Continuing my journey into the arcane history of weird music software…I talk about Koan elsewhere but today I want to talk about thonk.

Back when I was doing all my composition on the Macintosh (we’re talking the late 1990s at this point), somewhere I read about thonk_0+2 which was intriguing. Here’s the description from the web page that still exists

thOnk_0+2 provides the sonic treasure-chest composers can turn to to harvest fresh, unanticipated material to solve their writers blocks with, without having to think at all.

It is an extremely simple to use Freeware Macintosh application, that uses Granular Synthesis to produce very diverse sounds based upon a sound file provided by the user, where you have NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER over the process.

The web page is at But don’t go stampeding there; I wasn’t able to go to any link from that page that actually allowed you to download the program. From Wikipedia I found out that you can download it with this link:

I think you may have to run it in “classic” mode if you’re running OS X. 

You have to love a program which brags about freeing you from the necessity of thinking. Haven’t we all dreamed of such a thing? “thonk” is a pretty cool name, too, when you think about it. It could mean some kind of past tense of “‘think”, or be a play on “thunk”

Anyway, I did use it and it did create some very interesting sonic material some of which I used in later projects. But, with apologies to the program’s author(s) I crave more control.

As the blurb indicates, thonk was based on a granular synthesis algorithm. A little additional description was given in the readme file that came with it (which I’ll post tomorrow). I got the bright idea that Csound might be a good tool to use to attempt to emulate roughly what thonk does.

Here’s a short writeup from 1999 in Sound on Sound about thonk:

I’ll post later if I figure out how to create my own version of thonk. One of the things I still want to do is experiment with the different granular synthesis opcodes in Csound.

One Response

  1. […] of them today can replicate the functionality of a piece of Mac OS9 freeware from the 1990s called thOnk. thOnk slowly worked its way back and forth through a source file, creating grains that varied in […]

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