In TPJ #13, Sean Burke discusses his work creating an extensible composition language. As early as the late 70s, an Australian company named Fairlight built and sold a digital synthesizer called the CMI (Computer Musical Instrument). They developed a system for controlling the synthesizer that predated and had much in common with MIDI, which only appeared in 1984.

MCL is a relatively simple language that can be extended with program control statements and more, and can be generated by Perl or any other text processing system. For information about MCL, visit or

Perl has a fine history of giving new life to the best work of the past, and there's an opportunity here to draw upon trailblazing systems such as MCL.

-- Neal Morison

The author responds:

Larry Wall has often talked about Perl being eclectic (see TPJ #1), having all sorts of influences, being a Postmodern computer language, and so on. I prefer a more enjoyably menacing perspective: Perl, I say, is the Borg of computer languages. Perl programmers (ruthless drones, all of us!) scour the universe for other computer languages. Once they are found, their unique and interesting features are assimilated into the Perl Collective.

Granted, it's hard to think of CPAN, comp.lang.perl.*, or the perl5-porters list as anything like an efficient, single-minded cooperative hive mind. Maybe that's just because of a temporary shortage of mind-control implants.

But seriously, back to music: a basic issue in the design of music languages basically comes down to "beyond just being a series of notes, what is music? Is it basically intervals? themes? measures? instruments?" No single answer is completely satisfying for all purposes - the same way that there's no really satisfying-for-all-purposes answer to the question "what, basically, is the way to program? functionally? procedurally? with OOP?" Perl's answer to the latter question is to allow "multiparadigmatic" design - basically, pick and choose as you like for the problem at hand. That is also the right answer to the question about the way to design music languages, I think; and that's why I'm hoping Perl will prove to be a great language for music programming.

Hate Mail

Dear Perl Journalists:

I think the perl [sic] cadre (Wall, Orwent [sic], Torkington, Sarathy, et al.) has been subordinated.

Larry Wall is paid by Active State [sic], which is in partnership [sic] with, gulp, Microsoft. Next, I expect to see a beaten and humiliated 'Father of Perl' up at the lectern, confessing to incorrect thought, like Zinoviev at the Moscow Show Trials in 1938. Hey, why not treat us to an article about unholy union?

And your website. Ugh. It is password protected - which will cut down visits radically, as I am sure you know. Maybe I oughta tattoo It has been taken over by an anonymous corporate entity - an entity which tells me I am 'family'. Hey pop! Loan me 20 bucks!

Lies! - All lies! I better slow down, not get worked up.

I think your Summer 1999 issue is a portent of Things To Come. Dumbed-down content. Boring. No fun. A dud.

-- Steve Hall

TPJ Responds:

Larry was abducted by a secret military project known only as "Counterforce X" while flying over Roswell, New Mexico, en route to YAPC. He was melted down for his DNA, and an alien shapechanger has taken his place. (PROOF: his eyesight, once notoriously bad, is better!)

Larry can now communicate telepathically with the other abductees. This loose-knit cabal of world leaders and influence peddlers includes Bill Gates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the entire writing staff of the Teletubbies. In secret conferences held quarterly, the alien plants meet to exchange protein and recharge their death rays.

They take care of each other, which is why Larry is working for O'Reilly who are in bed with the obviously financially unjustifiable ActiveState who are a front organization for Microsoft. Bill Gates is funding Larry's 'family', his evil experiments with recombinant tropical fish and three-phase power, and his work on UTF-8. Can it be a coincidence that Klingon has its own section of Unicode?

So as the new millennium draws near, their nefarious plans are ready to hatch. The replicators are in place, the protein vats far beneath the earth's surface contain millions of larvae whose sharp teeth are already visible to the few armed guards watching their facilities. Vancouver, Mountain View, Redmond, Cambridge, and Washington D.C. form corners of a pentagram in L-space, whose center is directly over Boulder, Colorado. (Proof, at last, of what we've long suspected: Tom Christiansen is the Devil.)

When computers fail on January 1, 2000, and the world is plunged into darkness and chaos, they will act. While we humans are weak and vulnerable, they will begin unleashing their spawn upon us. For we are but food for their young. Their codename for this evil plot for world domination? Windows 2000.

Be prepared. Stockpile your arms now. Horde the water. Buy all the canned food in your local supermarket chain. (This message brought to you by Safeway. Safeway, providing food and drink to prepared militia for over sixty years.) Move to a state with no prying law enforcement officials (this message brought to you by Montana. Montana, proudly accommodating separatists and gun nuts since 1889), and buy a large ranch with clear line of fire to the boundary. Make ammunition from garlic and silver, the only known and proven anti-alien measures (this message brought to you by the Garlic and Silver Lobby, stopping aliens for over fifty years).

Oh, and whatever you do, don't use Perl! Perl is the mind control tool of the alien colonists! There are other, safer, untainted languages. I've heard good things about Python. Some say it is the white bread and vanilla ice cream of programming languages, and that must be good.

So, fellow humans, be deceived no more! There is a plot, you knew it all along. The Warren Commission was a coverup. Roswell has been the most significant center for American politics this century! You knew it! But now it's coming to a head, and you must be ready. You must gathers your weapons and open up a large map of America and ask yourself and your families:

Where do you want to go today?