TIL There's a Microtonal Synth in My Browser!

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Scheduled: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 from 2:30 – 3:15pm in B204


Did you know there's a digital sound synthesizer in your browser? There is! It's called the Web Audio API and it's accessible from any JavaScript library or framework. I'll show you how I hacked Web Audio to make microtonal music in the browser.


I’ve long been a fan of microtonal music, especially that of Harry Partch, who used a just intonation scale with 43 unequal tones to the octave.

There are plenty of JavaScript libraries for accessing Web Audio, but most of them cater only to the conventional Western twelve-tone equal-tempered scale. Microtonal musicians get around this on conventional MIDI-driven digital synths by using semi-ugly hacks involving pitch bend and channel hopping.

But Web Audio is fully programmable – it’s JavaScript code! I’ll show you how I hack some JavaScript Web Audio libraries to synthesize music using the Partch scale in the browser.


javascript, digital sound synthesis, web audio, microtonal music, Harry Partch, WebAssembly

Speaking experience

I've been speaking since I was a child. ;-) But seriously, I used to give sales presentations and demos for high-performance computing, I was on Jeopardy! and I was in 25 plays when I was a graduate student - in applied mathematics.

Oh, yeah - and I was a speaker last year at Open Source Bridge: http://opensourcebridge.org/sessions/1786