Hadron SuperCollider Language
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Class Library Compilation

The SuperCollider workflow presumes an ahead-of-time class library compilation, and the interpreter automatically compiles the class library on startup. The SuperCollider development community maintains the official class library in the SCClassLibrary directory in the SuperCollider repository. It consists of roughly 350 files and 75k lines of code.

SuperCollider supports object composition through single inheritance. A subclass inherits the class and instance variables and methods of its superclass. A subclass can override any superclass method and access the superclass method via the super keyword. Therefore, we must first compile all class ancestors before compiling a derived class.

Define Class Hierarchy

The compilation process scans the input class files in arbitrary order, so we compile the class library in multiple passes. The first pass extracts all class metadata from each file and builds Abstract Syntax Trees out of each defined method. Building the AST allows the class library to unload the file after scanning, freeing that memory for subsequent passes. We have the class library’s complete hierarchy at the end of the first pass.

Compose Classes From Superclasses

The second pass traverses the class hierarchy from root superclass Object to all descendants. This pass defines all the instance variables by concatenating the subclass instance variables onto a new copy of the superclass variables. By building the instance variable list in order of superclass to subclass, the compiler can ensure that the indices of subclass instance variables in inherited superclass methods are still consistent.

Note that class variables and constants in subclasses are not composed from superclasses, meaning subclasses don’t get a copy of an inherited class variable but rather can read and modify the superclass class variable itself. Finally, this pass lowers the AST to Frame objects with HIR and extracts message dependency information from each method.

A Note About Inlining

Dispatch is the process of mapping an input pair of target type and selector symbol (message name) to a class and method, fixing up the stack to match the input assumptions of the target code and jumping into the entry point of the method bytecode. SuperCollider heavily relies on message passing for almost all operations, so it follows that optimizing dispatch would benefit the language speed. Because SuperCollider is a dynamic programming language, the target type is not always known at compile-time, requiring runtime or dynamic dispatch. Hadron may narrow the options with most messages by combining knowledge of the selector and a limited range of target types. And, if there are only a few options for a message dispatch, Hadron could inline the dispatch decision logic. Hadron could also inline the complete target method if narrowed to a single target, thus eliminating the dispatch cost.

The class library builds dependency graphs between known callees and methods to support either form of inlining. For example in the following nonsensical SuperCollider class:

Foo {
    bazz {
        var a = Bar.buzz;

The class library creates a dependency from Foo.bazz to Bar.buzz, ensuring that Bar.buzz is compiled first. When compiling Foo.bazz, Hadron can choose to inline the dispatch to Bar.buzz or inline the entire Bar.buzz method directly into Foo.bazz.

Compile All Methods

Hadron uses the dependency graph to determine the final compilation order. This final compilation pass takes each method to JIT bytecode.