If you follow on the Max Gen forum, you might be forgiven sometimes for thinking that the only people using gen~ are command-line-codeophiles busy downloading stuff from DSP archives and dropping them into a codebox object. While that’s awesome, I have a particular “burden on my heart” – as we say in the part of the U.S. my family hails from – for those who love them some graphic patching. The ever-delightful Johan van Kreij may have excited you at some near-future point by showing you the process whereby he uses connect-the-box programming to make something amazing. The only way to tell whether or not you’ll be excited and grateful is to have a look at it for yourself, of course.
Max-enthusiast and Expo ’74 presenter, Jeremy Bailey, has a message for people who contribute to Kickstarter campaigns (for his own campaign).
You’re the best, Jeremy!
Code Control Festival is Europe’s biggest Max meetup. Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre in Leicester will be hosting its 3rd international conference for artists, musicians, students and teachers to explore Cycling ’74′s Max software, a toolbox for developing unique sounds, stunning visuals and engaging interactive media.
This year Phoenix, in association with Cycling ’74, invites applications to its Code Catalyst Award fund. The Catalyst Award represents an excellent opportunity for artists and practitioners to design and create new work or get free tickets to the events. The deadline for submissions is Friday 8th February.
Guest speakers will include Cycling ’74 CEO and founder David Zicarelli, Cycling ’74 developers Sam Tarakajian and Jeremy Bernstein, and Eric Lyon with more to be announced.
Festival dates: 22nd – 24th March 2013
I got to spend a day at NAMM, and it was a great chance to spend some time with our friends. Here’s a little picture of the folks at the Livid booth, showing great excitement over their new Base product. This is a really nice controller – no moving parts, realtime positional feedback and just the right size for backpacking. They were also spotlighting the Alias 8 controller, which seems purpose-built for making live sing.
Spending time with Livid also reminded me how much I love the OhmRGB Slim, which seems to be the perfect combination of over-the-top features with grab-it-and-go size. This was a great opportunity to talk smart, have fun and feed the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)!
Contrary to what you may have heard, the 2013 NAMM show wasn’t entirely about the rise of beautifully dirtied analog in the form of the Moog Sub Phatty,Dave Smith’s marvelous Prophet 12 (which you should imagine as a hybrid cross of parts of the Tempest, the Poly Evolver, and the redesigned Prophet), the shrinking (in terms of size and price) of the Korg MS-20, or the return of the Buchla Music Easel (yes, really).
I’m a Max guy, so I prowled the trade floor looking for controllers I could repurpose and come to love. This year, it was sufficiently rewarding to actually lure me away from hardware synthesis fun, gawking at analog video modular systems and nifty modestly sized modeling amps. I have escaped from the Trade Show Floor to tell thee, if somewhat idiosyncratically.
In particular, the Controller Pilgrimage means that I did several things in no particular order: I nerded out about matters such as the ability to fluidly play two-finger trills and mordents on the Ableton Push grid pads – which feel really, really good. I enjoyed the near-perfect size and feel of the Livid Instruments Base. And I think that the QuNexus from Keith McMillen Instruments may offer the first good solution to something I’ve messed with for years in my Indonesian-influenced work – the ability to have a physical interface allow for different playing techniques related to metallophones (alternating striking and damping, grabbing the bottom of a saron key to “silence” it, etc.).
There was one “outside of the box” encounter I wanted to mention, since it might not get quite as much mention as the above – I guess that it really was an “outside of the box” encounter quite literally, since I ran across the object in the laser and LED-stuffed Arena area of the Convention center (Yes, I went to walk on the video floor, too). There, amid the fog and laser-drawn vector graphic squiggles, I met the Alphasphere.
We all love it that the internets bring us images of things we might desire, but there’s no substitute for the real experience of the real thing. Okay, maybe there is a sort of substitute: here’s a great video our pals at Sound on Sound shot at the last Musik Messe that ought to give you a sense of it.
While a quick walk-by on the way to see the video floor struck my inattentive eye as something like a scaled-down ball sensor with hard transducer pads, the real item was far more compelling. The biggest surprise was the surface of the circles that cover the sphere – rather than being some kind of dark hard surface as I might have expected – was a lovely and soft stretched membrane that felt as much like a slightly loosened drumhead as anything else. The sense of feel and control when this surface was stroked or hit or pressed upon was a great experience.
In addition to layout of the circle/drumheads as series of 8 differently sized pads wrapped horizontally around the spherical surface (meditate on that as a topology rather than a grid for a few moments and see if you don’t get some interesting ideas), I found myself using the feel of the “spaces” between the pads as a way to traverse the surface.
While the triggering demos they had in the booth to demonstrate the software that comes with the unit was a lot of fun, I was struck with the notion that the configuration of controllers on the unit – stripped of the intention of its creators and laid open as collections of MIDI-producing outputs – have some really compelling physical and tactile features that I’ve never encountered elsewhere (Oh yeah – the hardware design includes internal LEDS that you can control and turn on and off for visual feedback).
If you’re one of those people who worries that the dominance of the iPad in the control surface world de-emphasizes the aspect of real touch sensitivity as a part of instrument or controller design, I think you’ll be really intrigued.
P.S. You’ll never guess what software was used during the prototyping phase of their design….
One of my favorite places at NAMM is the arena. In the arena, you will find all kinds of lasers, smoke machines, light-up microphone stands, and other visual products to make a musician’s stage act more fun and maybe memorable. This year, I was drawn to a booth where you could walk over a sheet of thousands of tiny LEDs. It felt like walking on hard bubble wrap, making the walk through fire well worth it.
Congratulations to Andrea and Daniele on the release of Bach beta 0.7, which is a massive update with tons of new features and performance improvements.
For those of you who have not heard of the Bach project, it is a huge and fully featured traditional music notation system for MaxMSP.
Last year, Peter Burr approached me with an intriguing Kickstarter campaign he was starting for a travelling show, and wanted to know if I would contribute a video. The concept was that a group of video artists would each make 30 second videos about “the Zone” from Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, and/or the book it was based on Roadside Picnic.
I immediately jumped in and started reading the old Russian science fiction novel. Before I even sat down to watch Stalker, I had a clear view of the visual style and process I’d use, and in fact never bothered to watch the movie (highly recommend it) until after my video was finished. I’m excited to be included in a really fantastic group of artists and what promises to be a pretty great show. For my part, I created a 3D animation with Maya that was exported as a Collada file and then brought into Jitter’s jit.gl.model object. In Max, I created particle effects, applied generative and animated textures, and created a number of other special effects using OpenGL geometry.
This Friday, the touring Max-driven live cinema show will be making it’s first US stop at the Museum of Moving Images in New York. For some more info, check out this interview with Peter Burr at the Creators Project.
The guys at Lanbox have announced some new hardware.
The LanBox LCXi is a rackmount update of the LCX DMX controller. There’s also a remote interface for it, the LanBox interface.Both look really nice.
Eric from Lanbox also told me about a large Max 6 based DMX showcase for them.
“Yutaka (from Japan) made a large setup for Sony last december in Tokyo. He used 44x LanBox-LCX and MAX6 to create a light fountain with *a lot* of lights, controlled the LanBoxes and the MAX patch!”
The long-awaited Arduino Due is now available. This device, featuring an Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU, is a huge generational leap for the Arduino platform. Using the same footprint as the Arduino Mega, the Due is faster, has more memory and more I/O than any previous Arduino, and puts it on a par with the Maple, Netduino and other similar platforms.
You can check out the details here.
I was able to recently purchase one through the Maker’s Shed, although supplies seem to be somewhat limited. This board, combined with the new Arduino 1.51 beta, led to my first Due-based Blinkie Lights sketch today!
Need a timeline that automates your Max patchers, but also can connect to other things? Do you want it to use Open Sound Control to communicate? What if you could have two way communication for the standalone Open Sound Control sequencer to query the state of the Max patcher?
Francisco Colasanto — an Expo ’74 exhibitor and skilled Max user, teacher, and technical coordinator at CMMAS — has released the second volume of his “Programming Guide for Artists” books. His first volume was the first Spanish-language book devoted to Max. The second volume is an eBook and takes advantage of video and sound available for the medium. Available in English and Spanish, the second volume focuses on the Max 6 interface. Both volumes appeal to people who want to learn about Max, and are also resources for people who want to teach Max.
While strolling through the internet, you sometimes stumble upon stuff which you like, and sometimes stuff which you really like. This video, brought to my attention by one of my colleagues, is something which I really, really like.
Even before I got it translated by a Japanese-speaking friend, the radiant smiles of the children and the cool setup were fascinating. OK, it seems to be sponsored by a big car company, but the initiators of this project appear to not only be asking what the car of the future will look like. They want to provoke the children’s creativity and to show them that it is their ideas that can transform anything into anything. And i think they demonstrate this nicely by transforming a car into an instrument, using self-recorded sounds and the help of Max, Ableton Live and some sensors – and it seems to have been a lot of fun too :)
Now these children are telling us that in the future, cars might be their friends or climb trees, or many other things – there are no limits to your imagination. I think that this is a great message to teach.
I am constantly surprised by the work that Max programmers accomplish. Whether creating video projection effects, sensor-based installations, generative compositions or immersive 3-D worlds, the breadth of work produced is amazing. But there is more to the Max community than that – it is also a group of people that are anxious to share the things they learn.
As a company, we’ve worked hard to create the documentation necessary to take advantage of new technologies and new features. But there are limits to the amount of content we can develop, and difficulties in meeting the diverse needs of our users’ interests. As a result, we’ve decided to open up a new avenue for information to be created and disseminated by our employees – and also by our users.
The mechanism that we are using is a Wiki system (MediaWiki, to be precise). This is the backbone behind the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, and represents a flexible and robust way to store information. Everything about a Wiki is flexible; you can modify the organization, contents and presentation of a Wiki without going through any sort of vetting procedures. Thus, a Wiki is perfect for a community that wants to share and is willing to have the content management process be open and transparent.
What makes sense to place within a Wiki? We think it is a great place for all sorts of information: extended reference material, tutorials, discussions of technique and methods for working with hardware. We’ve started the system with a few top-level categories:
- All About Max: This is the location for information about Max itself. It is a great place for tutorials and curriculum on Max training, but it is also where we’ve placed the extended reference material. Right now, most of these reference pages are placeholders; if you have information about how you use a particular object, this is a great place to share your notes.
- Max Interfaces: This is where we talk about technologies that exist outside of Max. Hardware information lives here (and we have some placeholders for the Kinect, Lemur and Monome), but this is also a good place for virtual technology interfaces such as DMX and OSC.
- Topics and Techniques: Have you been using Max long enough to remember the old Topic and Tutorials manual? This was a useful repository for discussion of special features and functions used in Max programming, and also is a good location for Max-wide discoveries. If you want to talk (or read) about concepts larger than a single object, or to talk about operating the Max application, this is your home!
- People and Places: Are you interested in Max workshops, schools that teach Max or people that can do consulting? Or do you give workshops or teach classes? Look here for information, and feel free to add your own information in this area.
It is the final section that is probably the most important part of the Max Wiki. Labeled “Do you want to write an article?”, this section provides the information you need to edit articles, include web and media links into your article, and interface with the existing categories of the current site format. Entering information into a Wiki is pretty straightforward, but you may want to look in here to make sure you get the best formatting available for your content.
The Wiki couldn’t have come to life without the work of a lot of people. Gregory Taylor, the Wiki Gardener, did a lot of research before selecting the MediaWiki tool, and has led the charge to make it happen. The entire Cycling ’74 web team helped integrate the Wiki into the rest of the site (have you noticed the Wiki tab now available in searches?), and is helping provide support and maintenance for the future.
But more of all, we want to thank you, the users of Max, for your willingness to share. It is this openness that has created an incredible community of media artists and developers.
Note: In order to help get the Max Wiki started – and to celebrate the sharing – we are offering a bonus for the first 50 major content contributors – a “Give Max to a Friend” coupon, which provides a free 12-month Max license to anyone that has not previously owned Max. Once you’ve updated the Wiki with something that you feel is “significant” content, drop me (ddg @ cycling74 . com) an email and I will provide you with a serial number to provide to someone you may know.
Holland Hopson’s Post and Beam was released last year, but I stupidly didn’t fall in love with it until recently. I guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it — beautifully performed original and traditional folk songs set against an electronic dreamworld. I can’t think of a recording that provides a more powerful study in contrasts — heartfelt and alienating most of all. Check it out and see if you don’t think the Maxified banjo is not the up-and-coming instrument of the decade!
Moritz Simon Geist has built a (giant) robotic version of the classic Roland 808 drum machine using Max for Live, Arduino, and a heap of solenoids.
From his website: “I see hacking – in this case music hacking – as a form of anti-passiveness, through which I think the individual can have an impact on his or her environment, status and state of mind…Within the last five years the rise of Arduino, Ableton Live and Max/MSP has made this much easier.”
Deep in Cycling 74′s backyard, Eric Maundu is doing wonderful things with an Arduino controlled hydroponic plant growing system. The possibilities for our tools are endless!
More info here.
I recently encountered an interesting group of people doing what they call “sketching in hardware”. Look at last year’s conference to get an idea of the diversity of this concept. Underlying all this diversity is a breadboarding approach that feels very much like Max: connecting modules as a form of experimentation, trying to simplify the transition from idea to hardware.
In this kind of environment, it’s tempting to start tinkering right away. Sometimes that works, but it’s easy to get sidetracked. So I resist the temptation and instead try to spend a lot of time exploring ideas beforehand. I go to art museums and performances, explore the Cycling ’74 projects page, and talk with friends.
Once I have a clear idea of the project I want to try, I create a new patcher
and then leave the computer at home and go for a long walk. There are so many ways to realize an idea, and implementing an idea awkwardly takes just as much time as doing it right, so I take time to sort it out and focus on the essentials.
Then it’s time for pencil and paper. Start by writing down the key organization and/or esthetic requirements for the patch. What would Version 1 look like? How will I know when I’m finished? Staying with pencil and paper, I sketch out the overall plan for the project, decide which modules I need and what they need to do, and imagine what it will be like to play with the system. Finally, I put together a little to-do list, and head back to the computer.
As I build the patch, I try to keep it in a functioning state: “always up and running”. That reminds me of one of my favorite orchestral conductors, who would begin each rehearsal with a run-through. If the patch is always ready to go, then making the final version reliable is easy!
As the functional aspects of the patch come together, it might be a good point to look at ways of refining the overall idea. This would be a great time to step away from the computer once again and pick up a good book. Gregory Taylor turned me on to this gem, Universal Principles of Design:
Looking through this book and thinking about my project, I sometimes get insights into how to refine my project to achieve a kind of elegance. Just because my patch works, doesn’t mean its function is optimized. It’s satisfying to finish with a Presentation Mode full of grace and functionality.
Keeping the Big Picture clear from the beginning through the end results in a Max project that is fun to use, works well, and opens up options for the future.
Eric Lyon, developer of numerous cool MSP objects including the FFTease series, has written an amazingly comprehensive new book on writing audio externals in C for Max and Pd. Eric takes you through a series of twelve examples to illustrate how to implement audio and DSP concepts in external objects. Learn more about Designing Audio Objects for Max/MSP and Pd on the publisher’s web site or on Amazon.
Cycling ’74 will be closed October 17th, 18th, and 19th for company-wide meetings. We will re-open October 22nd. Orders, authorization, and support inquiries will be delayed until then. Thanks in advance for your patience!
This weekend, I’m heading to Pittsburgh, PA to perform as part of the annual VIA Festival. VIA is an all-volunteer run festival that pairs hot musical acts with current visual artists to create a unique audiovisual experience. I’m excited to be part of the show, working with the original moombahton group Nadastrom and checking out some really amazing artists along the way.
Memorable Expo ’74 Artist Jeremy Bailey will also be joining the festival along with some other really fantastic people. For my set on Saturday night, I will be trying an experiment with iPhone cameras in the crowd streaming through a complex video performance patch that has been in constant evolution since 2009. To help make this happen, I’ll be leaning on Airbeam Pro and Syphon to route the iPhone streams into Max, along with a small army of volunteer phone-camera people. If you are near Pittsburgh this weekend, come check it out.
Saturday, October 6, 2012. 8pm-1am, 6000 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh,PA.
I’ve spent the last week or so with Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’ new iPad app Scape, and I have to say that I’m impressed – both by the application itself, and also by the experience of using it.
The video explains what’s going on quite well and there are a couple of good pieces about the app and its creators here and here, but I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the interface and what is not explained, or by the relationship between the iconic representation of elements in Scape, their function, and the process by which I’ve come to some understanding of what’s going on (My thinking here probably has some of its origins in our being focused on the idea of discoverability during the luge ride that was Max 6 development, but I’ve been fascinated with how trying to make sense of the program has slowed me down in a rewarding way).
On one level, the app certainly is discoverable in the sense that there are intuitive models from other software threaded through the design that make it “easy” to use. But I’m interested in the parts that aren’t efficient in the “Let’s get this interface stuff out of the way so that we can get down to producing things” sense.
I think that this application shares some features with slow food in that there’s an admirable sense of reward that originates in process – interacting with the application over time, and learning by going where to go.
In the case of Scape, that winds up being about looking and listening in real time. There are no pop-up quickie hints, no chatty paperclips. You will only figure out how things work by working with them – watching and listening. The elements themselves invite scrutiny about representation – both in how they look and in the way that they’re animated onscreen while they’re “running.”
From the very first, you start wondering about what the relationship between the little animation you see and what you hear is, and about what the graphic space in which you’re working represents. If you skootch similar elements so that they’re in close proximity, their size alters sometimes. What does that mean? When elements approach the edges of the screen, they shrink or vanish. Huh?
All that might lead you to believe that there’s a simple one-to-one relationship between what you see and what you hear. But that’s not quite true. Some elements, when placed, appear to “stay out of the way” of similar elements. As you watch and listen, it becomes clear that there are other more subtle rules that govern the interaction between different elements – but it’s something you’re going to hear rather than see – you need to trust your ears. While inefficient, I’ve really enjoyed the process.
The pleasure of the relationship continues as you use the application: the next time you launch the app to create a scape, the interface may open to show you that a new icon has been added to your palette. What does it do? Only one way to find out – drop it into a blank scape and listen. Add another element and see if things change. Choose a new palette on the right and see how that effects things. You can leverage what you already know for this exploration, but it’s the same iterative slow-time activity. And the new element is always a small surprise to open and explore.
I expect that there some users who’ll be driven to howlin’, fist-shaking fury at the way that Scape doesn’t explain itself (or the way it isn’t documented). I’m sure they’re dedicated and clever individuals for whom the time necessary to live with the app and to develop some kind of personal and inner map of what they think it does (acts which I’d say live at the corner of Idiosyncracy and Virtuosity) might seem a waste of valuable time if they’re focused on doing the pragmatic thing and wanting to just “get on with making Enoesque audio” (The good news for them is that I expect the “random” feature of the app will be as good as they’d be without the investment of time and attention and the effort of listening. Maybe better. Or it’ll at least save a lot of time – simply punch the button and listen for 20 seconds, and then maybe toggle the moods on the right and stardom will certainly follow).
But I’m seriously entertaining the thought that this application is interesting and reasonably unique precisely because of the way it’s set up to encourage developing a relationship with its interface that’s reinforced by the temporally bound experience of listening, and because of the way the application unpacks itself over time in a way that encourages the continuation of that relationship. I’ve never run into anything quite like it.
By now, my version of Scape has what I think might be a full palette (although I’d love to be surprised again), but the thing still engages me – for example, are my intuitions about how the elements interact anything more than personal ones? I expect that the answer is either “Not at this point,” or that I’ll eventually develop enough facility that my idiosyncratic readings will constitute my “style” when working with Scape. Maybe that personal or internal map of things is somehow the point – instead of something defined for me, I’m writing my own internal manual for the interface, and reworking the documentation with each new piece I get as I work with it (Some things have and will probably completely escape me – I note that Eno says that some elements play more sparsely based on time of day, which I would probably have been the last person in the world to figure out – I have spent my time with it in the evenings only, so far).
And, as an Oblique Strategies afficianado from waaaaay back, how can I not like the Scape Strategies?
To finish on a note more directly related to Max, I don’t think it’d be particularly difficult to add some of what I think I’m hearing in action to the Max patching I already do, honestly [another reason I’ve found working with it to be a salutary experience – the ideas aren’t that difficult or subtle; their implementation is]. Obviously, as a programmer I am going to be less successful at surprising myself – but I do think that considering probabilistic interactions outside of the boundaries of an individual bpatcher – between what I think of as the pieces of what I’m using to create the larger whole – may yield some interesting results.
And, since it might be that I’ve learned an interesting lesson, that process may… um… take a while. A good while.
Don’t worry fans of creativity, SUE-C is still creating thoughtful teases of imagery and transforming spaces to exercise and delight your imagination muscle. She uses Max for both her live performances and recorded work to animate hundreds of different objects (paper, photos, small models, shiny things, etc.) You can see pictures of her set-up here.
Her newest work, Infinite Jest, lives both as an installation and as a live handmade film
inspired by the complex and remarkable novel of the same name by the late author David Foster Wallace. When the piece lives as an installation, the audience experiences the space as an environment comprised of projected videos, a text based soundtrack, a gaming console and mini tennis court intended for the audience to walk through and play with. During the performance, the film is brought to life through the lens of live cameras that follow the manipulation of photographs, drawings, scale models and various three dimensional objects by visual artist and performer SUE-C, along with the live lush electronic soundtrack and vocals by AGF. Set in a slightly futuristic world the film is an attempt to create and re-create what character James Orin Incandenza, optics expert and filmmaker considered to be his life’s major works. After many unseen failures, his ‘film’, an entertainment, is eventually released, which proves to be fatally seductive.
With this as a jumping off point, long time audio-visual collaborators SUE-C and AGF explore the expression of seduction in sound and image in collaboration with Kevin Slagle. You can see photos of the installation here.
The installation opens on October 5th at LaBoral Art Center in Gijon, Spain, and stays until February 25th. The live show is October 6th at 8pm.
SUE-C will also be accompanying Morton Subotnick at the SF MoMa on November 15th for a concert featuring his most famous piece “Silver Apples of the Moon” with her live animation.
More about SUE-C and friends here:
While I generally leave the business of standing alone on stage and fingersquiggling on a smartphone touchscreen to others as a performance modality, I remain an unabashed fan of the idea of being able to construct elegant multitouch module interface/performance setups like this one:
The video crossed my transom almost in tandem with the announcement of the release of Brian Eno and Peter Childers’ most recent iPad app Scape, and together they strike me as a useful object of contemplation: thinking about exercise of “reverse engineering” approach when it comes to making new things in Max, and how or whether it interacts with the idea of encoding opportunities for virtuosity.
Even on those occasions where I have tried to duplicate something that moved me as exactly as I could, the result was never a precise copy. Despite that, it seems as though nearly every important thing I learned about Max programming winds up being traceable to what happens when you break down a problem into its component parts and then try to imagine what the “Max version” of those parts would be. It’s usually the case that a really interesting give and take always occurs while the process is going on that, in retrospect, might be more interesting than the initial goal.
In the case of the touchpad/Eurorack example, you can actually puzzle it out – a combination of the text itself and a quick look at the front panels and jacks for the Cyclebox, ES-3″, Maths, Doepfer A-132-3, and Tom Erbe’s Echophon* modules in the rack will more or less tell you what you need. So, reverse engineering this wouldn’t be too awful a proposition.
Beyond that, it’s just a question of downloading a fingerpinger external for Max and engaging in little tweakery.
That’s the way it is when someone else breaks the conceptual ground for you; you’re freed up to find the parts you’re less comfortable with and tweak the patch, or use what you find for the next thing.
* Mr. Erbe, for those of you who may not recognize his name, is the author of the wonderful suite of Soundhack MSP external objects.