Introducing noisicaä - A simple music editor

I don't know much about music, but it's a topic that interests me.

I don't play any instruments and I'm too old or too lazy to learn one. Probably both.

But I'm one of those computer persons, so I would naturally use a computer to make music - or at least attempt to.

So I looked around what software is out there, but the stuff I found didn't get me terribly excited. Now I have to add that I'm using Linux (Kubuntu on my desktop to be more specific) and while I also have Windows on my machine, I wouldn't want to use it - except as a bootloader for Steam. I also didn't look at commercial software, just what's out there in the open source world. That limits the selection. And the stuff that actually exists in that small subsection of the market is either too simple or overwhelmed me a ton of options and possibilities that I don't know how to use, because I don't actually know what that stuff means.

On the other hand I still remember playing around with the Deluxe Music Construction Set on my Amiga back in the days. And that level of complexity (or the lack thereof) feels like exactly the thing that would be appropriate for me today.

So because I couldn't find any existing software that I liked, I started writing my own. Also writing code is fun, so I don't really need a reason.

I'm also using this opportunity to play with some fancy tools, which I haven't used yet: Python3 (it's about time), Cython (sounded like a cool toy, but I never had a reason to use it before) and Qt5 (I've been using wx for UIs in the past, but I like Qt way more now).

I'm also giving git another try. Well, we'll see. That has been quite a lackluster experience in the past.

What's different about noisicaä?

noisicaä uses classical musical notation. Putting notes onto staves, clefs, measures. etc. Most "modern" software seems to focus on a sequencer style interface. My little bit of knowledge about music is stuck in the time when I had music in school, and continuing from that point seems to be easiest for me. Perhaps later I'll figure out that the piano roll UI of sequencers is indeed more powerful than the system that been used by Bach and Mozart back in the days. But the software can make that transition together with me, as I acquire more skills.

Another thing that seems popular, especially in the realm of commercial software (which I can only tell from seeing random screenshots on random websites, since I never used any of these), is that the UI simulates existing hardware. That might be nice for people with existing experience in making music using real instruments and studio hardware. But for me that's just another obstacle, because in addition to learning about the musical domain itself, I would also have to deal with a user interface that doesn't follow known guidelines. At least known to someone who never set foot in a music studio, but worked with computer for the past 25 years.

So noisicaä's UI rather follows established schemes that you would also find in IDE, office suites, and the likes.


Not a lot yet. This is still pre-alpha state software.

There's some basic editing and you can play it back. The instruments are currently rendered using FluidSynth, i.e. it uses soundfonts. I have vague plans to also support plain .wav files as samples, or use synthesizers to create instruments. Csound seems like the kind of arcane but powerful system that I could like a lot.

Of course the music should eventually be rendered as .flac, .ogg, etc. files, but that doesn't exist yet.

There should be some support for filters and general mixing/production features, so I get a little bit more than the typical MIDI sounds. LADSPA/LV2 plugins and again Csound seem to be the right tools for that.

I'll also do something with MIDI input. There's a little MIDI controller here on my desk, that wants to be entertained. But probably not real-time recording, because I could play anything in real-time that's worth recording.

And in the further future I'm also thinking about some hybrid system which mixes composed tracks with recorded tracks - where the source of the recording will probably be my wife playing the guitar or bass.

And who knows what. That'll depend a lot on where my learning curve takes me. I will use this project to implement those things that I learn about music, so I can apply them.

What, music software in Python?

That's right. People seem to make a big fuzz about latency, real-time support in the kernel and that kind of stuff. They probably know better than I, but I'll ignore that advice anyway. Most of the coding is around the UI, persistence, etc. and not involved in the playback at all. And despite not having spent a lot of time into optimizing anything, I haven't observed any buffer underruns during playback yet. Perhaps using a totally overpowered desktop is just good enough (though it's already a few years since that machine was "high end").

Also I don't see noisicaä as a tool to be used on stage for live performances. So occasional glitches do not worry me a lot.

And then there's Cython, which I started using mostly for interacting with C libraries. I already use it for some of the bit crunching parts - not because those already needed optimization, but just because I wanted to play with it a bit more (aka. premature optimization).

So... you want to make music?

That's the weak spot of this whole enterprise. I seriously doubt that I have the creativity and artistic skills to produce something that could actually be called music. Or warrant all the effort I'm now putting into this. Even after I learned all the theory that there is to learn and created the greatest software that any artist could dream of.

Bah, who cares...

Initial commit on GitHub >>>