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The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (abbreviated PLOrk) is an ensemble of computer-based meta-instruments at Princeton University. PLOrk is part of research at Princeton University that investigates ways in which the computer can be integrated into conventional music-making contexts while also radically transforming those contexts. The Princeton Laptop Orchestra is a group of 12–15 persons and uses the “orchestra” (in a very general sense) as a model.

Each PLOrk “instrument” consists of a laptop, a multi-channel hemispherical speaker, and a variety of “control” devices (keyboards, graphics tablets, sensors). The members of this ensemble act as performers, researchers, composers, and software developers.


PLOrk was co-founded in 2005 by professors Perry Cook and Dan Trueman, with graduate students Scott Smallwood and Ge Wang, and funding and support from many Princeton University departments, organizations, and industrial affiliations. Composers and performers from Princeton and elsewhere developed new pieces for the ensemble, including Paul Lansky (Professor of Music at Princeton), Brad Garton (Director of the Columbia Computer Music Center), Pauline Oliveros, PLOrk co-founders Dan Trueman and Perry Cook, Scott Smallwood, Ge Wang, and others. The new PLOrk gave its first performance on April 4, 2006, in Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. Grammy-winning tabla player Zakir Hussain, renowned accordionist Pauline Oliveros, and So Percussion also performed with the group. PLOrk has since performed at Dartmouth College, the Ear to the Earth festival (produced by the Electronic Music Foundation), ffmup and elsewhere. Several scholarly articles describing the motivations for establishing such an ensemble, the issues involved in composing for laptop orchestra, and pedagogical concerns, are currently in press. PLOrk was first presented academically at the 2006 International Computer Music Conference in New Orleans. The guest director of the PLOrk for 2007 was R. Luke DuBois.

Since the beginning, PLOrk has made extensive use of ChucK, a new music programming language created by Ge Wang and Perry Cook which allows the performers to develop new code both in preparation and in performance, and which serves as a primary teaching tool.

A number of composers from Princeton and elsewhere have been developing pieces for PLOrk that address the unconventional composition of the group. PLOrk works closely with these composers on their pieces with the aim of developing them further and further exploring a new branch of computer music and new media musical composition and performance.[1][2][3]


There are 15 PLOrk stations. Each station consists of a laptop with audio software; a rack containing an 8-channel audio amplifier, a power conditioner, and other electronic components; and a custom-made 6-channel hemispherical speaker. In April 2008, PLOrk began using a new hemispherical unit which combines the functionality of the old rack and speakers into one more portable device. The laptops are Apple 12" powerbooks, or more recently, 14" Macbooks. HCI devices include keyboard controllers, TriggerFinger interfaces, graphics tablets, Nintendo Wii remotes, and infrared, light, pressure, and tilt sensors. Additional gears include sitting mats and pillows, laptop lapdesk, and gears for transportation.

The PLOrk ensemble uses a variety of commercial and open-source software. Two audio programming languages, ChucK and Max/MSP are primarily used for pedagogy and performance.[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PLOrk Homepage". 
  2. ^ Wise, Brian (30 April 2006). "But Where Do You Put The Capo on a Laptop?". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "American Composers Orchestra Adds Electronics to Zankel Hall Program". The New York Times. 28 April 2008. 
  4. ^ "ChucK". 
  5. ^ "Max/MSP". 

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