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Video: Up and Running in 3 minutes

by Jack Freudenheim

 

I created Sounder after being inspired by a genre of music called ambient music. Generally speaking, Ambient music can be described as minimalist, somewhat hypnotic music using synthesizers and samplers, in which small changes take place over long periods of time.

What struck me was that this kind of music is limited when distributed as "hard copy", whether on a CD or even as an audio file on an iPod, because it never changes. Rather, it seems to be suited to be software-based, so that a piece of music's content need never be the same twice and its length open-ended.

At the same time, I was struck by the fact that with the growing popularity of multimedia in PCs, many computers are now equipped with sound cards that adhere to the General Midi spec, yet most people use them only for playing CD-ROMs or games (the exception being musicians who use specialized software like sequencers, and MIDI playback programs like PC-Karaoke).

With this in mind, I created Sounder.

I feel that Sounder creates a niche of interactive music-making software exploiting the capabilities of those sound cards, generating music that creates sound environments for the user/listener. Similar to screen-savers, the user would be entertained by the output of the program, yet while screen-savers only kick in when the user leaves the computer idle, Sounder can play in the background while the user is working. I sometimes describe Sounder as a "musical lava lamp".

Sounder is graphical as well as musical. The actual composition of the musical environments takes place by manipulating animated objects and resizing the windows they inhabit. We have received very positive feedback from musicians and non-musicians about Sounder. Non-musicians especially appreciate "seeing" a representation of the music taking place in time.

The beautiful animated Sounder objects that come with Sounder were created by Christopher Masciocchi, a brilliant New York computer artist. More of his Soundimations will be posted for free download over time. You can create your own Soundimations by combining a series of bitmaps into a single "filmstrip"-like single bitmap, and adding it to your Soundimation database for your own use or to exchange with others.