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The Sound Loom – Key Features

An Intelligent Composing Environment for CDP
by Trevor Wishart

The Concept Assistance Intelligent Workspace
Session Management Intelligent Processing Parameter Handling
Graphic Tools Creating Instruments Summary: 22 Key Features

NB You can visit Trevor's website at http://www.trevorwishart.co.uk
for more information about his music, CDs and books, and to download a free copy of Sound Loom. Please note that you require the CDP Sound Transformation Program Set in order to make use of this front end.
TCL/TK download: http://dev.scriptics.com/software/tcltk/

The Concept: a composer's worktable

Imagine you are sitting down to begin your day's composing. Today you are planning to work with the bray of the donkey, so you begin by collecting up all your donkey sounds. Previously you would have taken tapes out of your cupboard and placed them on your worktable ... But now you are collecting them from anywhere on your computer system and placing them on the Sound Loom Virtual Workspace. From these files you then select ('Choose Files') the ones with which you want to work. ... The processes available for those types of file are highlighted. ... At the end of your working day, the files you have retained or created on the Workspace are automatically remembered and will be reloaded when you begin work again. This in a nutshell is the practical concept behind Sound Loom as an 'Intelligent Composing Environment'.

Designed to assist the user

  • Configurable design – such as colours, fonts and fontsize, and sampling rate


  • Startup help – description of the functions on each major 'page' of the Interface, can be switched off when no longer need it, see a 'close down' page to help you conclude a session


  • In situ Help – for each major page, and for any item on the page when mouse-selected


  • State-dependent Highlighting – as you work, the most likely buttons for the actions relevant to a given context are highlighted


  • Terminate with state backup

Intelligent Workspace

Sound Loom Workspace with 3 panels:

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Files have been retrieved from the directory slbakup on drive d:. The directories on any drive can be listed by clicking on the 'Directory' button, and a particular directory is selected with one mouse click. One of the soundfiles is highlighted. about to be 'chosen' for processing. The Workspace contains the various files created (and Saved) in that working session. The Process button is highlighted, ready to invoke another sound transformation function.

An intelligent listing of files the Sound Loom knows about and will work with
  • It is a Virtual Directory for Source Sounds & Data files – files are not actually copied, so it is economical on disk space.


  • Files not listed are not known about – prevents you using or overwriting files unintentionally


  • Accepts all (valid) kinds of files – handles the many different kinds of files in the CDP System.


  • The listing of files is knowledgeable: i.e., it knows about their 'properties' – parses files and stores their properties during loading


  • The Workspace is remembered at the end of your session and can therefore be reloaded – can easily resume work where you left off

Session Management Facilities

  • Loading files – from anywhere on the computer


  • Backing up files – save to an existing or new directory


  • Logs ('history') – maintains and stores a log of all successful process and instrument runs


  • Workspace Housekeeping – sort, update or clear


  • File management – rename files, move, remove from (Virtual) Workspace, delete


  • File Perusal – see properties, play, view, edit


  • Textfile generation – create breakpoint files, either graphically or text


  • Choose files to process – when selecting files to process, can play them or their source and view their properties


  • Find output files – output of the most recent process is placed at the top of the Workspace display

Intelligent Processing

The processing menu highlights only the processes which can be used with that particular input file:

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Here I have selected Pitch:Speed, and tape transpose by semitones. When I click on the highlighted selection, the parameter dialog box for that function is created and displayed.

  • Only processes relevant to the infiles are highlighted – will not activate buttons for processes inappropriate for the given infile(s) (handy chart of processes and valid inputs provided)


  • Grouped in terms of intelligent functions – the grouping is made in terms of their musical function
  • Process Information – different levels of information are provided (single line or fuller)


  • Which? facility – you enter what you want to do (e.g., "time stretch"). The program provides a list of appropriate processes you might use.


  • Process rerun – can recall the previous process


  • Save favourite processes list – save, recall (only shows relevant processes), edit the list
  • Save whole sequence of processes as an 'Instrument' – records their parameters as well


  • Various Ways to Continue: Return to process page, Get new infile(s), Reuse output file in a new Process – the latter saves time when e.g., using the result of an FFT analysis as an input to a spectral process

Intelligent Parameter Handling

Here the process is to transpose:
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This dialog box shows that the soundfile frogs3cdt.wav is set to be transposed downwards by 18 semitones. I have in fact already run the process by clicking on Goto Run and the b>Play button is active, ready to listen to the result. Note the presence of the musical Calculator, which can be used to convert between various types of musical unit.

  • Can access and audition the source file for comparison – assess the extent to which the original has moved towards what you have imagined


  • Default values provided – a process will run and produce a valid result even if you don't enter a thing


  • Knows Range/Format Requirements – helps you enter correct parameter data


  • Values can be entered in many ways – by slider bar, from your list of reference values, from a saved patch, from a list of files (the system checks their appropriateness), from a graphic breakpoint editor, etc., as well as by typing or Cut & Paste.


  • Values are checked – double-checks validity before running the process


  • Knows if and what type of breakpoint files can be used – helps you make full use of the extensive time-varying parameter value facilities in the CDP System


  • Reset options – lots of ways to reset values usefully


  • Can save a complete set of parameter settings as a patch – helps you build up a library of effective settings


  • Displays brief description of the process and its parameters – information to guide you on using the parameter correctly and musically


  • Makes use of temporary file names – names and deletes files as you work, saving to disk only when you specifically request it

Graphic Tools

  • The Graphic Breakpoint Editor
      knows about the ranges of parameters and the infile duration – it therefore automatically ties your use of the editor to the range of the parameter and duration of the infile, and prevents invalid values.
    • can quantise values to enable entry of rounded values – you are prevented from using impossible quantisation values
    • can fine tune by editing the resultant textfile – you can access the textfile produced to amend as needed
    • can see the numerical values alongside the graph – helps you double-check and set the values you want
    • can 'Undo', 'Start Again' or 'Abandon' – you are free to change your mind!


  • The Soundfile Editor displays and plays a soundfile or a selected portion of a soundfile. Additional editing facilities are available, including creating a breakpoint contour over the displayed soundfile.

    The chirrups of the frog are clearly visible:

    View fullsize



  • There is also a Binary Pitch Data File Editor. It displays the pitch trace file (.frq) created by REPITCH GETPITCH, showing areas of pitch, silence and noise in different colours. There is a vertical pitch scale in octaves, and a time-line. Additional editing facilities enable you to massage the pitch trace. This tool has been developed especially for use with the new Release 5.0 functions for handling speech material.

    Areas of noise are shown in red:

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  • Sound Loom also has a sophisticated Table Editor for creating and altering columns of numbers, as well as a comprehensive Music Calculator for converting between many different kinds of values used for music.

    The Table Editor performs all kinds of operations on
    columns of numbers, as in breakpoint files:


    View fullsize



'Instrument' Creation

  • Can record a sequence of different processes – as you build up expertise and successful results, you are not tied to step-by-step entry, but can create an 'Instrument' which will record and re-run an entire sequence of operations


  • Constructs a tree diagram as you move from process to process – you get a visual representation of the processes and their relationships as you work


  • The multi-process is recorded as an 'Instrument' – these 'Instruments' become a powerful library of your key routines. which both documents your work and saves time in future sessions


  • Parameter values of an Instrument can be accessed and altered – while creating Instruments, you still have the flexibility of making changes to the parameter values


  • The Instrument is intelligent – knows what type of input files are needed, and checks parameter ranges

Summary: 22 Key Features of the Sound Loom CDP Graphic User Interface

  1. The ability to remember the process you ran last, the process parameters you last used1, the previous state of the workspace2, the files you were working with last.
    • 1 including those used at the end of the last session
    • 2 including the state at any time in the past


  2. The ability to store parameter Patches and Favourite Processes.


  3. The ability to design in a graphic environment your own multi-process Instruments (with their own parameters) and keep them on the system. This is probably the most advanced feature in the interface.


  4. The ability to edit breakfiles either graphically: including mouse-on-screen editing, global functions to distort the data, quantisation of data, etc., or as textfiles.


  5. Graphic display and editing of binary pitch data files (.frq), showing areas of pitch, silence and noise. This is especially useful for the various (new in Release 5.0) speech transformation routines.


  6. Graphic display and editing of soundfiles.


  7. A Musical Calculator which can convert between musical units of many kinds as well as perform normal 'calculator' functions.

    The Music Calculator:

    View fullsize



  8. A Table Editor with which you can do almost anything you can imagine with tables of data.


  9. A Reference Pad where values can be stored, and from where they can be grabbed for use in the Table Editor, the Music Calculator, or as parameters to functions. In other words, it acts as a composer's scratchpad.


  10. A Music Testbed in which various complex processes can be explored with the help of specialist tools designed for the task. One of these, for example, deals with the process of 'inbetweening': i.e., creating multiple soundfiles that form intermediate states between two or more soundfiles. Another helps create and rearrange tonal chords.

    The Tonal Harmony Workshop:

    View fullsize

    The Interpolator (between soundfiles) Workshop:

    View fullsize



  11. A comprehensive Help facility attached to every item on every major window on the system.


  12. A comprehensive New User Help system which provides instructions for new users on how to get started with the system.


  13. A comprehensive Information system attached to every process running on the system.


  14. A Which? system to allow the user to find an appropriate process.


  15. A system to keep track of your File Names, so that recently used filenames can be easily used again (with the click of a mouse), or varied as you go – a typical requirement when devising sound-variants in the course of composing work.


  16. The ability to remember the state of the Workspace (or the currently selected file) for restoration later. The final state of the Workspace, at the end of a session, is automatically remembered and restored when you begin a new session. You can also save the Workspace at any time you like, and recall any one of these saved states later.


  17. A built-in Notebook where you can keep a record of your day's work.


  18. A built-in History tailored to the needs of your system, allowing processes to be recalled from today's session or any past session, with checking for the continued existence and relevance of files used, and the ability to substitute new files where needed.


  19. A system to check your mixfiles: i.e., to check whether or not the soundfiles listed still exist. The system keeps track of all renaming and deletions of files, so you can trace what the file might now be called if it has been renamed or backed up, or see if it genuinely no longer exists.


  20. An automatic Log (history data) timer, so that you can set the amount of time you want to retain Logs or Saved Workspaces. This timer will trip in after a certain time, or when a certain amount of data has accumulated, and the timing can be adjusted to suit your requirements.


  21. Knowledge of which executables you have on the system.


  22. The ability to Redesign the graphics of your interface, to suit your own preferences.


Last updated: 4 April 2005

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