Composer, electronic musician, improviser

DIY Workshop Madness


I am really excited to be teaching a series of open source software and hardware workshops this year at Yale as part of a new initiative we started called the Open Music Initiative.  The aim of the initiative is to indoctrinat… er, expose faculty and students to the merits of FLOSS and open source hardware via workshops wherein attendees will get hands-on experience working with, and more importantly making music with open source technologies.  Additionally, it is my hope that the initiative will eventually become a self-sustaining endeavor largely operated and promulgated by members of the Yale community. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Phase 1, , , , , , , , , ,

Raspberry Pi: first impressions

Getting the Pi Baked

I got my Raspberry Pi in the mail yesterday — a long anticipated event. My excitement was slightly deflated when I realized I didn’t have anything I actually needed to make the damn thing run: micro USB for power, an hdmi-dvi adapter so I could actually see and control it, and a fast SDHC card with lots of room*.
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: El MuCo, Phase 1, , , , , , , , , ,

Xbee: Information and Resources

The XBee RF radio is certainly not new technology, but it remains a tried-and-true means of communicating with microcontrollers in DIY electronic projects.  For those of you unfamiliar with the XBee, it is an RF radio module that can be attached to a circuit via a breakout-board and used to communicate wirelessly with that circuit, or to send sensor data to another XBee (presumably attached to a computer.)  Working with XBees is not all crackers and cheese, however.  Those familiar with the XBee know it is a device of both promise and sorrow, a ‘veil of tears’ as Allan Schindler would say.   Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Tutorial / How-to, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Awesome Open Source/ Free Multimedia Software List

Working with sound and video all the time, we here at scacinto inc have some across some incredibly excellent software that we like a lot (or at least like the looks of!) This list is not a “top ten” nor are these programs “players.” If you are looking for lists of players/codecs, I’m afraid you will have to look elsewhere.

The softwares below are professional tools that require a time commitment to learn. That said, they are all very powerful and good at what they do. Additionally, they are all FREE! Have more? Comment below and we will add them (should they live up to our extremely high standards.) Please don’t bother posting commercial software, not only will we not post them, we will delete your comment and never think twice about it. :D



Sound (Audio Programming)

MiniAudicle IDE for ChucK on OSX

ChucK is, in some ways, the new kid on the block when it comes to real-time audio programming languages. This doesn’t mean it lacks features, though. It has a stable base, good community support, and has the advantage of a less daunting learning curve than Csound or SuperCollider.

Pros: Easier to learn and use than most other languages.

Cons: Is CPU intensive — you had better have a good machine if you are planning to do anything crazy with this program.

OS: Linux, Mac, WIndows

one of Csound’s many IDEs


The Elder Statesman of computer programming languages, Csound is still going strong decades after it was written thanks to a large community of programmers and users. There are a number of front-ends for this program so check out the Csounds site “frontends” page for them. If you are on a Mac, I recommend AthenaCL. Otherwise, check out Common Music / Grace.

Pros: NRT synthesis and algorithmic composition.

Cons: Text-based language that will be hard for some to learn. Real-time support not as developed as ChucK or SuperCollider.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows

Impromptu UI on Mac


This Lisp-related A/V program can do a lot of things from live-coding music to image DSP. What it does best, though, is live coding. Check out the video Tutorial on the site for a good idea of what this program is about.

Pros: One of the best live-coding languages out there, it allows you to make changes on the fly seamlessly.

Cons: Mac only, sorry everyone else! Audio uses Audio Unit plugins for all sound — not for the crazy experimentalists out there.

OS: Mac

Pure Data with Arduino

Pure Data (PD)

Not as old as Csound, but older than any of the other programs in this audio list, Pure Data has a large community of support and sports a graphical programming environment that many will find more easy to approach than the text-based programs on this list.

Pros: real-time interactive processing of live sound.

Cons: User community can be prickly. Because of the TCL/TK graphics interface, PD can be CPU expensive. Not awesome for algorithmic or non-real-time score generation.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows



SuperCollider is an extremely capable and well-rounded program that can be used for real-time processing, live-coding, algorithmic composition, graphics, and more.

Pros: Can do anything and do it pretty well, but real-time processing, live-coding, and algorithmic composition are stellar.

Cons: The drawback for most approaching this program is the learning curve which is very steep. A subscription to the mailing list or membership at the Nabble SuperCollider forum is a must.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows


Sight (Image/Video Programming)



A nice little app for animating 2D images. Uses a hinge/skeleton system to fix joints and points of rotation. Images can be layered and stretched and compressed as well as moved in 2D space.

Pros: Fun, pretty easy to use, and relatively quick to get up and going.

Cons: Lack of any documentation aside from a few silent .movs online. Also can’t export projects so a screen casting/capture program is a must if you want to save your work.

OS: *linux*, Mac, Windows

*you have to build from source, no precompiled binary.

Blender 3D


Industry standard professional 3D graphics/animation suite. If you want to make pro 3D anything this is your baby. I’d write more, but you already know about this program. If you don’t, then you don’t need it.

Pros: Does what you want.

Cons: Will take a while to learn and some serious programming time to get what you want.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows

Fluxus Live Coding


This is a seriously weird and excellent live-coding program for visual dorks.  All work is done on-the-fly and the animation/graphic appears in the window with the code.  From the site: “Fluxus is a rapid prototyping, playing and learning environment for 3D graphics, sound and games. Extends the Racket language with graphical commands and can be used within it’s own livecoding environment or from within the DrRacket IDE.”

Pros: Does what no other live-coding program can, and does it with style.

Cons: Installation and learning curve.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows



Gem is the open-source sister program of Jitter (much the same way PD is to Max/MSP.) And similarly Gem is dependent on PD the same way Jitter is to MaxMSP. If you know PD, using Gem will be easy. The link above takes you to the PD site. Here you can find links to the extended versions of PD that ship with the Gem libraries built-in.

Pros: Graphical programming environment will be easier for some to approach and use. A reasonably good amount of examples ship with the libraries, and more can be found online.

Cons: Documentation could be better. Finding solutions to problems will require membership to a forum / mailing list.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows

Gem (site)

The above site will be useful if you do not have the “extended” version of PD which comes with the Gem libraries built-in.



In addition to being a live-coding audio environment, Impromptu also does image processing using your Mac’s built-in Quartz plugins. You can write more plugins using Quartz Composer.

Pros: Quartz support makes this an expandable, powerful tool for graphics processing.

Cons: Will take a little while to learn, and requires knowledge of Quartz Composer if you want to expand the DSP functionality beyond what ships with your mac.

OS: Mac only



A great, easy-to-use program for 2D graphics, text, and more. Uses Python as its language. Really good for intricate graphics that employ random or repetitive elements to add complexity.

Pros: Quite a bit easier to use than some other text-based graphics programs on this list.  Faster from start to finished product.

Cons: Not as powerful as some other language/text-based programs like Processing.

OS: Mac


This is, in some ways, a different program than the original NodeBox. It is more complex, but also more capable. The interface now updates code in real-time, and modules are a new feature. Connecting GUI modules together creates more complex DSP series.

Pros: More powerful than the original NodeBox.

Cons: Harder to pick up and use than the original.

OS: *Linux, Mac, Windows

*must build from source.

Nodebox OpenGL

NodeBox for OpenGL

From the website: “NodeBox for OpenGL can be used for simple games, interactive media installations, data visualization and image compositing. It’s not as fast as anything in native C, but quite a bit faster than the classic NodeBox.” I haven’t started doing anything serious with this program yet. I may not… still, it is worth a look to anyone interested in any of the above.

Cons: Installing and getting the libraries to a useable state alone takes a significant effort. This might put this program out of reach for first-time-users.

OS: Mac


Processing is an incredible motion and graphics programming language that is based on Java with a simple and easy-to-use text interface.

Pros: Lots of external libraries that expand the standard functionality of the program. Incredible documentation with lots of books and tutorials available.

Cons: Text-based code, not for those who prefer GUIs.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows



The blurb from the web site says it all: “Processing.js makes your data visualizations, digital art, interactive animations, educational graphs, video games, etc. work using web standards and without any plug-ins. You write code using the Processing language, include it in your web page, and Processing.js does the rest. It’s not magic, but almost.”

Pros: Full language support of Processing. Make incredible interactive web graphics easily and embed as JS. nice.

Cons: Like Processing, will take some time to learn. Not for those who don’t like code.

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows


I have not personally used this program, so perhaps I shouldn’t be listing it here. I do know people who use it and like it, however, and it’s $free$ so I threw it on here.

Pros: Purportedly does anything you want it to do. Has a pretty good-looking GUI (at least on Win7)

Cons: Window$ only :P.

OS: Windows


Physical (hardware)


If you want to make robots to take over the world, or at least do some physical computing with sound, video, moving parts, etc., this is your baby. Arduino is a physical board that connects your computer with the outside world. Arduino uses a programming langage that is basically like Processing to interact with incoming data and send messages to the board.

Pros: Very well supported (community.) Programming language is strong and concise.

Cons: N/A

OS: Linux, Mac, Windows

Filed under: Links, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

EeePC + Ubuntu 10.04 + Arduino (Mini-Tutorial-of-Sorts)

1. I’m not good at tutorial writing. This is not because I do not have the willingness or ability to write tutorials, but because I lack the patience to write tutorials. However, because I seem to have 3x the number of difficulties that everyone else does doing anything, I have started taking copious notes whilst undertaking any dubious technological task and therefore find myself in the position of being able to at least expound in some detail the products of my activities.

2. There are better and more informative tutorials on the web than I could ever hope to write with one caveat: all tutorials approach the same subject in different ways with different levels of detail. All have a slant. The particular slant of the tutorial you find on the web may or may not suit your aims and may or may not solve your problems. Therefore, it is better to have too many than too little tuts, even if they overlap in many details.

3. A warning: all information on this post is from personal experience only, and in no way guarantees success for you, or even that following the steps listed below will not erase your hard drive and explode your Arduino. Having said that, there’s a good chance (37%) that Linux Gnomes* will erase your HD and explode your Arduino at any time anyway, so you might as well proceed!

4. Some links. (Here? Honestly? I mean, it’s like I don’t even want you to keep reading…)


While I disagree with her choice of beverage (Merlot with Arduino?!?!? Really, this is a scotch project board if ever one was invented!!!) Limor has tonnes** of awesome pages on a really fun web site that will “learn you” something fierce!


So Here Goes

I was recently bored. While I have a perfectly working and configured Arduino workstation/setup on multiple Macs, I figured I would get one up and running on my little EeePC as a means of expending spare time as I hurtle through space.


I downloaded the linux package here and just unzipped the package to my home folder.


Open a shell and navigate to the arduino-0018 folder and run the arduino script (./arduino.)


You must set your board type and serial port in the Arduino application itself under the Tools menu. If you’ve forgotten what board you have, the model is printed on the board itself, and the IC type is printed on the IC itself (ATMEGA 168, for example.)

I had two little problems:

1.) On the Linux installation page here, one is instructed to install the avr library (avr-gcc avr-g++.) I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 and the looking to install avr-g* failed, so I installed gcc-avr. (The same thing, right?) Nope. You need to install the avr-libc package or you will get the error (error: avr/io.h: No such file or directory) on compile that is mentioned on the arduino page.

2.) The second little problem that gave me a little pause was that I didn’t seem to have the File, Edit, Tools, and other menu items that I know exist and are necessary to configure Arduino to work with your board. The problem was so silly I hate to even mention it, but it was that the color of the font for these items perfectly matches my system theme, so they were effectively invisible (see pic.) Clicking in the ether, however, proved they did exist. :P

Aside from these, getting my arduino up and running was easy-peasy. Yours will be too!***

* Yes, they are real! linux gnomes!
** a British measurement equivalent to 2.798 metric tons and spelled “tonne”
*** This is not a true statement! Yours may not and probably will not be as easy…

Filed under: Miscellany, Phase 1, , , , ,


Glossary of terms often found on the pages of this site
This page will be updated often.

Algorithm: an algorithm is a general rule set (finite) that is used to solve a particular problem.  An algorithm is best when it solves one problem and it does so efficiently, using the smallest number of instructions required to perform its task.

Arduino: [taken from the site] Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

bend: an adjustment made to an existing circuit that alters it in a way audibly perceptible (and awesome.) or that causes functional change (flow of charge, etc.) [WARNING] NEVER attempt to bend an instrument that is plugged into the wall:  AC + metal + you = death.

distortion: distortion may be defined many ways depending on the signal that is being distorted.  Very generally, distortion is the addition of noise to a signal.  Here, noise is defined as anything that is not part of the signal when running under standard conditions.  In other words, distortion occurs when something causes some part of the signal (amplitude, voltage, etc.) to exceed the ability of the conductive medium (component parts, amplifier, speaker) to represent the signal accurately.

hardware hacking/HH/circuit bending: using any means to modify an existing electronic product to create new functionality, either in the motor/physical or sonic domains.

LED: a light emitting diode.  LEDs are in just about every piece of electronics.  Mostly used to let you know if your electronic device is on, they can also be useful for testing circuits.

lick-n-stick: to wet one’s finger with ones saliva (!) and apply it to the circuit in an effort to sniff out bends.  Very useful when attempting to locate the timing circuit; when pitch goes up, you’re on the right track.  [WARNING] as noted ALL OVER the internet and in books, one should never attempt to bend a toy that is plugged into the wall!  AC = death, esp. when you are touching it with your spitty finger.

potentiometer: a variable resistor with a third adjustable terminal. The potential at the third terminal can be adjusted to give any fraction of the potential across the ends of the resistor.

resistor: A resistor is a two-terminal electronic component that produces a voltage across its terminals that is proportional to the electric current passing through it in accordance with Ohm’s law: V = IR

sniff out: to look for bends.

SuperCollider: SuperCollider is an audio/visual programming language.  [BIAS] It is vastly superior to all other audio synthesis languages ever written.

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G O I N G S O N : L O C A L (ISH)

fritz Art of Fritz Horstman
kane Music of Brian Kane
fritz Hartford Phase Shift
fritz Hartford Sound Alliance
Lique Art of Philip Lique
Lique Music of Matt Sargeant
strycharz Art of Heather Strycharz
uncertainty Uncertainty Music Series

My Other Awesome Sites [•_•]

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INI new haven

Handmade instruments by Scott Petersen and Brian Kane at Artspace New Haven