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Bill Orcutt releases open source audio program

Cracked is a “primitive and stripped down” free application created by the former Harry Pussy guitarist and programmer

Guitarist Bill Orcutt has created an open source coding program for working with sound. Entitled Cracked, it is a "free app for Mac OS. It’s a Javascript library and live coding environment for sound making."

Orcutt is best known for his abrasive guitar playing in Miami post-hardcore group Harry Pussy and his solo and group improvisations of the last decade, but he has long pursued a parallel career as a software engineer. His interests in electronics and music first came together in 1998 with Harry Pussy’s Let's Build A Pussy, a double album exploring longform drones reissued by Editions Mego on 2012.

“Lately I've been trying to find a more personal approach for making sound on the computer,” he emails, “something that feels like a software equivalent to one of the cheap Silvertone or Kay guitars I use – something primitive and stripped down, where the inner workings are exposed and easily modifiable, and the music feels like it's being made by you rather than by the program.”

Cracked, he says, “has no traditional user interface, no buttons or knobs, just a window to code into. As you type, changes are interpreted immediately and the sound updates as you go.” A video sent to us by Orcutt shows him jamming on a MIDI pad controller in front of his computer, its screen filed with lines of code, while the speakers spew out a barrage of twisted sounds. “The code itself has a syntax that mimics the way you'd patch a modular or hook up guitar effect boxes,” he argues. “Sound flows from left to right and modules are connected from outputs to inputs. So a line of code like “__().sine().lowpass().ring().reverb().out().play();” does exactly what it looks like: creates and connects a sine oscillator to a lowpass filter to a ring modulator to a reverb to the output and then starts it all playing.”

Orcutt reports Cracked is compatible with various web platforms, and that he’s working on Linux and Windows versions of the program.

“Peter Rehberg of Editions Mego told me that laptop music stopped being interesting when the computers stopped crashing,” he says. “Cracked has yet to crash my computer, but the newness of it can feel risky and occasionally produces unexpected results. Modular synths have become ubiquitous in the 20 years since the introduction of the Eurorack and for many musicians seem to have become an unexamined default. I’d love to see a new generation of cheap, open digital tools that encourage freaks to code so they can spend their money on drugs instead of saving up for the latest module.” Freaks who like the sound of that can download the program here.