Holly Herndon is an artist based in San Franciso, known for pretty incredible performances with her voice and laptop. Pitchfork describe her as “one of the year’s most exciting new voices, producers, and composers”, so it’s good to read an interview with her which touches on live coding. In her own words:
“I started using a programming language called ChucK. It’s a really interesting way of dealing with time in music. It’s set up for real time coding, which is a very different way of writing music or performing music than pulling in samples, or playing with a pre-existing instrument. If you’re building an instrument during your performance, I think that changes the way that you perform … There are a lot of different tools we have, but they’re not accessible yet. They’re still stuck in the world of academia, but I think that it’s changing.”
“I’m trying to […] get at the crux of the intimacy we have with our technology, because so many people really cast it in this light of the laptop being cold. I really think it’s a fallacy the way people cast technology in this light and then cast acoustic or even analogue instruments in this warm, human light, because I don’t understand what would be more human between a block of wood and something that was also created by humans, for humans. […] People see code as this crazy, otherworldly thing, but it’s just people writing text. It’s a very idiosyncratic, human language.”
“You’ll always have some people who are dreaming for another era, but it’s not going away, it’s not changing. Computers compute, really fast. Don’t work against them, they’re amazing.”
Live coding, and generative composition in general, have some way to go, but the promise burns. Really great to see cutting edge producers like Holly Herndon feeling it, and pushing the message as well as the code, while finding her own very human way of making music. Looking forward to hearing what she does with ChucK!