TLWIR 16: Hydrogen, Recording Music and Red Hat’s Day

by Rex Djere on September 11, 2011

in TLWIR

In the 16th edition of The Linux Week in Review, I will shine a large spotlight on the art of music creation in GNU/Linux. This is a rapidly expanding use of the power of free software, and there are a lot of resourceful people doing great things to advance the field. I also discuss Red Hat’s big move from the its current home in Centennial Campus to a shining building in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. More importantly, I discuss how Red Hat proves that Linux can provide solutions for today’s struggling global economy. The featured stories for TLWIR edition 16 are as follows:

  • Hydrogen Brings Beats to GNU/Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, and Windows
  • Brian’s Bedroom: Recording Music With a Linux Home Studio
  • Red Hat’s Big Moving Day

Hydrogen Brings Beats to GNU/Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, and Windows

HydrogenHydrogen is a software drum machine that is developed mainly for the GNU/Linux environment. However, the developers of Hydrogen were very wise. They decided to make versions of Hydrogen for Windows and Mac OSX as well. In addition to being a Linux supporter and aficionado, I am a pretty serious musician. I have played the saxophone for several decades, and I dabble in both composing and arranging music. The main music programs that I use are Rosegarden and Denemo. I can use both programs for composition, but I prefer Denemo when I am actually printing out music scores. Rosegarden is Linux only, while Denemo exists in both Linux and Windows forms. They are both incredible packages that I rely on a lot. However, one problem that I often face with Rosegarden and Denemo is how to write the drum and percussion parts of a song. I found that a better solution is to do the drum parts of a song in a different program, and Hydrogen is one of the best open source solutions out there.

To test out Hydrogen, I downloaded the 0.96 preview release, and installed it on the Windows 7 computer in my home. Later on, I will test Hydrogen on one of my several Linux machines. Hydrogen could not be any easier to use. It has a user interface very similar to a lot of the popular music programs in release today. Creating a beat is as simple as clicking on which drum kit component you want to sound at a time in a “loop”. One you have marked where you want all of the components to sound, you simply hit the “play” button to hear the loop. It took me about 20 seconds to create a nice sounding drum beat.

Once I played around with creating my own beats in Hydrogen, the fun really started! I proceeded to search the Internet to see if I could find some interesting Hydrogen beats that others had made. One of the most impressive ones that I found was a re-creation of the classic drum solo known as the “Amen Break”. The Amen Break was a 5.2 second drum solo that was played from 1:27 to 1:33 of the song Amen Brother, performed by the Winston Brothers. The drum solo was actually played by the late Gregory C. Coleman. The 6 second snippet of music later made music history. Beginning in the 1980s, it was noticed and sample by some of the most popular hip-hop artists. N.W.A., 2 Live Crew, and Eric B and Rakim all had songs that featured the classic break. You can listen to the break here: (I recommend visiting the link with the latest version of Firefox)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/80/The_Amen_Break%2C_in_context.ogg

Anyway, I listened to the original version of the break, which I immediately recognized. Then I loaded the Hydrogen version of the Amen Break into Hydrogen, and I listened to it. The two versions sound almost exactly the same! At that instant, I knew that I had found the right software drum machine. Hydrogen is definitely powerful enough to meet my musical needs moving forward. You can download the Hydrogen Amen Break from the great GNU/Linux blog that I will discuss in a later segment of this article: Brian’s Bedroom.

Hydrogen is officially on my radar as one of the most important programs in the GNU/Linux suite.

Brian’s Bedroom: Recording Music With a Linux Home Studio

Recording Music with LinuxBrian the Lion is a blogger and an electrical engineer from South Africa. He has a great passion for creating music using Linux, specifically using Ubuntu Studio, and its associated software. As a musician myself, I find it to be a fascinating talent that Brian has: to be able to do different bits and pieces of the song creation process in various free software packages. He then seamlessly meshes all of these pieces together into a great sounding product. On Brian’s blog at http://briansbedroom.org/, he details how he uses the Jack audio connection kit software to get sound into and out of his Linux pc. He uses Ardour for playback and recording, Hydrogen for the drum beats, and then he mixes and masters the final product using Audacity. Audacity allows him to output mp3 files, ogg vorbis files, or a mastered cd. The thing that I love most about the blog is that he posts songs that he has actually created. It is great to hear the fruits of his creative Linux work.

It appears to me that Brian hasn’t been very active on his site for the last few months, but Brian’s Bedroom is a wonderful archive of information about home studio recording using GNU/Linux. I downloaded one of his Hydrogen created beats, and I immediately began to play one of the song’s that I recently composed over the top of it. This got me to thinking: might this be the future of music? Imagine this: will music creation take on the free software model in the future? I can easily imagine a scenario where a drummer in Nigeria lays down a digital beat using his electronic drum kit and then shares it via the Web. A guitarist in England listens to the beat and loves it. The guitarist lays down a nice guitar track on top of the drum beat, greatly improving it. Then, a pianist from Brazil adds a nice samba-inspired piano solo at the very top. Open source music development might just be the wave of the future.

Red Hat’s Big Moving Day

Red Hat MovingRaleigh is a beautiful city in North Carolina, about 200 miles west of the Atlantic coast of the United States. It is the second largest city in North Carolina after Charlotte, and Raleigh is the state’s capital. Raleigh is also the home of what is arguably the most successful Linux company in the world, Red Hat Inc. Red Hat will soon be moving from its current home on Varsity Drive to downtown Raleigh. Red Hat is closely associated with North Carolina State University; in fact Red Hat’s current home is in the school’s Centennial Campus. This move is a BIG deal to North Carolinians. Red Hat said that it is going to hire hundreds of additional employees following the move into the much bigger new facility. This is wonderful news, especially in these tough economic times.

Why is the Red Hat move such a big deal? Red Hat will bring its 600 employees to Two Progress Plaza, a downtown Raleigh building that it plans on renaming. Red Hat currently employs more than 2,500 people worldwide, and it plans on adding more jobs due to its red hot growth growth over the last several quarters. Red Hat plans to be moved into the new facility by 2013. The current resident in the facility, Progress Energy, is moving its employees to a another building a couple of blocks away due to a merger with Charlotte-based Duke Energy. Red Hat embodies a great trend that is being created by great software. That trend is this: free software companies that provide support services save companies money. Everyone wants to save money, so as word-of-mouth spreads the news of the free software savings, more companies sign up to become Red Hat customers. This word-of-mouth-driven growth is the engine that is pushing Red Hat’s quarter-after-quarter revenue growth. While purely proprietary software compares appear to have stalled out, the Raleigh Penguin continues to surpass profit forecasts. A bigger building will give this rapidly expanding Linux company ample room in which to grow. If President Obama’s administration really wants to fix the U.S. economy, they should take a long, hard look at what Red Hat is doing. They seem to have the right formula.

Conclusions

Music is one of the most important tools for the human psyche. Music can teach, music can heal, and music can reveal abilities in a person that they never knew that they had. GNU/Linux has all of these same qualities. When the two entities come together, the results can be breathtaking. In this week’s edition of TLWIR, I highlighted how GNU/Linux is revolutionizing how music is made. In future articles, I will discuss how GNU/Linux is revolutionizing the ways in music is delivered.

In a tough economy, Red Hat’s success demonstrates that people are tired of the old rules. They don’t work anymore. They are obsolete. Making software companies rich while your company goes broke is a failed recipe for success. Red Hat and other Linux companies like Canonical, Novell, and System 76 take a very different approach: let us find a way in which we can succeed TOGETHER. If you inspect Red Hat closely, you will see the formula that WILL work in the economy of 2050. The economy of 1990 is long dead and long gone.

Thank you for reading! I look forward to seeing you again in the next edition of The Linux Week In Review.

References

  • Amen break. (2011, August 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:22, September 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amen_break&oldid=446101135
  • Hydrogen (software). (2011, June 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:20, September 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hydrogen_(software)&oldid=432916554
  • Ubuntu Studio. (2011, August 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:21, September 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ubuntu_Studio&oldid=447160663

 

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