Behind the Screens: Roald van Dillewijn
An interview with coder and electronical musician Roald van Dillewijn.
Roald van Dillewijn is a (semi)-improvised electronic musician, in which he tries to connect the digital world, with its endless possibilities, with the analogue world, using heavy, detailed, warm sounds. Besides his music, he also creates soft- and hardware tools to create, manipulate or interact with sound and music, sometimes combined with a visual output.
In this interview we’d like to talk about his practices and tools, as well as work in the community and the way he copes with the radical and drastic changes in his practice resulting from the corona crisis.
What is your first encounter with live coding and what are sources of inspiration?
in 2010 I attended the Linux Audio Conference, organized by Music & Technology department of The University of the Arts Utrecht. As a first-year student at Music & Technology at that time I was asked to help during that conference. During a lunch concert IOhannes M Zmölnig was giving a live code performance in Pure Data and it really blew my mind. I had gained some experience with making Max/MSP patches during the first year of my study, but the things IOannes did were pure magic and musically at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Around that time there were some live coding contests in Utrecht and I was not confident enough to join those contests. The performance I saw at the Linux Audio Conference was a kick starter for me to investigate the art of live coding and join these contests. Seeing others code and them giving feedback while you are coding helps a lot in getting to know more about the programming environment.
A personal source of inspiration that goes well with live coding is improvisation and unpredictability. Getting result from a patch, a hardware device or a fellow musician triggers to react. Live coding and especially the more free performances within a limited time force to improvise and force to create things that might react unpredictable. And that helps you to come up with creative responses to that.
Which platform do you use and why?
At the moment I’m using Mercury by Timo Hoogland and I’m working with him to integrate my pedal-hacking project Digilog into it. Digilog is a project in which I hacked guitar pedals to add remote digital control on all the parameters of the pedal. On some pedals with midi capability this is a standard feature, but most of them are not digitally controllable. With my hack I can control almost all of my pedals with a computer. And with Mercury and the add I wrote for that I can do live coding for guitar pedals. For now, I use Mercury as the main sound source, so all the audio is generated within Mercury, all the audio processing is done with the pedals. All in sync with the audio and controlled by Mercury.
How has live coding influenced your way of making things?
As I mentioned before, my main source of inspiration is improvisation. If you are good in playing a traditional instrument, you’ll be able to create new music with it while improvising. I see live coding as a way to teach yourself to become as virtuoso in code as in a traditional instrument. So live coding helped me to master the software as an instrument and that results in a broader toolkit to create music. In my daily coding project, where I made an audio visual piece of art every day during 2019, I used my live coding skills to be able to create a visual artwork every day with code, accompanied by improvised audio.
In these times of lockdown, what can we learn from the live coding community in terms of their way of organisation?
I think that the live coding community and in a more general way the whole DIY-community is a great example of how we need to deal with technology in current and feature times. Being able to create art on the fly and share it with the world, which is happening a lot with all the streaming events, is a great way of bringing art direct from the artist to the audience. Next to that, live coding stands for me for the art of being the boss of the technology you’re using. In these times a lot of people let their devices decide how they’re living. Live coding can help us take back control from our devices.
Did the isolation force you to make adjustments to your current practice, and can you elaborate on how these changes impact your work?
After the first shock of the lock-down with a lot of rearranging for my part time job at the Music & Technology department of the University of the Arts Utrecht, there was some more time to develop things for my own projects. Things that need to be done but for which I couldn’t find time. So, the isolation gave me time and inspiration to develop some new things, improve my current Digilog-setup and made me rethink how I worked on my art the last couple of years. Eventually I want to be able to show all these new developments to the audience and play some old-fashioned live shows. So let’s hope that will be possible in the near feature.
Find more of Roald’s work here:
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This article is part of the 10 Minute Livecoding Challenge by Creative Coding Utrecht and Netherlands Coding Live — a series of events where digital artists and live coders create a piece in ten minutes.
The 10 Minute Live Coding Challenge is sponsored by Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie.