What is L2Ork?
L2Ork stands for Virginia Tech DISIS Linux Laptop Orchestra, World’s first orchestra of its kind built on Linux.
The name reflects the fact there are 2 Ls we treat as L-squared and an Ork. Since L2Ork is in part inspired by and therefore tries to maintain a reasonable level compatibility with PLOrk (World’s first laptop orchestra founded in Princeton) and Stanford’s SLOrk, its name in part reflects this intention.
Why a laptop orchestra?
There are many compelling reasons for this, a number of which are described at the end of the About page. Others can be found in a compelling paper Why a Laptop Orchestra? by Dan Trueman, founder and co-director of PLOrk.
How does L2Ork work?
Since laptops can take on many different roles, likewise we envision L2Ork taking many different shapes and forms. Currently, we are focusing on exploring Nintendo Wiimote and Nunchuk as our main gestural input source in conjunction with computer keyboard, trackpad, and other built-in laptop input devices (e.g. webcam). Apart from input devices, we use our custom-built hemispherical speakers, external soundcard, and up to three subs (each supporting inputs from up to six individual performers).
What differentiates L2Ork from other *Orks?
Not that we want to be that different from other *Orks as we do believe what they do is pretty cool. More so, we are interested in maintaining compatibility with them so that we can perform their repertoire, and vice-versa. Yet, in the design process we still ended-up with some notable differences. Namely, L2Ork has been conceived to offer unprecedented affordability for the purpose of facilitating wider adoption and dissemination and do so (in our opinion) without noticeably affecting overall quality. Consequently, L2Ork uses Linux OS in conjunction with MSI Wind U100 notebooks. This has enabled L2Ork to pursue a number of opportunities in the K-12 (Kindergarten through the 12th grade) education.
Another angle that distinguishes L2Ork from other ensembles of its kind is its strong emphasis on physical presence, gesture, and choreography. L2Ork increasingly relies on Tai Chi Chuan (Taiji) choreography for its performance practice, something that has also afforded us exploration of ensemble’s use within the context of contemplative practice.
So, how affordable is L2Ork?
The complete setup including netbook, wiimotes and other input devices, external soundcard, hemispherical speakers, cables and accessories, operating system and supporting software, as well as a travel bag as of November 2009 costs approximately $800 per seat (should you decide to build your own speakers, please note that this figure does not include time required to build speakers). When designing/obtaining larger quantities, this price typically drops down.
As of spring 2013, L2Ork has also invaded the Raspberry Pi platform. While the final cost tally is still pending, the newfound cost per seat is expected to be well below $100.
A good chunk of this answer can be found on the history page. The rest goes something like this:
We set out to identify the most affordable infrastructure to maximize its dissemination potential, and do so without sacrificing its quality. As a result, we identified a need for a platform that would allow us to customize every aspect of the operating system to better serve our needs. To top all this off, our preliminary cost assessment concluded that a large part of this cost comes from software. While time required to customize operating system and supporting software undoubtedly also costs money arguably negating any savings we may have projected in our assessment, our rationale is that such an investment is warranted because it offers greater long-term savings, allows us to interface with the Linux developer community, reinforces multidisciplinary nature of L2Ork, and perhaps most importantly allows us to attain a much more comfortable level of self-sufficiency and therefore independence from factors that are otherwise largely outside our control (e.g. breaking of backwards compatibility, fundamental changes to the OS that negatively affect performance in our specific environment, etc.).
Why use Wiimote?
Unlike PLOrk and SLOrk that rely upon accelerometers built into their Apple hardware we’ve opted to equip our ensemble with rugged handheld devices that allow us a greater agility and range of motion. Nintendo Wiimote is arguably the most affordable device that fits this description that offers additional functionality, such as IR camera, analog joystick, and buttons.
How large is L2Ork?
Currently we have hardware infrastructure that can support up to 15 performers.
I want to start my own Linux-based *Ork. How can I build my own L2Ork hemi speakers?
We’ve posted a series of instructables on our YouTube channel that should help with that. More info is available on the “join the l2orkmania” page.
Is there a place where I can buy a L2Ork version of the hemi speaker?
Currently we have no plans to sell hemi speakers, although we may offer this in future. If you are not in position to build your own and would really like to get your hands on a hemi, Electrotap sells commercial-grade hemi speakers that may fit your needs.
I am a Linux user and developer and would like to contribute to L2Ork.
If interested in contributing, please do not hesitate to contact L2Ork director Ico. His contact info can be found on the contact page.
What is DISIS?
DISIS stands for Virginia Tech Music Department‘s Digital Interactive Sound and Intermedia Studio.
What is ICAT?
ICAT stands for Virginia Tech’s latest Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. L2Ork is one of its signature initiatives and a member of its Integrative Mind & Performance through the Arts, Creativity, and Technology (IMPACT) Studio.
What do acronyms listed under the “VT Stakeholders” on the right stand for?
These are various Departments, Institutes, and Initiatives at Virginia Tech that have supported in various capacities the creation of L2Ork and therefore serve as its Stakeholders. For more info please click on the respective acronyms.
Please send us your most frequently asked questions, so that we can expand our FAQ accordingly.