Natty Narwhal is the next release of Ubuntu. Now you could give it a soundtrack. Photo (CC-BY-ND) Ricardo Bernardo of, admittedly, vintage Ubuntu.

Your OS is there, in front of you, daily – some of us for many, many hours a day. it often makes sounds at you, very rarely welcome sounds. Here’s an opportunity to change that.

Computers are extraordinary creative canvases for our work, but corporate branding can’t really respect that. Because Ubuntu is a free operating system, it can provide content that is free to be reused, remixed, and re-imagined. An OS’ soundscape could be provided by a user, not just a brand, and it could in turn be changed by someone else to fit what they want. And as awareness in the Linux community grows that their software is essential to musicians and artists, not just the “average” computer user, the music and sounds that a new OS release showcases have a second role. They can be a musical soundtrack to a powerful idea: the idea that all of these lines of free code are a tool for someone to use for expression. We need to make that message get across to developers and the larger free software community.

Actually, let me put it another way: knowing the community on this site, I’m eager just to hear what musical score, or sound scheme, you’d create. The results would be free to use not only in Ubuntu but anywhere you wish. Free as in freedom, free as in the beer I’ll buy you if I see you in person and you do something great. (And, hey, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp each got to try scoring sounds for Windows, so why not you as the next OS composer?)

Possible candidates here:

  • A startup sound
  • A sound scheme (for GNOME; I’d actually have to research how that works, but it could simply be an idea)
  • A piece of music that stands on its own
  • A song
  • Ambient music to listen to while coding the Next Great Audio App.
  • Something else I haven’t thought of that’s also sound.

It’s really open to your interpretation. As readers note, many of us find the best sound scheme for an OS to be … silence. But you could share a piece of music or soundscape. If it’s culture (according to you), and it’s free, it’s game.

I’m honored to be a judge for this year’s Free Culture Showcase, now accepting works through March 1:
Free Culture Showcase [Canonical Design Blog, itself often a good read]

To submit, you can join Ubuntu’s SoundCloud group. In addition to CC-licensed music, I’m particularly interested by the sound scheme idea. OS sounds have been largely disappointing and distracting; imagine if they were actually good. Way back in 2006, CDM readers did some amazing one-second sounds to honor the “leap second,” a chronological aberration by which clocks have to be adjusted to keep years in sync with the Earth. I’d be thrilled if some of you were to submit to this, too.

Whether or not you’re an Ubuntu user, if you believe in free licenses as a tool and option for artists, if you believe in the utility of free software, I hope you’ll get involved. There are no particular rules to the tools you use to make the work, either, and I think that’s only appropriate. I’ll be curious to hear if you do use free tools or Ubuntu, though, just to know how they’re working for readers.

Let us know if you submit, especially because entries will be free for CC use (and likely worth featuring on CDM) even if they don’t make the Free Culture Showcase cut.