Rosia Evans


I gave a talk at a Aber BCS Show And Tell event last year trying to introduce more people to the concept of algorave, live-coding and the ideas behind them. This post hopes to be a on-paper rewrite of that talk.

This is a work in progress post, expect some spelling mistakes and an unfinished ending

What is Algorave?

Algorave is a form of live-coding where a performer writes code in real time in front of an audience to produce music. The code they write procedurally creates waves for the computers speakers to play in the real world. The code is normally projected onto the walls as its written as a form of light show, allowing the viewers to watch the code being written. You often see live gpu-shaders being written and projected at the same time to play with the beat of the music. There's a wide range of languages people use for this though the most common ones that I've seen are the Haskell based TidalCycles and the Ruby based Sonic-Pi.

The music produced in these performances can range massively and sometimes be somewhat avant-garde or peculiar, using mathematical algorithms or randomness to produce unique sounds or beats.

What drew me to algorave

I initially found algorave though my Raspberry Pi as a child as, for a long time, Sonic-Pi came pre-installed with most Pi's (hence its name). I looked into it on and off but never got very far with it until years later during my sixth form years when finally I decided to dedicate a weekend to learning it fully. Through learning it I was introduced to its community and I found it a really lovely place. It holds some really interesting concepts at the core of its ethos:

Temporary code

Algorave and live coding in general produces code that constantly grows and changes. During live-coding you'll remove or rewrite large chunks of your program. Its in a constant state of change and everything is temporary. This is at the core of the community. Its common practise to start a performance on a blank file and at the end of your performance to delete it entirely.

Algorave was first started in a more official capacity in the early 2000's by TOPLAP, the Temporary Organisation to Promote Live Audiovisual Programming and this too reflects that temporary nature of live-coding. The purpose of this organisation was to help live-coding become a naturally growing and evolving art, people taking it in whatever direction they felt right. Once it becomes big enough, the idea is for the group to shut down and leave the medium to its own devices.

I love this approach so much, I've found it to make live-coding a really freeing activity. If I'm feeling burnt out with code I often find myself going to Sonic-Pi where I can just write till it stops being fun or I start feeling restrained by what I've built at which point I just erase the code and start again, making something completely new. I see it almost as the programming equivalent of doodling on scrap paper.


From the very beginning diversity was at the core of algorave's ideals. From its early starts in the 2000's, live-coders have run exclusive workshops and sessions for women and minorities and most live shows open slots specifically for people who may not normally get a voice. This has lead to some really interesting outcomes with the live-coding community being one of the most equally balanced communities, with a really good gender ratio and a wide queer presence within it.

I think it says a lot that even in the early 2000's the community was focusing on this and driving for a wide range of people to take part in it. It shows a real genuine understanding of why diversity is so important and the outcomes of all of this have been amazing. Algorave is a somewhat common style of performance at a few small queer bars near me and I feel like this really shows that the mindset behind it has helped produce a community that's incredibly welcoming and open.


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