-low-end hardware such as RPi. I guess there has never been a more affordable way to teach music technology, MAKEr, or even start an ultra-affordable RPi orchestra, particularly one geared towards K-12 education (pd-l2ork K12 anyone?)!

As I mentioned in a previous post, over the past year L2Ork has been particularly active in helping facilitate new *Orks around the country and beyond. I am pleased to report that since its inception, L2Ork has helped start 5 new *Orks with three of them coming online in this year alone, including Shawnee State University, Stetson University, and Santa Clara University. Perhaps even more importantly, the said newfound *Orks are using identical or near-identical Linux-based and pd-l2ork-centric setups!

It’s been a while since I wrote a new piece for L2Ork, mainly because of the infrastructural overhaul and heavy work on improving pd-l2ork. And then there was that small formality of tenure that ate up most of the last year. Looking back, it is truly inspiring to see how much the ensemble and its supporting infrastructure have matured. Yet, without new pieces it is easy to lose direction or worse yet, stagnate. I am thrilled to report that a new piece is brewing, one that includes things like earth-rattling dubstep bass, some sick electronic percussion, and smooth meditative textures (can a dubstep go hand-in-hand with meditative textures? good question–I’ll let you know ;-) In part due to infrastructural overhaul and in part due to the newfound dubstep needs, L2Ork is now a proud owner of five new Yamaha YST-FSW050BL2 subs supplanting our old, somewhat beaten up, and definitely underpowered Logitechs. On top of all that we managed to do this without increasing the bottom-line per-seat cost of the ensemble infrastructure. Let the earth-rattling experience commence! But I digress… The new piece titled “Between” is a commission as part of a grant from Temple University’s Vice Provost for the Arts. It is being devised in collaboration with a talented dance duo from Temple University Jillian Harris and Jae Hoon Lim. Speaking of new pieces and collaborations…

Unlike last semester which was dedicated mostly to pd-l2ork clean-up and experimentation with the K-12 module, this semester is packed with performances. Following local “warm-up” shows for new l2orkists at 622 North and XYZ Gallery (as part of the Rock The Blocks festival that took place in March), L2Ork is looking forward to following performances:

Contemplative Practices for a Technological Society
April 30, 2013 8pm @ Virginia Tech Inn (CPTS Banquet)

April16th 7:30pm Princeton University Taplin Auditorium
February 18th 3pm Drexel University ExCITe
February 19th 6pm Temple University Conwell Theater

And then finally, Spring DISIS/ICAT event scheduled for May 6th with a bunch of guest artists (more about that later). So, yes, L2Ork will be paying a visit to the place that started it all, Princeton University, followed by performances and workshops at Drexel and finally Temple University. In preparation for the upcoming tour, we’ve also done a new photo shoot for the promotional materials. Special thanks go to L2Ork’s new photographer Cooper Long for a fantastic job on an incredibly short notice. For more promotional photos, including some entertaining bloopers, check out our Media page.

It is an exciting spring indeed, one that has kept us all both busy and sleep deprived! So much for now, stay tuned for more updates/announcements/music and software releases soon!


Welcome to 2013

Following a rocky server migration that took longer than anticipated, L2Ork is now ready for another exciting semester. As part of the server migration our website has gotten a face-lift and a lot of behind-the-curtain systems have been updated and cleaned up. Hope you like our new design :-)

I am also thrilled to report that L2Ork has now become one of the signature initiatives of the newfound Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and its Integrative Mind & Performance through the Arts, Creativty, and Technology (IMPACT) studio. With the grand opening of the new Center for the Arts less than nine months away… things do not get any more exciting than this.

L2Orkists spent the bulk of the fall 2012 semester helping with the infrastructure overhaul, namely laptop refresh (more about that soon), and a rigorous beta-testing of pd-l2ork software. As a result, we now have a formidable and ultra-stable platform we can continue building upon. Pd-l2ork is now leaner and meaner than ever. As a matter of fact, just a couple days ago we released our first officially stable snapshot (version 20130111). Enhancements are listed on the git page. The new builds now also support debian binaries for both 32-bit and 64- bit installs and the installers have been overhauled to make compiling from source easier than ever. For more info on this and a myriad of other cool features (like universal preset system) go to our Software page and download the latest version. As always, your comments and feedback are most welcome and appreciated–so, please consider joining us on our l2ork-dev mailing list.

This past fall, we’ve continued working with the Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Virginia and consequently improving on the pd-l2ork K12 module. The result is a robust tool with a growing body of documentation linking it to K12 education.

This past fall, I was contacted by an old friend Michael Barnhart, who expressed interest in starting a K12 satellite laptop orchestra based on L2Ork’s K12 framework. I am pleased to report that Shawnee State in Ohio is now a home of yet another K12 satelllite laptop orchestra :-) Around the same time, we’ve had another inquiry from Florida about a possibility of organizing a similar K12 initiative in the Orange state. This opportunity is currently pending. I cannot get excited enough about the prospect of growing number of K12 programs like the one we started here at Virginia Tech a couple years ago.

With the infrastructure now being as solid as it gets and our education-based outreach growing, it’s finally time to shift our attention back to music, which is a good thing as I’ve been itching for some time to write another piece for the ensemble. If any of you out there are interested in writing for the ensemble, do not hesitate to contact us–there has never been a better time than now to write for us! And as we look forward to this next semester and all the opportunities it may bring, I guess this is as good time as any to remind all VT students to consider enrolling in the L2Ork ensemble. L2Ork is always on a lookout for a new talent, so please do not hesitate to contact us!

As always, we have some exciting new announcements to make in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more updates soon!

And so begins the fourth year of L2Ork’s journey…