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Dr Pangloss

Apps for a better world

By Brian Eno   May 2010

Since I spend a portion of my life making music on a computer, I keep an eye on new software. Until recently it’s been fairly predictable: digital versions of existing procedures, like echo and reverberation, “dressed” to look like their analogue antecedents.

But not long ago I downloaded (free!) a group of sound-processing programs designed by the New Zealand composer Michael Norris. When you’re working digitally it’s not actually sound you’re processing, but numbers—it doesn’t become sound until it leaves your loudspeakers. Norris’s software performs mathematical operations on the numbers and the results can be relentlessly unmusical… until, after…

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