Better support for music and audio is still evolving (as well as lots of stability and compatibility improvements), but I have faith open-source coding tool Processing [site | on cdmu | on cdmo ] could yield wonderful new visual interfaces for music. Daniel Piker has the latest addition, inspired by a recent post here:

FizzyNumberMusicMaker at Open Processing, a site for sharing Processing sketches – warning, makes sound immediately!

Built on the Game of Life ideas from our friend wesen (of ruin & wesen), this project uses colored cells to trigger elaborate washes of piano sound. He writes:

If the cell’s state is not just simply on or off, but a number in a range then you get all sorts of interesting musical runs and trills. You can also clearly see the connection between the colours and the sound.

The headline sums up the experience of using it. Ah, I remember countless hours spent with a desktop Yamaha GM unit and my old Roland Sound Canvas SC-55. But even if the sound of a thousand attacking General MIDI pianos makes you hide under your desk, you ought to be able to see how a simple interface can yield lots of different results. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Previously:

Build Your Own Game of Life Sequencer in Processing: Video Featuring rwmidi

Since then, I’ve gotten to hang out with wesen in Berlin. Basically, rwmidi has a little ways to go. The biggest issue is how to schedule events. Processing is set up to base timing on framerate, which doesn’t work all that well for music applications, which require greater accuracy. There’s also the tantalizing possibility of figuring out a way to slave Processing sketches to MIDI clock – so you could have Ableton Live running, then pull up a Processing sketch, for instance. wesen is working on those problems, but if you’ve seen good solutions outside the (somewhat limited) Java APIs, let us know.

  • mo-seph

    I had good success using the javax.midi Sequencer classes for timing – you can add a callback listener which will respond to meta events so you can schedule actions. It should also be (relatively) easy to then slave it to another program, but I wouldn't bet much on it without testing.

    If you want to also use it to play midi notes, you can shove them into the buffer, but you do have to work a little ahead of realtime, which may or may not work for your app…

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