I’ve been working in the Open Source community now for a long time. It all started around 2004 after I graduated from university studying Acoustical Engineering and started working in web development for a small firm. (Nothing related to music or acoustics - I know. I’ll save that for another post.) I used Red Hat 9 on my desktop and quickly moved through Fedora Core 1 to 4. It felt great. I learnt a whole lot. As I progressed, moving through Ubuntu, and starting to contribute to Open Source in general I began to love the Open Source movement. I ran Steam through on Ubuntu and generally did everything I could with free or Open Source software.

The list of accomplishments grew over the years and I can say that I have successfully;

  • Run a video channel (pre-YouTube)
  • Written technical books (“Git In The Trenches”)
  • Written and published novels (“Anji & Me” among others)
  • Designed posters
  • SFX for a short film
  • Recorded an audiobook
  • Composed music
  • Written control software for lighting systems

All of which were created with Open Source software.

Yet I always struggled when it came to making music. I could never really achieve the sound I wanted and it put me off doing it altogether. I had a few successes writing in MuseScore 3, but try as I might, I could never get things to sound how I wanted, especially when orchestra’s were involved. I wanted the next level.

I spent hours, months, and leveraged contacts at my current employer (a large Open Source company), to try to get the various tools that I wanted to use, into my operating system of choice. I worked incredibly hard against a myriad of problems, updating libraries, compiling things from source, packaging, contributing to other repositories…..it was exhausting. At the end of the day (two months), I almost broke down. I had lived and pushed and believed in the Open Source ethos for so long. How could it be failing me? I had a decision to make. What was more important to me?

“Making music was more important to me, than making music with Open Source.”
It took me a long time and in all honesty I agonised over it far more than I should have. I wanted to tell anyone who asked, that they too could make the music I had made using just free tooling. I wanted to tell them that nothing was standing in their way if they wanted to break into the world of music composition. Yet, I was fooling myself, and I would have been fooling them at the time. This was before MuseScore 4 entered on the scene, a tool that many believe is going to revolutionise the composition landscape, lowering the barrier to entry for good sounding orchestral instruments.

But. Nobody asked. I’m not sure anyone would ever have asked. And it was then that it dawned on me. The thing that was sitting right across from me for years and years, but that I had never been brave enough to admit. I was using it as an excuse, I couldn’t get the sound I wanted and there for I didn’t need to try. It was an easy excuse so that I could never fail at composing.

When I looked deep down I found the true answer. Making music was more important to me, than making music with Open Source. It was that simple. I still love Open Source software, and I will still champion it where I can. But the truth is though, we are not yet at a stage where there are the same plethora of decent sample libraries available for Linux, that are available for Windows or MacOS.

“I wanted to tell them that nothing was standing in their way if they wanted to break into the world of music composition.”
If I’m going to make music with Open Source, I want to do the whole package; from the OS up. And that’s just not possible right now, at least, not to get the sound I want to get. It took me a long time to be OK with that. It took me a long time to be comfortable enough to say; sure you may want to try to solve this huge problem with the availability of tooling in Linux, but I don’t want to. I just want to make music.

It took me a long time to get out of my own way and start making music. In the first two months of 2022 I produced 6 tracks to form the first Kintovia II EP. By the end of the year, I had also written another 3 complex pieces and composed over half the tracks to a punk album for Gut Punch Glitter. I then went on to prepare 8 more tracks for a second punk album. I had never produced that much music in my life. It was breathtakingly good fun and now I’m hooked. I wasted over a decade, probably more like two, procrastinating and hiding behind an excuse that the tools I wanted didn’t fit into my purist vision. I’m trying to do my bit though and if you want to, you can download my first Open Source VST called Musicbx33.

So if anyone asks, and they’re not going to, but if they do: This is my reason for using proprietary tooling. I’m writing this article, because perhaps you have your own hangups about writing, composing or producing music. If so, I beg you to take a look at it, long and hard. And if you can figure out what that real reason is, challenge it, wrestle with it and put it to rest. I certainly did. Then you can be free to compose your best music ever.