I’ve never thought of myself as particularly gifted when it comes to technology. For me, it conjures up images of old school workshops lined with heavy tools, the smell of sawdust and an aproned teacher, with a constant look of anxiety and exasperation etched across their face.
And Information Technology also left me scratching my head; unable to produce nothing more than a powerpoint or poster emblazoned with clipart. How times have changed.
Over the last ten years technology and our everyday interaction with it has grown beyond recognition. I have relatives under the age of seven that can operate a tablet better than I can, and whilst my parents generations keep up as best they can (my father has a hand-me-down iphone 1 which he would consider cutting edge) people of my generation have had no choice but to embrace it, if only to keep an eye on what the younger, cooler folk are doing.
Here at Wavemaker, technology and its evolution is something that drives everything that we try to do and offer. Gone are the tools and soldering irons (for now) and in their place stand laptops, a 3D printer and a laser cutter, which can do in minutes what would have taken you a whole term and multiple injuries to produce. And even though our end goal is provide a service that encourages creation through the more traditional, practical methods as well as digital technology, it is with this digital technology that is our initial focus.
If you have never heard of Raspberry Pi or even Sonic Pi for that matter, don’t worry, you are not alone. In essence, Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized single board computer. It was developed in our very own UK (hoorah for us!) and is an affordable, innovative way for schools and young people to engage in computer science. You can write code, create programmes and even play Minecraft using one of these little Pi’s. Amazing! The thing that is truly brilliant though, is that this technology has been developed further and from this Sonic Pi evolved.
Sonic Pi has nothing to do with the hedgehog and everything to do with sound waves. Simply put Sonic Pi allows you to create music using live coding. It was created by Dr. Sam Aaron who….wait for it…..is actually from our very own Stoke-on-Trent! (Again another hoorah for us!)
With regards to computers, smartphones, apps, software, code controls it all. But this is code that has already been pre-written. The difference with Sonic Pi, is that not only does it create sounds that can be composed into music, you create all of the code live, in that moment. There are options to use pre-produced samples, but these can then be used to accompany live coded music, just in the same way musicians sample songs to make new ones. Sonic Pi also includes countless synthesisers and FXs that can be used to make your creation even more interesting. Ameatur music production this is not, given time to master the various options available, anyone, even you, could become a Sonic Pi DJ extraordinaire.
Here at Wavemaker, we decided to run an Introduction to Sonic Pi session with some of the lovely young people at Unity School, who come to us every week to explore new technology. After talking through the basics using the fantastic resources available online, and having downloaded Sonic Pi to each laptop prior to the session (which is free and extremely easy to do) the guys were ready to go.
At the beginning of the session they had no idea what coding was or Sonic Pi for that matter, and after two hours of running through the very basics, they were experimenting with different sounds, producing short pieces of music and most importantly having fun, whilst learning a process that is behind every website, social media platform and smartphone application in the world.
Sonic Pi is definitely at the forefront of music technology, so much so, that it is leaving earth to explore the final frontier, actual space. The International Space Station to be exact, with our very own Tim Peake. Currently, schools all around the country are competing, to create a piece of Sonic Pi music, that will then be sent to space and played on the Astro Pi, a modified version of the Raspberry Pi and they only have until the 31st March to do so!
Although the music created by Unity won’t be going into space just yet, the morning was a still a brilliant success and we can’t wait to help improve the Sonic Pi skills of others (and ourselves) at our next Sonic Pi session. Ultimately, the Sonic Pi experience is just great fun and a million miles away from the computer science of old. If this is what the future holds for technology, we love it! Rave, House, Grime, Soul, Rock on!