Archaeopteryx: Ruby Self-Generating Pattern Sequencer from giles goat boy on Vimeo.

Who needs NAMM? Well, sure, you could wait 48 hours for the mind-bogglingly awesome announcements I’m sure we’ll be scooping on this site know absolutely nothing about. But that’s 48 hours you could be spending right now, coding your own sequencer. And unless Ableton and Steinberg and Apple and Digidesign and all are reading your thoughts, it may just do something they haven’t imagined yet.

Ah, you say, but wouldn’t that mean learning something ancient and arcane like C?

No, I’d say. You can do it Ruby, and impress that cute Web developer at the local indie coffee shop with the hip, new programming languages you’re using. (The Ruby developers in this crowd, I’m sure, have already skipped to the juicy bits, so let’s continue with this absurd role play.)

Ah, you say, but I need to learn to play an instrument and I’ve never coded before.

Fine, I say. But you can still rest easy at night knowing Giles Bowkett is doing it for you.

Giles Bowkett was seen, well, earlier today on this site using Ruby to create his own callbacks in the hexagonal grid generative sequencer Elysium. But he has a project of his own, coding something called Archaeopteryx. Coded in Ruby, which aside from being hip really does do a lot in a tiny amount of code, Archaeopteryx creates systems for “auto-generating, self modifying music.” Using inter-app MIDI on the Mac (possible via other methods on Linux and Windows), he drives traditional sound sources like Reason. That means the really ugly work of coding your own DSP is left to the professionals, while the compositional and creative work of figuring out which notes to play is entirely in his hands. And he evidently plans to open source the whole thing – giving entertaining talks on Ruby coding along the way at events like RubyFringe.

I think this is fantastic, and it demonstrates that making programming more accessible helps people who otherwise would never try coding their own projects do just that. That should inject more creativity and difference into the world of computer music-making, which is good for even the people who don’t ever touch this stuff. And if you’re learning Ruby as your day job, it gives you something really cool to do with it at night – provided you can stand at looking at still more code until you quit your day job, of course.

More on the topic:

Drive Propellerhead Reason With Ruby

Archaeopteryx: A Ruby MIDI Generator

And a full RubyFringe presentation with slides and all (can’t embed it, but worth a look if you’re into Ruby):

Archaeopteryx: A Ruby MIDI Generator [InfoQ]

Archaeopteryx Activating/Deactivating Clips In Live from giles goat boy on Vimeo.

He also goes into some thoughts about open source, business models, funding, and why Sasha should have open sourced the commissioned controller project. I stay out of things involving money or business models, though, because money sees me and goes off to cry itself to sleep in a corner.

Great stuff, Giles! I’m still partial to Java because I think it’s a more versatile platform overall – and I’m looking into ways of using Groovy to avoid the fingers-falling-off amount of code Java tends to require. But this gives me still more incentive to keep working. Thanks to composer Ted Pallas for the tip!

And I still think there’s a great argument for having simple scripting capabilities in tools like Ableton Live. Sometimes writing out code is better than assembling graphical patches. As code becomes more prevalent in our society, I expect it will pop up – and as Giles proves, there’s nothing stopping you from making it happen yourself. Even Giles took a space of a couple of years to get his project along. Spare time, no matter how tiny and fragmented, can be a powerful thing.