Poster on-the-fly: Live Coding Hacklab, January 28-30, 2022 at ZKM | Karlsruhe. Design by Caro Mikalef.

On the last weekend of January, I was invited to Karlsruhe in Germany to be part of the event on-the-fly: Live Coding Hacklab at ZKM | Karlsruhe. My role was to be a mentor of machine learning in live coding together with Iván Paz (Toplap Barcelona / Hangar). The idea was to offer a flexible and fluid approach to the topic, where the Hacklab participants could attend the session at any time during the two days of the event. After each day, the participants were invited to showcase their progress as evening presentations and from scratch sessions.

The brief of the event was the following:

On January 29 and 30, an open Hacklab will take place at the ZKM | Hertz-Lab for all coding enthusiasts who want to explore live coding and code collaboratively together with international experts. In live coding, the composition process is brought to the stage. Algorithms are written and executed live and often improvisationally in the form of source code.

The Hacklab will focus on four main topics, each of which will be supervised by international mentors and outstanding players in the live coding scene: The fusion of current live coding environments with machine learning technology and sound spatialization, as well as visuals and Algorave.

On the occasion of and during the two-day event, live coding workshops for professionals as well as for beginners (children and teenagers) will be offered, the results of which will be presented in evening performances.

It has been a privilege to share the bill with the following mentors and masterclasses speakers: Alexandra Cárdenas, Antonio Roberts, Iván Paz, Lina Bautista, Marije Baalman, Shelly Knotts, Olivia Jack and Kıvanç Tatar. The masterclasses were in the morning while the Hacklab themed sessions were in the afternoon, so as mentors we were able to attend the masterclasses and the other way around. The evening presentations were a way of catching up with the other Hacklab groups.

There were a total of 35 registered attendees, who had the flexibility to explore the Hacklab themes at any point. For the theme of live coding and machine learning, we used the MIRLCa SuperCollider extension that I’m developing. The title of the Hacklab workshop was Live taming free sounds (thanks to Gerard Roma for the title idea!). The learning outcomes of the session were:

  • To get a quick overview of different approaches to applying machine learning in live coding.
  • To do a hands-on inspection on classifying crowdsourced sounds to use as a live digital worldwide sampler.
  • To do an aesthetic incursion into sound-based music in live coding.

There were showcases on both Saturday and Sunday on the teams of Algorave, spatial audio and visuals. With Iván we commented to better perform on Sunday to give time to the Hacklab attendees to train their models and get familiar with the tool.

We spent most of the first session installing the required software and libraries. It was not until the second day that the participants were able to train their own models to filter sounds from Freesound. On the second day, we spent the last two hours of the workshop creating teams and preparing the showcase in the evening.

In total, there were 4 groups (1 individual, two duos, and one trio) together with the presentation of Naoto Hieda’s Hydra Freesound Auto, a self-livecoding system. The first individual group was led by Luka Frelih (Ljudmila Art and Science Laboratory), who amazingly performed a training session for Algorave sounds involving the audience’s opinion, and tested the model live! Bringing the training process on stage was something that we talked about with Sam Roig during the workshops last year. Luka hit the nail grasping the key points and adapting the supervised learning process to music that you can dance. We then had two duos and one trio, including Lina Batista, Olivia Jack, Shelly Knotts, Iván Paz, and myself, together with two workshop participants, where we showcased our trained models as from scratch sessions of 9 minutes from empty canvases. It was great fun!

A 'from scratch' session with Olivia Jack and Anna Xambó at on-the-fly: Live Coding Hacklab, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo by Antonio Roberts.

Although the effort of travelling these days is enormous, it has been worth it. I’m so happy that this happened! It’s so inspiring to experience again being in the real world meeting old and new friends. It was also nice to see others taking ownership of the MIRLCa code. It has been useful to gather user feedback to improve the code.


Thank you to ZKM | Hertz-Lab for organising the event. Special thanks to Cecilia Preiss, Yannick Hofmann, and Dominik Kautz from ZKM as well as Patrick Borgeat from Hochschule für Musik for their constant help in making this happen as well as Iván Paz and Lina Bautista from Hangar Barcelona for ideating the project. The Hacklab and the live coding performances are part of the project »on-the-fly« and co-funded by the European Union’s »Creative Europe« program. With »on-the-fly«, ZKM, Hangar Barcelona, Creative Coding Utrecht and Ljudmila Art + Science Laboratory have made it their goal to foster the European live coding scene.