Electronic music making has had several major epochs. There was the rise of the hardware synth, first with modular patch cords and later streamlined into encapsulated controls, in the form of knobs and switches. There was the digital synth, in code and graphical patches. And there was the two-dimensional user interface.

We may be on the cusp of a new age: the three-dimensional paradigm for music making.

AudioGL, a spectacularly-ambitious project by Toronto-based engineer and musician Jonathan Heppner, is one step closer to reality. Three years in the making, the tool is already surprisingly mature. And a crowd-sourced funding campaign promises to bring beta releases as soon as this summer. In the demo video above, you can see an overview of some of its broad capabilities:

  • Synthesis, via modular connections
  • Sample loading
  • The ability to zoom into more conventional 2D sequences, piano roll views, and envelopes/automation
  • Grouping of related nodes
  • Patch sharing
  • Graphical feedback for envelopes and automation, tracked across z-axis wireframes, like circuitry

All of this is presented in a mind-boggling visual display, resembling nothing more than constellations of stars.

Is it just me, or does this make anyone else want to somehow combine modular synthesis with a space strategy sim like Galactic Civilizations? Then again, that might cause some sort of nerd singularity that would tear apart the fabric of the space-time continuum – or at least ensure we never have any normal human relationships again.

Anyway, the vitals:

  • It runs on a lowly Lenovo tablet right now, with integrated graphics.
  • The goal is to make it run on your PC by the end of the year. (Mac users hardly need a better reason to dual boot. Why are you booting into Windows? Because I run a single application that makes it the future.)
  • MIDI and ReWire are onboard, with OSC and VST coming.
  • With crowd funding, you’ll get a Win32/64 release planned by the end of the year, and betas by summer (Windows) or fall/winter (Mac).

I like this quote:

Some things which have influenced the design of AudioGL:
Catia – Dassault Systèmes
AutoCAD – Autodesk
Cubase – Steinberg
Nord Modular – Clavia
The Demoscene

Indeed. And with computer software now reaching a high degree of maturity, such mash-ups could open new worlds.

Learn about the project, and contribute by the 23rd of March via the (excellent) IndieGogo:

http://audiogl.com

  • J

    Nice project but I’d really change the name to avoid confusion with OpenAL. It’s not a cross-platform API like the other -GLs so why call it AudioGL? It follows an inappropriate naming convention.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Impressive.

  • Bendish

    This is amazing. Love the 3d sequencing. Very Auto CAD. It's a little bit scary though when used to Live and linear sequencers.

  • lodsb

    nice! but i really hoped that it would be opensourced or something equivalent when crowdsourced. I totally understand that Jonathan wants to make profit out of it (seeing that the fund is ~ 1 year salary + focused on selling licenses), but this might have put the whole free software music community some years into the future (or may i say "present") – well good luck Jonathan! and at least (another) one DAW that finally gets rid of the moronic tapemachine emulation.

  • Fedor

    this is too complex to have a profit

  • kln

    @fedor, I agree It seems very complex.
    And I dont understand what the advantage with 3D is?
    It looks amazing but apart from that what is the benefits?

  • http://www.musicalgeometry.com Jason

    While this is a truly impressive and beautiful piece of software engineering I don't see how this 3 dimensional interface adds anything new. If anything it  seems to me that it makes it more complicated to accomplish things we can already do with ease in pd, MaxMsp, Ableton etc. The 3d interface looks cool but it also obfuscates a lot of what is going on from what I can see.

  • simon

    Very very cool visually, but the usability worries me. I hope I can demo it soon!

  • turdler

    Reminds me of the video game Frequency a bit,  I use to own at that game!

  • salamanderanagram

    this makes me wonder why i get excited for namm, when this is just so much cooler than anything i saw out of namm this year. really glad to see he's taking the route i wanted him to take when i first saw this (IE take money now to fund future development).

  • Denis

    That's really impressive. I wonder how the 3D dimension will add to the layout of sound in my brain. At the moment, I feel like constructing a 3D model in a software like Catia is so much easier than completing a full track by my own. It's manly because the image of the model is already in front of my inner eye.
    defo excited about that one

  • old age

    So… What's the point here? What's next… A cubic spreadsheet?

  • youknowwhat

    this reminds me of the scratcher in fruity loops coupled with self gratification :)

  • Seamus

    For all the people wondering what the point of the 3D aspect is – Personally, I think it makes absolute sense to have the automation and sequencing happen on a separate axis from the signal flow.  On one plane you see how the user is interacting with the modules.  On the other, you see how the modules are interacting with each-other.  To be honest, I find that incredibly elegant and useful.

    • http://ardour.org Paul Davis

      elegant, indeed. useful … less clear, to me. i note that to actually modify anything on the time axis, you have to flatten it to 2d, which suggests that the 3d "metaphor" might have some issues.

    • old age

      K.I.S.S.

    • James khan

      This is ant-kiss and it desnt seem to offer anything in terms of usability that 3d can provide. even the organization of his patches are flat, just imagine trying to navigate a rats nest of a patch layered in depth and you will realize the nightmare this can become. The only thing innovating is linking autmation data to patches, but this is less so than one might think. 

      Thank god i am an independent developer with usability experience and a decent compsci education. Needless to sya I would't be wasting my sweat equity on something so useless. 

  • youngcircle

    This is absolutely fantastic, to each his own but if you can’t see how going 3D gives complex synthesis a brand new layer of transparency and a greater ability to get ever more granular, then …well… Ok fuck it, I’ll say it: you’ve got no vision! You’ve failed today’s test, sorry 

    ;)

  • sleepy lagoon

    This seems convoluted and far too abstract to be useful.  Most sequencers are so straight forward that this seems like a step in the opposite direction.  If I hear something while listening to a mix and want to change automation (this is in Live) I can do it in far less than 5 seconds, probably 1-2.  The arrangement of automation below a midi track or audio track seems like it would be aggravating.  Maybe I'm just used to Live placing the automation directly on top of the signal it is affecting.  

    I would love to be able to actually sequence in 3D, meaning to have precise control over a specific sounds position in the stereo field.  Something akin to a software equivalent of binaural microphones mixed with a 3D application like Catia.  If something like this exists by all means inform the uninformed.    

    In the bright side the interface is gorgeous and the $200 price tag is more than reasonable.  

  • http://xfader.com regend

    My jaw dropped. Solves a workflow problem I have where I save automation as the last element. We all see things differently.

  • newmiracle

    I'd like to see some videos of using the program more, but the appeal actually doesn't seem too abstract to me. It's an integration of a patching environment (pd, max) and a linear daw (live, fl studio, etc). Sure, you could use both these things side by side. But why not make a system from the ground up that runs with that concept? Since you are trying to combine two 2-D interfaces, it's not such a stretch of the imagination that going 3-D might be a solution for combining them.

    Of course, if it *works* is totally another question. That being said, it looks like impressive so far. I wonder if he has looked into 3D glasses/rendering for this? (Like he doesn't have enough to do all on his own)

  • GDS

    What a bunch of whining people, jeez. With that kind of close-minded mentality their would never be any progress in arts technology or science. We live in a 3D world. 2D is just the result of our limited flat-screen technology. The future is 3D. You will manipulate and surf inside the program with the same ease as manipulating or moving around in the real world.  

    • oldage

      It 'snt close-mindedness (sorry for that word)… It's just a practical point of view. It is truth that we need groundbreaking points of view, but also they must have a purpose. And here the GUI is just eyecandy.

    • A B. Wiener

      The future isnt 3d because in terms of data visualization we still comprehand our 3d world in 2.5d, requiring us to adjust our orientation to take in other sides. More so when he presents automation signal, its 90 degrees normal to the plane where he present audio signal. The associative quality to operate is lost here. 

  • Christian

    @regend "We all see things differently" – couldn't agree more. The dominant mode of working is 2D – so we are really only just beginning with 3D paradigms like this on the computer. 3D definitely offers some new perspectives like Nao Tokui's Sonasphere – sadly, last I heard, it is no longer in development and won't work on current OSX systems. The ability to use 3D as a kinetic system to control sound was very interesting. and had SO much potential.
    http://www.sonasphere.com/projects/sonasphere/

  • ScottAC

    Look brilliant! Indeed a massive job. Is the beta testing going to be public?

    Thanks, ScottAC/AbstractCats