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It was a warm but very wet last afternoon of May on the south coast when I (Samuel Halligan AKA Fingers Push Buttons) was joined by intrepid young digital sound  pioneers in the  DLWP Studio in Bexhill on Sea. Our successful mission was to gain an introduction to the audio possibilities of the Raspberry Pi computer platform and become Digital Sound Makers. We would achieve this  by constructing Raspberry Pi computers right out of the 100% recyclable boxes with the excellent Pisound audio hat by blokas.io and then  start making noises from a choice of programming and patching platforms. I am very proud of this group of mixed ages (11- 19) that they all achieved this goal.

As a practitioner of community music for the last 11 years I have got plenty of experience of helping people make music for the first time, but this session’s experience was something of a departure. We would explicitly be computer programming sound as apposed to just using computer programs to make sound. The aim being to build our own instruments and effects out of computers. Whilst I have had plenty of experience modifying and creating digital tools for music making, in particular for special needs students, I had never taught computing before.

As first experiences go though this was great for me, all of the young people completed two core session goals namely setting up their computer’s hardware and software and creating devices with which to make and mangle audio using either Pure Data or MODEP. Along the way there were a few bumps and hiccups getting things to run properly but this was exactly the intended experience  allowing us to learn about trouble shooting, fault finding and fixing that is an essential skill for computer programming. By the end of the session we had built two mono synths and a guitar effects rig. As well as what they had achieved in the session three of the young people attending said they would dig out Pi computers they owned but didn’t use in order to to start making sound with them and a further two (and their parents) enquired about replicating the exact setup we used in the session at home (so look out blokas.io and thepihut.com I think you might have some orders coming your way). I feel always that sessions have worked well when students go away as they did here inspired to further engage with the subject.

Unfortunately a quick internet search will show you that ‘open to the public’ opportunities to engage with the subjects of computing with Raspberry Pi and/or creating digital sound from a programming perspective are not currently abundant across the southeast of England. However for myself I come away from this sessions experience armed with ideas for tweaks and improvements for my next opportunity to present  a full day or half day of Digital Sound Makers activity as well all the equipment I need to run it and I can’t wait to do it. I can not levy enough praise to DLWP and blokas.io for making this one possible

For any group or individual or school, college or university interested in booking sessions in programming for music and sound then please contact me on fingerspushbuttons@gmail.com or via my web page fingerspushbuttons.com.

 If you are an experienced Raspberry Pi instructor of any creative background and are looking for opportunities in South East England I would love to talk to you about the potential to set up a network of well co-ordinated events to improve the landscape for learning computing for the arts in the region in the near future.

 For the attendees of this session I will be making some additional resources available on my website over the next 7 days, please check at www.fingerspushbuttons.com. This will include a recap of the session activities and some additional information including full instruction for how to get the ‘Organella’ synthesiser’s   open source Pure Data patches to run on your Raspberry Pi.

By Samuel Halligan, Fingers Push Buttons

Posted by Tara Neville on Wednesday 13 June 2018