[LAD] The modular audio chronicles ep. 1
contact at e-rouge.net
Mon Jun 23 18:56:09 UTC 2014
(Here is an unusual mail trying to describe as entertainingly as
possible what it's like to set up a modular production environment in
GNU/Linux. I owe the greatest of respect to anyone who've made the
softwares mentioned below and their work do not misunderstand a joke for
a blunt critic. )
You haven't heard much from me lately, and I'm sorry for that. For one
year and a half I've been sitting in front of my minimal -yet fairly
high endish - music production set up doing nothing but programming.
Those expensive things were only used to playback cd and digital files...
... you know what that means :
I was becoming an audiophile.
Holly horse poop, I can't beleive I said that... but it's true.
Few weeks ago, realizing this dreadful fact- I decided to start a rehab
: let's fire up the preamp and let's record some stuffs. Just to prove
the world I'm not just another bragging gear slut (hopefully).
Of course, just to make things harder I decided not to use the
full-featured highly expected (and probably amazing) Ardour 3. Why not ?
Because I've suffered 8 years of (gnu's not)Unix propaganda and now I
praise "modularity" above anything else.
Mh, and I guess 27 years of Legos(tm) didn't help neither (Don't judge
me, Technics are a great prototyping tool. ... . That's the best excuse
Lately, thanks to nedko (gladish), male (non-suite), drobilla (patchage,
ingen), falktx (Carla) (I always have to check the letters order for
this one nick :/) and few others,goal my has become -somehow- tangible.
Part one : THE SETUP
When you start a big music project with high expectations with GNU/linux
you need two things :
1) Make sure not to have a deadline
2) Make sure you are fully relaxed
Cause, you know how it is : those softwares are all quite young and only
used by few people. Therefore, "few people" means very few bug reports.
And of course those softs are made by volunteers who can only solve
them when they have enough time. Considering all this, it's already
great everything works !
Having few bugs every once in a while in a software is no big deal...
But the thing with modular audio, by definition, is that you're gonna
use dozens of them. At once.
And bugs DO stack.
But I'm rushing a bit, we're not there yet, cause at this point of the
story I haven't picked my softwares already (except for the non-suite).
I don't have any effects nor midi anything : I need to gather some more
stuffs to work with. And I must say I felt a bit like Indiana Johns
having to gather some pieces of a mysterious puzzle : "Your six strings
shall sound heavenly and You synths shall have many melodies. and you
will have to travel the Internet to find what you need."
Ok, the guitar part is an easy one : guitarix. It's just amazing. Let's
use it... and ! Oh gosh ! It's a trap ! There's no way to recall a
preset, it not patched with NSM... quick ! Use CLI, they MUST have a
"import" option ! Oh crap NO ! They don't !
I thought my quest would be easy but no. Instead of being able to pick
guitarix, I found a new quest : "use the LV2 version".
No big deal, let's just move to another place. Carla. it usually works
fine... but...gosh all my plugins are here except the amp simulator...
what the heck ?
Ingen then... erf... no, for some reasons this plugin doesn't make a
sound. Damn. Back to Carla... with another quest :
"You shall not use the Stable version. Use the git version". It's gonna
be harder than I thought.
Building is usually a piece of cake... but not this one time.
Eventually, in a last desperate attempt, I tried one more build, and
succeed.... Until QT5 -my trusted friend for years- suddenly decides to
betray me by placing booby traps all over the place to make sure I'm
not able to add any effect. Luckily, the scientist in the team -Falktx-
has been able to diffuse those.
Finally ! Now I have a guitarix preset I can save and load with NSM.
Everything's set for the guitar. It's tome to move on to our glorious
quest for MIDI.
This quest was such a weird experience. I went to the vaste land of
Rosegarden, where the GUI almost made me blind and mad. I tried the
purity of a non-sequencer until it exploded right in my face. I went
to an oddly useless 1 bar non-chromatic sequencer...
Ok. It's gonna Seq24 then. It's not perfect, but I can use it.... Let's
just call the maintainer to fix the few problems... or not. Nobody's
actually taking care of this software.
Screw it. I'll use it anyway.
It's been a week already, and most of the musicians in my party have
given up for an easier world where you can buy peace.
I've been able to make some sounds and that's what keeps me going... I
don't know how long this will take, but I'll gather all the pieces of
this modular music machine.
Eventually with the help of the LAD's scientist, it'll work properly.
Let's keep faith.
P.S. : As tedious as it was, I'm still thrilled by the potential of a
well integrated modular audio software suite. I must say I'm even more
exited when I see what's *already* possible today. Therefore I'd like to
make a call for a working group around this question cause it's really
(*really*) close to something great. I believe that a nice dialog
between users trying to setup real production environments and coders
can quickly bring out a kick-ass suite that can bring linux audio to the
P.P.S : all the best, and thanks for reading.
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