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saugns is the Scriptable AUdio GeNeration System, the implementation of the SAU language (Scriptable AUdio). The project website has more on them.

SAU is a simple language for mathematical audio synthesis, without support for using pre-recorded samples. See the README.SAU for the current details, or a more how-to language web page covering the main features.

While the language is still primitive relative to the goal (a useful language for writing electronic music), it makes it simple to experiment with sounds and soundscapes. An arbitrary number of audio generators of the types provided can be used, and combined with various types of modulation.

The program reads SAU (Scriptable AUdio) files or strings, and can output to system audio, a 16-bit PCM WAV file, and/or stdout (raw or AU, for interfacing with other programs). Basic usage information is provided with the -h option. More can be found in the man page and on the usage web page.

Tested mainly on x86 and x86-64. Comes with support for running on DragonFly, FreeBSD, Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. The following audio systems are expected:

OS Supported APIs
DragonFly OSS
OpenBSD sndio


The example scripts under examples/ use most features; beyond playing them, a Makefile in that directory allows bulk-rendering (by default to MP3s) using the SoX utility in addition to saugns. That Makefile is provided to make such things easier for your own scripts (the Makefile can be used for other paths, having a DIRS option). Apart from the DIRS default, it is the same as the Makefile provided in extra-scripts.

A limited set of scripts with pre-rendered audio is on the examples web page.

Building and installing

Building requires a C99 compiler toolchain, running make, and having some GNU or BSD tools. There is no "configure" step.

On Linux distributions, the ALSA library (libasound2) or a '-dev' package or similar for it may possibly need to be installed for building to work. In the cases of the 4 major BSDs, the base systems have it all.

A simple test after building is the following, which should play a sine wave at 440 Hz for 1 second: ./saugns -e "Wsin".

Running make install will by default copy saugns to /usr/local/bin/, and the contents of doc/ and examples/ to directories under /usr/local/share/. The BSDism is to place examples under a "share/examples/" directory, but such are often missing on Linux.

Files under share/ Description
doc/saugns/ Version history.
doc/saugns/ This file.
doc/saugns/README.SAU SAU language reference.
examples/saugns/ Example scripts, if "share/examples/" exists.
saugns/examples/ Example scripts, the fallback location.

A make uninstall removes the added saugns binary and share/ subdirectories. It's recommended before installing a new version, for a consistent file set.

After installation, man saugns should give basic usage information and point to the share/ files. Without installing, try man ./man/saugns.1.


saugns is Copyright (c) 2011-2014, 2017-2024 Joel K. Pettersson. As a whole it is distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), version 3 or later. See the files COPYING.LESSER and COPYING for details, or

All the source files outside the sau/ library directory (and some inside) are licensed under more permissive terms, such as the ISC license (2-clause-BSD-equivalent), or the 0BSD license (public-domain-equivalent shorter version); see the heading comment text of source files.

The example and test scripts included as input for the program are (unlike other potential works) meant for study and copying from. Feel free to copy from them for your own scripts without any attribution or licensing text. If that's not enough in the future, WTFPL and/or a Creative Commons license could be used.


Included documentation files (man page, this and others placed under doc/) are written by Joel K. Pettersson and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. These files are maintained and provided in parallel with the website.


Bug reports are very welcome, with or without fixes. Many bugs could have been fixed much sooner if only they had been found earlier.

General feedback, ideas, and proposed changes are also welcome. I'm open to extending and reworking the SAU language, though features will always be limited, and I prefer changes providing much with little.


Scriptable AUdio GeNeration System - implements the SAU language. Mirror of the repository on Codeberg.




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