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Linux.com: Software-Based Synthesizers for Linux

Oct 03, 2000, 23:02 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Alex Young)


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"To most people's surprise, electronic instruments have been around since early pioneering work in the 1880s. Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894), a German physicist and mathematician, built an electronically controlled instrument using electromagnetically vibrating metal tines and glass resonating spheres to create relatively complex sounds. Electronic instruments, however, became more useful with the advent of vacuum tube technology in the 1960s and then later with integrated circuits. Now most of us have powerful enough home computers to emulate these instruments - creating virtual machines that can simulate complex waveforms and produce new timbre for compositions."

"The first software-based synthesizer (softsynth) I tested was ARTS (Analog RealTime Synthesizer). This application is very different than what I expected, and somewhat reminiscent of Buzz. The basic concept behind ARTS is that complicated audio constructs can be built up from very simple modules. Each module is an entity which can be connected to other modules, forming a stream of sound and "position" signals which flow through each processor. I found the concept analogous to creating a flow diagram (or even an entity relationship diagram), then executing the diagram and observing the output. The finished collection of connected modules is dubbed (in the ARTS jargon) a structure, which can be named for reference and then published to the ARTS server."

"The ARTS server is actually a daemon which provides the backbone to ARTS. By using this system, ARTS can dynamically create structures as they are needed. The example in the documentation shows how a midi event could be used to trigger a bass drum structure. This simple example highlights the inherent modular structure that runs throughout ARTS: incredibly complex musical constructs can be built from many small structures (or modules at a more atomic level) interacting."

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