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Code Critique: Livecoding Visuals with Hydra

edited February 2020 in 2020 Code Critiques

I wanted to post a couple examples from languages that have been developed specifically for livecoding- the act of creating music and visuals with code in front of a live audience.

So here is an example of Hydra, a JavaScript-based language for visuals developed by Olivia Jack which does a wonderful job imitating old school multichannel video synthesis. This was written by Flor De Fuego. Its result can be run here (which remains editable in browser).

• Title: Let The Chaos Rule the Rest
• Author: Flor De Fuego
• Language: Hydra (authored by Olivia Jack)
• Year: 2019

    //Flor de Fuego 
    osc(300,0.1) .contrast(3) .diff(osc(3000,0.1).rotate(5),1) .modulateScale(osc(3,0.1).kaleid(200),-0.9) 
    .modulateScale(osc(6,0.1).rotate(11).kaleid(-200),0.5) .mult(osc(1,0).kaleid(200).scrollX(0.1).scrollY(-0.1),0.8) 
    //.color(1,[0,1],[0,1]) .rotate(0,0.8) .modulateRotate(osc(2),-1) .saturate([3,4,5,6,10].fast(8))
.diff(src(o0).modulateScale(osc(()=>Math.sin(1*time)*20,0.5),0.03).scrollX(()=>Math.sin(1*time)*0.001).scrollY(()=>Math.sin(1*time)*-0.001)) .modulate(o0,()=>Math.sin(1*time)*0.0001) .mult(shape(4,1).scrollY(-1).modulateScale(osc(3,0.5),-0.5)) .luma(0.1) //.add(src(o0).scrollX(0.01),0.001) //.mult(src(o0),0.01) //.luma(2) .out()

Here is another example, written by Flor and Zach Krall in collaboration. Its result can be seen here (which remains editable in browser).

• Untitled
• Authors: Flor De Fuego and Zach Krall
• Language: Hydra (authored by Olivia Jack)
• Year: 2019


I'd be happy to to discuss the ins and outs of the code (here is the Hydra Github and master function list), but wanted to mention a couple ancillary thoughts-

One of my favorite things about Hydra is the upload button in the web-based version, which sends whatever you’re working on to the Hydra Patterns Twitter Bot, where then anyone in the world can click, and then edit your code, and then publish their version based on yours, all with attribution. I have never met Flor in-person, whose code is above, yet this language brought us together. Likewise, Zach and Flor collaborated on this code across thousands of miles without having yet met in-person.

This is a little bit of a personal aside, but as I’ve become a participant in the livecode/algorave scene, one of my favorite things about it has been an emerging political context, particularly among audience members. Several times I’ve met “disaffected tech workers” who wanted to come see livecoding to “see what could be created with the same tools” that aren’t in the service of big corporate tech. As a programmer who had just left Facebook recently said to me at a recent show “I’d rather create algorithms that make people dance than chase the monetization of data to political and social destruction.”


  • I was thrown off at first by the link -- I didn't realize that it directed to the editor homepage which was loading a default demo sketch, and not the featured sketch with code listed above.

    Regarding the "Let The Chaos Rule the Rest" code as given -- are those commented-out lines supposed to be included or omitted? I ask because the last line does not contain an .out() (it is commented out) -- and I believe that this makes the sketch compile but produce no new output. So cutting and pasting the code into hydra-editor does nothing but continue to show the previously loaded default sketch untiil an .out() is added -- am I right?

    For the "Untitled" sketch, it was particularly interesting how resilient its design was. I used the built in "make random change" feature to randomize settings ~30 times, and that tweaked things about the texture and relative motion, but it was not until it finally hit a color() setting and the hue changed that it finally seemed to "jump" to a substantially different appearance.

    One surprising thing about the live-editor is that it isn't tied to language documentation. I found that here:

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