What is a webchuck?

Chris Chafe – cc@ccrma.stanford.edu

Stanford University
CCRMA / Music
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Ge Wang
Stanford University

Michael Mulshine
Stanford University

Jack Atherton
Stanford University

Popular version of 1aCA1 – What would a Webchuck Chuck?
Presented at the 184 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0018058

Take all of computer music, advances in programming digital sound, the web and web browsers and create an enjoyable playground for sound exploration. That’s Webchuck. Webchuck is a new platform for real-time web-based music synthesis. What would it chuck? Primarily, musical and artistic projects in the form of webapps featuring real-time sound generation. For example, The Metered Tide video below is a composition for electric cellist and the tides of San Francisco Bay. A Webchuck webapp produces a backing track that plays in a mobile phone browser as shown in the second video

Video 1: The Metered Tide

The backing track plays a sonification of a century’s worth of sea level data collected at the location while the musician records the live session. Webchuck has fulfilled a long-sought promise for accessible music making and simplicity of experimentation.

Video 2: The Metered Tide with backing track

Example webapps from this new Webchuck critter are popping up rapidly and a growing body of musicians and students enjoy how they are able to produce music easily and on any system. New projects are fun to program and can be made to appear anywhere. Sharing work and adapting prior examples is a breeze. New webapps are created by programming in the Chuck musical programming language and can be extended with JavaScript for open-ended possibilities.

Webchuck is deeply rooted in the computer music field. Scientists and engineers enjoy the precision that comes with its parent language, Chuck, and the ease with which large-scale audio programs can be designed for real-time computation within the browser. Similar capabilities in the past have relied on special purpose apps requiring installation (often proprietary). Webchuck is open source, runs everywhere a browser does and newly-spawned webapps are available as freely-shared links. Like in any browser application, interactive graphics and interface objects (sliders, buttons, lists of items, etc.) can be included. Live coding is the most common way of using Webchuck, developing a program by hearing changes as they are made. Rapid prototyping in sound has been made possible by the Web Audio API browser standard and Webchuck combines this with Chuck’s ease of abstraction so that programmers can build up from low-level details to higer-level features.

Combining the expressive music programming power of Chuck with the ubiquity of web browsers is a game changer that researchers have observed in recent teaching experiences. What could a Webchuck chuck? Literally everything that has been done before in computer music and then some.