My new favorite way to waste time at work… without really wasting it

It doesn’t matter how hard I try to bring work on myself.  This job of mine has always been full of free time. After so many hours wasting my life on digg, I realized that I could use this time to make music.  I had always wanted to put more time into it but never really found the motivation to get good… but enforced boredom can be a powerful motivator.

Unfortunately, I think my job is a little uptight to let me bring my guitar in and start banging away.  But I have this laptop sitting in front of me.  One time I played around with a friend’s copy of Fruity Loops.  I made it through maybe an hour or two – not exactly the recipe for a virtuoso electronic composition.  Recently though, a friend that’s devoted a lot more of his life than I to creative pursuits has turned me on to something better.

Pure Data is the answer to so many questions I hadn’t even thought to ask.  It’s a synthesizer.  It’s a processor for other audio signals.  It’s a sequencer.  More than that, it’s a general purpose drag and drop audio programming language.  It’s like Legos for your ears.

If you have any free time in front of a computer that you can’t spend elsewhere, you could do a lot worse than a free download and this 10 minute tutorial:

I love that this thing is purpose built as software.  Unlike Reason, Fruity Loops and any VST plugin I’ve ever looked at, Pure Data makes no attempt to look anything like the music making we were used to before computers.  It’s in good company that way. A lot of the big jumps in computing happened as an acknowledgment that software doesn’t need to look and feel like anything from the real world.  I’ve been really disappointed the last few years with the relatively incremental pace of change in software and hardware.  This environment, even if it’s based on the circa-1990 Max/MSP, is rekindling my faith.

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