Using SC as a statement?


I discovered SuperCollider recently through a podcast and have been amazed by its possibilities! Seeing also how active the community is makes it even more inspiring, even for a newbie like me.

The question I have, however, is more driven by my work in sociology than SC in itself. In the podcast where I discovered SC, the artist was mentioning how using it was also a kind of statement. The coding-interface, first, which led the artist to focus on the sound rather than artificial visual representations of it. Then, and I assume this links to open-source philosophy altogether, the use of SC as an attitude towards/against consumerism, industry standards and (sometimes too extreme) fetishisation of gear.

I thought this was a very interesting and engaging perspective, which leads me to the question (finally, sorry for the long introduction…): how do you see this? Would you agree that using SC also brings more to the table? Do you make similar observations, or have other experiences about it?

I would be happy if some of you would be willing to share their views :slight_smile: Oh, and of course, no judgement here, just an interest in what open-source might represent for music production.


hi dylan, thanks for your answer.

The podcast is called “Nuts and Bolts” and it was the episode with composer and musician Maria W Horn (S2, E2), who uses SC amongst other tools. She shortly notes that using SuperCollider can become political. And I thought that idea very interesting, which also explains why I wanted to ask.

Below is her latest release, which I like very much!

Yes, exactly! And that’s what fascinates me in a way.


I’m teaching SC as part of the sound synthesis course in a computer music curriculum within a music university. As an institute we try to encourage the use of open source software.

For emerging artists it is a must to question every kind of unreflected use of tools as well as it is a must to reflect standards, consumerism, habits of tradition and forms in general and to understand them from a historical perspective. Under these premises the use of open source software gives an enourmous freedom to explore the subject (music, sound, related). That’s a political implication, though one that comes from field itself.

But also worth to be noted that the most flexible tools are themselves leading to certain ways of working and fetishisation can happen with open source also. Personally I have no problem to buy a commercial software if it fits certain needs better than an open source alternative.

And as avoidance of fetishisation of formal languages is essential in the arts (here I don’t mean programming languages but artistic stereotypes), we have two kinds of critical viewpoints, that are not necessarily linked: you can also do unconventional things with conventional tools and vice versa.

When listening to music I don’t mind which software, open source or not, has been used (or if it uses software at all). I prefer to hear something that’s fresh in whatever way, no matter how it has been made.



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Another angle on this: the “user-serviceability” of open source software helps to bring digital tools back in line with the expectations that many musicians and audio engineers have traditionally had regarding the longevity and repairability of their equipment. While that obviously has a political dimension to it, it’s also huge from a purely pragmatic standpoint.

I’ve never thought of using SC as a “statement”, I just want to use the best tool for the job (although I must admit after using supercollider for a few years now, I’ve probably done some things in it that could also be done in other environments, but I’m too lazy to leave my comfort zone).

Some things that are easy in supercollider would be much more difficult to achieve in a general-purpose programming language, and downright impossible to achieve in digital audio workstation types of tools. I also like how I can change supercollider internals to suit my needs (I did this a few times already).

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Then, and I assume this links to open-source philosophy altogether, the use of SC as an attitude towards/against consumerism, industry standards and (sometimes too extreme) fetishisation of gear.

Ever since I started using SC, I’ve been very interested in live performance and almost not at all interested in hammering down fixed-media recordings for distribution. That has probably been to the detriment of my musical career, but it’s also honest, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Sometime in the last year or two, especially as my SC-based live coding system has matured, it occurred to me that I might have been subconsciously a/ resisting commodification and b/ responding to the way that nearly cost-free distribution of data-compressed digital media has – let’s be honest here – reduced the value of music in the marketplace to near zero.

That is, a recording made using SC has not much monetary value. Neither does a performance done using SC, necessarily – but recordings are plentiful, and the opportunity to hear a specific performance in person, at the time, is scarce, and therefore precious in a way that the recording might not be.

That’s not saying anything about SC specifically as a tool. I have a feeling that SC supports me in this outlook more than, say, Ableton Live would, but maybe I’m just imagining that.

I wouldn’t say that SC code necessarily makes one more creatively free. When I’m designing sounds with SC, I often find myself constrained by what I know of synthesizer design (whereas I’ve stumbled onto more interesting, crazier sonic results by messing around in the TX Modular system for SC). It may sometimes be more useful to set up a field of sonic possibilities (or, let someone else set up the field) and move within that field, rather than to try to eliminate the idea of boundaries altogether. (If you think you’ve eliminated boundaries, you might be trapped within boundaries you either can’t or choose not to see.)