Huddersfield Experimental Laptop Orchestra

Thearchy Sans Serif

for three or more unplugged laptops (or similar mobile digital signal processors)

by samuel.freeman, 20101020

version 0.1, 20101023

this version has been implemented as a distributed maxpat for three players, however the specifications for making sound could be implemented in other ways.


The number of players is taken as the number of pulses per measure (in this case three).

Players are referred to as player 1, player 2, etc,

There are two sections to the piece.

At the start of Section One player 1 will begin at pulse 1, player 2 at pulse 2, etc.

The parameters of the automated sequence in Section One are derived mainly from the number of players with orderings of lists given to chance.

Section Two will begin at a different time for each player, but ends by agreement of all players together.

The approximate length is given as 42 measures for this three player version. If a pulse were taken as one second, then 42 measures would be two minutes and six seconds.


Before starting all players will be standing together and each is aware of which player they are: 1, 2, or 3.

All players must reset the system and make sure the output volume of their computer is set to maximum (or match the level of the quietest machine at maximum, if this is much lower than others).

It is ok to output an audio sample, such as from the click~ object, to make sure that the DSP is ready.

Section One

For each player, the period of time between clicking A and B sets the period for that machine:

For each player, the automated sequence will begin after their own click of ‘B’ and following a pause of their own set period.

Once the sequence starts, players should walk away from the starting place and other, preferably into and around the audience, and at all times maintaining roughly equal distance between each other.

The duration of this section, for each player, is dictated by the set period. In this three player version of the piece, once the sequence begins it will continue for 18 times the set period.

Section Two

When the automated sequence ends, each player will click ‘C’ to start Section Two.

This should happen quite soon after the final period of the automated sequence, but each player is free choose the exact moment.

In this section the amplitude of the audio output is controlled via on-screen slider which scrubs through the last used amplitude envelope shape.

While continuously changing the amplitude in this way, each player will eventually move back to the starting place by whatever path they choose. Once there, players may, if they wish, mute their output.

For example, player 1 could be back at the start and muted before player 3 had reached the end of Section One; however, player 1 may choose to wait until player 3 is ready to start Section Two before doing so.

In this section, players should only walk whilst changing the amplitude of their output.

When all players have returned to the starting place, the DSP of each computer is stopped. End.