Imagine a massively multiplayer music studio, connected worldwide over the Internet. Log in, and everyone sees a set of synths, effects, sequencers, or other custom patches. Everyone’s looking at essentially the same screen, and can add beats, trip out effects, slide the bpm up and down, and reprogram synths — all at once. That’s the basic idea of netpd.
To work around the proprietary whims of digital audio software developers and laptop processor limitations during the mid- and late-1990s, a small band of technically-minded people, including the electronic musician Blitter, pulled together in the late 1990s to engineer the open-source OPEN DSP EZ-Kit platform, a 16-bit computer designed entirely with a focus on low cost and extensible control and DSP arithmetic capabilities. While this project and similar commercial offerings never seemed to gain the critical mass needed to sustain long-term interest, perhaps the new Arduino hardware project from MIT's Processing hardware group may gain a foothold with Processing and Pure Data audio software hobbyists and artists alike, allowing the creative community to extend, enhance and share inventive uses of new technology. Arduino's use has already begun in fascinating museum installations around the world, and has become a part of this year's SONAR and Ars Electronica festivals.