A live‐performance musical instrument can be assembled around current lap‐top computer technology. One adds a controller such as a keyboard or other gestural input device, a sound diffusion system, some form of connectivity processor(s) providing for audio I/O and gestural controller input, and reactive real‐time native signal processing software. A system consisting of a hand gesture controller; software for gesture analysis and mapping, machine listening, composition, and sound synthesis; and a controllable radiation pattern loudspeaker are described. Interactivity begins in the set up wherein the speaker–room combination is tuned with an LMS procedure. This system was designed for improvisation. It is argued that software suitable for carrying out an improvised musical dialog with another performer poses special challenges. The processes underlying the generation of musical material must be very adaptable, capable of rapid changes in musical direction. Machine listening techniques are used to help the performer adapt to new contexts. Machine learning can play an important role in the development of such systems. In the end, as with any musical instrument, human skill is essential. Practice is required not only for the development of musically appropriate human motor programs but for the adaptation of the computer‐based instrument as well.