This week is a very special issue co-written by my guest Tony Wallace, creator of the music production tool WebX0X and developer at Irritant Creative Inc.. Tony attended the recent Web Audio Conference in Atlanta, Georgia and he shares his insights and highlights from the conference.
We also have a special educational offer for readers of this newsletter, courtesy of Peer to Peer.
An interesting experiment combining Twitter streams, websockets and the Web Audio API to render tweets in realtime using audio and a map-based visualisation.
Soledad Penadés Peer to Peer screencast
If you love learning through videos, this excellent new tutorial from
Soledad Penadés and Drew Neil is a great place to start learning about
the Web Audio API. The screencast is beautifully produced and tackles
a fun challenge - a Web Audio recreation of Steve Reich’s “Clapping
Music”. The first three chapters are available for free, and
subscribers to this newsletter can get a 1/3rd off this or any other
peer-to-peer video using the code
precise-deaf-node at checkout.
Web Audio Conference 2016
And now over to Tony for his round up of WAC2016.
The opening keynote address was given by Frank Melchior from BBC Research & Development. Frank provided fascinating insight into the BBC’s transition away from traditional production studios towards the IP Studio, a system that streams the components of a broadcast (video and audio feeds, images, captioning, metadata, etc.) separately and combined at the time of delivery. This will allow the BBC to tailor their content to the needs of their audience on an individual basis.
The papers session placed a strong emphasis on analysis and sonification of musical data. The semantic and geolocation adaptive music players designed by the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University were of particular interest to me since they have potential to transform how we deliver and listen to recorded music.
- The Semantic Music Player: A Smart Mobile Player Based on Ontological Structures and Analytical Feature Metadata
- Geolocation Adaptive Music Player
After lunch there was a quick session of lightning talks during which demo presenters introduced their work, followed by a series of talks covering event scheduling, live coding, symbolic notation of recorded music and Web MIDI, among other topics. Papers and talks were brief, which prevented presenters from going into deep technical detail. Whether that was due to the need to fit many presenters into each day, or an effort on the part of the organisers to keep the pace up, it was a wise decision that encouraged ad hoc discussions among those who were particularly interested in each topic, after the sessions.
My WebX0X drum synth/sequencer project was among the demos and received a very positive response from the audience. The demo enabled me to collect a lot of feedback and suggestions which will help me to plan and prioritise features for future versions. Many of the audience members contributed to a collaborative WebX0X demo patch.
The downside of being a demo presenter was missing everybody else’s demos, but I was able to catch a bit of Jason Sigal’s Olos visual music programming environment (a sort of Max/MSP for the browser) which looks like it has great potential to simplify web audio for non-programmers.
Day 1 ended with a great concert of live coding and electronic music performed on software created by the performers.
Day 2 began with Stop, Start, Begin Again, a personal story by Helen Thorington about her career in sound art with an undercurrent of commentary on digital decay. Many of the projects that she has been associated with are no longer usable due to technological progress, which is something that should give the rest of us pause when planning our projects.
The need for dependable synchronisation and reliable latency data from the Web Audio API was a common thread throughout the papers sessions. The talks covered a variety of practical topics, including synthesizer design, scheduling and streaming. Matt McKegg talked about the web audio desktop application that he performed on during the previous evening’s concert. Edward Costello’s presentation, Constructing Audio Unit Plugins on the Web using Csound was my personal favourite of the day, since it demonstrated a way to streamline an otherwise complicated and painful development process.
Demos and posters
I was free to check out all the poster and demo presentations on day 2. My personal favourites were Tune.js, which facilitates the use of microtonal scales in Web Audio, the Flat.io music notation service and Charles Roberts’ Gibber live coding environment, which he performed with on day 1.
- Tune.js: A Microtonal Web Audio Library
- Applications of Audio and MIDI API within a music notation editor
- Improvisation in Gibber
Day 2 ended with a fun concert of pieces that involved audience participation via smartphones, and a casual reception on the Georgia Tech campus.
W3C plenary session
Day 3 opened with an informative plenary session during which members of the W3C Web Audio group gave an update on the current state of the Web Audio specification and listened to technical issues raised by the attendees.
Tutorials and hackday
The rest of the day was devoted to tutorial sessions and hack days. The notes from Paul Adenot’s tutorial, Optimizing and Debugging Web Audio API Applications are a must-read.
I presented a tutorial on basic subtractive and FM percussion synthesis that was very well attended. I’ll admit that I was concerned that nobody would show up, so having 20+ participants was a nice surprise.
The conference ended with an unofficial after party at a local bar. It was a nice opportunity to meet a few more people and bid farewell to those who I had gotten to know during the week. Web Audio Conference 2016 was a blast and I hope to see everyone at next year’s event!