Why Ruby instead of Clojure


This is really a question for Sam I guess! I discovered sonic pi through the links from the (now defunct?) Overtone project, and was curious what motivated the switch from Clojure to Ruby for the server. To be clear, this isn’t a complaint, just curiosity.


From what I have heard Sam talk about in interviews, part of the decision was that Sonic Pi was originally made as a tool to help teach children how to code, so he wanted to choose a language that is more accessible to beginners. He also needed to be able to justify his reasoning for using something besides Python to the educational powers that be in the UK. Ruby seemed to have some acceptable selling points to pass that scrutiny.

Here are a few podcasts he’s appeared on where he talks about this in more detail.


here’s my impression of what happened:

*dance music playing in the background*

"hmmm, i know what this song needs... more cowbell, less parenthases!"

hehe, i guess that’s probably not what happened, but anyway…


dance music playing in the background

“hmmm, i know what this song needs… more cowbell, less parenthases!”

Totally not! I love lisps and I very much prefer to code in Clojure than Ruby.

The short and simple reason why Sonic Pi isn’t Clojure is that the JVM support for the Raspberry Pi 1 at the the time Sonic Pi started (~7 months after the Raspberry Pi was released) was very poor and things took a very long time to boot.

I used to be a professional Ruby programmer and Ruby didn’t suffer from any delays in booting. It is also a pretty flexible language (although nowhere near as flexible as a lisp) and is similar to Python so isn’t too alien for schools.


Ah that totally makes sense, should have been able to figure that one out. I’m a professional Python programmer, but I really like the idea of doing music in lisp, so I’m intrigued by your stack of ruby, erlang, supercollider, and C++. Supercollider is really nicely architected. I will definitely dig into the code. And probably start more threads with other questions!

Do you still work with Clojure as the algorithmic composition language (for lack of a better term for that bit) in other contexts? And have you tried it with any other lisps?

thanks, really looking forward to learning more about the project.