Cmix is a computer music software designed and developed by Paul Lansky. Belongs to the Music N family, although it was designed for a more specific context of concrete music.

Background history – Since the eighties, different software for computer music, including CSound or Cmusic, have been updated or created through the C language. Even the composer Paul Lansky is part of this trend and worked to complete Cmix at Princeton University. Cmix is configured as an update to C language of the previous software, simply called Mix, released in 1978. Although it will be situated within the Music N family, Cmix born as a result of other reasons. As explained by the same Paul Lansky, Cmix in fact was designed first of all to meet the personal needs of his developer, who had experienced in previous years the use of other Music N software such as Music IVBF.[1]

Cultural Roots – In addition to the experience gained with Music N, there are other reasons that led Paul Lansky to realize Cmix. In particular, it cited the computing experience led by Vladimir Ussachevsky in the seventies at Bell Labs. In those years, the composer experimented the use of computers in several works: exploiting the potential both to synthesize the sounds or using it as a powerful mixer and experimenting, also, the use of real time through the hybrid system GROOVE by Max Mathews. To meet the specific needs of the Russian composer, a researcher at Bell Labs, Sandy Prushansky, wrote a special program for mixing sound signals.[2] Since the approach we can say that the software of Prushansky essentially presented features that anticipated the research conducted by Paul Lansky for Cmix. Beyond the cultural roots, as we called them, were no less important the previous experiences carried out by Paul Lansky in the concrete music, composed by analog equipment, which led him to find a viable alternative in the digital domain.

Features – On a conceptual level Cmix should have been inspired to Music V, but on a practical level, in fact, Cmix was a software with important differences compared to the entire family of Music N. In fact, if the efficacy of Music N, from Music III, was based on the adoption of the UG (Units Generator), through which you could build your own algorithms synthesis, with Cmix takes a step back due to the decision to limit the program to the production of the data score, putting precompiled instruments in an external library, thus eliminating the UG who represented the driving force for software dedicated to music. All this because, in reality, Cmix was conceived as a powerful digital mixer, through which you can take the editor techniques adopted by concretists of Paris. The first version of Cmix was completed in 1982, named simply Mix and realized through the assembly of the IBM 730. Two years later, Lansky decided to update the program using the C, creating the first version of Cmix for DEC PDP-11 computers. The program wasn’t written exclusively in C, but as Cmusic was developed drawing features from its derivative called MINC (short for Minc Is Not C) written by Lars Graf.

Limits – It is clear that the adoption of a C language not pure and the elimination of UG etched in a negative way on software by Paul Lansky, at least in its spread. It should be noted, however, that Cmix wasn’t designed as a useful tool for all but rather to meet the compositional requirements of its developer. Although there were objective limits, Cmix enjoyed a fairly widespread and longevity, as evidenced by the successive developments in the follow years.

Next developments – During the nineties, Cmix has been the subject of some interesting updates, the last of which around 1997, which highlights the discrete longevity of this software. In the early nineties Mara Helmuth, Columbia University, has made Patchmix, a Cmix graphical interface designed in X language. Always Helmuth in 1993, has made StochGran, a software that among other things allowed the application of granular synthesis in Cmix. While in the late nineties there are two innovations: the realization of MacCmix and BeCmix by Alistair Riddell and Ross Bencina at La Trobe University, who have so Cmix made available Cmix for computer environment not based on Unix.[3] Finally remember the work of Brad Gardon, John Gibson and Dave Topper, who created RTcmix, a Cmix real time version.

Conclusions – The results achieved by Cmix were better than expected, though not reached the diffusion, capillary, which instead characterize Csound. The main reason is the fact that the program is too tied to the methodology of concrete music, and unable to meet a cross-use between the different needs of music composers. The same Paul Lansky explained that Cmix was no more than a powerful twenty channels digital mixer. In essence we could say that Cmix was not a real program for the digital synthesis of sounds but rather a language for programming other software, the latter designed to synthesize and process sound signals and, potentially, with much more features similar to Music N than Cmix. Certainly this could be an interesting use of the program, except that it was not developed for that reason, nor was the main reason for its use, which was situated, as we said, more on the needs deriving from concrete music.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.