"Master/Slave" -> "Primary/Secondary" or "Sender/Receiver"

Recently it has come to the attention of many technologists that the word “master” is problematic in nearly all contexts, and most especially when it stands next to the word “slave”

While it may seem pedantic to some, this is important especially for Renoise, not only for racial equality, but also in the interest of UI/UX clarity and being as intuitive as possible, wherever possible.

In many cases, these words have been changed to Primary and Secondary, which seem more descriptive of the relationship and tend to not to conjure images of whips/chains in people’s minds. Another term I’ve seen used for directional synchronizations is Source and Client. In the case of Renoise’s use, it may be even clearer to say Sender and Receiver, as this directional data relationship is somewhat unclear in the places it appears anyhow, in spite of their use in MIDI-specific contexts.

(I, for one, had a difficult time understanding which one is sending the MIDI clock to whom and what direction the data is flowing at all, having to discover through trial and error. I still have to go through this if it’s been more than a week since last using Renoise.)

While these words are still “standard” in terms of MIDI, software dev as a whole has changed to Primary/Secondary or Client/Server. MIDI itself is changing to keep up with the times, specifically to allow two-way communication and I’m confident that when MIDI 2.0 is finally released “master/slave” will be all but officially deprecated terminology. It just doesn’t seem like a relationship we want to highlight anymore, right? …Many people are working to change the terms “mastering” and “master track”, too, for the same reasons. No reason to sound like a racist in 2021 :wink:

Thank you for considering this important social and usability issue!


Just kidding, even MIDI.org does not use the terms “master/slave”, instead only referring to the primary clock as the “master clock, or explicit clock synchronization between Sender and Receiver”.

Thanks again for considering this!

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You can change the name of the master channel by clicking on it, Problem solved, make some music :slight_smile:

Get woke, go broke.

PS. I can imagine that chess grandmasters will be pissed when they get stripped of their titles. Same with international masters, national masters, FIDE masters and candidate masters.


I’m referring to the MIDI Master/Slave relationship name in the GUI, which is not a thing that I can change without changing the source code. I only passively mentioned the naming of the master track in one of the last sentences as a thing that’s changing in the music industry, too. Perhaps I should not have mentioned that bit so that you would have read the part I was talking about? However, thank you for the suggestion. Indeed the master track can be renamed to whatever you like.

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Image upload, for clarity :slight_smile:

So, as if not sounding like a supremacist chauvinist is not enough impetus for the change, this is a poor naming convention, regardless. In this scenario above the DJM-V10 is sending the MIDI clock timecode down to Renoise, and then Renoise is sending the MIDI clock out to the reciever, a Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2. This is very unclear, as these terms would suggest that it’s the other way around. Interestingly, I have seen in the preferences XML where the language is much clearer and says sender and reciever.

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Grand Master, being the very best at something is not even slightly problematic.

Master/Slave terminology is definitely heading for the scrapheap of history. Nothing wrong with Parent/Child, Send/Receive etc.

Railing against “wokery” instead of taking 30 seconds to consider whether or not something is indeed problematic and deciding that it makes no material difference to your life to change it, but you might make the world a fractionally better place, seems to me to be as being obstinate for the sake of it.

Good post RobbBoss.


True. The privilege of interpretation really belongs to the ones being subjected, which are mainly people in Africa and Asia today. USA abolished slavery 1865 and noone is still alive today. I’m not sure how slaves today would view the matter. In such a position, I am guessing that I would be more annoyed than happy about performative actions in the west. They seem to be more for peoples own sake rather than others - counterproductive.

This discussion oddly reminds me of how some swedish women have tried to dictate how men should go to the toilet. The ultimate ruler technique.


Modern slavery exists in the west, much more hidden than previously and it is done much more insidiously than before. Indentured servitude and sexual slavery being two of the worst examples in the west.

Just because you suspect that if you were a modern day slave in the east, ingnoring the above examples of modern western slavery, you would be more annoyed than pleased to hear a DAW had changed it’s naming conventions as an act of performative guilt absolution doesn’t mean that (a) your imagined reactions are any reason to not change and (b) are in any way relevant to this discussion.

There is effectively no modern context in which describing a Master/Slave relationship is not symbolic of the traditionally thought of context - or even the modern context. I have to ask what it is that has motivated you to defend the terminology? Is it simply that you find any and all attempts to update language to fit the modern world and understandings annoying? If that is so I would implore you to explore why you feel that way.

Language and accepted terminology changes constantly, indeed the only thing constant in life is change. Even now your body is destroying and rebuilding itself over and over. Earth hurtles through space at thousands of kph. Our star, The Sun, continues to burn it’s fuel supply. We are all on the inevitable path towards entropy and death.

If terms such as “coloured” to describe anybody not of white european heritage was still in use, would you argue against stopping it’s use? What about segregated schools/restaurants? At some point people railed against this change and yet it happened because it was the objectively correct thing to do. It is easy to refuse to change or examine one’s own beliefs, it is much harder to express empathy for people you don’t know or will never meet, whose daily lived experiences differ from your own. Yet if people give up on that everybody loses.

I hope that references to Master/Slave in all current uses are stopped.

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You do not make any relevant points above, which makes difficult to reply. Except that you are correct in that language evolves. That brings up the question about power over language and evolution, and who we should give that power to. Not to the woke people, imo.

The real issue here is that some people get offended because the choose to get offended. It’s not feasible to revise language by stripping it of anything that, by some person, can be offensive. As long as the intent behind the use is not malign it’s a non-issue.


“Not to the woke people, imo.”

Cool then, peace out bro. Maybe reply when you catch up to 2021.

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Your position is, luckily, not the norm today. Trying to portray it as such is a standard fallacy.

When you’re a member of the loud minority of people who detest change its easy to think you’re the majority. I’m annoyed at myself for replying again so it will be my last time, especially when you can’t read my longer post and see the relevance to the discussion.

Bad faith arguments and straw man arguments are typical tactics of the anti-woke brigade and terms bandied about as though they will shut discussion down.

Stay stuck in the past, enjoy it while you can because it will not last.

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I like “Midi clock Source/Midi clock receiver” FWIW
@robbboss “master/slave” only has specifically racial connotations in our relatively recent (historically speaking) social context. Unless I’m mistaken, the majority of slaves throughout history were enslaved by people of their same “racial” phenotype. Political correctness and/or wokism aside, source/receiver or sender/receiver does seem like the clearer nomenclature, and to my mind, we lose nothing by adopting it.


It’s wildly dismissive to label opinions which don’t match your convenient version of history as “woke”. Name-calling is never constructive. Your arguments clearly intend to shut down all conversation on the topic, and I do not understand your motivation to not allow the discussion.

This is, sadly, one of many textbook classic techniques used by those who seemingly feel threatened personally by allowing others, especially minorities, to have a voice of their own, such as those who did vehemently fight against desegregation. You may want to check and make sure that your argument doesn’t fit any of these descriptions: 10 Techniques Used by Manipulators (and How to Fight Them) | Inc.com

History of same-race slavery or not, the fact is that “master” and “mastering” came into use first in 1905, long after the first recordings were made and popularized in 1888 by the Unique Quartet, a black barbershop quartet. If you do research this, it’s glaring that it was used to disenfranchise talented black artists from the recording arts, especially the growing-in-popularity Jazz and Blues artists. This is never mentioned specifically, but the victors do write the history, and this is decidedly an inconvenient truth. It’s time to fix it.

You may be surprised to learn that the first “master” recordings were called Gold Moulded and that the word “master” does not appear in any of Edison or his contemporaries’ patent listings. Google Books

Even the term “masters degree” has actual origins in 1870’s America, a translation from the otherwise popular term Magister, which originates in Latin. But that’s not this discussion, just some context for the term “master” and its popularization, all happening between the 1870s and 1920s, also known as Jim Crow America. This is too much to be a coincidence.

Indeed, the point that “we lose nothing by changing” is a salient one. Thank you to @zensphere for raising it.

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Indeed, @zensphere, master and slave do only have racial connotations in recent American history, but of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it. The only evidence of yesterday are the past’s imprint on today. This was the reason that Edison invented the phonograph, after all: to prove that objects have “memory”

Similarly to this word’s recent history, in modern day India the swastika is still used as a symbol of peace, as it has been for centuries. Which is exactly the reason it was chosen by Hitler. Now, thought it was relatively recent history, we don’t see it used as a symbol of peace, and in most western connotations is a symbol of hatred.

It is a shame that the word “master” has become used across the recording industry globally. We should definitely work to change this. Indeed, change is the only constant in life, and is in fact the meaning of time itself: the rate of the propagation of change.

Edited to add, Thank you much for pointing out that we lose nothing by adopting more inclusive language. Thank you, again. :slight_smile:

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@joule I shall assume that you are already familiar with linguistic relativity and its effects on cognition and understanding, since you have made such points about the feasibility of change? Where did you study linguistics again?


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Interesting if true. Far more interesting is that the number of fallacies that your very argument makes in calling the preceding argument a “standard fallacy” are nearly innumerable

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Not sure what you’re getting at. It’s not a fallacy to point out the use of a fallacy. Courtier’s reply is what you used in post #19, ironically.

Indeed, “woke” is namecalling. And a very practical and descriptive one too.

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I think that the context is very important.
In an informatics context, using the words master/slave is not devaluing anybody, nor racist.

Just because it is also used in a bad context, it doesn’t mean that the word needs to be “black”-listed. Maybe it just reminds you of something bad.

Slave actually is a precise, quickly understandable description of the technical mechanism here. And that’s what informatics naming usually tries to do.

But I am ok, if it was renamed, too. I only find this discussion out of context.