"RubyConf":http://rubyconf.org is only a little over 2 weeks away. Time flies! I've been doing a "series of interviews with speakers":http://chadfowler.com/rubyconf-speaker-interviews leading up to the conference. This time is "Ben Bleything":http://blog.bleything.net/. Ben is going to be speaking at RubyConf about "Ruby and Music":http://rubyconf.org/talks/83 h2. What are you currently doing with Ruby and music? This is going to be a recurring theme, so I'll get it out of the way here. I think of myself more as a toolsmith than an actual creator. I'm not doing anything with Ruby and music per se... I'm trying to create tools for other people to use. My creativity manifests in such a way that I'm actually pretty bad at creating "art". I'm a semi-failed musician, and I don't have any illusions about programming being the path to making sweet, sweet music. I just think it's an interesting problem to solve. I have this vision of showing up at RubyConf in 2010 and having people using the stuff that Giles and Yossef and myself and others create to make some rad music. h2. You spoke about Ruby and electronics last year. How did you get into electronics? What got you excited about it? I've been into electronics since I was 12 or 13. I was the kid who always took stuff apart. I started frequenting my neighborhood Radio Shack around 14, building little lighty-uppy things and noisemakers and the like. I grew bored of that pretty quickly, but I got back into it after college around the time that the Arduino came out. One of the things that draws me to programming in general is the feeling of empowerment. It's really cool to be able to make a computer do your nefarious bidding. Now apply that feeling to a physical device and you're talking about a whole different level of that empowerment. I've said before that I feel like I was born 40 years too late... that I should have been hacking in the '60s. Programming for microcontrollers is, in a lot of ways, as close as I can get to that. Starting with bare metal and building an application, even if it's as simple as blinking a light (the hello world of electronics) is deeply satisfying. h2. Being into electronics, have you ever tried to build your own electronic instrument or have the computer play a real instrument with motors? Not yet, no. Both are interesting ideas but getting close to requiring actual musical knowledge, and that's where I start to get scared :) I am playing around with hooking up video game instruments (think Rock Band and Guitar Hero) to a computer. This sounds pretty mundane, and I guess that it is... but the trick is that I'll be passing those through Ruby in order to provide the instruments with a bit more intelligence. I guess the bottom line is that I'm much more interested in building systems (hardware or software) that more experienced musicians can use as tools... which brings us back to the toolsmith point above. h2. Can computers generate beautiful music? Dance beats seem easy. What about jazz improvisations? Classical music? Pop songs? I'm sure that a computer *can* generate beautiful music, but I think it would be mostly coincidental. I'm still undecided on whether you can program a computer to *always* generate beautiful music. It surely happens by chance sometimes, though. I suspect that there's interesting results waiting down the path of doing things like markov chaining with music instead of text. Analyzing and chaining music is a significantly more complex problem than doing it with words, but my gut says with the right corpus, you could get some pretty interesting stuff. Fundamentally, though, I think music has to have soul to be truly great. I want everyone to try to prove me wrong, though! h2. Ruby, electronics, and music is a lot of ground to cover. Are you passionate and excited about anything else in particular outside of these? I'm passionate and excited about everything that catches my interest, honestly. I've just chosen not to focus any energy on anything else right now. I want to find ways to share my experience with others... to get people excited about doing the things they thought were too hard. My electronics presentation last year is a prime example of that. This stuff isn't difficult, it's just intimidating. If I can lower the barrier to entry, either by educating or providing tools, then I feel like I've done my job. I'm really hoping that my talk this year will do the same for the people interested in music.