Java Cantatas: Drip or Perk Those Java Beans?

November 1, 1996

Dear Squeak and Blat,

Has the world lost its orbit or what? All I hear about is Java, Javascript, Java Beans, Java Cafe, Java Applets, ad whipcreamium! I know there's a real coffee craze going on but what has all this to do with computers and the World Wide Web? Please help a bedazzled and confused musicologist find some clarity in this computer world and tell me why a musician would ever want to know about Java.

Dr. Buck Star




Dr. Star. Been dosing pretty high on that caffine, have you? Well, if you actually get to see some Java programming code with its objects, objects families, and all that good stuff, you'll kick caffe lattes for good, I promise. I'll let Blat tell you about how you could put Java to use, while I try and explain what it's all about. He's got a music professor at his place that uses Java extensively.

Java is a programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. The magic is that Java was designed to run on any computer. Java people sing this mantra: Write Once, Run Anywhere! You can run Java programs on Macs, Windows 95, Windows NT, and many types of Unix computers. Now Java programming is hard core programming (like a quadruple shot expresso!), so you don't want to try this for your initial plunge. Those who like doing this stuff create little Java programs that you can borrow and use from your HTML web pages. These are called Java applets. Gamalan is one of the best web pages for checking out some Java applets.

Javascript was designed by Netscape of Netscape browser fame. It was originally called LiveScript, but they conformed to the Java theme and renamed it Javascript. Javascript kind of works in the spirit of Java, but it is a simple, English-like scripting language that you can add right to your HTML web pages. You might actually think of it as a extension to HTML that gives you the ability to do more complex things like make decisions, branches, loops, control multimedia and plug-ins, and the like. Javascript is where you want to start your first adventures into the Java world. Check out this Javascript web site from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany.

Good luck!


Dr. Star. Hey, great question! It's time for all of us music "web-sters" (smile) to wake up and smell the Java! Like Squeak says, Java is an object-oriented programming language modeled on C++ but designed to be efficient and to run on a number of different machines. Its history is fascinating. It started at Sun Microsystems as a possible modular language for small, hand-held devices. Interactive television was its original target, but Sun couldn't strike acceptable deals with other companies for this purpose. Then, along came the Internet and the paradigm of servers and clients. Sun decided that this was the perfect environment for Java, hoping that the program could help render more interactive web pages. So, to make a long story short, we have lots of levels of implementation of Java programming on the net with all kinds of crazy Java-related names for different approaches. Basically they all relate to a server that serves up Java code that is interpreted by a client's browser that is Java-capable.

The real payoff for us in music is that we can write programs (applets) for our servers that allow people to interact with music material! That's what Gary Kendall (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) at Northwestern's School of Music is up to when he offers a music programming course using Java! Imagine writing a program to teach about chord progressions that lets the client chose a level of difficulty or a kind of sound source. How about a guide to a masterwork that lets the client explore form and other music elements, then take a quiz on the content! How about participating in the actual performance of a piece in real-time with participants from around the world helping to make musical decisions interactively on different kinds of computers. All this is possible using your web browser with a programming language like Java.

Java is a good example of Internet technology getting better and better. It challenges the whole concept of commerical software and--like authoring tools such as HyperCard, ToolBook, and other multimedia programs--allows us to "roll-our-own" software for the greater good. To borrow a word from today's parlence, this can be "huge."

Check out this URL for more information:

Story about Java history

Blat (whose blatter is currently large from drinking a lot of the regular kind of java)

1757 Last modified on November 22, 2013