University of York assembles world’s first laptop orchestra using 50 Apple MacBooks

50 music students from the University of York will perform three orchestral pieces on Apple MacBooks at concerts this month. They will form the largest digital ensemble of its kind anywhere in the world.

MacDailyNews Note: Not the “world’s first.” More on other existing laptop orchestra’s and related info here.

The Worldscape Laptop Orchestra (WLO) will perform new music written with MacBooks supplied by Apple Computer Inc.

The multimedia performance has been created by students of the Department of Music at York in just five weeks. WLO is designed and directed by Dr. Ambrose Field, an award-winning composer in the Department.

The full range of software functionality is used in the performance – including video detection where hand movements of performers are decoded by the MacBooks into musical events. The 50 MacBooks use Airport wireless internet to communicate, sharing audio and control data. The concerts will be streamed live from the University’s website.

Musicians, each with a MacBook, will be seated on the floor, and surrounded by video screens in an atmospheric lighting scheme, creating a stunning spectacle. The highly unusual sound of the orchestra will combine with this to produce an ‘immersive’ multimedia performance.

Field said in the release, “The computers become musical instruments in this performance. We set out to push the boundaries of human interaction with computers in the WLO, enabling 50 people to explore musical performance in a way which was previously not possible.”

Paul McFadden of Apple said in a statement: “Universities and companies often collaborate on research and innovation. This project is exciting for us because it’s innovation at its most creative – it opens up a whole new vista of using technology in performance.”

Philip Morris, Business Development Manager at the University of York said: “The Worldscape Laptop Orchestra bridges the arts/science divide by bringing advanced computing and video technologies into the concert hall. Digital processing has become an art form.”

The Music Department at York currently supports the work of around 100 postgraduate students. It offers an outstanding environment and facilities for postgraduate study in music and research in most areas of musical scholarship and practice. The modern buildings of the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall now incorporate a new ‘Music Research Centre’ with an additional auditorium, new recording studios and research spaces.

Source: University of York


  1. This is music to my ears ) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”gulp” style=”border:0;” /> (

    Haven’t we come a ways, already, since the Moog Synthesizer days of the 1960s

    Now imagine what’s in store for the next 40 years


  2. Hey! I was a music student at York back in the 70s. That was before computers became widely available, but we did have an electronic music studio which did some great stuff. It was a truly innovative place even then, and well connected too: I recall visits from Shostakovich and from John Cage, among others.

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