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A live-coding DJ is throwing an ‘algorave’ in Philly this week

Algorithms + raves = algoraves. And you can catch one for free at the W Philadelphia hotel on Thursday.

Sarah Davis, aka DJ_Dave. (Courtesy image)

Sarah Davis, better known in the music community as DJ_Dave, has only been live coding music for about two years, but the skills have launched a career.

That’s right — when Davis takes the stage, she isn’t mixing records or using a turntable. She’s using a software called Sonic Pi and coding with Ruby to make sound.

She first started exploring the method during a college class called “Coding + Music = Algorave,” and fell in love with it. She’d never DJ’d before, and didn’t perform live for a few months into her experience with the software.

Davis’ setup for an event, which includes a digital display that gives attendees “a glimpse into the process,” is transportable:

Live coding has been around pretty much since accessible computers have been around, Davis said. But the first “algorave,” a term putting “rave” and “algorithms” together, is tracked back to about 2011.

Davis said technologists make up a fair share of her fans, and she looks forward to learning more from other live coders as her career progresses.

“Half the people are music fans, you know, like regular music fans,” she said. “And the other half are people who are either just really interested in the coding and the mathematical side of it, or they’re people who also do live coding, and also fully understand the process and do it themselves.”

The NYC-based artist is heading to town this Thursday, May 18, for a show at the Living Room space at the W Philadelphia hotel near City Hall. Local artist HVNLEE opens for Davis with Josh Lang, W Philadelphia’s music curator.

Carly Van Sickle, the senior director of global brand marketing for W Hotels, said the event is part of a series aiming to revitalize the hotel’s brand culture and its space in the music industry: It’s a “way for W to give rising electronic music artists a platform by exposing them to music lovers around the country.”

Davis said she’s heard a lot about Philly’s music scene, and is a fan of the city in general. She hopes attendees to Thursday’s shows are intrigued by the live coding process. The event is free and open to the public.

“I feel like a lot of understanding the practice is going to come from seeing it happen,” Davis said.

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