Photo: Jacob Joaquin snapped this shot of his OLPC at his home studio.

olpc “Sure, the OLPC project is supposed to do wonderful things for children of the world, but what has it done for me, lately?” Well, if you fancy yourself one of the Earth’s children, the OLPC organization has assembled 8.5 gigabytes of sample content that’s free and Creative Commons-licensed — free to acquire, and free to use.

Jacob Joaquin, who runs the terrific thumbuki blog and the Csound Blog and is part ofthe team developing Csound for the OLPC’s XO laptop, shares the news via Dr. Richard Boulanger at Berklee. (See the press release as a zipped .doc.)

Plenty of people contributed top-notch sound: the Berklee College of Music, Csound developers around the world, electronica celebrity BT (himself a former Berklee and Boulanger student, among other alums), M-Audio and Digidesign, and the Open Path Music Group.

They’re donated under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so you can “freely create, compose, mix, remix, share, distribute and redistribute these samples and use them for any purpose as long as you clearly attribute the source.” That means anyone, anywhere can make use of this library — no OLPC required.

Csound, OLPC Style

Jacob’s new DSP activity for recording a voice and applying effects, tested on his machine; read about development on his blog.

Whether you like the OLPC laptop itself or not, there’s plenty going on with the project. There’s the immediate impact of the hardware and software, yes — and plenty of opportunity to praise or criticize its utility there (perhaps the mark of a good, ambitious project). But there’s also the secondary impact. The OLPC has captured imaginations in terms of what future computers might be, and what they might mean to more of the population of the planet. More importantly, perhaps, it’s building a family of open source, Linux-based (and cross platform technology-based) tools, which could ultimately outlive the hardware platform. I have my own doubts about the OLPC itself, but the ideas for open sound making are about more than just that hardware. (For instance, just testing Processing, Arduino and Java on this kind of mobile platform can improve that software.)

The sample library is only part of the story; software tools is another part. Powered by Csound, the OLPC team wants to put sound synthesis and music production in the hands of kids — we’re talking serious digital synthesis here, not just GarageBand-style looping. That goal could ultimately go well beyond just the OLPC.

Csound is a free and open source development tool for sound design, synthesis, and signal processing, with a lineage that goes back to original developer Barry Vercoe and in turn descended from the first digital synthesis tools created by Max Mathews. It is the audio/music development system for the OLPC project, with integration with Python (though I’ve heard we should also see additional Java development).

Those geeky details aside, you’ll see in many of the reviews of the OLPC writers mentioning unusual and fun music toys. Those journalists are stumbling upon some of the projects below, and the process is just getting started.

Jacob had shared some brief looks at what he’s working on on his OLPC, but here’s the full overview from Dr. Boulanger, because there’s quite a lot happening:

Over these past two months the CsoundXO Developers – especially John ffitch, Victor Lazzarini, Andres Cabrera, Jacob Joaquin, Cesare Marilungo, and Greg Thompson have really pushed out some new and important tools and activities for the XO.  Links to some of these are below.

A most important result of this development initiative is the fact that John and Victor got the CsoundXO subset of Csound5 to be FULLY SYNCHRONIZED  and TOTALLY COMPATIBLE with the current release of Public Csound (and automated the process so that they will ALWAYS be in sync!) and Andres has a CsoundXO manual that is fully synchronized as well!!!!!
+ Links to the Csound Activities, the new RPM!, the developer tools
(by Victor), and the toots.
+ Victor Lazzarini’s AMAZING new GUI TOOLKIT for Csound Activity
Development on the XO
+ Victor has developed a wonderful small collection of tutorial
activities with sliders and buttons controlling CsoundXO
– waves – a simple additive synth
– synth – a subtractive synth with USB keyboard control
– playfiles – an 8 track remixer with record capability
– GMplayer – an iterface and instrument for loading and playing any GM file with Csound – using the Avid/M-Audio donated Sample Set
+ Jacob Joaquin’s new Activities developed with Victor’s Toolkit and
his blog and tutorials about the process.

* coming soon (within the next two weeks) by Greg Thompson

– CsoundEditor/Launcher – with virtual MIDI piano keyboard and CsoundXO manual integrations
+ including ALL the Boulanger Tutorials – TOOTS, Csound Book Chapter
1, Mastering Csound, Scanned Synthesis
+ including thousands of instruments and models from The Csound
Catalog plus dozens of compositions and MIDI instruments,

– CsoundRemixer – for jamming with the OLPCsound Sample Archive (and adding Csound FX instruments)

– GMPlayAlong – for playing general MIDI files with Csound and visualizing the tracks on the ascii keyboard, virtual piano keyboard and pianoroll

– PlayAlong Keyboard – for playing Csound Instruments from a USB and/or Virtual Keyboard: GMplayer, Sampler, SynthExplorer (all sorts of synths)

* coming soon (within the next two weeks) by Cesare Marilungo

– Image2Sound – for the sonification of pictures and drawings from the Journal and other OLPC Activities using his new image opcode collection. – some thoughts on Csound for press and others

Here are the links to the XO Bundled Sound Activities (including especially the Csound Masterpiece by Jean Piché and Company
– TamTam Mini, TamTam Jam, TamTam Edit, and the SynthLab) – all Csound – AMAZING – INTUITIVE – POWERFUL – and for Children! (Some Csound) (Some Csound) (Making the Csound connection now)  (capturing audio for Csound and Photos for Image2Csound conversion – thanks to Cesare Marilungo’s new
Opcodes!) (paint program which with Image2Csound and Cesare’s opcodes – can now be transformed to audio.)

19 responses to “8.5 GB of Free, CC-Licensed Samples from the OLPC Project, and OLPC Music Tools”

  1. Keith Handy says:

    Somehow I would feel guilty for using those samples…

  2. _object.session says:

    i've never used csound, although i know several people who do. and it doesn't seem like the ideal audio programming language for children. i'm assuming that csound is included because of its and the olpc's association with mit media lab, but i wonder if that's an unfortunate situation. sure, it's better than nothing. but i wonder how the software would be different if instead of asking "what mit software can we put on this?" they asked, "what programming tools will be most useful to load on this and how can we get them?"

    but as i said, i don't have much personal experience with csound or other specific audio programming languages. so, maybe someone can disagree?

  3. Steven Yi says:

    Note: I am a Csound developer, so my own opinion on this matter is obviously biased.

    I'd disagree with _object.session and would recommend trying Csound out before evaluating its capabilities. Csound is quite an efficient audio synthesis/processing system and because of that it can work very well with the limited CPU of the OLPC. Also, I do not consider its role within the OLPC as an "audio programming language for children", but rather the backend engine which activities build upon. It is the activities that children will most likely work with, not Csound directly.

    Developers of activities however can take advantage of not needing to write low-level audio code for their activities and use Csound code for that. They can also control Csound via Python, the language of choice for OLPC activities. Csound is really quite efficient IMO, and strikes a nice balance of performance, quick development time, and breadth of possibilities.

    I am well aware of many other commercial and open source music systems and I still consider Csound one of the most expressive and capable musical systems, far more than just "better than nothing". I think just looking at what activities have been created so far for OLPC there is a variety of musical possibilities there for children to explore, far more than I originally expected to see on a device with limited memory and CPU constraints.

    Anyways, I think most people do not realize Csound's capabilities in terms of what it can express musically, its efficiency in performance, nor its usability as a sound engine that is accessed via its API and language bindings, amongst its many other benefits (such as long-term preservation of musical work, but that is for another time). Surely Csound is not the right tool for all situations and for all people, as are most tools, but I do think there is more there than people realize.

  4. […] Digital Music posts about the 8.5 GB of free, CC-licensed samples and music tools that come with the OLPC laptops. Plenty of people contributed top-notch sound: the Berklee College […]

  5. Peter Kirn says:

    Well, as far as _object.session's original question, I think I just failed to make it clear that the objective was not necessarily five year-old kids new to computers coding in Csound. 🙂

    But the activities thing makes sense, of course.

    Actually, I wonder if eventually you might be able to put together a modular activity that would be friendly to kids, like the program in France with modular synths…

    Steven, I have to admit, I'm still not entirely convinced by Python and performance. I haven't had hands-on time with the XO's Python music apps specifically, but I know that was a concern. I hope that — at least to add an additional alternative — we'll see more done with OpenJDK. I'm happy to help on Java efforts, certainly. This also means benefiting from some of the things the Java platform does — nothing against Python, just as an additional alternative.

  6. Steven Yi says:

    Hi Peter,

    I think Python performs well for OLPC considering its role as mostly a glue language. For the musical activities, the bulk of processing is done either in Csound for sound or native GTK for GUI. If anything, I'd imagine the custom GUI stuff would be the biggest drain for CPU, but the activities I've seen perform well enough and do some reasonably complex stuff.

    As for Java, I'm a Java person myself (my software blue is written in Java) and I would love to see Java on OLPC (everywhere really =) ). However, Python does have the benefit of allowing users to view source on any activity and to customize/modify. It invites a degree of exploration which I'm not sure would be possible with Java.

    I'd imagine a Java-based system performing better than Python, but I think weighing in all of the concerns, Python might be the better fit.

    (Note: While I'm a Csound developer, I'm not very involved with OLPC so my knowledge of the system and the concerns that went into it may not be complete.)

  7. J says:

    Looks like the links to the samples have died.

  8. drumwell says:

    @ keith – i'm one of the sample contributors and i would be very happy to hear that people (anyone) are using my sounds and benefiting from my work. be shameless!

  9. @ J – I'm also having issues downloading the samples. I heard yesterday the servers we're being slammed. And that was before CDM and boingboing posted links to the library.

  10. Hakan says:

    If anyone is looking after this wiki, I find that all of the 44kHz samples are not on the servers and come up with a 404. Any ideas?

  11. Lord Kook says:

    I tried emailing the webmaster to alert them of the issue and the email addy just spits back a failure. I was so close to having the complete set! 😀

  12. I received an email from Dr. B which might clear a few things up. The servers are overloaded. The 44.1 zips are being broken down into smaller sets. And people at the OLPC are looking into a possible torrent solution.

    Personally speaking, hopefully all of this will be resolved in a day or two.

  13. _object.session says:

    steven yi, thanks for fulfilling my request for disagreement. 🙂 really, that makes a lot of sense.

  14. […] be Available Soon For those of you who haven’t already discovered this, yes, the server with samples from the OLPC project is in fact struggling under the load. (It was already in trouble just from the attention of the […]

  15. […] on the OLPC wiki as well as see a breakdown of the OLPC’s music making capabilities over at Create Digital Music. The OLPC is paving a new road for contemporary music education with this announcement and it will […]

  16. […] livre Csound, um programa de síntese musical e processamento de sinal. Leiam mais detalhes no Create Digital Music. SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “OLPC disponibiliza 8,5 GB de samples segundo licença CC-BY”, […]

  17. […] 8,5 GB freie Soundsamples bei OLPC (via) […]

  18. […] 8.5 GB of Free, CC-Licensed Samples from the OLPC Project, and OLPC Music Tools […]