LAC14 Interview Series #4: Frank Neumann

LAC14 Interview Series #4: Frank Neumann

The LAC14 interview series is a series of short interviews with people who are and have been involved with the LAC throughout the years. Find all posts in the series on this link.
lac2014-frank-neumann

Hi Frank! Could you give a brief introduction to who you are, where you’re from and what projects you are involved with in Linux audio?

Hi. My name is Frank Neumann, age 45. While I was born in north Germany (near Hamburg), I decided to move to Germany’s southwest (near Karlsruhe) after I had finished computer science studies, back in 1999.
I’m working at Intel as software integrator. Fortunately my paid job and hobbies overlap a little nowadays (both are Linux based), so that I can use some of my work knowledge at home, and vice-versa.


At home, I have started working with Linux pretty early, around 1994, on a Commodore Amiga (Linux/m68k), later on to be replaced by standard PC hardware. I was always interested in music, and especially computer music, so I decided at some point that I would like to start making music on a computer too. That was when I moved to Karlsruhe, so ever since I have been pursuing the plan of creating my own music.

These plans have not evolved terribly much since (“the path is the goal”, right? :-), but I am confident that some day I’ll be able to hand my mum a CD for Christmas or birthday with my own music on it. It will be something in the ChillOut direction – perhaps a weird mix of Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Schiller, Jean-Michel Jarre, Blank&Jones.

Projects I have been involved in..hm.. For a while I used to be somewhat active on the LAD/LAU and MusE mailing lists, providing tiny patches to the MusE author every now and then. Later on I moved to qtractor and in general Rui Capela’s Q* stuff, and I report bugs or even file tickets every once in a while. Rui loves me for that, I am sure ;-).

My own projects – hm. Mostly very unfinished or buggy stuff that’s not really worth mentioning. The only program one might call somewhat usable is a tool (“lakai”) to transfer samples and patch data between an AKAI sampler and a PC equipped with a SCSI card (hey, anyone remember these beasts? :-). The only public release of that tool was around 2005, and it has been dormant ever since (just like the sampler itself). I guess the golden era of dedicated hardware samplers is kind of over today :-).

Projects I use or at least follow are, as said, all of Rui Capela’s Q* stuff, linuxsampler, software synths like ZynAddSubFX/Yoshimi, LADSPA and LV2 plugins etc. Oh, and I love grabbing sample collections off the web. Lately, I have started into creating sfz-based mappings for such sample libraries.

I guess regarding “visibility” on Linux Audio mailing lists you can safely consider me as invisible nowadays – I used to post more often, but the mix of a somewhat tough job, desire to use my spare time wisely and a high degree of longing for outdoor activity (running, mountainbiking, hiking, climbing trees) has substantially reduced my mailing list or chat activity. I am still alive, though :-).

 

When was the first time you attended LAC, and what was that like?

Well, I guess (he says with a bit of pride in his voice ;-) that I am one of the 3 founders of LAC back in 2003, so I am there since the very start. Before that time, I was organizing info booths with Linux Audio software at the “LinuxTag” expo, Germany’s (or even Europe’s?) biggest annual Linux event. During these info booth times, we (the people who had manned the booth for 4 days straight) noticed that we never had enough time to talk to each other or show off to each other one’s new tools/projects/musical pieces.

So the idea was born between Matthias Nagorni (original author of AlsaModularSynth, at that time employee at SuSE), Götz Dipper from the ZKM (Center for Arts and Media Culture in Karlsruhe, this year’s host of the LAC) and me to set up a developer meeting. We called it “Linux Audio Developer’s Meeting” in the first year, but noticed soon that we would have to open it up to anyone (not just the “hackers”) since the
size of the developer community was not all that big then. So, it became “Linux Audio Conference” the next year.

The first year – 2003 – was..uhm..a bit chaotic, I might say :-). We were not quite sure what direction it should take, everyone was a little unexperienced, and at the end of the first day we had a massive delay regarding the start time of the presentations. Some talks were “squeezed in” ad-hoc, so that later that day a bunch of 30 very hungry programmers were waiting to be let out to the dinner (almost 10:00PM if I remember correctly). We certainly worked on improving the schedule in the following years :-).

LAC continued to take place in Karlsruhe in 2004-2006 before it started to move around (first in Germany, then Europe, and in 2012 also for the first time in the US). That was a very good thing to happen since new hosts/organizers always give the conference a chance to grow, freshen up, improve&change. Unfortunately, the LAC in Stanford in 2012 was the only one so far I could not attend since at that time I had just begun a new job.

 

"LACs? Yeah, I've been to one or the other"
“LACs? Yeah, I’ve been to one or the other”

 

 

What’s your favourite thing about LAC, and do you have any favourite memories of past LAC:s?

The coolest thing about LAC – or any similar conferences – is certainly the synergetic effect it has when you meet in person with folks you have only mailed/chatted with before. Mailing list traffic sometimes erupts into stupid flame wars on pretty simple topics while the folks writing these emails might be perfectly “ok’ish” guys. Once they see each other, people notice that the others are also pretty standard humans, maybe just with their very own opinions. LAC can be a real “pacifier” :-).

Also, what I have really come to love is that many programmers seem to see the LAC as a kind of “deadline” to prepare updates or even initial releases of their software. Some people do the initial public presentation of their work right there, others have a nice new release tarball ready to download, others even prepare something during the conference (like 2013 in Graz when Louigi Verona composed a small dance track which used some samples he grabbed minutes before from a presentation of Rui :-)
See https://soundcloud.com/louigiverona/lac2013-tune-1

This small “flood” of software updates shortly before/during LAC makes me feel like we are actually moving people a bit with it – this is very a cool feeling, and I am watching linux-audio-announce a lot closer in the last weeks before LAC :-).

Also, the “Linux Sound Night” which is traditionally on Friday or Saturday evening and comes after the “serious” concert is simply a cool place to be. You see and hear folks using software “that you think you know how it works”, in ways that make you drop your jaws.

In 2006 in Karlsruhe, a couple of folks including Torben Hohn (gAlan) and Josh Green (sorry, “Element Green” is his name today – of Swami fame)) prepared a longish dance/trance track that was performed live including a couple of folks that would just “plug in” and add their noises.

Also, in that same year (I think..), we had a band performing live, and their music was accompanied by some visuals prepared by an Italian VJ – so, basically the sound was produced in Karlsruhe, sent across to Italiy, the VJ would create his visuals that follow the music, and would send that back to Karlsruhe where it was passed through a projector to a video wall. Jörn Nettingsmeier worked his ass off in these years to make such things happen, and they perhaps deserve the attribute “first seen/done here” which again makes me proud I could witness that :-).

Finally, there are always some bits and pieces people have prepared before LAC but are too reluctant/shy to show in public (or simply didn’t make it into the conference programme), so they only show it to you face to face when you talk them into sharing with you what they work on. Definitely a very nice secondary source of information!

Not sure if I am right here, but I’d say I hope to see/hear “something” from Nils Gey this year :-).

 

What’s your advice to a first-year attendant like me? Anything I really should keep an eye out for?

Well, here are some of my own hints for you:

– Don’t despair if some presentations leave you with a “I didn’t get an single point of that” feeling. It happens to me often, and I have learnt to ignore it :-).

– Don’t go into every presentation – the personal discussions and talks outside with a good coffee are also very valuable to create relationships, learn about unfinished but promising projects, or just hack a bit. Take your time off when you feel like it. There is no obligation to be in the presentation room all the time, of course!

– At the Sound Night this year, don’t miss “Superdirt²”! They already rocked last year’s Sound Night in Graz, and I am sure they have even more cool stuff for us this year.

– The “Lightning Talks” session this year could be fun (it’s kind of new although we have somewhat started with it already in Maynooth in 2011)

– Watch out for spontaneous “jam sessions” – last year’s “wine glass orchestra” at the Buschenschank was such a thing :-).

 

Anything else you’d like to add to this short interview?

Linux Audio has come a loong way since I started working with it in 1999 (Keywords from back then: “OSS, Jazzware, Creative Soundblaster cards with their own dedicated sample memory”).

Looking back, it’s really great to see how much has been developed and produced in the meantime. Just take a look at how many postings of “Listen to my new song/album” are there
today, and compare that to, say, 10 years ago).

Speaking for myself: For a long time, I was able to excuse my lack of musical/compositional progress by saying things like “JACK is not behaving right, the sequencer app is not stable, I don’t have enough RAM / harddisk space / CPU power yada yada”, but all of this is not true anymore today. My PC is fast enough now, well equipped, the apps are working pretty fine already, so – given, say, a few weeks of time, I guess I could also come up with something really neat. I know I have said that for years and years before, but I remain to be positive about my goals.
And, well, who knows – maybe I have something ready “just in time” for LAC2014? ;-)


Thanks for reading! Find all interviews on this link.

2 Responses to “LAC14 Interview Series #4: Frank Neumann”

  1. Bent Bisballe Nyeng

    2014-04-24T20:45:27+00:00

    I think I remember a video of this “wine glass orchestra” on youtube? But now I can’t seem to find it anywhere…

    Reply
  2. Bent Bisballe Nyeng

    2014-04-24T20:49:11+00:00

    Aah here we go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbeKqWcybH0
    “Buschenschank” was my missing keyword ;-) (thanks Frank)

    Reply

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