Leierkasten in Kurts Homepage in the World Wide Internet


How to get the Leierkasten


Leierkasten is the german word for barrel organ or hurdy gurdy. It is a computer program I developed for playing around with music. I've given it the name "Leierkasten" because of it's monotonous kind of playing some programmed songs.

You must know, I am a computer guru, but not a musician. I can't play a keyboard, but I am good at programming. So there was a time, I was interested in making music and playing around (only for my own ears).

So I bought a keyboard (I chose the Roland E-15 for it's fantastic real piano sound) and tried all the funny keys. Because I am not able to play real songs on a keyboard, I don't see much use for one of the thousand sequencers. It is tedious to type in all the notes of a song, if you can't play them in a reasonable time on the MIDI keyboard.

I decided to go another way and developed a new programming language that is specialized in describing musical songs. The Leierkasten is a program that compiles Leierkasten files into standard midi files. In an interactive mode it interpretes the files and sends the output direct in real time to the midi port.

The language knows many commands to create and modify the music, like setting the volume or any other controller. But the most important command ist the command "play". It generates notes which are played through the midi port of your computer or stored in a standard midi file. So, the command

play c e g c+;
plays the four notes c, e, g and another c, shifted one octave.

The programming language has some interesting features that makes it strong in some way:

  • It is easy to use. It is more like HTML as like Basic.
  • It has multi tasking. There can be several processes, which play melody and accommodation and the drums independently, but of course synchronously.
  • Elements of structured programming (conditions, loops, subroutines, local variables) allow to write readable Leierkasten files.
  • There are no object oriented elements in the language.
  • There are messages for process communication.
  • There are events from outer space (MIDI input, keyboard strokes, mouse movement etc.) in interactive mode to use the Leierkasten as programmable instrument.

    So to be honest, the Leierkasten is not for musicans, but only for programmers.


    If you like, you can see an example file. The Leierkasten file "In the Cave" demonstrates some elements of the programming language.

    And if you like again, you can even hear an example file. The standard midi file "In the Cave" is generated with the Leierkasten.

    But don't expect too much. As I already mentioned, I am not a musician. And I am not talented to create new music. But I have tried, and in my own way, I am a little proud of my music. So don't hesitate any longer and get the standard midi file "In the Cave".

    In the Cave was developed on my keyboard Roland E-15. It is a General System Keyboard, so the MIDI file should be able to be played on any General Midi Player. Even a Soundblaster in General Midi Mode should do for the beginning. Oh, no! I just tried my Soundblaster 16 under Windows. It was terrible. But I don't even have a wavetable upgrade, I used the FM mode.

    So how to get the Leierkasten itself?

    It's simple. Send me a mail. It is available as an executable for DOS (using the MPU-401 MIDI interface) and in an older version for Atari-TOS. Sources in C are available.

    If there is enough folk out there and asking for the Leierkasten, I may even consider to posting it into the usenet or onto some anonymous FTP servers. But I can imagine that nobody can be seriously interested in that bulky concept of the Leierkasten. In the unlikely case that you be interested in the Leierkasten or the even more unlikely case that you have heard my song "In the Cave" at least three times, feel free to send me a mail to kurt-stege@online (Kurt Stege).

    But beware and be warned. The sources and most of the documentation, if any, are written in german language.

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    © 1996-2000 Kurt Stege

    Stand: 07.06.2000