Santa Clara’s Laptop Orchestra, Version 2.0

SCLork at work, 2013
SCLork at work, 2013

A year ago, Bruno Ruviaro was kind enough to let me sit in on one session of his laptop orchestra course at Santa Clara University. It was fun watching the students hone and rehearse the pieces for their upcoming end-of-quarter performance.

Ruviaro taught the class again, during this past spring session — and again, SCLork (the Santa Clara Laptop Orchestra) will perform an end-of-year concert. It’s Wednesday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Santa Clara’s Music Recital Hall. (It’s in the Music and Dance building, corner of Lafayette and Franklin.) This year, Santa Clara’s performing arts group has even listed the program and the players for your perusal.

As I wrote last year, the course consists of weekly rehearsals in anticipation of the concert. Classes are held on the very stage where the students will perform. They’re given identical laptops on Day One (ensuring consistency of tools), and from there, Ruviaro helps shape the performance while guiding the class through the backroads of performance-software packages such as SuperCollider. He and the students build the concert program, consisting of their own pieces and some Santa Clara faculty contributions. In fact, Professor Alex Christie’s “What Happened in Salt Lake City,” which was part of the rehearsal I saw, appears on this year’s bill as well.

I’d intented to ask Ruviaro for permission to watch Day One of the class this time around, just to get a flavor for what it’s like. I’d seen the culmination of the process, with the students working as a team, comfortable improvising around a framework, well versed in the vocabulary of their instruments. I’d like to contrast that with the beginning. The difference might actually be slim. The students aren’t blind amateurs; many are musicians, so they’ve got ensemble experience, and I got the impression that a few had already run a few laps around the noise-improv track.

There’s a SLOrk at Stanford University as well, but it’s nice to see a project like this down in the South Bay. The course certainly seems to be a success — this time, admission is not free, and the concert is getting a regular evening slot rather than the late afternoon. SCU takes SCLork seriously, as they should; there’s some cool stuff happening here.