Sculptor: A Real Time Phase Vocoder

Sculptor is a set of audio tools for Linux that manipulates spectra in real time and provides continuous audio output.

Sculptor is a package that can manipulate sound samples in potentially exciting ways. It has a front end which permits the user to perform these manipulations in real time. System-V IPC has been used to split the process into two halves which can be efficiently load-balanced on a multi-processor machine. The source code is freely available (see Resources).

Sculptor is not intended as a guide to good programming practice; in fact, some of the code is just plain ugly. Early in its development, the whole application was required to work in real time on a 386 machine without a co-processor, so some sacrifice of clarity for speed had to be made. Nonetheless, it is hoped the code might stimulate other projects in real-time audio manipulation, now that one based on a processor-intensive algorithm has been demonstrated to operate fully interactively in real time. The application is also being used to support research into computer music at the University of Leeds, and so by definition will never be “finished”.


Nick Bailey ( obtained a B.S. in Computing and Electronics from the University of Durham, England. Having worked at British Telecom Applied Technology in West London, he returned to Durham to study for a Ph.D. in the application of parallel computing to audio signal synthesis. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Leeds in Applied Computer Systems at the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, with additional responsibilities for Overseas and European Liaison. He enjoys old, unreliable, fast cars, and owns a cello, but demonstrates no discernible talent in either direction.