Pages 117-128 | Published online: 06 Dec 2016

This paper sets live coding in the wider context of performing arts, construed as the poetic modelling and projection of liveness. Concepts of liveness are multiple, evolving, and scale-dependent: entities considered live from different cultural perspectives range from individual organisms and social groupings to entire ecosystems, and consequently reflect diverse temporal and spatial orders. Concepts of liveness moreover evolve with our tools, which generate and reveal new senses and places of vitality. This instability complexifies the crafting of live events as artistic material: overriding habitual frames and scales of reference is a challenge when handling infinitely scalable computational phenomena. With its generative affordances, improvised interactive programming, and notational possibilities, live coding introduces unique qualities into the performance arena. At the same time, performance history abounds in adaptive systems which anticipate certain live coding criteria. Historic performance and contemporary coding practices raise shared questions that can enhance our understanding of live art, notably to do with feedback, fixed versus on-the-fly programmable conceptual and physical frameworks, and inscriptive practices and notation methods for live action. I attempt to address such questions by setting live coding in a wider performance history perspective.

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