Re: [linux-audio-user] pd

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] pd
From: Linium (
Date: Fri Mar 22 2002 - 00:10:38 EET

Le Jeudi 21 Mars 2002 17:14, vous avez écrit :

> One of those programs is pd (and, it appears, jMax et al.) The FAQ
> tells me "Pd is a real-time software system for live musical and
> multimedia performances" which.. err.. could mean anything :) What
> precisely is it, how do you use it to make audio, and how might it aid
> me in producing music?

PD is both a dsp engine and a programming language with a graphical way to
construct the algorythms. It is not like the C language (or Csound) where you
need to compile a source file, PD is an interpreted language. It means that
the instructions you gives lead immediatly to a result.
Reaktor, Vaz, and various other virtual modulars compare well to PD, they are
technically similar. The difference is that the former ones are sold with a
collection of programs (modules) and a nice interface to interconnect them
and save the tweakings.

PD doesn't contain by default this "value added" part: the ergonomic GUI and
the collections of samplers, FM synth, analog modelling, FX, etc.
On the other hand it is not restricted to the musical role, it's completly
open and can do things like accelerated realtime 3D graphics, video and much

PD, due to its nature, is almost an OS inside linux, in the sense that you
can acces the file system, communicate via the net, r/w the serial and
parallel port, acces the midi port, the audio device, the video capture (if
any),send commands to linux shell, etc... and interconnect things as you want.

Like Linux it is not usefull without the programs you run on it.
So to produce some sounds under PD you need theses programs, should you write
them yourself or borrow them from other's works.
The main interest is to be able to write or adapt them for your needs.
That's probably the most interesting aspect of PD. It is easy to program. It
opens a lot of possibilities that the musicien is not accustomed to take in
consideration just using the conventionnal tools available.

This doesn't exclude the possibility to drive PD from a midi sequencer, using
virmidi (ALSA) or vmidi (OSS) and to restrain its role to just the virtual
The only thing that will annoy you is that it may turn sometimes to not be
very ergonomic. As you remember there is no GUI with ready to tweak knobs,
unless you do yourself a patch with a raw of sliders and its own saving
mechanism before you leave the session.

It remains that if you just want to play some virtual instruments it is may
be not the right thing... but it will depend of the contributions made by the
users in the future. If you want something similar to Reaktor, you should
take a look at the SpiralModular's clone. It is more what you want.

PD as a lot of potential, with the number of abstractions growing (programs)
I suppose it will be possible to use it more and more instead of the
traditionnal big audio/sequencers apps for the same roles.
Jmax has already some objects allowing to edit note (a pianoroll thing) with
ease, sure PD will have some similar objects .
Definitly another approach ! :)









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