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Introducing L2Ork, World's First Linux Laptop Orchestra

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the might-prefer-all-cellos dept.

Music 86

Agram writes "Take a netbook, Wiimotes, Nunchuks, and hemispherical speakers (which were once IKEA salad bowls), toss it up with some Ubuntu goodness and what you get is Virginia Tech's L2Ork, the world's first Linux-based laptop orchestra. With its affordable design and support from the Linux community, L2Ork hopes to bring laptop orchestras to K-12 education and beyond. So, regardless whether you wish to hear how L2Ork might sound or to learn how to build your own Linux-based *Ork infrastructure, perhaps this is a good opportunity to reopen the age-old debate: is Linux finally ready for some serious audio work?"

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Without good DAC support... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30315744)

Unfortunately companies that make good DACs, like MOTU, don't provide Linux drivers. It's no good to try and work on a Linux box if you're limited to the built in stereo 1/8" soundcard.

So while it can work for small hemi-speakers, trying to drive a full surround setup is near impossible without good proper DACs.

Re:Without good DAC support... (1)

resfilter (960880) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315990)

i don't know about that.

if you look through the alsa's driver list, you will find many professional-grade multi-channel interfaces.

the alsa project has brought support for some excellent professional interfaces - with a few exceptions, like motu (to me, motu have always been the tops for midi, but definitely not the best dacs out there)

a couple of layla 3Gs work great under linux for me, unfortunately the production software i want just isn't there.

Re:Without good DAC support... (3, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317300)

The Layla 3G is a decent home studio interface, but as you say, there just isn't any software that runs natively in Linux that is remotely appropriate for professional work.

I've tried to run Cockos' Reaper under Wine, but I find jack just too much of a hassle.

However, Reaper has features that allow you to use a Linux machine to offload effects processing chores to via Ethernet and it works great. It makes my workflow much more efficient and allows me to do much more in real-time. And of course, a Linux box with a RAID array is an excellent sample server and rendering platform. Reaper is quickly becoming my favorite DAW software because of it's ability to leverage Linux machines in a professional studio environment. Someday, I hope to see a Linux port of Reaper.

Linux may not yet be ready to act as a standalone music production system, but it definitely has a place in a professional music production facility. And of course, it's a great platform for experiments like the one described in this article.

I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30321274)

While DAW systems are a bit out of context of the original article, I must wholeheartedly disagree...
Before I even get into individual applications the "Jack" audio connection kit is unique and facilitates an amazingly powerful audio environment to work in, with audio and midi being able to be passed from one to any number of other jack-enabled applications..... It is infinitely more stable than the Re-wire app for the other OS's...

I have released a number of tracks professionally that utilise elements of my outboard studio gear, Ardour, the MusE sequencer, Jamin and a wide variety of LADSPA plugins... Ardour particularly is becoming a very mature DAW platform and is getting more and more widely used by professional audio engineers, students and the like .. MusE is (while a little dated looking) is functionally a superb MIDI sequencer as is Rosegarden.. Ardour 3.0 which finally incorporates MIDI recording, basic editing and MIDI clock features is getting closer to ready (I was involved in testing the MIDI clock sync features and they work fantastically fast)...
Saying "there just isn't any software that runs natively in Linux that is remotely appropriate for professional work" is highly insulting to a large number of developers who have dedicated an incredible amount of time......

As a starting point, I highly recommend you take a look at http://www.linux-sound.org/ and http://www.ardour.org before making such sweeping generalisations..

Re:Without good DAC support... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30317504)

Some of these are on par with MOTU's basic interfaces List of Supported Devices FreeBoB [sourceforge.net]

Of course, the software to really put any of those to full use really isn't there...

Go to the glory hole tonight (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30315750)

Make sure to drop by the glory hole tonight as kdawson and CmdrTaco will be bringing their micropeens around.

Oh and Oombooboo 10.4 Menstruating Moose is gonna bring in the Year of the Loonix Desktop(TM)!!!!

Re:Go to the glory hole tonight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316030)

Beelzibub, is that you?

Re:Go to the glory hole tonight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316890)

Menstruating Moose will be 10.10, not 10.4. Get your facts straight!

I've read the article and gone to the site, but (1, Informative)

Runefox (905204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315822)

I still can't figure out exactly what this does. I've even looked up SLOrk and PLOrk, and I don't have any idea what they do, either. Is it a sort of MIDI-esque endeavour? Some kind of networking for digital instruments? Something entirely different?

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30315918)

Here's a video of the "orchestra" performing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFt4MgN7JPQ

Basically they just have a bunch of wiimotes hooked up to linux laptops running some sort of synthesizer controlled by waving the wiimote. It sounds really mindless and everyone just seems to wave their arms around in circles.

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316120)

Do the mods even check the links before posting?
Getting 'not available' on the video link. Thanks for that.

The ending was the best! (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316132)

And I thought Wii Music stank ... this is actually worse.

It was a relief to see it end. What are they trying to do - encourage a run on Excedrin?

I'd hate to think how much more enhanced^Wworse it would have been if they had the MotionPlus.

How is this better than a Theramin? (2, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316254)

Ok, if we want electronic musical instruments, wouldn't getting schools one or two Theremins [wikipedia.org] be a lot cheaper and more reliable?

I'm sure lots of schools are already struggling to fund basic music programs, and get kids 'ordinary' instruments (although, I suppose it's quite possible these Laptop Virtual instruments may be cheaper than some analog instruments). Do we really need to be complicating things and making them more expensive, and for what benefit? If the goal is to educate kids about music, I don't think you need some gee-whiz laptop-and-wiimote based 'virtual instruments' to introduce more points of failure? Aren't broken reeds and strings enough for kids to worry about?

Now get off my lawn. *grin* (Seriously, I hate to be a cranky old geezer - I mean, I'm only 31, but even after scanning the article, I'm not really sure I see any advantage to this)?

Re:How is this better than a Theramin? (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316934)

Ok, if we want electronic musical instruments, wouldn't getting schools one or two Theremins be a lot cheaper and more reliable?

Not the same thing. A theramin is an analog synth instrument; these guys have rigged Wiimotes to control digital computers, and as a result they can operate digital synths, analog synths, sample playback, what have you.

A theramin can only make a warbling tone. With skilled hands you can coax a performance out of one. But with the Wiimotes, these guys can make bells ring or whatever sound they want.

Plus, you really have to be skilled to use a theramin; with the Wiimotes, you can do anything, right down to simply triggering prerecorded content. They might have some skilled people actually performing, and some less-skilled people just triggering stuff. If their music were nothing but pre-recorded stuff being triggered, I guess we could sneer at them for that ("Why don't you just use a sequencer?") but I don't see anything inherently wrong in having an "orchestra" where less-skilled friends can help them out.

steveha

Re:How is this better than a Theramin? (2, Interesting)

svtdragon (917476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317036)

Hey, as long as they're not trying to make laptops into drum sets, no harm done, right?

Now, if they made something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike what they're doing now, then it might actually have some use for (e.g.) brass instruments. For example, a system wherein a trombone player--with the wiimote representing the position of the slide when playing a trombone, and some kind of a mouthpiece to blow/vibrate into, which could output a tone accordingly, then we might be onto something. Or with said mouthpiece and three buttons to represent the valves of a trumpet, etc., or other interfaces for brass instruments... you might have a low cost multi-instrument. *That* could be useful for students.

Re:How is this better than a Theramin? (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317444)

Do we really need to be complicating things and making them more expensive, and for what benefit?

I've designed and built the computer music lab at a prestigious university, and our experience is that technology is actually a big money saver for a music program.

Plus, it's a boon for the students. If you're studying composition or arranging, do you think it's easier to go out and find an orchestra or chamber group to try out your work or fire up a computer with a (virtual) rack of samplers? There's no substitute for hearing your composition played in real time by a real (if sampled) orchestra. Plus, a fair number of students will seek work in the music industry, and there they will be expected to be familiar with the technology of producing music. Now, if you're talking about a grammar school music program, it might be different, but I'm guessing the same efficiencies apply there. Of course, if you want to learn the violin, you need a violin. But if you want to learn music, a MIDI keyboard and PC can be a great way to go.

If it's cheaper for film composers and music production facilities to use technology, why wouldn't it be for schools' music programs?

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (2, Funny)

skine (1524819) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316346)

So I'm guessing the next goal is to bring it up to three chord changes per minute.

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316558)

It sounds really mindless and everyone just seems to wave their arms around in circles.

Well, I didn't need the video to focus so much on that one repetitive sound they were all making. But at the beginning of the video, one guy makes a lot of different sounds; he must be using buttons on the Wiimote to switch what the synth does.

I don't think you should be so dismissive. I've heard "minimalist" music that was less musical than what these guys were doing, and I give them bonus points for making a portable system for live performances, rather than just doing everything in studio.

I do enjoy good electronica. I hope these guys can come up with some good music. If we're really lucky, they may produce a sort of live jazz electronica: different every time, with different people taking solos and playing off against each other. But we can't really judge them based on one two-minute video of one rehearsal.

steveha

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30317260)

..yeah, I actually read the RTFA. Then another. Then yet another. Still wondering "WTF is this.. must be interesting somehow, its on /.", finally found some youtube links, aha. People soldering things, still explaining shit about WTF they are actually supposed to be doing.

"It sounds really mindless and everyone just seems to wave their arms around in circles.." - would seem to be about the best summary one could offer, given the information provided and the manner in which its scattered around, masquerading as eductional articles. May well be something deeper going on here, however, best advise to the authors would be "Remember The Three Ws"

(W1.) WTF is it?, briefly, thanks.
(W2.) Why are you waving your arms around in circles?
(W3.) Why TF should I be interested?

- With thanks in advance for your consideration (otherwise, you look like demented IKEA bowl worshippers, we remain none the wiser), yours, puzzeled, me.

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (2, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315920)

Its a wierdo music group not an app?

Re:I've read the article and gone to the site, but (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316114)

SLOrk is basically an attempt to do something like a traditional orchestra but for computer music. A bunch of people on laptops with various control devices attached, with various parts assigned. Here's [youtube.com] an ABC News segment on them.

It's from the guy who developed ChucK [wikipedia.org] , which I think they use, but I don't think the orchestra does livecoding [wikipedia.org] , which is what ChucK is best known for.

Glad Linux Is Catching Up (5, Funny)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315850)

Windows has had a stranglehold on laptop orchestras for such a long time that it's really good to be reading about the world's first Linux Laptop Orchestra.

Perhaps 2010 will be... (0)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316338)

... the Year of Linux on the Laptop Orchestra!

Re:Glad Linux Is Catching Up (2, Funny)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316358)

When is there going to be a BSD port?

Definitely checking this out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30315856)

I was going to be in Blacksburg that night anyway, might as well check it out.

Neat!

My laptop orchestra (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30315894)

I have a laptop orchestra that I play regularly too, but I sure as heck wouldn't do so in front of a K-12 classroom...

Re:My laptop orchestra (1)

yanyan (302849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30320570)

I'm a one-man orchestra with my skinflute.

A Bit of a letdown, really... (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315904)

Based on the headline (and reading it a bit too fast) I was expecting some sort of cool Linux Zork tie-in. I think I'll go find a grue now... It's almost dark enough in my office for one.

Re:A Bit of a letdown, really... (2, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315996)

I was expecting some sort of cool Linux Zork tie-in.

Funny, I was expecting Pam Dawber and Robin Williams.

Re:A Bit of a letdown, really... (0)

ben0207 (845105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316222)

I wuz 'specktin' it ta be ded shooty, wiv tunz uv gunz all over, and loadsa dat red paint.

When I tried (2, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315970)

doing audio work I got unstuck immediately. Really bad delays on my midi keyboard. I googled and was told I needed a low latency kernel or something. This was of course wrong. Linux needs a low latency kernel so that it can be taken seriously out of the box. Why would you want, by default, a high latency kernel? Also, I needed to stick together several apps, to turn midi input into something I could hear. I don't understand why. Why can't there be an app which takes midi input and plays sounds (from a sound font file, wav file, etc) when it gets them?

Re:When I tried (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316014)

Why would you want, by default, a high latency kernel?

Because latency is reduced by interrupting other tasks in the mid

Re:When I tried (2, Insightful)

Cheile (724052) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316572)

A general rule of thumb is that latency and throughput are opposing interests. For the majority of users and uses occasional latency is a good tradeoff for higher overall throughput and performance. For realtime applications low latency is a good tradeoff for lower overall performance. Linux can be tuned in many ways for many different use cases and may not suit your needs right out of the box.

Re:When I tried (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317140)

Ubuntu Studio 9.10 [ubuntustudio.org] comes with an official real time kernel.

Re:When I tried (2, Insightful)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318046)

In some ways this is a good point. Distros intended to have desktop users should probably include options to use low latency kernels. I don't see how it would be too difficult to include a few kernels compiled for different uses.

  • High latency (100Hz), no preemption for server / intensive cpu jobs.
  • 300 Hz with Voluntary Kernel Preemption for gamer / media playing. I noticed videos were not jumpy at all with this setting. The default would sometimes cause mplayer to stall for a several frames, then play them all at once. I didn't think about this or consciously notice it on video before I did this, but I really can tell now.
  • One with the lowest latency setting and complete preemption, etc for more time critical and reaction sensitive work such as music and running robots and such.

All a distro maintainer needs to do is compile them with a few minor option adjustments each time, then either put each kernel in a separate package or just install them all and config the bootloader to run the correct one. Not a huge amount of work, relatively.

This seems to be a decent article about preemption [affenbande.org] .

As for an app which takes in MIDI and plays sounds, would Zynaddsubfx [sourceforge.net] be it? I seem to remember seeing that feature when playing with it, though I have no MIDI devices, so I couldn't use it or say if it worked...

Re:When I tried (1)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318356)

Why can't there be an app which takes midi input and plays sounds (from a sound font file, wav file, etc) when it gets them?

Try lmms [sourceforge.net] ? It's come a long way. There's a Windows port available too if you want to try it out. Works with the (very low end) midi controllers I have.

Re:When I tried (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30324924)

Why can't there be an app which takes midi input and plays sounds (from a sound font file, wav file, etc) when it gets them?

Why can't there be an app which tells people to use google when asking dumbass questions like this?

Hmm (2)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 4 years ago | (#30315992)

  How are they choosing notes, keys and other aspects of music? This looks a lot like a very complicated version of the historical crank organ.

Re:Hmm (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317762)

Not sure how they're doing it, but it's basically an open problem how to control a hugely multi-dimensional space like computer music via controllers people can use. One approach is to choose 2-3 axes of variation and map them to something like a Wii-style controller, which seems to be what they're doing here (or something more exotic, like a theremin controller). Plenty of other ideas--- even an entire yearly conference [nime.org] on it.

This [nime.org] (PDF) is a fairly widely cited paper that gives a brief overview. (There's a longer, better-formatted journal version here [mitpressjournals.org] , but I think you have to be on a university campus that subscribes to the journal to get access to that one.)

Re:Hmm (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318798)

it's basically an open problem how to control a hugely multi-dimensional space like computer music via controllers people can use

Yeah... wasn't that problem solved with the invention of paper, pens, pencils and the language of music?

Re:Hmm (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30319012)

Not really--- classical music notation only gives you control over basically pitch and duration of discrete notes, with a few exceptions. If you allow, say, timbre to be real-time variable (instead of restricting yourself to a single hardcoded instrument like "a violin"), you need to control that too, on multiple axes. And if you make notes continuous and highly polyphonic (say, up to 30-40 could be playing at once, instead of the max on a piano of about 10-12, and on many instruments a single one), you need still more control.

One reasonable approach is to fix a bunch of things and vary only a limited number, and one way of doing that is to keep everything fixed, except let the performer vary pitch and duration of discrete notes. But there's lots of other kinds of music you can make--- how would you design a controller to control soundscapes in real-time, or to compose IDM in real-time?

Re:Hmm (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30320608)

Not really--- classical music notation only gives you control over basically pitch and duration of discrete notes, with a few exceptions. If you allow, say, timbre to be real-time variable (instead of restricting yourself to a single hardcoded instrument like "a violin"), you need to control that too, on multiple axes. And if you make notes continuous and highly polyphonic (say, up to 30-40 could be playing at once, instead of the max on a piano of about 10-12, and on many instruments a single one), you need still more control.

One reasonable approach is to fix a bunch of things and vary only a limited number, and one way of doing that is to keep everything fixed, except let the performer vary pitch and duration of discrete notes. But there's lots of other kinds of music you can make--- how would you design a controller to control soundscapes in real-time, or to compose IDM in real-time?

For me personally? "Composing in real-time" I instead call "using my creativity and imagination." Then, if I enjoy my creation I write it down. I play multiple instruments, including the piano. Though I myself am limited compared to you (I only have 10 fingers).

Re:Hmm (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30321874)

I don't really see what the problem is with "buttons".

Pianos, organs, etc. overcame essentially this problem centuries ago with a combination of hand and foot buttons (keyboard and pedals). Wind instruments came to the same conclusion too- most wind instruments (eg., trumpet, flute, clarinet) essentially have a small number of buttons which are held in various combinations whilst blowing. And percussion instruments (such as drums) are easily emulateable with big, appropriately shaped buttons that you can bash. String instruments seem to me to be about the only family which don't easily conform.

Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel with Wii remote waggling and breakable lasers and whatnot? I mean sure, if they work brilliantly then why not- but why force it when it so blatantly doesn't?

Re:Hmm (1)

sydb (176695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30322004)

You're right, the human race should really stop trying new stuff out.

Re:Hmm (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30326092)

They shouldn't. But equally, abandoning about 6 thousand years of lessons learned just because you can makes no sense.

We have keyboards. They're swell. But in this age of high-technology, shouldn't we be able to take the "pressing buttons" approach and come up with something better? Does "trying out new stuff" have to involve waggling Wii Remotes around? I mean they're a nice toy and fun video game controller, but whoever thought they were the best tool for emulating musical instruments really needs to sit down and think about it a bit harder.

Things should be made as simple as possible... (2, Informative)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316036)

...but no simpler.

It's an interesting idea and may have beneficial applications for entertainment, music therapy or childhood education, but I don't see much potential for any real [read artistic] musical applications. Excepting, possibly, interactive performance art or something.

The richness of a real symphony orchestra's sound is tied to the complexity and expertise of about a hundred different musicians at levels of superb mastery working together as individuals to recreate and interpret a composer's vision. I don't see how it would be possible to do anything different from the already tired new-agey synthesizer muzak with a tool like this. Of course I feel similarly about replacing the big band with an electric guitar.

Actually (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316784)

In a cool or scary development, depending on how you want to look at it, computers can do an amazing job of replicating symphonies and other musical groups. Powerful CPUs, lots of RAM and big harddrives mean it is feasible to extensively sample instruments and then have a computer make music using it. Go have a look around EastWest's site and you can see all the various kinds of instruments and groups they've got sample sets for. For orchestra's it is their Symphonic Orchestra product (http://www.soundsonline.com/product.php?productid=EW-177). Listen to some of the demos, it is impressive stuff.

While this L2Ork does look like a silly toy, that doesn't mean computer based music is primitive. It has gotten exceedingly good in recent years. You toss a few hundred gigs of samples at the problem with a good engine, turns out you can give a composer a tool that sounds very real.

Re:Actually (1)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317098)

I'm not saying the computer's the problem. I'm saying that a Wii controller is not going to give the level of detailed I/O required to take advantage of the capabilities you describe.

It's IO bound. A flute player can alter the tone quality produced by changing their oral orifice from oval to circular, in addition to breath speed, vibrato, airflow angle against the flute, and then the notes being played.

And that's ONE instrument out of about a hundred. The video on their site showed about 6 people waving WiiMotes around. The WiiMote is not comparable to an actual physical interface to a real acoustic instrument and can't provide the richness of expression.

Re:Actually (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317138)

To the Parent and GP:

Why are we trying to make computers sound just like orchestras?

That seems, to me, to be the whole "problem", and it's one that we're creating. By comparing the present with the past we're creating needless conflict.

Computers can create some really complex, incredibly beautiful music. Machines can do things that no human orchestra is ever likely to be able to recreate.

Human instruments (please leave off the skin flute jokes :) ) can also be beautiful, but have different sets of inputs.

Unless one's stated goal is to make a computer sound and act just like a trumpet, I don't see what the big deal is. Why don't we just accept that each instrument has fundamentally different strengths and then move on efrom there?

To the GP: Why couldn't a wii-mote and other inputs be incredibly beautiful? You have people who play the theremin professionally to great results, and that's just a metal stick. Why couldn't a wiimote, more complicated than a theremin, which can have plugins or even pedals like an electric guitar (another incredibly tough instrument to play with grace and elan) produce worthwhile sonic results also?

Does it seem small to automatically assume an object is relegated to second fiddle, so to speak, because it is considered a toy? It seems to me that every other instrument currently considered "proper" was once merely a toy as well.

If we want music to continue to evolve, we should get rid of the pretentious idea that orchestral/traditional instruments are the only thing worth hearing.

Sorry if this comes across as harsh, I just have had too many run-ins with overly pretentious classical musician nutbags. Just trying to add to the conversation.

Re:Actually (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30319298)

Well that is precisely the reason for a sample set like this: To make a computer sound like a real instrument. There are many reasons to want to do this.

One would be if you don't have access to a real orchestra. That would be the situation I'm in. I like to mess around with music, however I'm not a professional and I'm not rich. I can't go and have an orchestra play something for me if I want. However, I can afford to buy Virtual Instruments and make my computer sound an awful lot like a real orchestra (or rock band or whatever I like).

Another would be for composers who do have access, but want to hear what their compositions will sound like first. Not every professional is a Motzart level genius that can hear the piece as they write it. Many need to try it out. This lets them do that, they can see how it is going to sound over all before they present it to real musicians.

Still another would be a musician who wants access to a particular instrument in a setting that isn't convenient for that. A great example would be a piano player. A real, full, grand piano can weigh over 1,000 pounds. This is not the kind of thing you can carry with you. However, a MIDI keyboard, a laptop and a high quality piano library can give you one that can travel.

So yes, the point of these is to make computers sound like real instruments and they do a hell of a job.

Re:Actually (1)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30319948)

I'm not saying at all that computers can't or shouldn't be used in music. I'm saying that based on the input devices being used, and from what I can guess about the methodology used based on the video I watched, there's no way this system can be used to do things of comparable sophistication to what you'd get from a symphony orchestra.

After all, they are calling this a Linux laptop orchestra.

Of course computers are wonderful tools for composers who want to produce orchestral music but don't have the budget to pay a symphony orchestra to experiment with arrangement.

In fact, you made my point for me--a keyboard that would use midi or sampling to simulate an instrument is already a far better input device than these Wii controllers. Any serious musician will take the time to learn piano, to take advantage of its superior capabilities.

Re:Actually (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30320986)

Ya well, pretty much anything using a Wiimote is guaranteed to be a dumbass gimmick. After all, it isn't as though this sort of motion capture/control is new. Gyration makes a number of products that can track motion in the air, and far more accurately than the Wiimote. It has just brought it to mainstream attention and thus you get people like this with silly ideas playing with one.

Re:Things should be made as simple as possible... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30317658)

And you sir, know nothing about art, although your post makes you sound like a music snob. Art, music especially, is "interpreted" when it is consumed (as you said) yet you bash synthesised music because *you* don't like it. What about everyone else? Have you asked an electronic music artist if they think their music is, well, true music? You even go on to gripe about electric guitars like we're back in the 60's and Dylan just broke up with Folk. Gosh, you're so square you probably think the purpose of music is entertainment!

Back on topic, the beauty of music is that it can be made with ANYTHING. Saxophones, flutes, cellos, pianos, etc. did not start out in the forms we see them today and perhaps started out as trash cans, sticks, and twine. The computer-made "orchestra" is not a replacement for an orchestra. The program + hardware is simply a vehicle for music that is similar to an orchestra. The lack of creativity and singular point of view in your post makes me think that you really have no idea what music is all about. Mod parent down into obscurity please.

Re:Things should be made as simple as possible... (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318906)

Back on topic, the beauty of music is that it can be made with ANYTHING.

I prefer to compose my music with construction paper, Elmer's glue and elbow macaroni. I find the sound of the noodles falling randomly onto childlike streaks of white liquid adhesive to be aesthetically pleasing to the ear.

Re:Things should be made as simple as possible... (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30321918)

What you're basically saying (and I agree) is that the quality of an "orchestra" is directly related to the quality of the instruments.

Classic instruments and nuanced and perfected over centuries of development- and this thing in TFA looks like just a silly Wiimusic-style toy.

But I disagree that there can't be any such thing as a genuinely good synthetic instrument. There might not be yet (or there might be- I just don't know), but there's nothing fundamentally wrong about the concept. We can already make computers produce stunning quality of sound- the main problem is getting the control system right. A violin or a grand piano is a hugely nuanced device- if a similarly complex but intuitive system could be developed for computerized music, I don't doubt that it would be possible to create stunning musical sound out of one.

Re:Things should be made as simple as possible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30325010)

So.. a big band can't be unimaginitive and play stale canned riffs over and over? Or emulate a style while never being completely original? And a symphony can't be composed entirely on a pc yet (with a master level keyboard player and some 32gig+ symphonic libraries such as EWQL)? I agree as I came out of my teens/20's I started realizing what the electric guitar is doing to music nowadays.. and its mostly image.. But its part of the evolution of music, whether music is getting better or worse is only subjective really.

Agree about this not being groundbreaking or much more interesting than any other gimmicky musical controller (motion to midi CC capture, etc, who cares, we're spoiled by the digital age to say that, but w/e). In this aspect, Roland's D-beam was much cooler to me because all you use is your hand, no clunky controller of any kind. If only they included a little laser with the infrared it would be much more visual and impressive to the audience! =] But, if an instrument like this inspired someone to learn music (and stick with it), who's to say it's any better or worse than a violin or saxophone?

72 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316146)

It's got a good beat, but you can't laptop dance to it..

This is wonderful - Encore! (2)

harlequinade (1122273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316156)

The scene is quite odd, but the result is hypnotic - and *way* more musical than most things infecting the Billboard these days! Where do we get the album? Will they tour?

Re:This is wonderful - Encore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316226)

I just hope their samples have a better quality than their videos :x

Hooray for dubious honors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316206)

So where was Slashdot when I created the world's first chihuahua-based chamber choir for walk-in closets?

So who else is actually going to attend? (2)

scubanator87 (1023313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316302)

Ill be there and i think the after party is at Connor's

Audio on Linux has come a long way (5, Informative)

sheehaje (240093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316368)

While I'm not into Laptop Orchestra's, I do use Ubuntu Studio now for MOST of my audio processing.

Only 4 years ago, I couldn't make it work. I use a Presonus Firepod to record my band, and also have some other gadgets. The only thing I am really missing is something like Gearbox for my Line 6 PodXT, there just isn't a substitute yet for Linux. No worries though, I pretty much have my board setup the way I want, so rarely even use Gearbox anymore.

Anyway, back to my point. I now use Linux as my DAW, as a sequencer, and increasing for my general computing needs. I love Jackd with Ardour and Patchage. It's gotten to the point where it's not just a suitable replacement for Cubase or Pro-Tools, but is my preferred setup. Now that my ATI drivers are finally working properly with the RT kernel in Ubuntu 9.10, I am finding the cube desktop actually useful instead of just eye candy. I can have my mixers, editors, patchage, etc. on separate workspaces and get to them easily.

Just a month ago, I had a friend of mine come over to check out my setup. He is a drummer that also wanted to start home recordings. He bought a ART Tubefire 8, and was very disappointed with the crippled Cubase LE that came with the hardware. After seeing my setup, he went out, bought a $300 computer and a firewire card and asked me to get him setup. Knowing nothing about Linux, or Ubuntu, etc, he is now using the setup to great success.. If there was ever a killer app for Linux, this is it, at least for music professionals and hobbyists.

The major drawback is hardware support still has a ways to go. But, right now there is the ability to get high end music recording equipment working very well right out of the box. I am a very satisfied "customer". And to think, 4 years ago I never thought it would get there.

Ardour Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30317210)

To change the damn gain you need a plugin.

Good freaking luck finding one that is easy for a linux novice to put in.

Re:Ardour Sucks (2, Insightful)

makohund (10086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318496)

Huh? Change the gain of what? Why?

Is a firetruck responsible for maintaining proper water pressure at the fire hydrant it is hooked up to? No. That's not its job.

It's a DAW, not a preamp. If you have to change the "gain" of something in Ardour, you're already doing it wrong. If it could... all it'd be doing is allowing you to continue to do it wrong.

If you are feeding it a weak signal, fix the damn signal.
If you are feeding it an overly strong signal, fix the damn signal.

"Fix the damn signal" means adjust your outboard equipment (preamp, mixer, noise generator, or whatever) and/or your soundcard's mixer to get a proper signal happening to begin with. Don't feed your DAW a crappy signal, unless you WANT to record a crappy signal. Get it right as early in the chain as possible, because once you are in the DAW, it's too late. You're already past the AD conversion... any gain is nothing more than a little math to make it louder, which can be done at any time. It'll never make it "better".

If it is too late fix the signal, and you are dealing with pre-recorded audio that is too weak (or outboard equipment that isn't up to snuff), fix it right (permanently) with an audio editor. That way you aren't wasting CPU doing that same digital math over and over again every time you hit play.

And if you absolutely, positively can't do it the right way, and insist on changing your gain in the DAW itself... yes, you can do it with a plugin. (Not exactly hard to find... I found no less than three already installed, and I've never installed any but the most common/basic plugin packages. And that's on a plain vanilla Ubuntu machine, not a studio machine with lots of goodies on it.) In the end, doing this with a plugin is no different than having it built in. It is better, because it gets it off the damn screen for most people, who will not and should not need it 99% of the time.

Sounds like a lack of either minimal effort or minimal understanding of recording in general. Go get a Mac and use Garageband. It was made for you.

(And hey, I'm not knocking it. I do have a Macbook, and have used GB for sketching around with. It's not bad. Inability to export midi is probably the only really major drawback.)

If you wanna knock Ardour, say something like "it lacks MIDI functionality found in most other DAWs", which would be true. Until v3 comes out, at least.

Re:Audio on Linux has come a long way (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318274)

I've got an M Audio Delta 44 that works pretty well with Ubuntu Studio. I've used Ardour/Jackd for a few years now (first on Gentoo and now on Ubuntu Studio) and they work great.

Re:Audio on Linux has come a long way (2, Informative)

anechoic (129368) | more than 4 years ago | (#30320410)

ditto -- I'm an Ardour user on Ubuntu and would never go back to OS X -- ever!
http://createdigitalmusic.com/2009/08/04/linux-music-workflow-switching-from-mac-os-x-to-ubuntu-with-kim-cascone/

You seem to know what you are talking about. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30323464)

Do you have any document about how your set up is?

Do you have any sources of information for somebody that would be trying to start producing music with Linux?

Any tutorials you know about?

Re:You seem to know what you are talking about. (1)

sheehaje (240093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30323776)

I have not documented my settings, but I've followed community develop documentation to get my setup going.

Also, I did not install the Ubuntu Studio Distribution, I instead installed Ubuntu 9.10 first, then used the repositories to upgrade my desktop with the ubuntu studio package, and the Linux realtime kernel.

My sources are as follows:

Upgrade Ubuntu to Ubuntu Studio [ubuntu.com]

Ubuntu Multimedia Forums [ubuntuforums.org]

Excellent Tips/Tutorials from one of the users [briansbedroom.org]

jackd home page [jackaudio.org]

Ardour Homepage [ardour.org]

These are good starting points. The major issue with documentation and tutorials is that Ardour and Jackd are changing so rapidly that the documents outdate themselves very quickly. Like I said, 4 years ago I wouldn't even think about using Linux for DAW work. In the past two years, especially since the freebob and ffdao projects, the scene has exploded.

If you still have questions after this, feel free to mail me. Depending on your hardware I may be able to help with jackd settings and with general questions.

WAAAAGH!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316466)

Learn to Ork? Nar yer weedy git, I is da good ork boy! WAAAGH!!!

Scary shit (1)

PHPfanboy (841183) | more than 4 years ago | (#30316524)

Hope they're not hoping to sell many tickets for performances just yet.

I've got a laptop orchestra (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30316582)

I have a laptop orchestra. Any floutists wanna play?

Re:I've got a laptop orchestra (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318716)

I have a laptop orchestra. Any floutists wanna play?

I don't know how much I'd advertise having a 3 inch pianist, if I were you...

The Machine Orchestra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30317108)

We are realizing a project similar to this in the Music Technology program at CalArts, called The Machine Orchestra. The hemispherical speakers (using the same process pioneered at PLOrk and SLOrk) have 6 discrete channels and allow for some really interesting audio/spatial effects stereo recordings don't really give any sort of impression as to how they sound in a room with an ensemble of them. A lot of electronic music performance is limited to stereo, so part of the idea behind using a hemi is to have a radiance of sound similar to acoustic instruments interacting in a traditional orchestra. In our implementation of a laptop orchestra, we are also combining acoustic instruments and robotic musical instruments in addition to performers playing music through the hemis.

Although the use of the hemis in education could be a good idea, the speakers themselves are very expensive to build, also taking into account the 6-channel interface needed.

Shameless plug: if you are interested in seeing and hearing a live performance, our premiere of The Machine Orchestra will be at REDCAT in downtown LA on January 27th (http://www.themachineorchestra.com/).

"Is Linux Ready..." (1)

TheLoneGundam (615596) | more than 4 years ago | (#30317668)

Why do people always ask if the OS is ready for audio/video/futuristichyper3dmedia work? Of course the OS is: its job is to provide interfaces for hardware drivers and schedule processes to run, some of which might just be audio/video/you-get-it application programs. Ever since Windows, the original Mac OS, and a few others started bundling all of these apps into the OS distribution, people have confused operating systems with the toys they're shipped with. Of course, I'm old and cranky and mainframe based where we automatically delineate apps from OS functions - but I'd still like to see discourse about such things be a little more precise.

Re:"Is Linux Ready..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30320022)

People ask because....
Not all operating systems are not suitable for low latency audio. The big three operating systems have to be low latency because computer music is popular with their users.

Linux is getting better at this. From about 2.6.24 or so the vanilla kernel is ok for about 1024 samples latency. With the real time patches you can go much lower, but it can require some technical knowledge to get running, and there are other problems with some propitiatory drivers not being real time safe etc. The patches touch an awful lot of code, so they are being merged in bit by bit.
Windows and OSX mostly work fine for this with the default install. Or else it all goes horribly wrong for no obvious reason.

I don't think BSD, Solaris, AIX are suitable for audio work. It's not their main focus.

Too Steep a Curve (2, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30318316)

So far Linux does have musical capabilities but not enough and not easy enough either.
            For example converting a treble clef trumpet part to a bass clef trombone part should be a no brainer and printing it out should be a breeze as well. Further converting a melody played through the system into a score should also be simple.
            Having to use different programs to print a score, convert a score and play a score will not attract many musicians.
            So far one of the very, very few excuses for running Windows is the production of music by musicians. Online DJs may fare better as they may alter music but do not usually create it.

K-12 circle jerk anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30319116)

Looks like a digital circle jerk to me:

http://l2ork.music.vt.edu/main/?p=593

Let's Call It An Armswiggle (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30320972)

Because it sure ain't no orchestra. That's be a collection of musical instruments. This is a collection of pseudo-random musical background sound generators. Music is replicable, hence "songs". This is self-similar. Any collection of sounds can be called music, but the brain decides if it sounds like 'real' music when a power curve representing the output of all notes/sounds fits a particular dimensionality; details are in Mandelbrot's first fractals picture book. If these can be tweaked to produce that, I'd agree it could play a piece of music. But I wouldn't cop to the more generic "music" unless they can be used in such a way that any number of unique pieces of music are created. If there's to be a debate, let's have it over the above details, not over the mistaken idea that it's the OS, rather than music apps, that make a machine music capable. Linux was music capable when the first audio CD driver allowed a CD to be played through a sound card and speakers. Other ways are possible but this one channel was sufficient for prerecorded song playback, so it was certainly good enough for a simulated instrument's output.

VST Plugins (1)

Louigi Verona (1692786) | more than 4 years ago | (#30321844)

I have moved to GNU/Linux two and a half months ago. I wanted to move before but as a musician I did not want to give up music and what I saw on GNU systems was very weak and simply did not allow me to do anything. I have to point out that I am not an orchestra man, I am an electronic musician. So I don't care for much recording (although I do for some), I care more for effects, synthesizers and sequencers. What can I say? Apart from a long learning curve (which is okay, actually, I don't mind learning something if I know it will get me somewhere) the biggest problem are the plugins. the sequencers and all that general stuff is more or less usable, Ardour is cool as a multitrack editor and recorder, LMMS is already in a pretty good state as an intergrated DAW. Apps for live performance are basically killer apps. JACK itself, ardour, kluppe, sooperlooper, being able to route that stuff, JACK Rack - all of that is great. But... But the lack of good plugins and software synthesizers is a blocker for studio work. In electronic music sound manipulation is the core of what you are doing. On PC and on Mac you have VST and AU plugins, and loads of them - effects and synthesizers alike. There are literally hundreds of high quality stuff. On GNU/Linux, unfortunately, there are only LADSPA effects, which have ugly GUIs and most importantly are mostly very basic effects, in many cases buggy and not so well sounding. There is literally not one really good reverb. There are a couple of good reverbs for voice, but they are very specific. Apart from CALF pack, most of the LADSPA plugins are almost useless. They either don't work or offer you twenty parameters which you have to tweak to get some basic delay. Absolutely no presets makes it difficult for non-engineers to get some simple stuff done. But the effects, while very important, is not the biggest problem. After all, I can eventually create my own presets and there are also LV2 which have potential (although I found no way to actually check any of those as I simply do not know how to install them and how to plug them in), but there are almost NO SOFTWARE SYNTHESIZERS. Apart from a ZynAddSubFx, which from a point of view of a Linux user is a genius product, while to a Windows user is just a normal VSTi plugin you would find dozens of in the VST world. Yeah, it may be closer to stuff like Sytrus, since it is potentially a great synthesizer and you can do lots of cool synth work, but honestly - I've seen many-many synths like that and the fact the GNU system has just one is really a good way to highlight the problem. Eventually, having observed that the switch to GNU/Linux basically stopped my music production, I decided to install FL Studio, a proprietary app, through WINE and have to use it for its plugins. As soon as LV2 plugins become better and there will be much more of them, I would say that GNU/Linux has finished its transition to being a good OS for audio work.

Re:VST Plugins (1)

Louigi Verona (1692786) | more than 4 years ago | (#30322122)

Funnily enough, I've shown this discussion to my friend and he, having ready my post, said - Did you see the Bristol project? I said what? And he gave me a link: http://bristol.sourceforge.net/index.html [sourceforge.net] I've installed it now and now trying out. Great GUIs, beautiful sounds. I may have to take the above soft synth rants back.

Re:VST Plugins (1)

kayoshiii (1099149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30322530)

I tend to think of this as being given a pre packaged cake mix with instructions as opposed to being given flour, milk, eggs, chocolate and having to figure out what to do with them. If you are already a cook then this isn't a problem if not you are probably going to want to get yourself a cookbook.

With regards to ladspa effects the UI's are minimalistic rather than ugly. However they don't really clue you in to what you are supposed to be doing you either know or you don't know. I got around this by purchasing a few good audio engineering books which gave me the necessary information and decades of insight into industry best practice. If that is not the kind of thing that floats your boat, I completely understand. Complex effects can be built up from simple plugins. The situation is changing and LV2 plugins with custom UIs starting to show up calf being the best known examples but I would also add the linuxdsp set to the list. As far as reverbs go the best is not listed as a reverb but as a convolver (jconv) and is at present a bit cumbersome to use. In general it is accurate to say that Mac and Windows users have a much larger wealth of choice.

With regards to Synthesizers http://www.audiomasterclass.com/arc.cfm?a=how-many-different-types-of-synthesis-are-there-how-many-matter
lists the most common forms of synthesis. Almost all synths fall into into minor variations of these types... ZynAddSubFX has very deep editing capabilities and can do Subtractive, Additive and Wavetable Synthesis. It's fairly easy to find fm synthesizers (though I personally don't think they are terribly useful). I would like to see at least one easy to use granular synthesizer and more physical modelling synths. (I have pianoteq but it is not particularly cheep and very piano centric but awesome). It would also be great to samplers that support more of the popular sample formats (so far I know of support for SF2 and gigasampler). In general I would say that you don't need many many different synths just a couple of good flexible ones (depending on how far you like to get from the presets) and if you head away from that direction then there are tools like puredata and csound. Again I completely understand if that is not what you want to do and you are right that linux does not provide the richness of choice that Mac or Windows does. I am currently looking for good books on synthesis I have found a few already but if anybody has links to share that would be great.

I guess at the end of the day Linux supports some approaches to music quite well and others not well at all. Mac and Windows will give you much greater flexibility but linux is there and can work for you if you really want it to.

Re:VST Plugins (1)

Louigi Verona (1692786) | more than 4 years ago | (#30323098)

Yeah, I agree. It's just as a composer I am not too interested in sound synthesis, I am interested in using it =) I guess with time it will change.

As if the VT Massacre wasn't bad enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30324958)

Now they have this to contend with.

stockhausen is rolling in his grave... (1)

blagg3r (1165435) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344128)

tickled and laughing.
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