"Classic" laptop computer music patches and software


For a while I’ve been very interested in the “classic” laptop computer music era, 90s/early 2000s, and the software and techniques used.

At the end of last year, I got a link to a Supercollider 2 patch, Bhob Rainey’s Xynthi, made to ‘emulate’ the EMS Synthi. It didn’t run on anything past OSX 10.5 or something, so I had to get an old 2001 Powerbook and install an OSX 10.3.something and the last version of OS9 just for fun. Xynthi is wonderful. Without a doubt worth getting a Powerbook for. A year on and I still use it quite often. I cannot stress how much I like it. And it looks like you’re playing minesweeper while using it.

That just made me curious. What other abandoned software and patches are out there, half-forgotten? Someone must have saved all those odd patches that were maybe passed around between laptops. I’d love to try them.

I signed up for the macos9lives forum, will have a deep dive soon.

The Curtis Roads software is usually worth a shot, the Pulsar Generator has been revamped by Marcin Pietruszewski with guidance from Roads. It’s a fantastic piece of software.

Since then I’ve tried a handful of things for OS9 unfortunately most doesn’t run that well. Just today I tried to get lloopp running on OS9, Max/MSP 4 runtime, but it runs out of memory after only opening 3-4 objects and freezes the whole laptop. Not that I need to run lloopp, I’ve got ppooll running fine on Max 8 on my 2012 laptop, but there’s without a doubt a different set of objects available that I’d like to try.

I remember seeing this post some years back.

So if anyone has got any interesting Max/PD/Supercollider/other patches lying about, please do share them.

Let’s all buy Powerbooks and make antiquated laptop music and trade cd-r albums. I’d wish Bandcamp would introduce a TRADE option for getting physical releases. You get my album of laptop music if you send me your album of laptop music.

All the best.


this thread makes me suddenly think of Supercollider3d5.1(the experimental version between SC2 and SC3 proper which had some video-synthesis in it):

but i think one of my favorites of all time was ‘soundhack’… there’s the source-code here:

Akira Rabelais(a brilliant artist in his own right - i often think of him when i think of the music-software dev world of the 90s…although he broke out in a different direction he was still based in L.A. around then with the laptop scene booming in Echo Park, if i recall correctly…), has made a software called “Argeïphontes Lyre” which (i think) he designed based on SoundHack code(he was taught by Tom Erbe(developer of SoundHack and ErbeVerbe, etc.) at CalArts), and it is a brilliant work of art by itself as well… it has been updated(just this year actually), but still retains the old flavor… and the rest of his entire site is worth exploring:

Now this is a good idea for a thread… I don’t go pre-os x, but I do have a fairly old Mac still going (snow leopard I think). Interested in opening up what typically used to be just described as ‘computer music’ or ‘laptop’ without further elaboration. I wonder how much can still be run, or reasonably recreated

Awesome idea for a thread!

Reading the first post reminded me of Metasynth. Looks like they’re working on a current OS X compatible version. I know most of the features are now in a host of others, but I do have a nostalgia bug for it. The Image synth blew my mind the first time I saw it.


I like all his work to one degree or another, but Akira Rabelais’ first couple on Ritornell are so good! I never really messed around with his software. Might give it a whirl now…thanks!


This is actually an area where Csound excels. They’ve done a reasonably good job at preserving backwards compatibility. Several pieces from 30+ years ago are still playable with only minor modifications to the code.

Notable examples include “Trapped in Convert” (1979/1997) by Richard Boulanger and “Xanadu” (1988) by Joeseph T Kung. Both are used as test patches in Csound, and still work to this day in the most recent build of Csound.

MUSICN patches have been ported to Csound since they are syntactically very similar, so some things span even further into the past. I know there are a few ports of Jean-Claude Risset’s instruments. This project popped up when I did a quick internet search, and claims to have ports of instruments from as early as 1969.

The Csound Catalogue is bound to have some old (ahem, “classic”) stuff too.


i’m in the process of standing up HMSL and a suite of other midi and editing junk on a system 7 powerbook, and i was just trying to figure out what to do with with the os 9/x powerbook i got to make time traveling easier; so this thread has uncanny timing.


Technically still current but a lot of very old code…

Listen to any Trevor Wishart piece and hear it at work. I still keep old laptops for Curtis roads stuff.

This is now a vst it seems but was an old classic.


Soundhack is great, yeah. Got the old software loaded up on my 2012 macbook and it works fine.

I read this yesterday: http://tokyodross.blogspot.com/2020/06/an-afternoon-with-jim-orourke.html

O’Rourke says “(…) There’s also certain things about the OS9 system. I’m not that talented on the programming end to be able to tell you exactly why. I know a lot of people still make their music on OS9, just because there’s certain software that’s part of their sound.”

Would love to hear from people who might still be doing their work in OS9.
Kevin Drumm has this thing where he, from what I can gather, write jokey studio names for some Bandcamp releases. Such as “recorded at can-I-keep-warm-if-I-light-this-thinkpad-on-fire studios” and “the OS9 dungeon”. I wonder if it’s old SC2 patches he still uses. Who knows.

CDP I’m a huge fan of as well, even if it is kind of clunky on Mac. Great manipulation possibilities.


Which MacBook are you running synthi on? On my pizmo its layout gets scrambled. I guess a bigger screen is necessary and I did not find a way to adjust it.
I love soundhack and AL, if I had any patience and brain for getting into supercollider and lua, I’d try to port stuff like synthi to norns. Obviously you would need a good midi controller.
Probably easier to try similar things on the Clavia g1.

A Titanium 800mhz Powerbook. Apparently from 2002. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen a screenshot of it running on a Pismo without any scrambling.

The readme file for Xynthi from 2006 says “oh, but don’t email me feature requests or bug reports unless they come with a truck full of gold bricks”. I can only imagine he’s not at all interested in doing any work on so many years after. Must have been a pain in the ass to port over to SC3.

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Yeah, I saw that read me file… quite fair I would say.
I cannot pin it down as it is not a synthi clone per se but I really love that sound that this sc patch has, so I have not ventured into trying to replicating it with other tools at my disposal. My girlfriend has a Powerbook with a broken trackpad, so it is probably the effort/cost of fixing that versus getting one on local Ebay for 50 EUR…
(the latter might be cheaper… my Pizmo ram battery is dead and I got the replacement parts but cannot find the pram “holder” anymore (cats!??)… then again always starting in 1970 is not so much of a bother to me) or as you hint at: looking at some graphic settings on the G3 (I think I tried that but…).

I had a lot of fun with Coagula. May even have found out about it in the old monome forum.


Just installed Granulab VST :partying_face: Thanks for the link

Had not previously seen this interview (not the transcript anyway, I read the Wire feature at the time), thank you! Long Jim interviews are gold to me.

Keith Fullerton Whitman goes into quite a bit of detail on his Playthroughs max patch here, including a screengrab of the patch itself. I’m sure there’s a video on YouTube somewhere of him talking it through as well, which I’ll look for later


I still do all my mastering transfer and capture in Audiomulch, if that counts. Been using it for about twenty years. Might be forced to move on soon if it doesn’t get an update though, as so many plugins are now only released in 64 bit versions.

I did loads of music in Mulch too, around 2002-2009, great fun for experiemntal feedback patches, with the matrix mixers etc.


I’ve gotten Curtis Roads’ Cloud Generator working on a sheep shaver instance with my Mac:

The ‘unix’ folder linked up to my desktop and I copied the app from there into OS9.

Doesn’t really work too well with some other stuff, but worth a shot with older software.


Thanks for this.

SheepShaver - sounds like a harsh noise wall project waiting to happen…


Not OS9 software, but this is worth a try. https://notam.no/prosjekter/mammut/
I’ve had some good use of it. Sure looks antique.