Music For Browsers

Music for Browsers is a project based on the use of smart devices (currently smartphones) as instruments of musical expression.
The large-scale diffusion of these devices makes them suitable for use in various types of performance: from pieces written for smartphones alone to hybrid pieces for smartphones and acoustic instruments, and also participatory improvisations in which ideally everyone in the participating audience is a performer.
As the name of the project suggests, web browsers are a key component in each piece; from them it is possible to reach the web pages containing the algorithms and their instructions needed to perform each piece.

The entire development of the project is divided into three categories:

-Collective Participatory Performances
Pieces in which the musical instruments are crowd-sourced and in which ideally everyone among the participating audience is a performer. Through the guidance of a conductor, the audience acts as a large ensemble improvising with the algorithm provided on each web page. No scores are provided and the conductor's action is also improvised. There are no requirements for participants other than having a smartphone. The creation (shared with the participants) of a vocabulary of coded gestures with which the conductor gives instructions during the performance is essential. The conductor's instructions relate to interactions that participants can perform on their smartphones, either physical in nature or by intervening in algorithm parameters.
This category is designed for a workshop-type environment (more info here)
-Ensemble Pieces
Pieces written for ensembles formed exclusively by smartphones. A score is provided for each piece with indications of the hall layout, and rehearsal is required. Performers are required to have minimal basic musical training.
-Hybrid Pieces
Pieces in which the audience, equipped with smartphones performing the dedicated web page, establish dialogue with an external audio source, such as one or more acoustic/electroacoustic instruments, or a fixed media part reproduced through a multichannel setup. It is necessary to give some simple instructions to the participants before the performance with the instrumentalists/loudspeakers. A score including instrumental/fixed media and participatory parts (smartphones) is provided for each piece. Rehearsal is required with as many smartphones as can be found.

The whole project is based on WebPD, a JavaScript Pure Data runtime using Web Audio API to play audio in the browser.

The project is still in an embryonic phase, updates soon...

Underlying Concepts

"When we create an instrument we shape a certain interpretation of the world, which once reified is able to produce a given effect on that world. Not only is this way of thinking being externalized, but even transferred to the tool, where it no longer needs to be activated by thought. Re-enchanting our tools means revising our thoughts and creating new ones, not necessarily redefining the tasks of the tools altogether, but reexamining their role."

James Bridle, New Dark Age, NERO, Rome 2019, p. 22 translated from italian by me:)

"Those composers who take the conscious road necessarily submit to the test of practice. They can no longer take refuge in beautiful ideas, elegance of manner, logical completeness, formal perfection or the ‘history of music’ (which has no existence separate from social history), and nor do they wish to.So the points we should discuss in connection with their works are: what are they saying in their pieces, to whom are they saying it, and whom does it benefit? What effect did they intend to achieve with such works and what effect are they actually achieving?"

Cornelius Cardew, Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, originally published in 1974, by Latimer New Dimensions Limited, London,, Kenneth Goldsmith, 2004, p.69


CONTACT: info[at]alessandrogambato[dot]it

Alessandro Gambato, 2024 ©