Francisco Colasanto recently published Max/MSP: Guía de Programación para Artistas, the first Spanish-language book devoted to Max. In this interview, we get a chance to catch up with Francisco and learn more about his in-depth book as well as his work at CMMAS in Mexico and elsewhere.
Where are you from? When you aren’t writing books about Max, what else do you do?
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Although my book about Max took almost 3 years of my life, I’m composing music for mixed media when I’m not writing. I love exploring the interaction between acoustic instruments and electronics. I also work as a technical coordinator at CMMAS (in Spanish Centro Mexicano para la Musica y las Artes Sonoras, Mexican Center for Music and Sonic Arts), located at the city of Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.
How were you introduced to Max? Did you learn from the English tutorials that ship with Max or was there something in Spanish that you were able to access?
I started working with Max in 1998. At that time I was working in a small electroacoustic music laboratory in Buenos Aires. I studied Csound a lot, and when I found Max it was like a revelation. I realized that I could create visual program routines using interconnected boxes. The first thing I did was to migrate all my orchestras from CSound to Max. I can remember myself spending many hours a day studying Max, and I did so for 5 years of my life.
Of course I used the tutorials in English. I’ve also read Todd Winkler’s book, but that was all. There was no Max literature into Spanish, and in fact I think my book is actually the first Spanish book on this topic.
Yours is the first Spanish language Max book that I’ve seen. Do others exist? Did you feel in writing this that there was a strong demand for such a text? Do you see a lot of Max usage in Spanish-speaking countries?
As far as I know, there is no any other version in Spanish. However, there is also not enough literature into English.
In my opinion, there’s a strong demand in Latin America. There are many artists currently working with interactive techniques and many others interested in getting started. I’ve dictated several Max courses in Argentina, and all of them were always very crowded. The same happens in Mexico, we currently organize regular courses at CMMAS, and there are always many people interested in them.
I know several artists working with Max in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru. We can also include Brazil, as Brazilian Portuguese is close to Spanish, and many people will be able to read the book there. There are also many people doing things in Spain, of course.
Who is this book for? How would you describe the teaching methodology used here?
My intention was always to write a book that could be used by anyone wanting to get started with this, so the first chapter introduces the first concepts of Max and its interface. In this way, I think that it can be adopted by anyone who does not necessarily have a background in MIDI or DSP. I also wanted to provide some literature on the subject that could be used by Max teachers in Latin America.
The methodology I used was to build knowledge as a pyramid, reviewing past concepts as new ones are introduced, so knowledge is enlarged and solidified. To do this, each new object comes with a sample patch using only the studied object and the objects that had been reviewed at the moment, so the student is able to confirm several times how these objects work in different situations.
Another CMMAS project is a website for dictating Max distance courses; we’re also thinking about Spanish forums.
You focus a large portion of the book on Max objects and MIDI, leaving sound processing for the later chapters. Did you feel that it was important to provide a solid foundation of message-based patching before delving into signal-processing?
Yes. You can learn how to write in Max as you learn to speak another language. You usually don’t learn German by reading Goethe or Italian reading Dante; instead, you start with simple phrases, sometimes a bit dumb, and usually without a specific daily use. But this kind of phrases teaches us the structure of a language and how to build it. I think the same happens when you learn Max. That’s why I think is critical to provide a solid base of the message-based patching before delving into signal-processing .
Are you planning to write other books on Max? If this book were the start of a series, how would you follow it up?
In fact, in Max/MSP: Guía de Programación para Artistas, I’ve mentioned several times that this is the first of two volumes. The second will be entirely related to signal processes, i.e. MSP. I’ve already begun to write it.
What can someone expect to learn from reading this book?
You can expect a very detailed and step-by-step guide to get introduced in Max programming. After following all the projects proposed and when you finish the book, you should be ready to create complex and useful patches for the development of an interactive project.
We’ve seen some really phenomenal technology-based work and New Media institutions popping up in Latin America in recent years, but North Americans are largely unaware of these developments. In your perspective, where is the most exciting stuff happening right now in the Spanish-speaking world? Is there anyone using Max in really wonderful ways or people who deserve more attention?
Well, I’d like to highlight the work we do at CMMAS since, besides dictating Max courses, we perform concerts quite regularly. Artists working with Max are able to present their job there as well as at “Visiones sonoras”, our international music and new technologies festival that takes place every year in November. That’s why Max is always present in our activities.
There are a lot of enthusiastic people in Argentina working in many of the universities in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Santa Fe, and several others. In Patagonia, in fact, a multimedia course was founded at Rio Negro University, and they want to use my book as an important part of their literature.