In the 90s a lot of computer based music was produced using tracker programs. A tracker is essentially a program that allows you to load samples (e.g. WAV files) and queue them up to be played in a certain order and pitch. With this basic framework to work with you could easily make a variety of sounds, melodies and percussions without having to spend any money on proper musical equipment.
One of the most full featured tracker programs was an MS-DOS ASCII one called Impulse Tracker. This allowed stereo panning, surround sound and even had in built sample editing tools. Of course everyone had their preferred program, but mine was Impulse. It runs well under DosBox if anyone wants to try it. I personally think that tracker programs are a wonderful introduction to music composition. Jonne Valtonen, who wrote the music to the famous 1993 demo Second Reality, started out using tracker software. He is now a fully qualified composer and has put on several successful orchestral concerts in Europe.
Last year I was excited to discover that there is now an open source version of Impulse Tracker called Schism Tracker. This is basically the same program but ported to work with the Simple Direct Media Layer (SDL) library, allowing it to be compiled for a number of different platforms. These currently include Windows, x86 Linux, OSX and the Nintendo Wii. Obviously the first thing I thought was that this would be perfect for teaching music on the Raspberry Pi. If the Raspberry Pi comes with a working SDL then we should just be able to recompile the Schism source code for ARM and it should just work. Whether it will turn out that way remains to be seen.
So the intention is to get Schism Tracker working for the Raspberry Pi and we will then produce a series of tutorial videos that will show viewers how to get up and running with some simple tunes like happy birthday etc. Below is a video of the level of music that can be achieved.