HPC’s Role in Defining Music’s Creation

By Antonis Karalis

December 23, 2013

“I remember I had this little computer with 16K of memory, and everyone was astonished! What was I going to do with all this memory!” Hans Zimmer around 1983.

Music and technology have been walking side by side for millenniums. Musical instruments have been following the advancements in technology. They evolved with mechanical and acoustics advancements, followed by advancements in electronics, and finally, they now transition into virtual reality, based on powerful code and efficient computational resources. History taught us that different musical instruments gave us different sound palettes and eventually different genres of music. Mastering new technologies has always helped us to develop new compositional styles, and enhance production approaches and sonics.

There are computer technologies that, as they go from one generation to the next, improve by an average factor of 2. With high performance computing and supercomputers, these improvements can actually be a factor of 10, or more. In a classic supercomputing style let’s look for things that will substantially change the way people perform their audio and music work and eventually how the audience enjoy their products.

Music and Technology – An Ancient Bond

Around the 5th century BC ancient Greeks created the Chorus, a homogeneous, non- individualized group of performers who communicated with the audience usually in song form. The Chorus originally consisted of fifty members. Tragedians, such as Sophocles and Euripides, changed this number through various experimentations. At the same time, on their quest to optimize the audience experience, the ancient architects built venues with custom designed acoustics. During the 18th Century, the chamber orchestra was found, also consisting of fifty musicians. Later, the full symphonic orchestra came along with about 100 musicians facilitated in custom-acoustic auditoriums that defined the sound of the experience. Music, orchestration and acoustics were always treated as one and there is a good reason for this.

The symphonic orchestra is truly a piece of technology: Every instrument is a different technological wonder and concert halls around the world are subjects of tremendous acoustic research. However, the most important element of an orchestra is the conductor. The conductor acts as the central piece of a very low message-passing latency and high-bandwidth fabric. The conductor is directing the musical performance in real time. This system architecture is the reason we have “Classical Music”. It became a reality based on organic nodes (human players), acoustic and physics laws and predetermined music written by the composer. The only limitations of this very advanced form of expression are that the music is already written by the composer and the acoustics are also more or less predetermined. To put that in perspective, in Jazz, the music can change in real time (improvisation) but the amount of people interacting in real time is greatly reduced.

The Time Machine

During the last 40 years, with the advancement of supercomputers and high-performance computing, we realized that we can scientifically create virtual environments, in which we can define specific questions and get answers. The better the questions are formed, the more defined the answers will be. This is what supercomputers have allowed us to do for many decades now and in many industries. They are like time machines. They allow us to understand the past and create the future.

But what is the ultimate answer to Music? Maybe we can discover this by moving backwards, and this is the main reason for this historic introduction to music technology. If we take one of the highest forms of human collaboration and expression, the symphonic orchestra and classical music, and we investigate those forms of expressions by a modern prism, we might get the answers we are looking for.

What are the ingredients of the modern hybrid recipe of orchestral music? Hollywood is the best place to look as scoring movies is the modern way of creating future classics.

Creating the HPC384 Spec.

I will use another Hans Zimmer quote here: “Music is organized chaos! ….but not necessarily in a bad way, as organized chaos can sound pretty good!” Composers might be inherently good in organizing chaos.

For the past 17 years, programmers from all around the world have built virtual instruments and effects based on software interfaces like VST, which runs seamlessly over an x86 microprocessor architecture. Among the high-performance computing systems, HPC clusters provide an efficient performance compute solution based on industry-standard hardware connected by a high-speed network.

Using HPC we can work with advanced physics to model plate reverbs, create evolving non-linear auditorium acoustics and emulate multi-microphone positions that will give sound endless possibilities. It is no longer necessary to work with oversampled peak detection in order to estimate the peak samples on a signal. We have overcome those barriers of conventional underpowered discrete-time systems. We process the actual audio and not ‘the estimation of it’ without any more fighting with conventional CPU or DSP constraints.  There is no way we can overload an HPC music production system when we work with 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 192 kHz or even 384 kHz. Moreover, HPC allows us to have different sound qualities in the same project so we can push the engines hard when we want to emulate analog synthesizers, luscious reverbs or accurate solid-state and thermionic valve circuitry that needs advanced resolution at a microsecond’s time domain.

At this critical juncture of entertainment evolution, with 3D & HDR, IMAX Cinema, Dolby® Atmos, DTS® Headphone X, 6K Cinema and 4K TV with HDMI 2 (which has an audio bandwidth of 1536 kHz), the industry creates a roadmap for a quality aware audience.  A true quality upgrade of the overall cinematic experience is on-going. HPC384 Spec. is here to keep music production on par with those innovations and it will provide the necessary tools, specifications and revolutionary techniques so that music professionals will be able to produce and deliver high quality content to meet the demands and expectations of their audience.

Preliminary Tests

In our preliminary tests we rendered the first ever reverb at 1536kHz using U-He Zebra 2 VST clocked at 384 kHz as our sound generator. This sound is quite likely the most mathematically complex and harmonically rich single sound ever created in the digital domain. Sound examples here: http://www.hpcmusic.com/#!hpc384/crrb

U-He Diva, which is an advanced VST instrument, could playback in real time at 384 kHz with infinite notes of polyphony while the same instrument when used in a top-of-the-range workstation cannot perform more than few notes at 192 kHz. The highest bandwidth we managed to work with was 6144 kHz. We use bandwidth as a measure of efficiency of the system when it comes to music production. This way, when software developers are ready for heavy mathematics in low latency, almost real-time performance, we would know how to setup this reality-engine. Moreover, Dolby is heavily experimenting with many surround channels in order to enhance the localization information of sound. Using HPC we can go a step further and enhance the localization information of music (and not only sound) by composing and arranging in many-channel surround formats in a fully discrete way (3D Music)

On a cost per GFLOPS basis, we found that HPC for music can be roughly 35X better than the current industry-standard solutions, with 10X more bandwidth we can operate in real-time performance per audio track and enable unlimited track counts (high scalability).

Cost per GFLOPS

The future is about the audience experience

As for next steps, we need to work on the form factor of those solutions and further explore software opportunities. The evolution of music creation leads to an evolution of music enjoyment. In the same way that the vinyl record, walkman, CD and MP3 changed music for the better (or sometimes for the worse), we now see new products on the horizon that can revolutionize the audience experience.

Antonis Karalis

More info at www.hpcmusic.com

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

AWS Embraces FPGAs, ‘Elastic’ GPUs

December 2, 2016

A new instance type rolled out this week by Amazon Web Services is based on customizable field programmable gate arrays that promise to strike a balance between performance and cost as emerging workloads create requirements often unmet by general-purpose processors. Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 1, 2016)

December 1, 2016

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPC Career Notes (Dec. 2016)

December 1, 2016

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high performance computing community. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

IBM and NSF Computing Pioneer Erich Bloch Dies at 91

November 30, 2016

Erich Bloch, a computational pioneer whose competitive zeal and commercial bent helped transform the National Science Foundation while he was its director, died last Friday at age 91. Bloch was a productive force to be reckoned. During his long stint at IBM prior to joining NSF Bloch spearheaded development of the “Stretch” supercomputer and IBM’s phenomenally successful System/360. Read more…

By John Russell

Pioneering Programmers Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 30, 2016

In an awards ceremony on November 22, President Barack Obama recognized 21 recipients with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Details AI Hardware Strategy for Post-GPU Age

November 21, 2016

Last week at SC16, Intel revealed its product roadmap for embedding its processors with key capabilities and attributes needed to take artificial intelligence (AI) to the next level. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

SC Says Farewell to Salt Lake City, See You in Denver

November 18, 2016

After an intense four-day flurry of activity (and a cold snap that brought some actual snow flurries), the SC16 show floor closed yesterday (Thursday) and the always-extensive technical program wound down today. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Gobbles SGI for Larger Slice of $11B HPC Pie

August 11, 2016

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today that it will acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million, inclusive of cash and debt. The deal ends the seven-year reprieve that kept the SGI banner flying after Rackable Systems purchased the bankrupt Silicon Graphics Inc. for $25 million in 2009 and assumed the SGI brand. Bringing SGI into its fold bolsters HPE's high-performance computing and data analytics capabilities and expands its position... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This