"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
"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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