Tools

A short list of some musical tools I like & use often.

Python

An image of some python scores used during the creation of a remix for Distant Fires Burning

I like working in non-realtime environments. The story as to why is probably not something that should live here. I’ll just say that when doing microsound work, the ability to time-travel in a non-realtime context is a huge asset. I use realtime & interactive systems when I play live, but these often tend to be very buffer-oriented, too.

Anyway I’ve found python to be a very nice environment for writing expressive procedural scores that tend to get out of the way and let me think about the music and not as much about the code. (This is a continuum: the code is as present as any score, but the high readability of python is very nice.)

I use python as the general-purpose language it is: I’ll reach for the database abstractions when I am working with some corpus of analysis data; lots of sounds with features attached that are useful to query into with SQL. I’ll reach for mido when I want to use python to send MIDI somewhere. (Usually this looks like a normal non-realtime procedural score, probably with one thread per voice/channel, pointed at some hardware or proprietary synth I’m making a recording of – and probably bringing back into python.)

Most of the audio-specific stuff I do in python is enabled by a computer music library called pippi.

I usually tend to do final stage mixing in python, too, with a special mixture.py script (well, it’s just a normal script but I tend to call it that…) that collates and arranges renders produced with other scripts.

Some things are easier to do in ardour, and I use that for the mixing stage sometimes too. (See below.)

Download python

Download pippi

Download mido

Harry

The Harry text-mode audio viewer

Harry is a fantastic text-mode audio file viewer by Claude Heiland-Allen.

Harry is probably the newest tool that has found its way into daily use for me.

Claude saw a toot I wrote complaining that at the time I was doing a lot of remote renders of audio without being able to inspect that audio easily. In other words I was using a computer either somewhere else in my home that didn’t have a monitor attached, or a computer I was renting in a datacenter somewhere maybe to render audio, but of course I wanted to more easily inpsect and preview the results of those renders.

My workflow revolved around sshfs which let me mount the remote drive locally and stream the renders easily with mocp – a lovely textmode player I still use daily for casual listening. I would mount the remote volume with sshfs, and then just work with it as though it were a local resource on my laptop at home.

A side effect of that workflow meant I kept wanting to open remote audio files in GUI programs to inspect their output, but making that happen was pretty clunky and annoying. Sshfs is fantastic, but it requires streaming the full resolution audio file.

Harry to the rescue!

I still do remote renders now and then as the given project may inspire, but harry has also become my daily audio file viewer in the meantime.

Download Harry

Blog post about Harry

Ardour

The Ardour digital audio workstation

Ardour is what I reach for when I need a DAW ever since I switched to linux in the late aughties.

It’s not perfect, but I keep coming back to it out of love and familiarity.

I use it mostly for final stage mix/master type stuff, but it also becomes a part of the compositional process often when I have some number of raw recordings I need to sift through and do some basic editing with. I’ll do my editing in ardour, make ranges for each edit and export those all as a corpus for further processing.

Download Ardour