November 8th & 9th, 2024
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SeaGL speaker Q&A: Aaron Wolf

SeaGL speaker Aaron Wolf talks about making music with free/libre/open tools:

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

I’m a musician and music teacher. I used to use Apple computers and was introduced to software freedom as a user of GPL software such as Musescore and Audacity. As more of my students started using iThings, I initially hoped to see such tools there. Instead, I learned that Apple made terms that censored out GPL software, and instead iThings were left with a proprietary walled-garden where even a simple guitar tuner app gets injected with obnoxious advertisements.

I switched to GNU/Linux in January 2012, and that brought me tons of new perspectives and led to co-founding an ambitious new project that has taken over my life: is a free-software, free-culture fundraising platform that aims to better coordinate the global community to fund deserving projects that respect our freedoms. The core idea is a network-matching pledge in which a patron of a project can say “I will donate more each month for each additional patron who will support this project with me.” The details are a talk in itself, but interested folks can visit the site at

I continue using GNU/Linux while making a modest living teaching private music lessons. Where feasible, I promote the issues of software freedom to my students and encourage them to move to GNU/Linux.

Q: Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

My talk will simply be a tour through the basics of music production on GNU/Linux. We’ll cover basics about hardware setup, latency, JACK, ALSA, and such. I’ll mention repos and community websites. Then, we’ll explore some simple introductions to the most user-friendly music software: Audacity, Ardour, Musescore, Guitarix, Hydrogen, the Cadence Suite, and more. We’ll be making some new music on the fly to demonstrate these tools.

Q: Is this your first visit to SeaGL? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

This is my first visit to SeaGL. I expect it will be something like LinuxFest Northwest with a little more emphasis on GNU. I know many of the people involved.

I hope that it will attract diverse attendees both in terms of things like gender and cultural background and in terms of interests and occupations. However, I won’t be surprised if there’s the common unfortunate heavy white male programmer / sysadmin dominance — after all, it’s a GNU/Linux conference. I also hope that the emphasis on software freedom and GNU bring out clear political messages about the importance of building a free society rather than the typical tech conference focus on just the technology itself.

Besides my talk, I look forward to continue recruiting more folks to help with, and I’m sure I’ll see a mix of familiar faces and also meet new supportive people.