SUFI PLUG INS is an interdisciplinary project by Jace Clayton. Version 1 is a free suite of music-making software apps, based on nonwestern notions of sound & a poetic interface. This brief explanation video shows them in action.

“it’s one of the few digital tools I’ve seen that I would also consider art. It’s a tool that is not only designed to help musicians make new sounds, but also to self-consciously influence what is produced. Interface design decisions are guided both by functionality concerns and the creative expression of its maker.” – Paddy Johnson, Art Fag City

More than 15,000 people have downloaded Version 1, and the plug-ins have been used in (at least) dozens of songs. The project hopes to spark discussion — and creation — in the overlap between software design, music tools, encoded spirituality, digital art, and indigenous knowledge systems. Version 2 is currently being developed. SPIs are free to use and modify; you can support the project with a tax-deductible donation. Clayton is available to give talks on Sufi Plug Ins. He has presented them at Harvard University, Share Festival (Beirut), Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee’s Ableton Meetup (NYC), and they were included in the 2012 Istanbul Design Biennial.

screenshot from clapping drum machine Palmas

Sufi Plug Ins version 1, released in May 2012, is a free suite of seven audio software tools for Ableton Live (Max4Live). They include four software synthesizers hardwired to North African maqam scales with quartertone tuning built-in, a device called DEVOTION which lowers your computer’s volume 5 times a day during call to prayer (presets include Agnostic, Fervent, Devout), and a drone machine.

The devices are clearly labeled in the Berber script of neo-Tifinaght – ⵙⴾⵔⵓ ⵜⴰⵎⵉⵎⵔⴰⵜ. Their mysterious (to non-Amazigh users) yet intuitive layout encourages and rewards experimentation. ‘Roll-over’ infotexts contain fragments of Sufi verse. A series of Sufi Plug Ins Instructional Videos filmed on location in Morocco function as stand-alone art pieces.

screenshot from Maqam synthesizer Bayati

Led by Clayton (aka DJ /rupture), the SPI development team includes programmer Bill Bowen, designer Rosten Woo, Amazigh musician Hassan Wargui , and videographers Maggie Schmitt and Juan Alcón Durán. While the 1st release is for Ableton Live users, we are working on making them available as VSTs to ensure compatibility with Cubase, FruityLoops, and other music software widely used in Africa and the Middle East. For more background on the thoughts behind Sufi Plug Ins, check out this writeup on Clayton’s blog.


screenshot from Drone instructional video
DRONE: Instructional Video

DEVOTION: Instructional Video