Research seminar

Wednesday 24 February 2016, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Sam Aaron (University of Cambridge)

Live Coding the intersection between the arts, technology and education

Code is one of the most powerful, creative and transformative media available. However the potential of code is still largely incomprehensible and out of reach for most of our society. How and why should we address this as a problem?  In order to help us unpick and explore these simple yet deep questions we will follow the story of Sonic Pi - a live coding music synth designed for the arts, research and education.

Sonic Pi was originally created as a response to the challenge of finding new ways to teach code in schools. It has since evolved into an extremely powerful and performance-ready live coding instrument suitable for professional artists and DJs. It is also a rich research platform for exploring questions related to liveness, time and concurrency in programming languages. Yet, despite this rapid evolution it has maintained its core mission - to be simple enough for 10 year olds.

Through Sonic Pi as a lens we will be forced to confront some interesting and challenging questions: - How is code creative? How can we communicate through code?  Can programming languages be expressive interfaces? Can notation become an instrument? To what extent is performance a form of education and education a kind of performance?


Sam Aaron is a researcher, software architect and computational thinker with a deep fascination surrounding the notion of communicative programming. His Ph.D. research focussed upon the design of Domain Specific Languages in order to allow domain concepts to be communicated and transposed more effectively and efficiently and he is actively involved in applying these techniques within academia and industry, empowering project collaborators to have greater insight into the software being built.

Sam leads Improcess, a collaborative research project within the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and is a core contributor to Overtone, an expressive Clojure front-end to the state-of-the-art, realtime sound synthesis server SuperCollider that facilitates a very high level exploration of musical ideas ranging from synthesis and sampling to live-coding and instrument construction.

Location: Rymer Auditorium