TOPLAP Barcelona emerged from diverse practices and communities that existed
before the association was officially founded in 2018. A mix of academics,
do-it-yourselfers and otherwise “unaffiliated” music and technology aficionados
developed tools, held workshops and put on concerts, exploring a wide range of
sound and visual practices. Many of them embraced computer coding as an
explicit artistic gesture. People and practices gathered and dispersed, coming
from many places to coalesce and form the core of the new community.
It is worth mentioning the work of l’ull cec (conceived by Sam Roig),
organizing experimental concerts and workshops. L’ull cec brought the city
many of its first live coding workshops, ranging from ixi-lang to granular
synthesis and machine learning in SuperCollider, as well as the first TidalCycles
workshop. The SuperCollider users group met every first Tuesday of the
month, usually with free-form meetings that welcomed experienced users and
The Barcelona Laptop Orchestra, founded around 2008 by Alex Barrachina and
Josep Maria Comajuncosas at the sonology department of the Escola Superior de
Música de Catalunya, performed with collective musical instruments built using
code. The orchestra gathered people interested in electro-acoustic music, music
technology and algorithmic composition.
The Orquesta del Caos, a multi-disciplinary collective that embraces sound art
and experimental music, with an extensive track record of concerts and events,
was one of the first local organizations interested in live coding. They
organized a live coding concert in 2013 as part of the Zeppelin festival, held
at the CCCB. This event also prompted the organization of the first local
algorave, held at Freedonia in 2013.
Before the official founding of the collective, there were three algoraves. The
first one was organized by Lina Bautista after the live.code.festival (which
was held in Karlsruhe) on December 1, 2013. At the time, she had a group called
Codetroller, arguably one of the first live coding groups in Barcelona. The
other two were organized in October, 2016, and July, 2017, in collaboration
with Iván Paz, and Niklas Reppel, who moved from Karlsruhe to Barcelona at the start 2017.
The last of the three happened in conjunction with a TidalCycles workshop by Alexandra Cárdenas.
These events were key moments that created the foundations of what would later become the
TOPLAP Barcelona residency at Hangar, a centre for art research and production.
Apart from live coders performing music and visuals, these events also featured
people using modular synths (Barcelona has a strong modular synth community).
Around the time these algoraves happened, a generational change took place that
led to the thriving community of live coders we find in Barcelona today. As
some people left or shifted their interests, others entered the scene from
around the world, or just a la volta de la cantonada (around the corner),
bringing with them a diversity of experiences and views on live coding (not to
mention art, music, and life in general).
In the late spring of 2018, Iván Paz and Lina Bautista officially founded
TOPLAP Barcelona. When planning the initial activities they decided to clone
the format of the From Scratch sessions held at the Centro Multimedia of Mexico
At 7pm on May 31, 2018, TOPLAP Barcelona held its first official event with a
From Scratch session at Sala Ricson of Hangar, where earlier that month
the association earned a spot as a collective-in-residence (later, in early 2020,
TOPLAP Barcelona became a registered cultural association).
With the residency came access to the facilities, which allowed us to stage
regular events and meetups, some of which, such as the From Scratch events,
remain a monthly staple of the local scene.
The From Scratch events gave a low-threshold opportunity for people to try
out their live coding skills in front of a benevolent audience, and became a
fixture for regulars and a first point of contact for newcomers to the
community. At the beginning of 2019, after the ICLC in Madrid, the first VIU
Livecoding Festival was held at Hangar, bringing live coders from all over the
world to Barcelona.
When the COVID lockdown started in Barcelona (and almost everywhere else) in
mid-March 2020, many of us entered a strange period of uncertainty and anxiety.
To make things worse, although we were physically as close as ever, we were all
suddenly isolated; it was no longer possible to gather in groups to share
algoraves, workshops or our monthly From Scratch live-coding events, and it
wouldn't be for many months.
Coincidentally, during the first week of lockdown there was a scheduled
worldwide EulerRoom Equinox event, celebrating the 16th anniversary of
TOPLAP. The Barcelona contingent had planned to gather and stream our block of
performances together from the Hangar art centre on March 20. The pandemic
situation meant that instead, we had to perform each from our respective homes.
Nonetheless, this turned out to be a meaningful time of connection, listening
to and watching live-coding streams while commenting and joking in the live
chat. It was a perfect distraction from the frightening COVID news. We learned
both how to share our online performances in this way, and that we desperately
All over Barcelona, during those first pandemic months, people went out onto
their balconies at 8 p.m. every evening to clap for five minutes, applauding
the health-care and other front-line workers who were dealing with the pandemic
amidst such difficult conditions. The Barcelona TOPLAP community is all about
applause ("clap-clap!"). Our From Scratch sessions impose the requirement
that everyone applaud after nine minutes, regardless of what happens. At that
time, this gesture seemed more meaningful than ever.
From the end of March and throughout April 2020, we initiated a series of
daily, live-streamed performances, each one featuring a different performer,
giving a spot to everyone in our local TOPLAP community who wanted to prepare
and live code a longer set. These streams started just as the nightly applause
ended, and so were named 8:08: La hora del LIVECODER. The first "batch" of
these performances ran for three weeks (with fifteen local-but-remote
performances), and later in May there was a second "season" with
actually-remote invited guest performers from Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands,
Canada and Spain.
The flurry of online activity in the first few months of the pandemic also
included a series of workshops, each presented by a community member or invited
guest. In addition, during the pandemic we collaborated on a compilation of
live-coded tracks called Down the Rabbit Hole, which is an acoustic
snapshot of the community in 2020 and 2021. For many of our members, it turned
out that live coding, learning, thinking and talking about live coding, and
even making jokes about live coding were all excellent ways to avoid collapsing
into a knot of anxiety in an increasingly uncertain world.