Berklee Musicians Donate Files to OLPC Initiative

  A class of school children in Kahariat, India, works together on XO laptops connected via a mesh network.

Berklee faculty members, students, and alumni have joined with musicians and organizations across the globe to donate their sound libraries to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) educational initiative. OLPC is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides children in developing countries with specially designed laptop computers equipped with educational software and access to the Internet. The XO laptop's unique user interface and applications enable children to create and share music, drawings, video, personal diaries, and additional creative resources online with others worldwide.

Alumni from the Berklee Music Synthesis department, including electronic music superstar BT '89, the international Csound Developer community, M-Audio, Digidesign, and the Open Path Music group have collectively donated more than 6,500 sampled and synthesized sounds for XO laptops. Berklee donated 16 volumes containing 2,400 sound samples that were created and recorded over the past 20 years by Berklee students. The sounds include ethnic instruments (congas, didgeridoos, sitars, gongs, and kalimbas); orchestral and pop music instrument sounds; vocal sounds (screams, whistles, mouth pops, and singing); animal sounds, percussion noises, and a variety of other imaginative sounds produced by synthesizers. Berklee's Music Synthesis department alumni contributed an additional 1,450 samples.

"The OLPC humanitarian initiative inspired musicians to donate their sound collections to the children of the world," says Professor Richard Boulanger, who solicited and curated the entire archive and donation. "By providing extraordinary access to the resources to play, mix, transform, imitate, and create sounds, sound effects, music, and audio art works, this donation will enable children with XO laptops to learn about music and sound and to learn about themselves and their world. These sample libraries were donated to OLPC, but are also offered to all computer musicians under the Creative Commons Attribution License." (To access the files visit

Augmenting Berklee's contribution are more than 1,200 sound effects, loop libraries, and instrumental samples from members of the worldwide Csound developer community. Csound is a sound design, music synthesis, and signal-processing system that provides the engine for music to run on the XO laptop. In addition, Open Path Music assembled a group of 15 studio musicians, who over the course of three days created 350 samples for donation to the OLPC project.

M-Audio and Digidesign (parts of Avid Technology), donated a General MIDI (GM) sample set that will support the playback of a huge collection of free classical and popular musical arrangements and children's songs from XO's Web browser and other XO music activities.

Walter Bender, the president of software/content and the chief operations officer of OLPC, says, "Ceation of music and sounds is an important activity on the XO laptop, because it allows children to express themselves and share something both fun and fundamental with others. Music is a universal language that everyone across all borders and languages can enjoy and appreciate."

The XO computer is a potent learning tool built expressly for children living in some of the world's most remote areas. The laptop was designed collaboratively by experts from academia, the arts, business, and the open-source communities to be a flexible, low-cost, power-efficient, and durable machine with which nations of the emerging world can leapfrog decades of development and transform the content and quality of children's learning.

Nicholas Negroponte and others from the MIT Media Laboratory created OLPC to design, manufacture, and distribute laptop computers that are inexpensive (at a cost of about $100 per unit) so that every child can have access to knowledge and modern educational avenues. The XO laptops are rugged, open source, and so energy efficient that they can be powered manually by a child. Mesh networking gives multiple machines Internet access from a single connection. To learn more about the project, visit