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Beyond Music
Douglas Irving Repetto is the author of such popular BeWare as SinceClock, allPossibleImages and the amazing squiggy. He talks with Be Dope about his programming, the BeOS and the future of sound as art.

d.i.r. Be Dope: What is your computer background?

Repetto:
I've been mucking around with computers since I was about 8. I had a trs80 that my dad brought home from his school one summer. I remember how excited I was when I realized that some of the letters made weird little graphic characters if you held down the option key or something. That's where I first started programming.

It was all mostly just for fun until college, when I got into some electronic music stuff and I started learning C. Then in grad school at Calarts I studied with Tom Erbe (creater of SoundHack for the Mac) and he really kicked my butt and made me learn how to program, learn electronics, circuit design, etc.

What is your formal music background, if any?

I've been making music for ever. Mostly rock bands when I was in high school, then in college I majored in composition, did lots of new music and stuff like that. At Calarts I got an MFA in "integrated media", whatever that means. I've really gotten away from "music" in the last few years, and gone much more towards things like installations, electronic devices, sound art/sculputer, etc.

Who were/are your most important musical influences?

The Smiths. Robert Ashley's operas. Playing in bands. James Tenney. My friends in school who went exploring with me in some of the incredibly strange and beautiful sound worlds that are out there beyond "music".

How and when did you first hear of Be?

Probably when the Apple/Be merger stuff was going on.

What made you decide to develop for the BeOS?

Just for fun I installed it one day on a machine at Calarts. Within a couple of minutes I had sound coming out of it and was playing around with faders and stuff. That's what hooked me - it's so easy to actually get something like sound generation happening. My background had been all Mac programming - mucking around in the nightmare toolbox. Once I tried be I let my Mac Codewarrior subscription expire and never looked back.

You distribute your software as "artware", that is, if people use your programs, you ask them to send you something they have made. Do people actually send you a lot of art? Among what you have received, which is your favorite? Which is the strangest?

I've received a lot of feedback so far, but not much "artware." That's okay. The things I'm making are really more for myself, for my own use. things like SineClock and allPossibleImages are a lot like other "art" pieces I make that aren't software, and they're not really meant as "products" that people should have to pay for. If someone likes, or is affected by them, then I'm happy. squiggy is a bit more of a normal software release, but even with that I'm really developing it because I do live electronic music, and I want it as an instrument that I can play. It seems like it's fun for others to use too, so that's great. But really the artware thing is just an attempt to get free stuff from interesting people! The last artware I recieved was a great tape by Bill Thibault and Jim Horton called "For Our Friends the Ancient Krell: Bill and Jim Play Along with the ElectroAcoustic Classics" - it's really fun!

Do you get a lot of feedback from people who use your programs? If so, what does it mostly say?

See above! Lots of people have just said, "hey, that's cool." Others have offered extensive suggestions for where I should go with squiggy. A few have written saying that they just don't get it (especially with SineClock). The feedback is really great, and it makes me feel good about all the time I spend working with the BeOS. I know that if I were still coding for the Mac, I could release something on Info-Mac and it would be seen by many thousands of people instantly. That's not yet true with Be, but even though the community is smaller I think it's been amazingly responsive, helpful and encouraging.

How do you see computers further changing the future of sound as art?

In the same way that the easy availibility of 4-tracks in 80's and samplers and drum machines in the late 80's and early 90's changed it: the more people that have access to a technology, the more likely it is that some of them are going to do wacky, interesting things it. High quality digital sample editors, sound processors, synthesis environments, etc., are now available to virtually anyone with access to a computer. it's kind of like desktop publishing was a few years ago - suddenly everyone can edit audio on their desktop. That's great, and I think that some really interesting stuff is and will come out of that. I'm waiting for the time when it's cheaper and easier to do high quality digital video as well as audio on a basic home computer setup. That's when I think things will get even more interesting, as we're flooded by homemade "pro-quality" experimental films.

How do you incorporate the BeOS into your performances, and where do you perform?

I generally use live sound processing software I write in my performances. More and more that software runs on the BeOS. I was recently in Cuba for an electro-acoustic music festival, and I was going to do a presentation on Be and do a piece with squiggy, but at the last minute I found out that the only computer I could use there was a G3, and of course Be doesn't run on G3s . . . so that was a bummer, it would have been cool to do the first BeOS performance in Cuba. Portability is still a big issue with me - I prefer not to have to travel with lots of equipment. so I really hope that Be takes off so that I can just assume that i'll be able to run it where ever I go.

Upcoming performances include an electronic music festival in Santa Fe in april. Also in April i'll be giving a talk called "Audio Tools for the BeOs" at the annual SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the US) conference at Dartmouth College. I'll be showing squiggy and a bunch of other sound apps for the BeOS.

There are all sorts of things happening, and as much as possible I'm trying to use my Be stuff in my pieces and performances.

I think it's important to point out that I'm using and advocating the BeOS not because of any particular allegiance to the company - although they've shown themselves to be a really friendly and conciencious company - but rather because I find that their product lets me do what I want to do quickly and easily. Since souring a bit on Apple about a year ago, I've been wary of the anything that rings of 'brand loyalty' or 'the xyz faithful'. So far I've been really impressed by Be, and have been encouraging lots of people to check it out based on my experience.

What is in your CD player right now?

At work, a CD I just burned of squiggy improvs with Australian sound poet Chris Mann and composer Larry Polansky.

At home . . . I think bjork's last album

What albums would you consider a "must-listen"?

Robert Ashley's improvement...too much, too many things. Whatever excites or disturbs you!

What books would you consider a "must-read" - programming related, music related, or anything else related?

Hmmm. Well there are lots of books that are very important to me. whether they're useful to someone else I'm not so sure. as far as technical stuff, let's see . . . for electronics, The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill is my bible. I use a whole bunch of different programming books. Numerical Recipes in C is always good for a laugh . . . the BeBook of course . . . Kathy Acker (r.i.p.), Pablo Neruda, e.e. cummings and W. Burroughs are some writers I particularly value . . . I read a lot of stuff about music, but I can't think of any 'must-reads'. I really liked the movie 'gummo' that was at the telluride festival last year . . .

Who is your favorite Muppet, if any, and why?

Ernie and Bert. They are just about as peculiar as you can get. yesh!

Finish this sentence: "Developing for the BeOS kicks ass because _______"

It's fast, it's fun and it works. I perform with it at least a couple times a week, and it just keeps getting better.

More Interviews:

Mike Clifton
creator of Moho

Scott Barta
NetPositive author

Joe Palmer
the father of the BeBox

Seth Flaxman
CEO of ABiSoft

Scot Hacker
BeOS Bible author

Michael Alderete
Be's Webmaster

Melanie Walker
Be Web Diva

Dominic Giampaolo
Be engineer and creator of the BFS

Douglas Irving Repetto
creator of geektoys


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