Pomona College in Southern California has been a Cycling ’74 customer for over a decade. Beyond our appreciation for Pomona’s use of the software in several different departments, we can empathize with the school’s nerdy obsession with a certain number.
You can probably imagine that we too ascribe magical powers to a certain number similar to the one revered at Pomona, a power which often seems even greater when we are confronted with numbers on either side. I’ve pleaded with my friend Andreas Killen to write a sequel to his wonderful book 1973 Nervous Breakdown with a book about, well, you know… (as a programmer I would think of this as an off-by-one error). Whenever I go to a bakery or a meat counter that uses a take-a-number system, I always hope I will be able to tear off the number 74. In fact if the currently available number is, say, somewhere in the high sixties I might just hang out for a little while. The best possible result would be at a place like Gayle’s where they use take-a-numbers that are of the form
Have you been seeing 74 everywhere lately?
Stanford University has begun an important project to preserve the works of the great Max Mathews. Geoffrey C. Willard at Stanford University Libraries posts about it on their Digital Library Blog.
Read the complete post here on which you can hear a sample of Mathews’ work, and find compilations of other early electronic music gurus for sale (album cover art at left).
I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of sensors to pick up on our brain waves and react with a physical outcome. Like in cool old 70s movies where the girl moves the train using Alpha waves or now the new Star Wars based toy that allows kids to move the trainer remote using The Force.
Now thanks to Max and the work of artist Andrey Smirnov and his assistants, we can hear the brain and all its chattering feedback.
Way to think outside the box!
Since Labor Day is coming, you might have some spare time this weekend and might be wondering what you could do. How about a little Max project?
Here’s one simple but fun idea, based on an optical experiment I found on Brusspup’s Youtube Channel. How about making a patch that would let you do this?
No doubt that you are familiar with Wagon-wheels effect, which is what’s happening in the video above. The interaction between frequency of movement and framerate of the camera gives this cool gravity-defying effect. You might be able to do something low tech for the water fall, but for the Max patch, you should go nerdy!
For instance, instead of using cycle~ to generate a low frequency, why don’t you make your own using a fast algorithm (just like this one) in gen~.
To record the video in Jitter, jit.grab will do the work, but you might also want to record the video using jit.qt.record and upload it to youtube! Don’t forget to share it.
Happy Labor Day!
Recently when I was hearing about a very exciting stage forthcoming stage production (you’ll just have to watch this space!) that uses Max, I was reminded of one the last theater productions I saw that used the software, Schick Machine by the Paul Dresher Ensemble. This amazing piece continues to tour around the world (it was in Hong Kong last month and will be in Illinois early next year).
We did a series of interviews with Paul Dresher and Alex Stahl about the software behind the show when it premiered a few years ago. If you never saw these interviews at the time, they’re a fascinating look at how software development interacts with virtuosity, danger, and the demands of the stage.
The “Water Light Graffiti” is a surface made of thousands of LED illuminated by the contact of water. You can use a paintbrush, a water atomizer, your fingers or anything damp to sketch a brightness message or just to draw. Water Light Graffiti is a wall for ephemeral messages in the urban space without deterioration. A wall to communicate and share magically in the city.
Sometimes mathematics seems opaque and mysterious until someone finds a way to illustrate a concept in a unique way. Often the results are beautiful.
For each natural number n, we draw a periodic curve starting from the origin, intersecting the x-axis at n and its multiples. The prime numbers are those that have been intersected by only two curves: the prime number itself and one.
“These days you have to know everything: you have to be able to play your instrument, you have to know music theory, and you have to know Max” – Dane Orr, Sonnymoon
The most overused sentence between my friend Jon and I is, “Listen to this band and consider going to their show with me”. I’ll admit, he knows what kind of music flips my pancakes, but when we went to see the band Sonnymoon I had no idea at the end of the night I would be saying,“ This is what I’ve been searching for”. Hive mind at its best.
Named in homage to the Sonny Rollins track “Sonnymoon for Two”, vocalist Anna Wise and producer Dane Orr, are masters of the musical balancing act, an eloquent embodiment of musical talent paired seamlessly with music technology. With the recent addition of Tyler Randall on the sitar (Yes, you read that correctly) and percussionist Joe Welch, the quartet will scorch the apathy right out of your body.
The setup for their live performances is carefully orchestrated, with a plethora of controllers and convoluted cables (Imagine a less precarious version of Indiana Jones landing in a pile of snakes). However, the line is clearly drawn between tools and musical capabilities. They have adopted a policy of placing their laptops out of view, which for me, is part of their magnetism. “Simplicity is key for us, because expression, control, and connecting with an audience is the most important”, Orr has said about their approach.
That paradigm is also transferred in the way Sonnymoon utilizes Max. “At first we used little abstractions that we found interesting, ones we thought might open different sonic doors for us, but it was when we stopped thinking technically and started thinking artistically that we truly became friends with Max…People needn’t be scared of Max or think that you need to dedicate your whole life to computer programming to be able to use it. The same way a guitar player can dedicate some time to learning to use different pedals, people can explore using Max to expand their musical world”.
I’m glad Sonnymoon and Max have become friends. They are so similar. Harmonizing technology with creativity while exposing both fragility and strength are the things they do best.
For many years Robin Fox has been at the frontier of Australia’s leading audio-visual practitioners, innovatively using Max and interactive design systems to engage and challenge audiences across the globe.
As expected, many of his projects involve Max in one form or another from controlling motors that deflect lasers to taking data from wave-rider buoys in the Southern Ocean. He is most notably known for his synesthesia inducing laser based live shows but in recent times has implemented some very interesting works involving live interactivity and tracking.
Commissioned by the City of Melbourne to create a Giant Theremin, Fox set about designing and implementing a live scale version in full polyphonic. Using a camera tracking system to trigger sounds (in place of an electro magnetic field) and the ability to track up to 8 individual people at any one time, day or night.
I find these particular projects interesting as it not only uses Max in an innovative way within the public realm but encourages people and strangers to interact and step outside their comfort zone.
Lots of people use Soundflower for producing podcasts and doing various work where audio needs to get from one app to another. One great thing about Soundflower is that it is hackable so that you can customize it to your needs. A clever Soundlower user — who hosts “LuBlog” — contacted us with a great example where a group call can be recorded using Ableton Live with each individual recorded on their own track so the whole thing can be mixed properly in post-production.
Interested in learning more? Follow LuBlog’s detailed instructions.
One of the things that first drew me to Max was its ability to connect such a wide variety of software and hardware in meaningful and flexible ways. Anything from video game controllers to muscle tension or brainwaves becomes fair game as a performance interface.
The Resistor JelTone created by NYC Resistor, a NYC based hackers collective, is one of the most humorous and unexpected interfaces I have seen. Using capacitive resistance fields and americas favorite summer salad ingredient, gelatin, they create novel instruments using Jell-o molds. The Arduino reads in the capacitance data and is passed on to Max/MSP to generate the sound.
Check out this JelTone toy piano:
A video of one being performed live can be seen here.
Not weird enough for you? What’s the strangest or most novel instrument you have ever seen?
I – and my kids – have been fascinated with 3D films and effects lately. In fact, we have been making silly paper-based anaglyphs with red and blue markers just to see what we could do.
Some time ago, Andrew Benson put up Jitter Recipe #43 that shows how to do anaglyphs in Jitter. The opened the door to Max-based 3D that would go beyond the typical stick-poking-you-in-the-eye graphics.
David Butler, author of the imp.* tools, also did some experiments with anaglyphs created in Max. His Microfiche project is a great example of something generative and eye-bending. So don those red/blue 3D glasses and take this for a whirl!
You can’t schedule musical inspiration. Nothing is more frustrating than having an idea in your head, but not being in a position to record it before it slips away.
Since the iPhone came into my life, I do a lot better job of capturing the ephemeral. At first I just used the built-in “Voice Memos” app to quickly document the moment as best I could, tape recorder style. I have since tried a whole host of audio capture tools, including my latest love, Loopy, a cute little app that lets me quickly layer a bunch of loops.
The idea of course is that later I’ll take the captured audio and import it onto my computer for further processing with Max, Live, and other tools. But this is invariably where other audio capture apps all fail; they have great interfaces for capturing and basic authoring, but clumsy, inconvenient systems for exporting the audio to the computer.
What mobile audio apps do you use? Are there any that do a great job of integrating with a computer-based workflow?
A fabulous suite of free and artistic audio plugins using Max for Live, designed to challenge the Eurocentric / Western norms prevalent in electronic music software. Definitely worth checking out both from technical and cultural perspectives.
Spin has a nice profile on the project:
I’ve long been a fan of the German electronic group Mouse On Mars, but I’ve lost track of them the past few years. I was excited to see they have released a new album entitled Parastrophics earlier this year.
For the live performances to support their new album, they are using Max For Live for synchronization between the three band members, and have enlisted the help of multimedia artist Karl Kliem for tightly synched Jitter visuals.
Parastrophics visuals excerpt:
Mouse On Mars interview:
The following video by (a-z)² describes an interactive installation using IanniX, KorgNano, and MaxMSP.
Those of you who have been following the Madrona Labs Soundplane project will be excited to know that his first batch of the very expressive Soundplane instruments has shipped:
Congratulations Randy – we wish you all the best.
Steven Jouwersma AKA Crofty-Systems created this delightfully over-engineered humane mousetrap using Max.
“I made this mouse trap to catch a mouse in my house. The mouse trap catches the mouse alive, it uses a camera to detect the mouse and triggers a solonoid on the right moment.”
Daito, Motoi, and Friends show you the results of their beautiful and fluid creation, as well as some of the structure behind it. Watch the entire video to fully appreciate it!
At the beginning of the video, I didn’t consider the physical structure on which the lights were moving, nor did I imagine that the lights were contained within balls which were being tracked by Max. Upon learning what was happening behind the scenes, I was even more impressed by the installation and appreciated the creator’s exposure of the details.
It’s widely known that Miller Puckette, inventor of the Max language, named the program in honor of Max Mathews. It’s less well-known that Miller did this not just because Max was deserving of the honor due to his pioneering work in an astonishing variety of areas within the field of computer music. In fact, Miller was specifically acknowledging Max’s work on a pioneering real-time scheduling algorithm called RTSKED developed in the early 1980s, which Miller credits as a fundamental influence on the design of his software.
I spent 4 days in Pittsburgh in early June attending the 2009 NIME conference at Carnegie Mellon University. NIME is a conference devoted entirely to new interfaces and devices for the performance of musical ideas. The conference consisted of three days of paper talks, poster sessions, demos, and performances. There was also a well-curated gallery show with a number of impressive interactive sound installations. In addition to all the talks and posters happening on campus, a number of us gathered for nightly pitchers of Yuengling and pizza at the local watering hole, the Panther Hollow Inn. I will try to summarize here what I thought were some of the highlights of NIME 2009.
Many of us are invited to perform in unique circumstances – it’s a part of the Digital Media life. Recently, we’ve been featuring some interesting examples of Max-based work, including Andrew Benson’s work with M.I.A. and Dana Karwas’ installations. So when I was asked to play with an electronic music All-Star Band, I couldn’t help but document the experience.
Last week I arrived home from a ‘vacation’ in France. In my case though, the term ‘vacation’ means that I was programming and debugging objects for Max/MSP/Jitter. The occasion for this trip to France were two workshops focusing on Jamoma that were organized by Pascal Baltazar, GMEA, and Incidents Mémorables. The workshops were held in Albi and Paris, respectively.
The Seoul International Computer Music Festival (SICMF) is a yearly event sponsored by the Korean Electro-Acoustic Music Society (KEAMS). Having both concerts and a post-festival paper session, it is in some ways similar to the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), reviewed elsewhere on the Cycling ’74 website. However, because it is a festival, not a conference, the main focus of the SICMF is the music – and to provide both the local Korean computer music community and the invited international guests with a fertile cross-cultural environment for sharing musical ideas.