Taking their name from Polish-French-American Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (who sadly passed away in 2010), German experimentalists Benoit and the Mandelbrots are a live coding laptop phenomenon.
Formed at the University of Music Karlsruhe, the four piece collective harness the process of writing software in real-time, expressing sonic structures as live source code.
“We had Alberto de Campo and Julian Rohrhuber as visiting professors [at the University of Music Karlsruhe], who were the first live coders”, says Mandelbrot member Patrick Borgeat.
“They designed JITLib, the live coding extension for the SuperCollider programming language.
“Me and Juan played in a laptop ensemble called Grainface at that time, which used a lot of controllers like Wii-Motes”, says Patrick.
“We thought it was kind corny and we wanted a simpler set-up”.
Fellow member Juan A. Romero adds, “after the experience with Grainface, preparing pieces, programming controllers and rehearsing, we thought it would be better to be more flexible and improvise more than compose.
“We aren’t composers and we were somehow taking this role, which I personally don’t like.
“Thanks to Julian and Alberto, we saw the possibility of using our code in a live performance, so we just needed to practice instead of trying to compose”, says Juan.
“We concentrated on improvising, which gave us more freedom”.
As well as gaining inspiration from Julian and Alberto, the Mandelbrot four piece extend their musical creativity from a variety of other experiences.
Matthias Schneiderbanger explains, “For me, the biggest influence is always the place where we will perform.
“Not only because of the fact that we mostly improvise on stage, but also because we really like to play in more inconvenient places”, he says.
“This year, we’ve already performed in a bank, a library, a cinema and even a church.
“And these places always lead to new musical approaches and different styles of music.”
Patrick continues, “I also think a lot of non-musical inspires us a lot.
“Like Internet culture, generative animation, graphics and movies in general.”
“Every one of us has a different musical background and taste, which plays a role in finding a sound.”
“Some of us hear ‘beauty’ kind of electronic music, others like it more ‘noisy’ or ‘glitchy’, others like more soft and ambient music, and all of it has an impact in our music”, adds Juan.
“We also try to be as versatile as possible and try different genres.”
Improvisation and tests are clearly something that make the Mandelbrots tick during rehearsal, as they build and expand their landscapes through agreeable, complimentary sounds.
“Improvisational possibilities are huge in theory”, says Patrick.
“In live coding practices, there’s always time as a very limiting factor.”
Juan agrees, “the possibilities are limited by knowledge, the typing speed and the performance time.
“But I would say mostly, it would be knowledge.
“How well can you imagine sounds and write them into code, how well can you know your instrument.
“I’ve had experiences where errors and glitches took me to a different goal as the one I intended, but I liked that more than my original idea, and kept using that mistake in my favour!”, he says.
However, surely there’s a possibility that experimentation with laptops could lead to the risk of computer rebellion? After constantly being told what to do!
Matthias explains, “In summer 2010, I faced this subject with a piece where the interpreters of live coded music were human again.
“They had headphones on with live coded music, and had to reproduce the heard sounds with their voice for the audience.
“But generally, it is not a real problem for me to use the computer as an interpreter.
“I am more concerned about the role of the loudspeakers”, he says.
“We force them all the time to do even self-damaging sounds.
“I could even make a piece where the loudspeaker is insulting itself.
“It’s not okay”, says Matthias.
“I hope the machines will include us in their curriculum on Human Music History!”, adds Patrick.
With little over a month to go until Network Music Festival, Juan expects that the Mandelbrot set will bring a “broad audience.”
He continues, “ We expect the people to get interested in programming music, or to see the programming also as a musical/performative activity and not something you do in your room in the dark.”
Patrick adds, “Internet makes it possible that you never feel isolated with your work, as there is so much exchange.
“But you can never underestimate physical presence and seeing all these people performing live at one festival is a really big thing.”
And what are Benoit and the Mandelbrots plans for the future?
“I would like to make a world tour”, says Matthias.
“And a gig in space would be cool too!”.
Fourth member Holger Ballweg agrees, “Yes, space would be sweet.
“Sirius or this new found ExoPlanet comes to mind….”
by Ross Cotton – Freelance Music Journalist http://domesticcity.posterous.com/