The Composers’ Playpen
THE COMPOSERS’ PLAYPEN is a program developed by me (Barton McLean) on MAX/MSP which enables very sophisticated MIDI control of existing synthesizers, sound modules, and samplers. Originally inspired by “M” and “Jam Factory,” it builds on these seminal programs by offering many more ways and different approaches of manipulating note and chordal material. It uses a collection of single-track sequences and MIDI loops as its basic units. Once these are recorded, they are manipulated in many ways, some never before seen in programs of this nature. There is opportunity to keep everything completely live, or to save some or all of the material for future performance.
Like my recently-completed SEQUENCER PLAYPEN (see Project 158 below), the COMPOSERS’ PLAYPEN is also completely MIDI-based, and as such, utilizes the MAX part of MAX/MSP exclusively. But there are vast differences between the two. The COMPOSERS’ PLAYPEN allows an infinite number of notes to be recorded (and in chords as well) live, and the program will remember exactly the velocities and rhythms as recorded. The SEQUENCER PLAYPEN has 24 notes per each of three tracks, but these notes have a much higher degree of manipulative ability. The COMPOSERS’ PLAYPEN has 14 separate modules or tracks that exist independently, whereas the SEQUENCER PLAYPEN has three tracks of a very finite 24 notes per track, existing as it does in the step-record mode. The COMPOSER PLAYPEN is somewhat limited in its manipulative capability, since it is somewhat bound by the live recorded phrase as a gestalt, whereas the SEQUENCER PLAYPEN treats each note as a compete entity in itself, to be modified, combined, muted, transposed, etc. on its own.
Both programs have the advantage of using an elegant MAX/MSP program for unique and comprehensive areas of control while maintaining utilization of any existing MIDI synthesizers or samplers. As such, they will not make existing setups obsolete, but rather will enhance them. Most importantly, these two MAX programs are COMPLETE MUSICAL COMPOSITION TOOLS, ready to go. As such, they have as supplements three YouTube videos, each with a complete performance of a work done on one or the other.
How did this project use Max?
Realtime recording of MIDI loops (via MIDI input) of up to 12 modules of unlimited length. Can record either into MIDI loops or into MAX sequencers. Can dump one type into another. Can save all for future work. All on an individual module basis. Additional recording of two instruments which improvise on your MIDI input. Flexible loop length adjustments. KB thru, solo, module, or Instrument 1, 2 & 3 selection. Ability to play all this back in any combination with all modules completely independent rhythmically. Enhanced play mode where KB notes initiate and stop/pause play for that individual module. Density control. Collapsed rhythm (see YouTube demo). Wild! Complete control over which modules are sounding at any given time. Velocity, mod wheel, breath controller settings, including an automated feature where they independently change according to preset numbers. Transposition. Random pitch during playback, including % of randomness and range of notes randomized. Pulsed program change where program of selected module (s) changes via a predetermined tempo in seconds, via a group of preselected programs for each module. Flexible stopwatch for live performance and recording convenience Many ways of transposing sequences and changing tempi. Instant stop/start of individual sequences. All this under precise preset control with a total of 2 master presets and 7 satellite presets. You decide if master presets control satellite presets or not. Clear visuals which monitor sequence length, loop length, attack/release of each individual note. Many more features. You have to see it. Program exists completely in MAX 5, requiring Macintosh System 10.6