Live Coding – Definition, Examples, History & More – Digital Art and Technology Glossary

I. What is Live Coding?

Live coding is a performance practice where artists write and manipulate code in real-time to create visuals, music, or other forms of digital art. It is a way of improvising and creating art through programming languages, allowing for a dynamic and interactive experience for both the artist and the audience.

Live coding blurs the lines between coding and performance, as the code itself becomes part of the artistic expression. It is a form of live performance that challenges traditional notions of creativity and artistry, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology and programming.

II. History of Live Coding

Live coding has its roots in the demoscene culture of the 1980s and 1990s, where programmers would create real-time audiovisual demos using assembly language and other low-level programming languages. These demos were often showcased at computer and technology conferences, pushing the limits of what was possible with early computer hardware.

In the early 2000s, live coding began to gain popularity in the music and digital art communities, with artists like Alex McLean and Nick Collins pioneering the use of programming languages like SuperCollider and ChucK to create live performances. Since then, live coding has evolved into a diverse and vibrant community of artists, musicians, and technologists pushing the boundaries of creativity and technology.

III. Tools and Platforms for Live Coding

There are a variety of tools and platforms available for live coding, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Some popular tools for live coding include Sonic Pi, TidalCycles, and Hydra, which allow artists to create music, visuals, and interactive experiences through code.

These tools often feature a live coding environment where artists can write and manipulate code in real-time, seeing the results of their changes immediately. They also often include built-in libraries and functions for creating complex and dynamic art and music, making it easier for artists to experiment and explore new creative possibilities.

IV. Techniques and Practices in Live Coding

Live coding involves a variety of techniques and practices that artists use to create dynamic and engaging performances. One common technique is algorithmic composition, where artists use code to generate musical patterns and structures in real-time. This allows for a high degree of improvisation and experimentation, as artists can quickly change and adapt their compositions as they perform.

Another common practice in live coding is live sampling and manipulation, where artists use code to sample and manipulate audio and visual elements in real-time. This can create complex and evolving textures and patterns, adding a layer of unpredictability and excitement to the performance.

V. Live Coding in Digital Art

Live coding has become increasingly popular in the digital art world, with artists using code to create interactive installations, generative art, and other forms of digital expression. Live coding allows artists to create dynamic and evolving art experiences that respond to audience input and environmental conditions, blurring the lines between art and technology.

Many digital artists use live coding as a way to explore new creative possibilities and push the boundaries of what is possible with technology. By writing code in real-time, artists can create art that is constantly changing and evolving, challenging traditional notions of static and fixed art forms.

VI. Live Coding in Music

Live coding has also become a popular practice in the music world, with artists using code to create unique and innovative musical compositions. By writing code in real-time, musicians can create complex and dynamic soundscapes that evolve and change as the performance progresses.

Many musicians use live coding as a way to experiment with new sounds and musical structures, pushing the boundaries of traditional music composition. Live coding allows for a high degree of improvisation and spontaneity, as artists can quickly change and adapt their compositions based on audience feedback and their own creative impulses.