Sonic pi

The Live Coding Music Synth for Everyone

Sam Aaron performing at Cerner's internal developer conference.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing Sam Aaron speak and perform, at Cerner’s internal developer conference, DevCon. His message was pretty simple. When you were in school, did you learn to read to become a professional reader? Did you learn to write to become a professional writer? Probably not. Why then, did you bother learning it? It’s because in this day and age, to not be able to read and write is generally deemed unacceptable, and leaves you at a distinct disadvantage.

Extending this thought, he proposed that learning to code has become just as important in our lives. Those that are unable to write or understand code, regardless of if it’s for a professional career, are at a distinct disadvantage. Furthermore, and I agree, he postulated that coding is one of the most expressive forms of communication currently in existence.

To help convey his message of coding being a form of expressive communication, he created Sonic Pi. Sonic Pi is a simple program allowing users of all ages, (and all skill sets), to code musical sounds. The DSL that he has created abstracts away many of the complexities of programming, allowing users to write something as simple as play 70 to create their first sound. Check out the Sonic Pi site for more information on this. The site has a great tutorial, that I am still working on myself.

After his talk, he performed a night-club quality set, writing simple commands and loops to produce everything, all while his screen was being shared, live, behind him. That evening, I went home and spent hours making synth music of my own. While none of my sounds came close to what he created, I was still impressed by the ease of the tool which, as he intended, is extremely expressive.

I think he has hit the nail on the head, finding an intersection of modern skill that more people should possess, and join it with something most everyone can relate to, music.

Happy Friday!