Introducing algorave, the musical movement where computers and clubs collide

By Jack Ramage

Published Apr 27, 2021 at 05:28 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

17409

Music is tribal—it’s in our blood. Don’t believe me? Take a look back in history. The oldest piece of music dates back 43,000 years, and there’s reason to believe it was around long before that. Music is a powerful social mechanism used to bring people together: from early tribes creating drums out of animal skin to thousands gathering for Woodstock in the 1960s.

Over the years, humans have inevitably changed and so has music. As computers have become interwoven with civilization, the digitalisation of our daily lives in turn impacted the way we both create and enjoy music. Along came algorave, music generated from algorithms, often using live coding techniques. Here’s everything you need to know about the musical movement in order to debate whether algorave is a natural progression in our constantly evolving musical trajectory.

What is algorave?

‘Algorave’ is a mash-up of ‘algorithm’ (from computer code) and ‘rave music’—the name pretty much speaks for itself. Coined by musicians Alex Mclean and Nick Collins, the scene was born in a relatively small London club back in the early 2010s.

In an interview with Pink Waver, Alex Mclean described the term as “a stupid word I came up with in 2012. Essentially it’s the idea of taking live coding and using it to make dance music. People dancing to algorithms.” It has since flourished into an international musical movement, with computer-assisted raves now happening across the world.

“It’s just another creative medium,” Dave Whiting, an algorave musician who uses TypeScript, a dialect of Javascript to make music, told me from his apartment in Berlin. In an age of lockdowns and empty venues, it’s a world away from the sweaty live-coding clubs where the genre was born. Yet still, Whiting, along with many others, are keeping the scene alive through online communities and live-streamed events.

Although not claiming to represent the entire scene, Whiting views algorave as “making music but using code as a media to express themselves. And like code it’s often batten based, repetitive and beat centric, which lends itself well to dance music. It’s all about expressing music in terms of code, and creative coding in order to make music for people to dance to.”

Like many others in the scene, Whiting’s passion for algorave was a natural progression. “I’ve always been making music and writing code for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who sat in front of the computer, a lot of the time learning to programme but also getting excited about the prospect of making music.”

But is computer-assisted music still creative?

With the rise in AI replacing everything from delivering sermons to determining your crush—is there anything a computer can’t do? It’s the age-old question, and an essay topic I completely flunked in my undergraduate philosophy class: can computers be creative?

I have to admit, it’s a misleading question and an aspect of the music genre that’s often misunderstood. Whiting emphasises how the movement is often confused as a product that’s solely generated from artificial intelligence. Instead, algorave uses algorithms as a medium to express the emotion, and the primal energy, that embodies dance music. The mastermind behind the music is the musician—not the computer.

He uses the analogy of sewing to best describe the making of algorave: “One of the steps in the process of sewing is pattern making, when you create shapes and figure out how they’re going to fit together to make clothes. Making the pattern is just as creative and interesting as the rest of the process. When you create the pattern, you’re designing the process of making clothes, not making the clothes itself but designing how to make the clothes.”

The act of coding, or creating the initial algorithm that will then form the music, can be seen as the ‘pattern making’ of textiles. It forms the foundations for the music to be built upon—essentially, innovatively designing music. He continues, “in my mind, I consider the code to be an art, not the thing that makes the art.”

Whiting adds how the act of writing scripts of code bears more resemblance to writing traditional music than you might think: “I’ll have an idea and it’s usually the kind of thing that would sound good if I was making non-coded music. For instance, I might think the scale that the computer script produces is a good fit for the track.”

“It’s a charming composition process happening at a different level of abstraction,” Whiting continues, explaining the creative process behind making his next algorave techno hit—experimentation and intuition are key. “I’ll come up with ideas and experiment, like using a random number generator to create a sequence. However, I’m always checking it back against my aesthetic sense. I ask myself whether it’s something I’d want to listen to, whether a sample of sound is something I’d dance to.”

Live algorave events, like many things in life, are on pause due to COVID-19. As of writing this, we’re deep into the first half of 2021 and the return to booming sound systems can’t come any sooner. The pandemic has forced the scene into a digital world, which to an outsider might seem quite fitting for a computer-assisted music genre. However, the algorave community thrives from its live events, where artists code in their algorithms live, combined with live visuals to fit the vibe of the room. Until then, creatives will continue to push the digital music in a digital way.

Keep On Reading

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Report reveals psychiatric hospital allegedly forced patients to reuse menstrual pads for days

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Female students fear harassment after all-male committee form pro-life society in Manchester

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

After becoming Elvis Presley, Austin Butler reveals why he couldn’t do method acting for Dune: Part 2

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Dementia diagnosis for Trump? Experts weigh in as Anderson Clayton emerges as Biden’s secret weapon

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Meta suspends account of Trans March organiser after queer casting call post reported for human exploitation

By Abby Amoakuh

Jenna Ortega fans left grossed out by steamy scene with Martin Freeman in new film Miller’s Girl

By Abby Amoakuh

What One Direction fans should expect from The Idea of You, a movie based on a Harry Styles fanfic

By Abby Amoakuh

Drake responds to his nudes being leaked just hours ago

By Abby Amoakuh

Sydney Sweeney’s boobs have feminists divided: Where does liberation start and objectification end?

By Abby Amoakuh

Father of man who died after climbing into airplane engine reveals why he thinks he did it

By Abby Amoakuh

Trump to face trial in hush money case, as Fani Willis defends romantic relationship in Georgia case 

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

My interview with a professional cuddler who earns £75 per hour

By Charlie Sawyer

What is the No Thanks app? And how are people using boycotting methods to protest the war in Gaza?

By Abby Amoakuh

JoJo Siwa reveals she spent a staggering $50,000 on this surprising cosmetic surgery procedure

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Lingerie brand Honey Birdette under fire for incredibly tone-deaf campaign tied to Israel-Gaza war

By Charlie Sawyer

Topicals brand trip goes viral after Nella Rose claims influencers were subjected to racism and Islamophobia

By Abby Amoakuh

Russian kids attend North Korean summer camps for White House attack simulations

By Abby Amoakuh

Nicola Peltz Beckham faces backlash following new controversial campaign with Balenciaga

By Abby Amoakuh

What is livestream shopping and why do people (wrongly) think the trend is over before it even started?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

New footage shows man dragging Yazmeen Williams’ body in sleeping bag using motorised scooter