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NoiseCraft

NoiseCraft is a work in progress, and we are looking for contributors to help build and debug it :)

NoiseCraft is an open source, visual programming language and platform for sound synthesis and music making, with the goal of creating a community for the open exchange of musical ideas. The design is loosely inspired by PureData, Max/MSP as well as other visual programming languages. NoiseCraft is built on technologies such as the Web Audio and Web MIDI APIs, and runs in a web browser. The plan is for the app to remain free to use and ad-free for the foreseeable future.

You can try NoiseCraft at noisecraft.app, and browse projects shared by other users at noisecraft.app/browse. Currently, this works in Chrome, Firefox and Edge but not reliably in Safari due to issues with their web audio implementation. Please note that NoiseCraft is a passion project and a work in progress. You may run into bugs, and support for mobile devices is currently lacking.

Design

Design principles:

  • NoiseCraft follows a minimalistic philosophy:
    • No web frameworks, just plain JS/HTML/CSS
    • Intentionally keep dependencies to a minimum
    • Prioritize features the users need
    • Avoid redundant features and feature creep
  • In terms of user interface design:
    • Minimize the learning curve and reduce friction
    • Keep the user interface simple and uncluttered
    • Avoid drop-down menus and hidden options if possible
    • Use key combos and controls that will likely seem familiar to most users
    • Avoid ambiguity, use known/existing terminology wherever possible
  • Visual programming language design:
    • There is only one data type: floating-point numbers
    • There is no distinction between control signals and audio signals
  • Practical considerations:
    • Avoid images and sound samples to keep bandwidth/server costs low
    • Avoiding sound samples also forces people to think about how to generate sounds

NoiseCraft uses a multi-page design, as opposed to a single-page app. This means the New, Help and Browse links open new tabs. This helps users avoid accidentally losing their work when clicking other tabs, and makes it possible for us to send new users direct links to the /browse and /help pages, for example.

The user interface uses an immediate-mode GUI. That is, the UI gets redrawn every time an action is performed on the model. This makes it trivial to implement features such as undo/redo, because we can simply store copies of previous project states. It also reduces the coupling between the UI and the model. In practice, caching is used to avoid redrawing the entire user interface for every single state change.

Audio is produced by the AudioView class (see public/audioview.js), which is updated when state changes occur in the model. This compiles the audio graph into JavaScript code that can then be run in a background process (an AudioWorklet). We only use the web audio API to output sound, not for sound synthesis. This helps us guarantee that the sound produced for a given project will be the same on any browser or device.

Project files are saved in an easy to parse JSON format (.ncft), which could allow external tools to eventually be built. For example, it's possible to imagine that NoiseCraft projects could be compiled into VSTs.

Contributing

We're more than happy to accept bug fixes. However, we want to avoid growing the functionality of NoiseCraft too fast, and we strive to minimize dependencies and overall complexity. As such, we're going to be be conservative about the additions to the project that we accept. If you would like to contribute new features or major changes to the codebase, please open an issue to discuss the proposed changes first, or comment on an existing issue. Some of the contributions we're the most likely to accept are bugfixes. Helping us track and eliminate bugs is a very useful contribution.

Development Setup Instructions

We recommend developing using the Chrome web browser because it has the most mature web audio implementation and has been the most extensively tested. We are waiting for a Firefox bug to be fixed, and we've run into issues with the Safari web audio and pointer capture implementation.

Installing dependencies:

# Install nodejs and npm
# Use apt-get on Ubuntu/Debian or brew on macOS
sudo apt-get install -y nodejs npm

# Update npm
sudo npm install -g npm

# Install the dependencies for this project
npm install

To start the server locally:

node server.js

NoiseCraft is then accessible at http://localhost:7773/

To run tests locally:

node tests.js

Running using Docker

To run the NoiseCraft server using Docker please follow these steps:

# Build docker NoiseCraft image
docker build . -t noisecraft

# Start docker NoiseCraft container
docker run -p 7773:7773 -d noisecraft

NoiseCraft is then accessible at http://localhost:7773/

Server Configuration Parameters

The server can be configured using the following environment variables:

Config Variable Default Value Description
DB_FILE_PATH ./database.db SQLite file path
HTTP_PORT_NO 7773 HTTP server port number