School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Live Coding, Notation and Improvisation - Seminar by Thor Magnusson

4 March 2015

Time: 3:00 - 5:00pm
Venue: Eng. 2.09 Engineering Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

Live coding is a method of writing software where the program is created and altered in real-time whilst running. Live coding can be applied in diverse contexts, but this presentation focusses on music. Emphasising improvisation, live coding in music is a practice merging the act of musical composition and performance into a public act of projected writing.

In this talk, Thor Magnusson will give a quick introduction to live coding and his ixi lang system, but then move on to the context of code as musical notation, the problem of the score, and how/why one would perform writing code. Thor will introduce the improvisational features of his Threnoscope software, which implements a micro-language for drone-based microtonal and spatial composition. The system is designed with the aim of removing representation of linear time from music by emphasising stasis or circularity. Through visualisation of harmonic relationships, tuning systems, and multichannel audio, the system affords specific compositional focus that encourages the performer to work with spatial sound and descriptions of harmonic spectra as opposed to scheduling events in time. Some musical performance might occur.

Thor Magnusson’s background in philosophy and electronic music informs prolific work in performance, research and teaching. His work focuses on the impact digital technologies have on musical creativity and practice, explored through software development, composition and performance. He is the co-founder of ixi audio (, and has developed audio software, systems of generative music composition, written computer music tutorials and created two musical live coding environments. Thor Magnusson lectures in Music at the University of Sussex.