HMSL - Hierarchical Music Specification Language

HMSL was a popular music language from 1986 to 1996. HMSL was available from Frog Peak Music but is now out of print.

HMSL is a programming language for experimental music composition and performance. It is an object oriented set of extensions to the Forth language that for the Amiga and the Macintosh. HMSL was developed by Phil Burk, Larry Polansky and David Rosenboom at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music and is distributed by Frog Peak Music.

Click here for more details on HMSL.

Click here for downloadable examples, fixes, and the HMSL DSP code. Also check out Tom Erbe's HMSL FTP site.

Last updated 1/25/06.

Call for Contributions

If you are an HMSL programmer and would like to share your software, writings, or HMSL generated General MIDI files on this web site, please contact us here.

Listen to Some Pieces

HMSL is normally used for live interactive MIDI performance but you can hear some pieces that have been captured in a MIDIFile. They are targetted to General MIDI and are designed to be heard using the QuickTime (or other) MIDI Plug In.

Hear various composers on the CD HALLWAYS: 11 Musicians and HMSL. Here's a review, search for "HMSL".

1990 - Nick Didkovsky video of "Lottery" at Mills College with Larry Polansky, Robert Marsanyi and Phil Burk

HMSL Related Links

Artifact Records publishes a number of composers who use HMSL in their work including JohnBischoff, Larry Polansky, Chris Brown, and the Hub.  They also have a CD of Jim Tenney's work. Jim's theories on music provide the foundation for much of HMSL.

Nick Didkovsky is an active HMSL composer in New York who has written several articles on HMSL including:

Larry Polansky's
"Works for Performers and  Live Interactive Computer"
Simple Harmonic Motion
Han-earl Park is an active HMSL constructor from Cal Arts. Check out his "io" web site. Han imagines that "if io could describe its cognitive insides, io would describe it as running on the HMSL engine. However, io cannot describe anything."

Nick Peck's thesis "Expressive Electronics: User Interface Design and Timbral Manipulation in the Music of Nick Peck"

Steven Everett has composed extensively with HMSL.

© 1997-2009 Mobileer Inc All Rights Reserved