Radiophonic workshop thoughts (and incredible Web Audio API)

I’ve pondered a while over where this post belongs, but I think Process is most apt.

I don’t know how long this has existed - I get the impression it has been literally years - but I only discovered it today and I was absolutely stunned by how fantastic it is as a learning tool (both for schools and also for individuals of all ages).

The BBC Research & Development department (Internet Research & Future Services (IRFS)) did some incredible work on recreating the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop using the Web Audio API. To quote them directly:

Explore the BBC sound of the 1960s with our 4 demos of Radiophonic equipment, built with the Web Audio APIstandard. Each demo comes with commented code, so you can learn how to build your own audio applications.

There’s a great and very informative blog post here

Try it out here:

Now, the reason I’ve linked directly to the Tape Loop element as opposed to the other 3 equally fantastic aspects of the page is that it ties in with something I’ve been thinking about for ages in terms of my own compositions.

I’ve experimented with loop-based music using loops which are in the same tempo but which have differing bar lengths, so that the composition is varied and different elements hit at different points in an elongated cycle (the drums may be on a 2 bar loop, for example, but the bassline could be 4 bars, some bads may be 6 bars etc.). More interesting results seem to arrive when using odd numbers of bars in each loop.

This is straight forward enough and can be easily achieved in a DAW for example.

The second branch of experimentation was more tricky to create within a single session and prompted me to have to create a multitude of sessions which were mixed down and recreated in a master session. This related to time signatures, where I would create sounds in different signatures (but the same BPM) and put them together in a single creation in order to create complex polyrhythms in a relatively simple fashion).

The third experiment - which relates directly to the tape loop example - was to take a number of loops and play them at different tempos. For a long form piece these loop BPMs can be relatively abitrary, but for a piece which loops within itself (let’s say a piece which is a minute long, but wherein all loops return to “the” (or “a”) start at the end of the minute) is obviously trickier and requires using a range of BPMs which are complimentary - having common time-based occurences in terms of where bar ends/beginnings occur.

The question I’m puzzling on is:

Is there some way of doing the latter 2 experiments within a single DAW or device? Is this something that Mozaic - Scriptable iOS midi plugin could achieve, perhaps?


this older thread holds some potential solutions: Implementing a minimal asynchronous multitrack looper in hardware


Dear gods, that’s lovely!

I was part of the team that made this at the BBC - I just wanted to say thank you for your kind words, we had a lot of fun making it and meeting some of the people originally involved with the Radiophonic Workshop. It was also great to be involved with the early standardisation of the Web Audio API. I’m happy you enjoyed it!


Chris, it’s absolutely fantastic! My words were most certainly not hyperbole & I’ve used the pages to explain concepts to others that I’ve totally failed to accurately convey using different means!

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