My latest 10-year-old new software toy: noatikl

There’s just too much cool stuff out there. I meant to be working on Csound stuff, and then I learned about “noatikl.” A little background may be in order.

Back in the 1990s I encountered a software package called “Koan“. I don’t remember where I first read about it, but it was intriguing as it was one of the first software systems I could comprehend to do algorithmic composition. (Yes, I know Csound was around in those days but it was even more cumbersome and idiosyncratic than it is now.) Anyway, I had to use the Mac port of Koan since at the time that was my platform of choice. It was interesting in its possibilities but I never really made much headway in creating really musically good pieces. Its limitations also frustrated me.

I had a little more luck when I finally started using Windows, but Koan’s limitations still stopped me.

After a lengthy and somewhat dynamic journey through the vagaries of the software business (which you can read about here) the Koan developers (Pete and Tim Cole) have created their own company which, since they control, are not (yet) subject to the whims of investors and partners.

The software they’re now offering that interests me the most is called noatikl, which is a spiritual descendent of Koan. Basically, it generates MIDI notes and controls using a set of algorithms that you can describe for it. These can be connected (via MIDI Yoke for instance) to soft synths, a Reason rack, or other programs.

The noatikl paradigm is very close to that of Koan: you have any number of “voices”, each one of which has a number of parameters you can adjust to determine the length, pitch, rhythm, chord depth, etc., of notes and controllers.

On top of that capability, noatikl now incorporates the ability to be scripted by Lua; which opens up a large universe of capability so you have much more control over your piece than you ever could have had with Koan alone.

One nice feature is that noatikl can read old Koan piece description files that someone (like me) may have created years ago, allowing one to pick up an old composition and start working on it again.

Even if you don’t have any other software, you can use noatikl to drive the Windows built-in Microsoft GS-compatible software synthesizer, which doesn’t have phenomenal sound but can at least give you an idea of what a piece might sound like.

Personally, I’m enjoying using it to drive Reason, which I can set up with a number of devices that generate beautiful pads and get long ambient pieces with interesting sounds.

(As of this writing in early February 2008, noatikl is at version



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