Learning Elementary Musical Programming with Extempore: Translating Arvo Pärt's Fratres into Live Code Snippets

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Fabia F. A. E. Bertram


Live coding is a programming practice that works through the real-time implementation of code (Wang and Cook 2003; McLean 2004) and thus vastly changes the perception of conventional computer programming in terms of meld- ing design, coding and debugging phases (Fay-Wolfe 2003) into one single process. This means that immediately putting code into action and turning out results enables a direct verification of whether a program works at all, and if the results make sense as expected or need to be modified. Musical live coding may therefore motivate people through apprehending the skill of learning how to code their own improvisations or compositions. A wider margin of people, such as musicians or people with augmented musical interest in general, is reached, which is interesting from an edu- cational perspective. But live coding contains many more interesting properties than just these pedagogical ones (Blackwell 2013). The Dagstuhl Report released at the end of 2013 offers a great overview of the different topics of interest at the moment. Further investigative questions relevant to the live coding sector will further be explored in the adjacent Master's thesis by he author.

The topic of this paper concerns the implementation of a given musical composition that is suitable to be coded. Fra- tres by Arvo Pärt is based on a simple mathematical structure (Åkesson 2007, Kautny 2005) that provides a live coder with a variety of tasks for creating musical structures (melodies, harmonies, rhythms). In addition to an overview about the question of why it may be interesting to work with pre-existing compositions in addition to tutorials, musical programming solutions will be provided succeeded by musical analysis of the fundamental composition.

This paper is a portion of the second part of the author's Master's thesis that documents an auto-immersion into the study of a live coding language – here Extempore – and aims to illuminate elementary musical programming.

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