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Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

On his blog, Nils Gey laments the lack of open source instrument files. He was attempting to create music where all parts (tools and instruments) were freely available so that anyone could learn from and modify the music. "Until a commercial company release their old instruments as open source or some rich guy hires several audio technicians, a whole orchestra and software developers for approx. one year and then gives it all away for free I see nothing on the horizon here. And the Salamander Piano and G-Town are very good as well, even better as single instruments than Sonatina. But not all compositions are for 'Piano, Anvils, Stomps and Fake Glass Bowls'."
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Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 1:37 UTC (Fri) by pabs (subscriber, #43278) [Link]

I applaud him for actually thinking about this, it is rare that people care about the preferred form for modification of anything other than programs running on the CPU. Even for programs running on secondary processors (aka firmware) or programs running on other peoples CPUs (JavaScript), I see folks either ignoring the problem, not building from source or complaining after their package was rejected from Debian.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 2:13 UTC (Fri) by PaulWay (subscriber, #45600) [Link]

It's a problem that has haunted the LMMS sample base for a while - no-one now knows where those samples came from, nor what license they were released under, and no-one (sadly) seems to be bothered to remove them and replace them with known-license versions.

This said, I don't know why Nils is struggling. There's FreeSound - http://www.freesound.org/ - which has mammoth quantities of samples of everything from real drumkits and instruments to environmental effects and found noises (and I'm only including 'real' instruments and samples here - there's a lot of synthesised samples there too). There's the OLPC Free Sound Samples library - http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Free_sound_samples - which includes lots of libraries of professionally-recorded, full quality instrument samples. All of those are available under remix- and rework-friendly Creative Commons licenses.

High-quality free instrument synthesisers are a bit harder to find. But you can't go past ZynAddSubFX, which is also built into LMMS, for a huge variety of synthesized natural and artificial instrument patches.

If he's looking for SoundFont (.sf2) files, then I think that's a more difficult ask. But to me that's like saying there are no Creative Commons-licensed 78RPM records: it's ignoring the forest for the trees.

Hope this helps,

Paul

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 5:00 UTC (Fri) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048) [Link]

A tangent but, IIRC FreeSound's samples are all CC-BY-NC and "Sampling+" licensed, which are— respectively— far more restrictive, and comparatively restrictive to typical _commercial_ instrument and sample libraries, at least in terms of the use of the works beyond just getting a copy of them. Of course, the premiere disk streaming sampler for Linux (Linux Sampler) is itself not free software.

There are, of course, a lot of freely licensed samples out there— but thats not the same as having consistently recorded and cataloged samples which are logically assembled into neatly curated packages. For SFX the lack of consistency it's terrible but for everything else it's fairly significant.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 16:49 UTC (Fri) by rgareus (guest, #56870) [Link]

Synths e.g. zynaddsubfx, joshimi, amsynth etc are not the problem. Neither are physically modeled instruments (aeolus, bristol, fooYC20,..) or synth-plugins in general. Linux Audio has come a long way regarding professional audio workflow.

The problem really is the lack of high-quality samples-libs.

There are certainly some free GM voices and a couple of excellent free sf, sfz or gig sample libs.. but they are mostly for keyed instruments or drums and come with only one timbre. - Freesound is very nice, certainly. But in its mammoth quantities there's a huge lack of quality.

Alas, none of the available free/libre sample-libraries out there come even close to what is needed to do a proper film-score or a good soundtrack.

Ask the Blender foundation why they don't use free-software to make the soundtrack for their free movies.. It's not the lack of free software, but the lack of samples.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 10:19 UTC (Fri) by tialaramex (subscriber, #21167) [Link]

Mmm. I think your comparison to programming is potentially instructive here.

There has to be a line drawn somewhere about both _preferred form_ and _source_ code.

I think software happened to make it relatively easy to draw that line, and music maybe not so much. If I'm remixing your album, I probably do not have the ability (regardless of whether this is a Free Music project or a major recording artist) to go back to the session musician who recorded that flute solo and request they play it slightly differently. In some sense the PCM recording of their existing attempts at that solo have become the preferred form, and to go back and re-record is a separate endeavour not a mere modification of the "source" of the existing music.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 19, 2012 11:23 UTC (Sun) by guus (subscriber, #41608) [Link]

You do have the ability to play the flute solo yourself, or have someone else play it for you, given the sheet music. The GPL for example doesn't require that you can reproduce a binary bit for bit, only that you can compile the sources and get something that is functionally identical. So personally I would draw the line differently :)

By the way, I am working on music written in ABC notation and using a CSound orchestra file, so that the resulting OGG files can be recompiled from source files that are in human readable files that can be edited in any text editor.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 10:28 UTC (Fri) by Company (guest, #57006) [Link]

From what I see, the general approach to legal issues in the music and film communities is usually pretty close to "who cares". While the photography/image and software communities have mostly found a way to operate in the legal world, this hasn't been he case there.

You can even see this in the behavior towards music and film by the Open Source work. Mozilla essentially capitulated against H264 and Linux distros either pay for MP3 or provide quasi-legal workarounds and pray that nobody sues them.

So what can you do if you are not allowed to have a Free world? You ignore the legaleze and go on.

We live in this weird time. It's kind of age of prohibitions, where in many areas of our life, we live life constantly against the law. Ordinary people live life against the law, and that's what I -- we are doing to our kids. They live life knowing they live it against the law. That realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting. And in a democracy, we ought to be able to do better.
-- Lawrence Lessig

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 15:59 UTC (Fri) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

> From what I see, the general approach to legal issues in the music and film communities is usually pretty close to "who cares"

only if you never actually publish things with the chances of it going anywhere.

Otherwise if you anticipate any chance to make money or win film awards or so... then you can spend more money on jumping IP barriers and lawyers then actual production.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 18, 2012 20:42 UTC (Sat) by Company (guest, #57006) [Link]

Easy: You wait for them to give you a contract and then they go and figure out how to best monetize you. See here or here.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 18, 2012 21:20 UTC (Sat) by jrigg (guest, #30848) [Link]

Those are isolated examples and certainly don't represent the general case. The restrictions on commercial use of many free samples would be a show stopper even if they were of usable quality.

As an audio engineer and musician (who prefers to avoid closed source software) I often have to resort to recording my own samples in order to get anything usable.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 20, 2012 10:32 UTC (Mon) by etienne (guest, #25256) [Link]

> we live life constantly against the law. [...]
> And in a democracy, we ought to be able to do better.

In Democracy v2.0, we need the law managed in the way of free software:
- the whole text of the law is available for free to anyone
- patches are approved or rejected by elected people
- anybody can propose a patch to the law
- patches which simplify the law are highly considered
- contract references a special version of the law
- you have to upgrade your system, not allowed to use a too old version

Considering international relations, we may have to upgrade to earth v2.0 too...

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 20, 2012 12:48 UTC (Mon) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

The problem with this approach is that you don't get to fork your country if you don't like the current set of laws.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 22, 2012 16:10 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

That's actually one of the 'problems' the seasteading folks seek to address.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 23, 2012 9:33 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

That's not forking; that's reimplementation.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 23, 2012 10:28 UTC (Thu) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

Reimplementation, yes, but with an eye to increased forkability.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 20, 2012 15:34 UTC (Mon) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

I don't know about the US, but that's how 'law management' in most countries works. Contracts by default are regulated by the laws that were in force at the moment of signature.

The complete set of laws is publicly accessible and cross-referenced and changes to laws are represented as patches. In my home country they are LITERALLY represented as patches, i.e.: 'change line 3 in law somelaw to read "all goods"'

Does not help at all.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 10:25 UTC (Tue) by ekj (guest, #1524) [Link]

That's the case in many jurisdictions, makes me think someone should make the laws available as a git-repository where each patch has the original suggester as Author, and the legislative body which voted it in as "Signed-off-by:"

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 14:41 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

There's a similar product for Russian law (it's called "Consultant Plus") which also has cross-references to court decisions, media publications and professional commentary involving this law. Almost every self-respecting company in Russia uses it.

It doesn't really help that much if you don't have a functioning election process, though.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 16:25 UTC (Tue) by apoelstra (subscriber, #75205) [Link]

> That's the case in many jurisdictions, makes me think someone should make the laws available as a git-repository where each patch has the original suggester as Author, and the legislative body which voted it in as "Signed-off-by:"

A great deal of that information is publicly available for many national governments (in Canada and the US, at least, you can see which lawmakers were involved with every step of every bill) (though the bill might actually originate with some faceless lobbyist). Plus, lawmakers always have names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc, which are easy to find.

So you could write such tool today to generate your git repository by scraping government sites. It would be very cool to run 'git blame' on various bills.

And if your repo became well-known enough, you could use it to pressure governments into providing the missing Author info.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 22, 2012 4:08 UTC (Wed) by ekj (guest, #1524) [Link]

Yeah. I liked the idea enough that I actually looked at the most well-known publicly available Norwegian law-website. It doesn't contain sufficient information, but I'm sure sources exist which do, I've got a friend who is a judge, I guess I'll have to have a chat with him.

More concretely, lovdata.no lists only the *current* version of the law, with a comment for each paragraph about when, and as a result of which vote, it was last changed. It does not, however, say what the text was previously.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 24, 2012 6:06 UTC (Fri) by jhhaller (subscriber, #56103) [Link]

It's relatively easy to find the laws in the US. It's hard to understand how the courts interpret them, which is why there are so many lawyers in the US. The courts work on the law and precedent, but only precedent in their chain of command. So, a court decision in Florida has little impact on a California case. A California judge might cite a Florida decision if there is nothing in their direct reporting chain, or could decide that the Florida decision was wrong, and decide differently. Eventually, those conflicts can make it to the Supreme Court (if they are Federal cases). Then, there are the different and sometimes conflicting laws between municipalities, counties, states, and federal jurisdictions.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 14:53 UTC (Fri) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

Disclaimer: I don't listen to music much, so the following may not make much sense:

do you really need sampling of original instruments in order to create high quality music? Why not base your work on available synthesized music which is completely reproducible?

Origin for this comment was from listening to FLOSS weekly episode on Overtone where the guest (Sam Aaron) talked about "Open Source music" which is essentially music completely reproducible through free component.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 17:38 UTC (Fri) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Do you really need sampling of original instruments in order to create high quality music?

This debate can go on forever thus let's stop it right now. It's impossible to perfectly reproduce effects of some real world instruments. If want to use them in your music then you need samples - it's that simple.

Do we actually need these instruments in our music or will we be happy with different (but also pleasing) music? This is matter of taste and as usual such debates can go on forever.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 20:26 UTC (Fri) by jrigg (guest, #30848) [Link]

If you make a living composing sound tracks for film or TV, yes you do need them. Not every production has a big enough budget for a real orchestra.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 20:59 UTC (Fri) by Julie (guest, #66693) [Link]

As someone whose profession is as a musician, big +1 to this comment (and that of khim's).
And while it's not possible to *perfectly* 'reproduce effects of some real world instruments', with a lot of time, expense, effort and research, it is possible to come up with an impressive range of sample counterfeits for a lot of them. (And not just for use in recording - a lot of very expensive digital pianos rely on high-quality sampling to produce an 'authentic' piano sound which responds appropriately to touch sensitivity, pedaling and so on - and that's just for starters.)

But if samples aren't good enough quality to convince another musician, forget it.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 17, 2012 22:56 UTC (Fri) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

And while it's not possible to *perfectly* 'reproduce effects of some real world instruments', with a lot of time, expense, effort and research, it is possible to come up with an impressive range of sample counterfeits for a lot of them.

We're now approaching the ability of being able to calculate the physics of a piano in realtime. I just bought a very nice digital piano that uses samples for a very impressive sound, to replace the older one I got over 15 years ago. I expect my next digital piano (as of 2025 or so) to have a sound that is indistinguishable from the real thing, simply because by that time physical modeling will be a very well-understood standard.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 20, 2012 10:45 UTC (Mon) by wazoox (subscriber, #69624) [Link]

> We're now approaching the ability of being able to calculate the physics of a piano in realtime.

Well, Roland has made a physical-modeling piano (V-Piano) that's quite powerful and very expensive, but still very far from fooling anyone.

As a matter of fact, I find that current digital pianos aren't really much better than my good ol' PF-P100.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 10:20 UTC (Tue) by ekj (guest, #1524) [Link]

True. Luckily it's not required to "perfectly" reproduce the original instruments, instead it's certainly sufficient to reproduce them to an accuracy that is good enough that the difference cannot be detected by ear.

For example, if you buy 5 instruments of the same type and brand, there'll be significant variation between them. (often enough to be hearable) A digital copy that is equally close to the original as the 5 samples are to eachother, is certainly good enough.

Getting that close is still a lot of work, of course, and sampling is almost certainly going to be the easiest way of getting there.

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 23:03 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

By your reasoning, no-one would value Stradivarius violins. This turns out not to be the case (and, yes, they really *do* sound different, even in blind tests: it seems to be something in the resin).

Gey: Open Source Instruments: I give up

Posted Aug 21, 2012 23:32 UTC (Tue) by khc (guest, #45209) [Link]


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