State of the Art: Linux Audio 2008, Part II

Evaluating the condition of sound and music production software.
Music Composition

Linux can claim one of the finest composition environments available to computer-based musicians, Rick Taube's Common Music. Professor Taube has maintained Common Music consistently for many years, and most recently, he has begun work on an entirely GUI-based environment (GraceCL) for the system. IRCAM's OpenMusic is another composition-centric program that will run under Linux, but unfortunately, it is maintained only sporadically.

Dedicated Distributions

Linux distributions with an emphasis on multimedia support have flourished in the past few years. Planet CCRMA, 64 Studio, JAD, Dynebolic and Musix have reduced the agonies that attend the configuration of a low-latency high-performance system. Some of those distributions include live disc images for “trying without crying”, and other systems, such as Gentoo and Ubuntu, offer specialized versions of themselves optimized for audio work.

Remaining Difficulties

Despite the many advances in the Linux audio world, some irritating difficulties remain. The mainstream distributions have not yet agreed upon a common sound server, and they may never do so. Hardware support still is disappointing, especially in the pro-audio domain, and licensing issues continue to plague some projects. Nevertheless, many difficulties have been ameliorated or done away with entirely, as developers continue to work toward greater usability on the Linux desktop.


I began working with Linux in 1995, when only a few dozen decent audio/MIDI applications existed for Linux. I'm happy that we now have such a cornucopia of programs, despite their varying quality, and I see good signs indicating continuance of many of those programs. Obvious targets for improvement include more pervasive support for JACK and the LASH session handler, standardization of the preferred sound server for normal users, and more direct driver support from hardware manufacturers. Some changes will come easily, and some will be troublesome, but it's in the nature of Linux to confront and conquer such difficulties. Meanwhile, I'm using Linux to produce my own media creations and enjoy them along with the works (commercial and otherwise) of others. Good things are happening around me now, and I see more good things coming down the road. Whatever they may be, I'll be sure to let you know about them here in the pages of Linux Journal and on

Dave Phillips is a professional musician and writer living in Findlay, Ohio. He's been using Linux since the mid-1990s and was one of the original founders of the Linux Audio Developers group. He is the author of The Book of Linux Music & Sound (No Starch Press, 2000) and has written many articles on Linux music and sound issues for various journals and on-line news sites. When he isn't playing with light and sound, he enjoys reading Latin literature, practicing t'ai chi, chasing shar-pei puppies and spending time with his beloved Ivy.


Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.


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You forgot to mention Open Sound System in your Resources sectio

Anonymous's picture

Open Sound System: