The “Ancient” History of RTcmix

Luke Dubois wrote a brief history of RTcmix back in the mid-1990’s, quoting from an earlier brief history of CMIX written by Brad Garton (me!). The histories are in fact still historical, but a few recent (c. 2000-2003) RTcmix events worth noting – if you are the kind that likes noting these things.

With the demise of SGI machines as a semi-platform-of-choice for the computer music community, RTcmix went into a period of ‘underground’ usage. As noted in Luke’s document, it was ported to Linux and was further developed by a core group of RTcmix users who also adopted Linux for musical work. Dave Topper and John Gibson at the University of Virginia (John is presently at Indiana University) and Doug Scott (formerly of Apple, now retired) in particular added extensive new features to the language and greatly expanded RTcmix capabilities – perl/python interface, instrument interconnecting ability, much larger instrument base, etc.

But by and large, not too many new users began working with RTcmix, primarily because we never took the time to create a coherent body of documentation. Luke, followed with additional work by Dave and John, added to the tiny existing RTcmix documentation (and much of their work has been incorporated into these web pages), but to use RTcmix you sort-of had to know how to use it already.

I was still using RTcmix a fair amount in my own musical work, but I also began to look at other languages (like JSyn, Max/MSP and SuperCollider). One of the things I didn’t like about these languages was the difficulty in incorporating them into C/C++ applications with a high degree of data-sharing. I also rediscovered how much I enjoy the straightforward algorthmic processing capabilities of RTcmix. So, with help from Doug/Dave/John, I wrote an ‘embedded’ RTcmix object to facilitate the C/C++ connection, and decided to get our documentation house in order so that others who might want a language like RTcmix could gain entry.

I had noticed that many of our students at Columbia were adopting Max/MSP as a base for their computer music operations. The Max/MSP rtcmix~ object was created to bring the Joy of RTcmix to this environment. The recent Windows XP port of this object allowed us to build an executable RTcmix for Windows without too much additional pain.

That’s the story so far. With a solid Linux version and an equally solid port to macOS (and the hybrid RTcmix-Max/MSP Windows version), we believe that RTcmix should be attractive for other programmers-musicians-audio people. Please browse through the documentation here (especially the tutorials), download and try a few instruments, join the RTcmix discussion list, etc.

We hope you find the language useful!

Brad Garton

Timeline of RTcmix Code Development