Lila – A Computer Music Instrument

Lila is an old Sanskrit word signifying divine play, the play of destruction and creation, or the play of presence in the moment. The computer music instrument Lila is built based on simple analog processes (e.g., loop, delay, ring modulation, and feedback) whose parameters are controlled precisely by a performative action. Lila samples and transforms the acoustic material played in real-time based on the actions of the human playing Lila and plays it back; the acoustic performer can improvise more material on this newly created sound. This becomes a continual and circular process. The precise real-time control of the parameters allows the Lila improvisor to participate in both micro and macro level of musical formations. Thus, the computer not only can act as agent of form in macro structure of time (such as it is in music involving tape music) and lead the acoustic performer, but also provides a musical context in which a human improvisor, using the computer as an instrument, can accompany and respond to the acoustic material. In this way, the acoustic performer can have the same form of musical freedom which he or she enjoys in a traditional setting in an augmented expressive language.

Network extensions have been added to Lila so that its performer could control multiple instances of the program over the network, while Lila compensates for the actions of the performer based on the intrinsic network delays. I am interested in exploration of the play with space over the network, in the same way that I am able to play with delay in a single location, to turn the physical distance into an ephemeral yet malleable artistic parameter.

Lila has been used in collaboration with such artists as Peter Sellars, Steven Schick, Maya Beiser, and Hossein Omoumi among others, on such stages and venues as the Carnegie Hall, Japan America Theatre (Los Angeles), Festival of Arts and Ideas (New Haven), Ravinia Festival (Chicago), American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge), DeSingel (Belgium), MC93 Bobigney (Paris), Vienna Festival, Holland Festival, and Forum Barcelona.