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Music as Code --- Code as Art If ever there was a tool that bridged computing and the arts this is it. Sonic Pi is an open source programming environment designed to explore and teach programming concepts through the process of creating new sounds. Users are able to compose and perform in classical and contemporary styles ranging from Canons to Dubstep. Sonic Pi even comes with a scheme of work! (It is available for the Raspberry Pi, Windows and IOS)

Sonic Pi

An extract from an article in Wipo Magazine

Sonic Pi was designed, implemented and developed with extensive classroom trials in close collaboration with teachers. Software programmer Sam Aaron has made it his mission to "play the computer", and to help others do the same. From his base in the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Sam has developed Sonic Pi, a free software synthesizer that produces musical sounds from text commands.

Sonic Pi is a social project, rather than a commercial one. It encourages everyone to learn to code, while having fun with music. Sam has collaborated with educators to produce teaching materials for computing in primary schools. He has also worked with artists to experiment with the potential of the software. The latest phase in the project, "Sonic Pi Live and Coding", is aimed at making Sonic Pi into a fully-fledged musical instrument, for live performance.

Sonic Pi: a social mission

"Through Sonic Pi, I want to try to give as many people as possible a creative experience through coding," says Sam. "That is the drive. And the way to do that is to lower the entry barrier to that experience." First of all, Sonic Pi's simple, clean interface, with big buttons and friendly colors, makes programming seem unthreatening. "It makes the programming experience itself easier, and not so scary," he explains. "Typical programming environments are pretty horrendous for beginners."

Digital Music in the Primary Classroom

Before moving to Sonic Pi it's best if students have a basic ideas on how disgital music is created and the patterns that are used. Ableton has a superb intro to music making here.

In school we have just started experimenting with coding using the Windows version of Sonic Pi, and its going down a storm. with everyone engaged not just the kids who can read music. It's important to reiterate that there is no right and wrong and that experimentation and risk taking is welcomed. We started using an excellent set of tutorials from Dave Conservatoire, which enabled the most able children to forage ahead independently.

The Sonic Pi interface including visible debugging/errors, which helped the students understanding of errors in the code and being able to 'hear' bugs helps to really delve into debugging and its role in coding.

The video below show some of the final compositions and the children talk about their learning.

"Risk taking and not being afraid to fail is the most essential part of digital creativity Digital learners do take more risks in the pursuit of making new music; they learn to think different about how they can create new music, taking smart risks in order to learn from them," Pam Burnard