FLOSS Weekly 714 Transcripts
Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.
Doc Searls (00:00:00):
This FLOSS Weekly. I'm Doc Searls. This week Dan Lynch and I talk with Devin Ulibarri and Walter Bender of Sugar Labs and music blocks about how kids learn music, how you can learn music, how music is connected to math and vice versa. How we are composing music, as well as listening to it, how you can compose as much music as you listen to us all possible. And these guys are teaching it. They're written the code. It's an open source project. And this is one of those shows. I hope you're watching because we actually do some demo on this, but it's fabulous. Even if you listen to, and that is coming up next,
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Doc Searls (00:01:19):
This is FLOSS Weekly, episode 714, recorded Wednesday, January 11th, 2023, sugar Labs and Music Blocks. This episode of FLOSS Weekly is brought to you by Barracuda. Barracudas identified 13 types of email threats and how cyber criminals use them every day. Fishing, conversation hacking, ransomware plus 10 more tricks cyber criminals use to steal money from your company or personal information from your employees and customers. Get your free ebook at barracuda.com/TWiT and buy ACI learning respected companies and government agencies around the globe turn to ACI learning year after year to help them maintain their competitive edge supporting organizations across audit IT and cybersecurity readiness. ACI Learning keeps your team at the top of its game. Visit aci learning.com to learn more. Hello again, everybody everywhere. I am Doc Searles. This is FLOSS Weekly, and I enjoyed this week by Dan Lynch himself there in Liverpool. I assume because your has not changed
Dan Lynch (00:02:36):
<Laugh>. No, it hasn't now. Just outside Liverpool in England. Yeah. Hey, doc, good to be back. A happy New Year to everyone. It's the first time I've had a chance to, I know it feels too late to be so happy to Happy New Year now, but first chance I've had this year, so happy year to everyone watching and listening. That's great. And yourself
Doc Searls (00:02:51):
Was Yeah, same. Same here. We're one 20th into the year already. <Laugh>, I think with, I know. I'm here in, in Santa Barbara. My office is Santa Barbara. And and we have had torrential interesting reigns. I just blogged about it. If you go to cs.com, doc net cs.com, you'll see what I've blogged about it. It's, there's this, the jet stream across the Pacific is going straight As is whipping up all these eddies along it. And you don't see where it comes from unless you, there's a great, great cycle, windy.com. It's also a an app called Windy. And if you go up and look at the highest levels, like they're flight levels you could see why planes like to like ride those jet stream in one direction and fight at the, in, in the other direction, or avoid it the way it may take as little as five hours to get from dull to Heathrow and eight hours to get back <laugh>, you know? So anyway, it's a all interesting stuff. So, so Dan, I called you in because you're the music guy. I could tell by you have at least two instruments in your background. You also update the microphone. So Yeah,
Dan Lynch (00:04:00):
I do also have a microphone. Yeah, I've got I've got other instruments around the house as well, but I'll I'll refrain from, from jumping on and, and playing.
Doc Searls (00:04:08):
So, so what do you play? What
Dan Lynch (00:04:09):
Are you so I, I play guitar, piano well, keyboards drums, bass harmonica. I always wanted to lend the saxophone, but I haven't quite got round to that yet. It's quite hard apparently. So that's my next project is to learn the saxophone hopefully. But yeah, I, I did go to, I shouldn't say all this stuff because I'll look really stupid late when I asked bad questions, but I u I went to music college many years ago after I left school. So I I wouldn't say I, I'm, I'm not classically trained. I went to a, like a rock college. That sounds cool. It sounds cooler, <laugh> cooler than it probably was <laugh>. But yeah, I went and did a did a, a course there where we did stuff like recording performance technology all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, so I ended up getting a diploma in rock and pop music. Would you believe so? Wow.
Doc Searls (00:04:55):
Yeah. Excellent. Wow. And and I just as quickly before you get to our guess, are you, were you, you in a band or are you in a number of bands? You
Dan Lynch (00:05:03):
I've been in many bands over the years. Some people long. I have, I'm not in one at the moment, but some people watching and listening to this will remember I was in a band called 20 Pound Sounds. And we had a quite a popular song about Jimmy Carter <laugh>, which the opening line was Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. And that was what the one, the song came about, because we were having a rehearsal one day, and he was on the news and someone mentioned Jimmy Carter. And I went, oh, the one random fact that he happened to know was that he was a peanut farmer. So I went, oh, Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, and one of the other guys went, oh, that sounds like the start of the song. And then it
Doc Searls (00:05:38):
Dan Lynch (00:05:39):
And so, so there you go. So that was good. Yeah. So you can still find our stuff online. 20 pound sounds. It's pounds as in weight. Lb Oh yeah. 20 lb
Doc Searls (00:05:49):
Dan Lynch (00:05:49):
Yeah. So they're still around. And you can find stuff at, at my website, down lynch.org. There's all kinds of stuff on there.
Doc Searls (00:05:54):
So sorry, are, our guest today are with the Sugar Labs and working with Music Blocks. Are, are you familiar with this before the show, or is it new to you? What's,
Dan Lynch (00:06:04):
It was new to me, yeah. Before we we got the information, but I've been, I've spent the day messing around with it and doing some research and hopefully figuring out the ins and outs of it a little bit. So yeah, I've had a lot of fun with it. It's it's a really interesting project. I can't wait to talk more about it.
Doc Searls (00:06:20):
So let me introduce our guests and first Walter Bender, because I'm going left to right on my screen. <Laugh> mm-hmm. <Affirmative> he conveniently has a Wikipedia entry. This writer, huge. He's a technologist, a researcher, and says, who works in the field of electronic publishing. Median technology for learning is involved in MIT's media Lab. And it, it, it, it, it goes on in his, an alma, a alma mater of, of Harvard and m i t and he is involved with the, with the Media lab, like I said. And, and Devin Ulibarri is a guitarist. He's performed besides musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, and many other inspiring figures. He's a teacher who's taught at the New England Conservatory Conductor researcher, the Center for Music and Education, co-founder of the Map, family Learning Center, which offers instruction and music and so on. I could go on. He works at the Free Software Foundation, which I'm sure our, our, our listeners and viewers would, would fully approve of. So, I, I'll just ask you guys first, are you, are you both in Cambridge or nearby?
Walter Bender (00:07:26):
Yeah, yeah, I'm just outside of Boston to the West. And Devon's just north.
Doc Searls (00:07:31):
Well, I I lived in Arlington for seven years, so, so what, what town are you in?
Walter Bender (00:07:36):
I'm in Newton.
Doc Searls (00:07:37):
In Newton, okay, great. Yeah.
Devin Ulibarri (00:07:40):
Yeah. And I'm in Summerville,
Doc Searls (00:07:43):
The most densely populated part of Boston. I found out at the, at the at the the science museum, you can clear the, you click on the little button that brings up the light in the Summerville, and it says, Nope, this most densely populated part, which kind of surprised me. So, so did, how'd you guys meet, and how did this thing come about? Either one of you can answer.
Walter Bender (00:08:04):
So I, I was given a talk at a boss gathering in Boston, actually in Cambridge, but it was a, I think the Boston Boss community. And I was talking about programming languages for kids. I'd done a project called or a language called Turtle Blocks. And Devin came up to me afterwards and said, Hey, you ever thought about doing anything with, with music? And I said, I've been thinking about it forever, but I've never found anybody to work with who knows much about music. And it just happened. Devin, do you want elaborate on
Doc Searls (00:08:46):
Devin Ulibarri (00:08:46):
Doc Searls (00:08:47):
Devin Ulibarri (00:08:50):
Yeah. So I was interested in attending Walter's talk because he was talking about Sugar Labs, and I became interested in free software maybe about a year before I, I saw this talk. It was just a local gathering. And so I kind of came up with this theory that, you know, if if kids have access to the source code, for example, and they're given everything they need to remix it, you know, and make it their own, that they'd probably learn a lot from it. So when I saw that Walter Bender was giving this talk on sugar Labs, you know, the operating system, sugar Labs operating system, and one laptop per child, I was like, well, this is amazing. I want to hear more about this. And I didn't know at the time that, you know, he'd be interested in hearing from a musician, but apparently so. And you know, I'll admit, when we started working together, I didn't know what we were inevitably going to create. I, I came up with some designs, which are radically different from anything that we have today. But you know, fast forward what seven or so years later to today we created a visual programming language for music.
Walter Bender (00:10:21):
Just one, one little aside to what Devon just said, just as I'm proud of this fact, 50% of the patches in Sugar came from kids.
Dan Lynch (00:10:33):
Walter Bender (00:10:33):
So we actually really put a lot of thought into having the kids be contributors, and it worked.
Devin Ulibarri (00:10:40):
Dan Lynch (00:10:41):
Walter Bender (00:11:04):
Yeah, I mean, no, no. So the, the, the kids were contributing to Sugar, which is mostly Python.
Dan Lynch (00:11:09):
Walter Bender (00:11:11):
Dan Lynch (00:11:54):
Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Excellent. So I was looking when I was playing around today with Music Box, I had a little a little go of it in the browser. It immediately, the, the visual of it or the kind of metaphor or what you wanna call it, of the visual programming edge made me think a bit of something like Scratch which is m i t related as well, obviously. Right. Long history at m i T. Is there any,
Walter Bender (00:12:19):
Yeah, is there
Dan Lynch (00:12:19):
Walter Bender (00:12:20):
Any way? I would say in, in terms of like the family tree of these kinds of programming languages mm-hmm. <Affirmative> music Blocks is like a second cousin to Scratch. They both came from the same hierarchy, but there's actually, there, there, there are a few different things that are quite different about Music Blocks than, than Scratch. Some of them are, are, are little details that are just my pet peeves you know, about in Fixx versus prefix and things like that. But music Blocks is really about at, at, its at its heart. The, the, the, at the core of Music Blocks is a musical concept called the Note. So everything builds from that as opposed to, you know, talking to a synthesizer as sort of something you tack onto the language. The concept of a note is inherent in the language. And so by, by a note, basically what we're talking about is a, a temporal quanta that you can position anywhere and then pack things in.
So typically you pack pitches into a note. Mm-Hmm. Mm-hmm. So you'd say, I want to play a quarter note at, you know, of, you know, C or, you know, at this time that that's sort of the, but that, that, but I could put graphics in there, or I could put multiple pitches or anything I want inside of a note. So we've got sort of this holder that we can drop things into. So it's really a very different way of thinking about the underlying data structures that the kids are manipulating. And then the other thing is that and I could get that far without Devin, but with Devin, on top of that, we've layered all these musical concepts that are part of language. So, for example something really quite simple, you can, you know, you can define a, a key in a mode in music blocks, and then stay in that key and mode. So you can talk about, not just give me the next note in terms of hurts or something, but you can say, you know, take three scaler steps or transpose this way or that way, or Invert or, you know, there's all, all these concepts that are fundamental to music that are part of the language itself.
Dan Lynch (00:14:40):
Hmm. That's excellent. I actually, I wanted to ask Devin, about the when I, I watched one of your videos earlier on the blog, on the on the music blogs blog. And it was, was, I think it may have been quite an one, but it was an intro to what you Found Cool about music blocks and so on. Yeah. That's an one <laugh>, it's ok. But one of the things that I found really interesting was it's not stuck in, in musical terms. It, it's kind of really kind of freeform. You're not stuck with a four, four, you know, time signature or any of that stuff. You can kind of create whatever you want. So can you tell us a bit about that?
Devin Ulibarri (00:15:12):
Yeah, so you know, working on music blocks you know, forced me to, to kind of think of design a little bit. But you know, it, it's important not to start from, you know, like you must have, you know, only four beats per measure, for example. And state that upfront because, you know, that's not the way we listen <laugh> for one, you know you know, when someone hits the first downbeat or you know, the pickup to the downbeat, they start playing. Like, you don't know at that moment. You know where you are in the measure, right? You don't know what's going to happen next. And a lot of musicians like, you know, take advantage of expectations so that so that, you know, they, they can do something unexpected later, you know? So, you know, and then there's a lot of music that, you know, switches, time signatures, like, you know, we'll do something that's in three, four time, and then we'll do something that's in four, four time.
And also that's kind of an abstract concept. Whereas just like a note that you can play, you know, and you can hear how long it is, is less abstract. So it's, you know, more accessible you know, readily to, you know, learners at the very beginning. I didn't wanna put any artificial constraints on, you know, what people were gonna do. Also, you know, so like, if you look at, you know, music, like sheet music, you've got, yeah, you've got bar lines, and they're like, kind of in your face, you know, it's like, oh my gosh, there's like a bar line. There's like something there. But you know, when you're listening to something, there's no bar line. There's, you know, you don't hear the bar line. I mean, you construct a bar line in your mind, you say like, oh, I, I hear things are repeating, like every, you know, three beats.
I hear some things repeating there. Therefore this is in three, four time I hear something important repeating every four beats. Therefore it must be in four, four time. You know, nothing. You know, like when you're performing something you don't like, necessarily, like, do something like at the bar line. It's, it's a measure for a reason. Like it measures time. It's it's not like a, a thing that you perform. So yeah, that was, that's one of the reasons, you know, that it's like that. But that being said there is a block in music blocks where you can state, you know, that you're in three, four time, or four, four time, or five eight time, or five 16 time, you know, like whatever you want. And then you can say things like, okay, so on beats one and two, you know, do this thing, you know, play the kick drum, you know, or, you know, do X, Y, and Z. But you know, I think for, for people listening and watching, maybe they, they will, you know, want to wanna see and hear, you know, some of what that is to get a better sense of Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of what we're talking about. But you know, yeah, it is, it's free form because like an instrument, for example, is freeform. Like, it doesn't have like measures or wire lines or anything. And music blocks, you know, in its essence is an instrument.
Dan Lynch (00:18:36):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I'm thinking it might be popular for jazz <laugh>. I dunno else, I'm feeling like freeform jazz, I dunno. So one of the things I thought was interesting was, cuz you haven't got, as you said, there's no constraints. Do you, and you're, you're kind of teaching music and, and programming to kids. Is that good because, good for that, because kids often don't have the concept of what the structure should be, actually with really inventive things,
Walter Bender (00:19:00):
With there no constraints. I, I, I think there actually are constraints. Okay. Sorry. Now you can bend those constraints any way you want. You don't have to stay on in the lane, but the lanes are there to give you sort of a, a, a, a pointed departure as opposed to saying you have to do, we don't sort of have the kids assume the position, but we actually let the kids work with musical concepts and then start to shape those concepts. So we have, for example, you know, when you start off music blocks by default you get, you know, sort of a western, you know, piano tuning 12 equal temperament tuning, but you can change the temperament. Okay. You can do any kind of, you can define your own temperament or choose from a number of, of historical temperaments. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So the idea is temperament is this musical concept that's really well ground into most music.
Not all music, but most music. And so we give the kids that framework. They don't need to stay in that framework, but we give that framework cuz that framework is really a powerful way. Again, it's, Devin was talking about this idea and music of, of expectation and violation of expectation. Having these frameworks gives you the expectation and then you can tweak it and play with it and go off in your own direction. But the, the frameworks are there. And I think that's actually a really important part of music blocks is that it's not just, it's not just raw hurts, it's mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, the, the, this framework that you can work from and, and, and,
Devin Ulibarri (00:20:33):
Doc Searls (00:20:33):
Yeah, it's, I I wanna dig down a little further on, on on how, how it's being used in the world. But first I have to let our listeners and viewers know that this episode of FLOSS Weekly is brought to you by Barracuda. In a recent email trends survey, 43% of respondents said they have been victims of spearfishing attacks, but only 23% said they have dedicated spearfishing protection. How are we gonna keep your email secure? Well, Barracuda has identified 13 types of email threats and how cyber criminals use them every day. Phish conversation hacking ransomware plus 10 more tricks, cyber criminals use to steal money from your company or your personal information from your employees and customers. Are you protected against all 13 types? Email cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated. An attacks are more difficult to prevent attacks, use social engineering, including urgency and fear to prey on victims.
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Devin Ulibarri (00:24:04):
So it's a mix. So it is being used in, in different schools. Teachers have lesson plans that they can use typically, you know, in, I teach it. And in one of the places that, that I teach at Walter teaches it <laugh>. So the youngest group is like six and seven years old that I've worked with. And right now we have like, I don't know, about 35 different lesson plans in Japan. We worked together with the, the Ministry of Economics, trade and Industry and a publishing company called gk. It's a very big publishing company in Japan. And we worked together with them to, I think they made, I don't know, about like 10 or so lesson plans in the end and made some videos for teachers to use. They were interested in using these in the public schools because in Japan they have a mandate that, or at that time, this was like 2019, that by 2020 they would have computer programming and all the elementary schools in Japan. So they were interested in using music blocks as one of the tools to teach kids about programming.
Walter Bender (00:25:33):
Just one, one other sort of large scale initiative is in Peru. So during COVID, the Ministry of Education and Peru distributed Android tablets with music blocks on it. And we actually, we translated music Blocks into Amara and Kwa, which are two of the, the big indigenous languages in Peru because these tablets were all going out into rural parts of the country. So it's got a pretty widespread distribution in, in Peru. And then it's just sort of hit and miss beyond that all over, all over the world.
Doc Searls (00:26:13):
Is it, is it spreading? I'm, I'm saying you've already mentioned Japan and Peru and two additional languages within, within within Peru are pe people picking it up at random? Do we evangelize this at all? Or is you just kind of like deal with demand as it shows up?
Walter Bender (00:26:33):
Well, we're, we're evangelizing right now,
Doc Searls (00:26:36):
<Laugh>. Good job, <laugh>.
Walter Bender (00:26:42):
Yeah, no, I mean, you know, we're not aggressive marketers, it's just not in our d n a for whatever reason. Yeah. But, you know, we certainly we're, we we're doing this cuz we want kids to use it and learn from it, and we, we believe in it. And it's got, I mean, a lot of the pedagogy behind music blocks comes from the work that I've been doing at m MIT for decades in collaboration with people like Marvin Minsky and Seymour Pam. So it's not new in terms of pedagogy. Devin and I participate in a community called Constructionism, which is sort of a, basically the Seymour Pam School of Learning that sort of him. So we're, we're trying to get these ideas out into the world and yeah, any help that the audience can give us towards that end, that'd be great. But it is, you know, it's free and open. It's, you know, we, we encourage people to use it, modify it, remix it, do whatever is gonna get the job done for them.
Devin Ulibarri (00:27:48):
Yeah. And you know, on a weekly basis, I, I meet with an a teacher or, you know, a few teachers and I instruct them, you know, and give them feedback on their lesson plans. So we have teachers making their own lesson plans and you know sometimes they just need like a little bit of help. And you know, one in particular is doing a great job creating some new lesson plans, you know, like really the sky's the limit. And then also you know, there's some projects on music blocks and we can show you in a second such as like, I've got this virtual whiteboard. So say you're not teaching computer programming in particular and you're just teaching, you know, just <laugh> general music class, you can pull up, you know, some of these projects and they can be quite useful even if you're not necessarily going to explain, you know, all the logic behind. Yeah. yeah, so this is music blocks right here. And this is what somebody sees when they open it up for the first time. Yeah. So when you yeah, just keep that open for a second. And then maybe actually, can you click on do and then, and then just like, go through the scale. So go do Ray Me and then go all the way through.
Yeah. So just right there you have a representation of music, you know, that helps reinforce, you know, something that a teacher might want to teach. It's like, okay, so Sofe is, you know, part of the musical language. You know, here you have them all in order and you can manipulate them from the very beginning. And so, you know, that's a really helpful thing, you know, and you can, you know, it goes in a circle. You have Doremi Faso Tea, and then it goes back to doe because that would bring you into the next Octa. And I'm often drawing something like that on the board to show, okay, so these are the seven pitches you have. You know, and with music blocks it's just like baked into the interface itself. And then the one extra thing is you need a number for the Octa, you know, where the higher number is, a higher octave. Because without specifying that, then, you know, you're just kind of stuck in one octave. But you know, from that perspective, like you can, you know, just from the very beginning, you can reinforce some important musical ideas.
Doc Searls (00:30:59):
Do, do the kids learn like the, this is a Dia scale, and what half steps are between the, the, the two adjacent white keys and the white and the black keys and that kind of thing on a, on a piano. I remember when, when I took piano lessons as a kid, I had a horrible teacher. All she did was maybe run scales and play music I didn't care about. And it wasn't until I had a girlfriend a thousand years later who went to the Jacob School of Music in, in, in Bloomington, Indiana, which is where I live now most of the time. Then I learned his stuff. I had no idea, you know, and I, but I, I think it helps kids to learn that kind of thing earlier.
Walter Bender (00:31:34):
L l let me answer that in, in a couple of different ways. And Devin, I'm sure has a better, so one, one of the inspirations of a lot of this is, again, this concept called constructionism. You learn through doing. So if you want more learning, you want more doing. So a lot of what we try to do is encourage the kids to, to build things. So in music blocks, we're actually, the kids are composing right from the very beginning. They're not you know, so they're not just playing scales, but they're writing music right from the very beginning with the language. And so they, they hit a lot of the, the, those concepts. And again, we've got some sort of macro level tools for Com composition as well. There's something called the Action Block, which is essentially the way to create a phrase.
And once you've got this phrase or your melody, you can manipulate your melody, you can repeat it, you can flip it upside down, you can make it change the second time it plays. And these are all things that kids explore right from the very beginning. Now, in terms of, of things like scale, we, we expose both sort of scale or stay in the key and half steps. So you can essentially a chromatic scale, so you can go anywhere you want, and the kids can move between those two. Their sort of instructions and, and, and instructions blocks that let you manipulate both. And, and, and both those ways, they're also tools to generate cords. We recently added Arpeggio, which is actually really super fun. So you can start to do some of these extensions. You take your basic set of notes that you compose with, and you can extend them in all these different ways that musicians do. It's, it's, it's musical concepts again, that we're layering in. So, Devin, do you want a envelope to,
Devin Ulibarri (00:33:27):
Yeah. So actually this is one of the really exciting things about music Blocks is you know, in most typical you know, classrooms, it's by far assumed that, you know, you, you might not get to composition until the kids have learned how to read <laugh>, for example. And reading takes quite a, a while. You know, you've gotta teach, you know that you've got, you know, pitch over time, for example, that, you know, there's, you know, this is where no A and B and C and D and you've got these different key signatures and things like that. And so if you start from that assumption that, you know, kids need to learn how to read music first before they compose, that's a lot of time that they're not composing, right? They're not creating their own music. They're not exploring important music theory concepts and, you know by themselves.
But you know, with this tool, it's like from the very beginning it puts all of those music theory concepts, like Walter said, there's, you know, scaler versus Chromatic or Semitone you know the different kinds of note values the different kinds of keys, the different kinds of intervals, the different kinds of chords. You know, they're, they're blocks in this language. And so it can make, you know, some of those much more accessible, much more quickly. And then have kids, you know, not just, you know, learn them, but explore them you know, sooner <laugh> which is a lot of fun. And it's like, yeah, you can have kids you know, on their instrument, you know, compose things, you know, I do that in my class, or, you know, they can sing, they can do like songwriting and they don't necessarily need to be able to read.
But it, music literacy, like having something written down is a useful thing, you know? And I would argue that what you have with music blocks is you have a way to express, you know, to write down your ideas. And in fact we haven't shown you this yet, but anything that you make in music blocks, you can export as Lilly Pond code, right? And then you can use the Lilly Pond code to generate sheet music so you can like, turn, turn it full circle and, you know, have the kids compose something, export it as Lilly Pond, generate a P D F, and then, you know, bring them to the piano or the guitar or whatever instrument they're learning and say, okay, you compose this on music blocks and now you know, let's perform it. And that can be a really powerful thing for, for kids that are learning, cuz then they're motivated. It's like, I wrote this, I, now I've gotta play what I wrote. So
Walter Bender (00:36:34):
The, the, the other, just one other point, because music blocks was sort of built from on top of turtle blocks. The, there's all this art built into music blocks as well. So one of the things the kids do is they they build their own notation systems in music blocks. They don't have to stick with sort of the traditional little dots on, on striped lines. They can develop their own notations, and they do that quite a bit as well on their, on their way to learning. So there's not, it's not one fixed thing. The other thing I I wanna bring up and maybe this is a little bit premature, but we, we also have this concept of music blocks that I, I didn't build into turtle blocks called widgets. And what a widget is, is it's sort of a little idea that it's this, I wanna explore this one little concept of music. And we've got dozens of widgets that explore dozens of little concepts. So for example, there's a widget that lets you explore rhythm and you pop it open and you basically have a drum machine that you can manipulate. But the cool thing about widgets is they let you explore that idea, but you can also then export what you built back as music blocks code. So you can,
Devin Ulibarri (00:37:44):
Yeah, maybe we should,
Walter Bender (00:37:45):
Yeah. Do you wanna show like the, the rhythm
Devin Ulibarri (00:37:47):
Rhythm code? Yeah. So go down to the, the bottom of the palette where it says widgets. So just a little to the left of where you are right now. Yeah. And then rhythm maker, it's like the third block down from the top, or was, there you go. Okay, now exit out of this you know, press the X and then Yeah, exit out of the tour. Otherwise it's just gonna be there. And now click on it, click right there. And so by default you have a whole note. It's a whole length of time, which is kind of a long time. Okay, now stop that. <Laugh>, I, we heard that. All right, <laugh>. And then click in the middle and it'll divide it by in half, no, click in the middle where it says one over one. Yeah. And now you get two halves. Now click on one of those halves.
Yeah. Click right there. And then click like one more time on one of the, the quarter notes. Yeah. So yeah. And now, yeah, you can click on, on that one and you'll get, now, now press play and you'll have something a little more interesting than the, so it's still whole note, right? It's gonna fit in a full measure of four four. We were talking about meters. Yeah. At the very beginning. Anything that you do, by the way is going to fit into four, four but you know mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And then can you, can you not make it full screen? Cuz I can't see the whole thing and I'm not sure if others can either. And then once you have that, then press one of the, the ones in the left where it has a down arrow under the play in, within the rhythm maker. And that will save it as code. Yeah, that's fine.
Doc Searls (00:39:56):
Oh, that's cool.
Walter Bender (00:39:58):
So now you've got a drum machine.
Doc Searls (00:40:00):
Now you're a drum machine. And I, I, I love how this by the way, this is probably the first show we have where I highly, highly recommend, even if you're listening right now, go look at the video version, <laugh> <laugh>, and, and better yet, get this tool and play with it because I want to. And, and there it is. It's a,
Walter Bender (00:40:21):
There, there's, there are tools for rhythm, there's tools for making phrases, there's tools for manipulating mode. There's tools for manipulating temperament. There's tools for designing cords, and I mean all, all different types of tools built in. And the other thing is, so the tools all have cheered some attributes. So one of them is that they all, when all export code. So whatever you design in your tool or you're exploring this idea, you can use to export code for your pro project. The other is that the tools are all, you can program the tools behavior on the way in. So the drum machine, if you look at the code there, there was just one snare drum defined on the way in, but you could have multiple drums and mult and have, you know, poly rhythms that you're designing, things like that. So you can add a lot of complexity on the way in just by by programming the widget's behavior on the way in.
Devin Ulibarri (00:41:19):
Walter Bender (00:41:20):
Yeah, go ahead, Devon.
Devin Ulibarri (00:41:21):
Oh, just because I saw it pop up in the screen. So in that widget for note value, it has one over one, which means that you have one whole note. If you change it to three over four, for example no exit out of this briefly. Yeah. So that fraction that you see within the rhythm maker where it says one over one right there, <laugh>, you found it, click on the top and change that to a three, and then change the one underneath to a four. So that's telling it that there's three quarter notes, and now click on it, and now you're out of click on the rhythm maker to initiate it. Now you're out of four, four time, and now you're in three, four time. And it looks like it did its best. Can you, can you clear it up like by pressing the the erase button? Erase button at the bottom? Yeah. So now you're in a three four meter. So there's, there's different ways of, of expressing these things.
Doc Searls (00:42:27):
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Okay. Dan, you had a question there. What?
Dan Lynch (00:45:16):
So if you go on the burger menu on the top right there, the kind of the three lines in the top right on the blue bar. Yeah. And then press the two angle brackets. That's next one along to you. Right. There you go. I'll just, I kind of dunno if we can see much in that window, it might not be the right one, but one of the things I noticed very quickly was I can get the code up and see what it's actually doing and how it's generating what we're doing. So how does, how does this work in a, in, in a kind of a pro a teaching programming kind of scenario? Can you get kids to programmatically generate some music and see the results quickly get those results that you were talking about?
Walter Bender (00:46:33):
Let me start by saying I'm gonna quote Felonious Monk.
Dan Lynch (00:46:37):
Walter Bender (00:46:38):
<Laugh> Monk said all musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.
Dan Lynch (00:46:43):
Walter Bender (00:46:44):
And we can also then quote, leave Netz sort of from the other perspective. Music's a hidden or earth medic <inaudible> of the soul, which does not know that it's counting. So there's, there's a long tradition of sort of the interplay between math and and music. And that's certainly one of the things that we try to exploit in music blocks. So there's a lot of concepts in math. That's why we, we, we make the, you know, for example, we make the note value explicitly a fraction because we want the kids to understand there's fractions there. And, and they get a sense of, of a lot of the, they're learning a lot of math along the way. And I, I wanna put a, a pin in this idea of musicians being math teachers and math teachers being musicians. A lot of my colleagues at m i t play instruments.
That's not, that's the norm, that's not outside of the norm. But at the same time, I think there's an opportunity for a lot of musicians to get into some of the interesting concepts in math for the kids. And so there's, there's that synergy there. In terms of programming, again, there's, there's, I mean, it's a programming language, so there's no avoiding some of the programming concepts. And we've done a lot of we've looked at a lot of the parallels between programming and music and there there are lots of them to exploit. So just, I mean, for just even something like a transposition is basically a, a transposition and, and programming, or I might, I might take something like a you know, sub-routine is basically an action of music blocks, but that, that's equivalent of a phrase in music.
So there, there are a lot of ways in which we both implicitly and explicitly build these connections for the kids and for the teachers. And they, they get it. There's also a lot of, you know, because it's a, a programming language in the web. We do a lot with interface. You can do interrupts, you can you know, add little buttons to launch instruments. Kids do a lot of game programming with music blocks mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so when they so they do both the, the sort of the theme music for each of the characters in their games and music that, you know, for the action and things like that as well. So there's, there's just lots and lots of connections there.
Dan Lynch (00:49:10):
Mm-Hmm. Yeah. I I I mean I that's exactly what I was thinking. Cuz you've got, I mean, you talked about the links between music and, and mathematics even simple concepts like a loop, you know, in programming we're gonna, we're gonna loop this. It's kinda like saying to the band, let's do this another four bars, you know, let's do this again, another 16 bars. They, you kind, you've got loops kind of built in, haven't you?
Walter Bender (00:49:31):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So in fact, I mean, Dave, maybe Devin, do you wanna elaborate a little bit on sort of the whole music teacher concept?
Devin Ulibarri (00:49:43):
Well I'm, I'm just going to, well, dovetail <laugh> from what Walter and Dan you were just talking about. So one of the most beautiful moments for me was in so we did Google Code in until they stopped hosting Google Code in, which is you know, like high school students. You would give them certain kinds of assignments and they could pick them. And one student, and this was the first example I'd ever seen used like a variable, you know, and put like number zero in it and then played half of a phrase that had a first ending. And then when it completed the first ending, it ticked that zero up to one. And then it went through the, the phrase again. And there's a little test at the end of the phrase that said, you know, if it equals one, then go to the second ending.
And my mind was blown when I saw this cuz I was like, this so beautifully and elegantly expresses like what I think as I'm performing, you know, like in my mind I have to keep track, you know I'm playing a phrase, am I, you know, have I played it once yet <laugh>, you know, or, you know, if I have, then I've gotta play it again. I go to the second ending. So there's this, there's like these computational ideas that are inherent in music. And, you know language like music Blocks helps you kind of like mind those ideas and express them in a new way, which, you know, and, and so like what Walter was saying about, you know, having musicians teach math, well, music blocks also helps them teach programming too. And we've had some music teachers that th this was definitely the first time that they've even touched like a programming language. And this was you know, certainly out of their comfort zone to teach with music blocks. And we asked them like, you know, teach with music blocks, go ahead and, and, and do this. And you know, once they got over the, the first, you know, few you know, hurdles, you know, they, they really get it and they love it and they can see how, you know, these musical ideas are really well expressed with computation.
Walter Bender (00:52:17):
Dan Lynch (00:53:38):
Walter Bender (00:54:25):
Dan Lynch (00:55:06):
Doc Searls (00:55:08):
Well, if we're getting down into the very short rows here, and I I've, this is a totally fascinating show. It's a fabulous show. I was reminded that of an interview I heard with, with Paul McCartney once where he, he said he ne he actually doesn't ever stop composing. And his point was that we don't just read words, we speak words. We're we're we output as well as input. And there's no reason anybody should not compose music or for that matter, compose code or go the other way. And I love the way one can learn mathematics and music at the same time even, or, or see the connection between the two and the, the math of one and the music of the other. It's just, this is a fabulous show. I hope you, you, music Blocks is on GitHub. People can co jump in and contribute. So that's an important thing. Wanna get that out there. So to to, to wrap up, we always ask, are there any things we haven't asked that you'd like us to have asked and or <laugh> that you can answer quickly? <Laugh> Walter's shaking his head, <laugh>
Walter Bender (00:56:19):
No. Well, and I mean, I, I I I I want to just, I, I, there was a project at I B M back in the early 1980s called Writing to Read. Okay. And it was basically, oh wow,
Doc Searls (00:56:33):
Walter Bender (00:56:34):
You, you wanna read, well write, you know, and, and I, I, I really took a lot of inspiration from that project. I mean, it's, again, it's long ago and a galaxy far, far away. But it's just, I mean there's just this whole idea of, of, again, learning through doing and, and giving kids tools to allow them to engage. I mean that's, that's, that's why it has to be free software.
Doc Searls (00:57:04):
Walter Bender (00:57:05):
Because otherwise, you know, they, they we're, we're putting limits on them and we, we want to give them, you know, we want them unbound
Doc Searls (00:57:14):
As free software. Is it gpl ld? Is that the
Walter Bender (00:57:16):
List? Yeah, so the, yeah, so it's a G P l
Doc Searls (00:57:19):
A Gpl L
Walter Bender (00:57:19):
Okay. Great. Web things.
Doc Searls (00:57:21):
Yeah. we always end up end with asking what your favorite text text editor and scripting language are. So <laugh>, we have to get four answers outta this. Doing my math <laugh>,
Walter Bender (00:57:33):
I, I'm, I, I'm an EMAX guy from way back, so
Doc Searls (00:57:37):
Yeah. <Laugh>, I was, I would guess and how about you, Devin?
Devin Ulibarri (00:57:43):
I'm just gonna keep the audience guessing,
Doc Searls (00:57:46):
Devin Ulibarri (00:57:47):
True. No, I, that's good. I, I also use emax it I understand the, the commands. And I love speaking of learn by doing, you know, from the very beginning it's got a tutorial learned by doing. Yeah.
Doc Searls (00:58:04):
Devin Ulibarri (00:58:05):
Doc Searls (00:58:06):
<Laugh>. That's the way to go. Well, it has been fabulous having you guys on the show. Love to hear how things go. Should have you back at some point to, to give us a progress report when you're overcome by demand <laugh> and or whatever else may happen. That this has been great. And by the way, I, I miss Cambridge and I miss Arlington and Newton and all those places north of the river and south, by the way. So <laugh>, I love Boston too. Anyway so great having you guys on. Thanks
Devin Ulibarri (00:58:39):
So much. Yeah, thank you for having us
Walter Bender (00:58:40):
Doc Searls (00:58:43):
So Dan, that was great.
Dan Lynch (00:58:45):
Yeah, really great. I mean, it, it's such a great tool and I love what they're doing in promoting, as I said, both programming and music and, and this way of, you know learning. I, I, I learned something today. I learned what constructionism is. I I ended up looking that up. <Laugh> on, or two of the, I think I kind of understand it. I, I ended up looking that up after reading some of Walter's work on, on, on some other sites today. It said a lot about constructionism and I come from a, this, this is not related really. I come from a family who are all well, we would say builders over here. You'd say they were in construction over in the us Yeah. So I looked at that and I was like, oh, constructionism, that sounds right up my street.
So yeah, we, we, we liked building things with blocks and, and all that. And it all relates, all the metaphor all works for, for you know, blocks and all these things that we have in code and in music and so on. So yeah, really great. I would encourage everyone to go to just go new web browser, go to Music blocks, dot I'll get it right, music blocks dot sugar labs.org and it'll load. And it'll be fine. And, and you can try it out or, you know, if, if you don't want to watch the video of us trying to prompt an to do stuff, did a great job on
Doc Searls (00:59:54):
That. I, I, I'm gonna follow up to myself. I'm, I'm to so curious about this, and one of my great regrets is that I did not become as musical as I meant to be. I I almost entirely a listener, but I would love to, it's
Dan Lynch (01:00:05):
Never too late.
Doc Searls (01:00:06):
Play with it. No, it's too, it's too late. So when you got to, we've gone kinda long in the show. So what would you like to plug, Dan?
Dan Lynch (01:00:13):
I haven't got a massive amount to plug. You can check out if you go to my website, dan lynch.org, you can find stuff on there. My blog's really out of date. I need to update that. If you're in the uk, well actually now, I was gonna, wherever you are actually, I was gonna say if you're in the uk, but for everybody I'm doing a, I do a radio show now on Thursday nights which you can find I'll post the links on TWiTter and, and Master Dawn and all those sort wonderful places Wonder. But it's it's on the web. It's, it's it's also streamed on the web, so you can find it. It's a hospital radio station that I help to support as well. So I play a, a strange mixture of, of various tunes. It's called the Midweek Pick and Mix is the name of the show. So yeah, it, it's fun. So
Doc Searls (01:00:52):
A hospital radio station, meaning that a broadcast ons, you could get another FM radio or Well,
Dan Lynch (01:00:58):
Yeah, it, I don't think, I think this might be a, a purely British kind of tradition. I've mentioned it to a few friends and they were like, why do you have a hospital radio station? That doesn't make any sense. But it goes back in history over here for some reason. One of the things that, that they decided would be great for people in hospitals, which, you know, they're sitting round, they want entertainment, they want information, they want, all that kind of stuff is to have radio stations in hospitals. Yeah, so a lot of the kind of famous radio DJs and stuff over here started on hospital radio and we still have hospital radio stations. I'm
Doc Searls (01:01:29):
An old radio guy and I've never heard of it, so this is interesting to me.
Dan Lynch (01:01:32):
<Laugh>. Yeah, I don't think they do it in, in other countries. I don't know why <laugh>. There you go. So yeah, we get to, we get to play requests for people in, in the wards and, and various things. I like to make silly jokes, like, I'll, I'll play, you know, I'll say this once for everyone in the radiology department. This is Blondie with Atomic or, or something like that, you know, and that's not great joke. I'll, I, I do have some better ones, I promise. <Laugh> than that. So yeah, you can check that out. It's arrow Sound is the arrow sound as in, you know, arrow as in an arrow from a, a bow arrow. Aero sound is the name of the station. If you search Aero Sound Hospital Radio, you'll
Doc Searls (01:02:07):
Find it. We'll get that in the show notes too. Yeah. Awesome.
Dan Lynch (01:02:10):
Doc Searls (01:02:10):
Fantastic. Well, thank you everybody. Next week we have I may mangle his name, but Alex bere, I believe it is. And and he's gonna be on the show. Should be interesting. Encourage everybody to come back again next week and to watch this episode as well as listen to it because yeah, it was instructive and thanks a lot. We'll see you all next time.
Ant Pruitt (01:02:34):
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