I recently attended Winter NAMM 2009 in Anaheim,CA, where Cycling ’74 was sharing booth space with our friends at Ableton. I arrived on Friday afternoon, well after we had released our product announcement for Max for Live, and was impressed by the volume of booth traffic we were getting. Ableton had, of course, also announced their new Akai controller and Live 8 in addition to Max for Live, so there was a great deal of buzz surrounding our area of the show.

Showing off Max for Live was a treat to all of us who have spent a lot of time explaining MaxMSP to the uninitiated in the past. For many, Live provided an easy-to-understand context for the open-ended and potentially complex things you can do with Max. This meant that we spent less time explaining the concept of visual programming and way more time talking about the things that make the integration of our software so cool. If the conversations I had are any indication, we will soon be welcoming a lot of new Max users to our community.

We also got to share our big news with some of our old friends and users. Guillaume from Jazzmutant came by to discuss OSC support and Live API access, and Scott Wardle was sure to check on what Max for Live could facilitate in his Ms. Pinky system (drag-and-drop support was high on his wishlist). Thankfully, we were able to reassure both of them that they’d have plenty to love with Max for Live. We also heard from a few other anonymous hardware developers who were interested in what Max for Live could offer for users looking for custom solutions.

At a couple points during the weekend, I got a chance to wander around the hall and soak up the crazy, overstimulating variety on display. The biggest highlight for me was visiting the Dave Smith Instruments booth, where I finally got to play with their new Mopho mono-synth box, and the Prophet ’08. I’m not a big fan of owning synth hardware, but I was pretty tempted by the little yellow boxes. The care put into the user interface was very apparent and refreshing. The other noteworthy display was the new Moog guitar. Playing this alien instrument is really a unique experience, as it vibrates and resonates with every note you play. It really gives the sensation of playing a living instrument, with all of the unpredictability that brings. Finally, I stopped in at Keith McMillen’s booth where Barry and Marielle were demonstrating the Max-powered bluetooth K-Bow and the StringPort guitar interface. Both of these looked pretty cool, and the patches they have created to interface with the hardware looked well-designed and provided a variety of options.

Of course, going to trade shows for us is more than just a chance to show off our software and play with new products. It’s also an excuse for all of us to get together and have some face-to-face conversations with our colleagues, a rare event in a company distributed over the Western hemisphere. It was a real treat to spend some time with our Ableton counterparts, and realize that our collaboration is about more than software.

The 2009 NAMM Show

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