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Music Production on Guix System

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The working title “Ode to One Two Oh” was an obvious choice, being a quasi-palindrome, and its five syllables suggested a time signature of 5/4. Where to from here?

As I stared at my Emacs session with a Guile REPL (read, eval, print, loop) buffer I tried to recall what the letters “REPL” stand for. Clearly, in my case the “P” was for “Procrastination”, but what about the others? I had stumbled upon the chorus: a description of the Guix development process. Contribute as others before us have shared their contributions (Reciprocation), review patches and discuss (Evaluation), hack on something else (Procrastination), and repeat (Loop).

The words suggested a simple descending melody, which would need to be elevated by a somewhat less simple chord progression. After trying out a few harmonies on the Grand Stick I remembered how terrible my memory was and decided that I would need to scatter the harmonies onto a canvas, listen to the whole progression, and adjust the lines as needed — all without having to build up muscle memory for harmonies and progressions I may very well end up discarding in the process.

This is where my composition workflow probably deviates from most other people. Many would use a MIDI sequencer for that kind of approach, whereas I decided to hone in on the exact harmonies with an unlikely tool: the unparalleled music engraving application Lilypond. Lilypond sports a versatile language that covers primitive note input, the means of combining them to larger phrases and musical ideas, and the means of abstraction — it allows for musical ideas to be named and recombined in different shapes. For everything the language doesn’t account for with specialized syntax I can simply switch to Guile Scheme. No other notation software is as flexible and malleable as Lilypond. I let it generate both sheet music and a MIDI file — the sheet music is displayed in a PDF viewer in Emacs and the MIDI file sent to fluidsynth (because I trust my ears over my eyes).

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