FAQ: M


The History of M

Why is it called M?

The first name of the program as it was being developed was “Master Composer” Then it was going to be called RMan, for “Random Manager.”

Shortly before we released the first version, the four original authors met with Christopher Yavelow and Curtis Roads, well-known writers in the computer music field, to see if they could help us come up with a better name. We started noticing that all the things the program seemed to relate to began with the letter “m”–MIDI, Macintosh, music, “Maestro” so eventually Yavelow said, “Why don’t you just call it M?” There is a well-known movie called “M” starring Peter Lorre, but it has nothing to do with the program. Nor does a band from the early 1980s called M that had a hit single called “Pop Muzik.”

Another possible coincidence or conspiracy is the multimedia company “M Factory” based in northern California that had an expensive software product called Mtropolis. M was first released with another program called Jam Factory. Currently mfactory.com links to a software consulting firm with the beautiful name of Overhyped Technologies.

What is the story behind M?

The first version of M was written for the Apple Macintosh starting in 1986 at a small company started by Joel Chadabe based in Albany, New York called Intelligent Computer Music Systems, or Intelligent Music for short. The goal of the company was to develop an “intelligent musical instrument” that could take many forms, and M was the result of the exploration of a particular form that involved the manipulation of stored presets (called variables) using onscreen conducting gestures. It was designed to work with MIDI synthesizers. The authors were David Zicarelli, John Offenhartz, Antony Widoff, and Joel Chadabe. A preliminary version of M was released in late 1986 and version 2.0 in 1988. Version 2.0 was developed principally by David Zicarelli and contained an entirely new interface and many new features such as the Pattern Editor.

After the first version of M was released for the Macintosh, it was ported to other platforms. A version for the Atari ST was written by Eric Ameres. A version for the Commodore Amiga was written by Darien Fitzgerald that included an internal sampling synthesizer. Voyetra developed and marketed a version of M for the PC called M/pc.

Intelligent Music left the MIDI software business in early 1990. The Macintosh, Atari, and Amiga versions of M were taken over by Dr. T’s Music Software. In 1994, Dr. T’s stopped selling M, so the program has not been commercially available until EYES Co. Ltd. in Tokyo, Japan, contacted David Zicarelli in 1997 about reviving it, since they had a Japanese translation of the M manual and numerous customer requests for the program. EYES started selling M in September 1997.

There are several references if you want to learn more about theory and history of M. A recent book that everyone interested in electronic music and its history should read is Electric Sound by Joel Chadabe, one of the original authors of M and a pioneer of interactive composition. You can learn more about this book at the Electronic Music Foundation web site.

David Zicarelli wrote an article describing M and Jam Factory in Computer Music Journal when they were first published in 1987. There were also numerous magazine articles and reviews that cover M in Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Music Technology (UK), and Sound on Sound. Good luck finding them.

So, what about those Atari, PC, and Amiga versions?

As far as we know, the Atari ST version still works, since, unlike the Macintosh, that OS has “stopped evolving.” Tim’s Atari MIDI World has a page devoted to Atari M. You never know, someone you know might keep an ST around to run M. We have no information about the Amiga version. Someone who has a strong interest in reviving a PC version of M contacted Voyetra and discovered that they no longer have the source code to M/pc, which should tell you how well the program sold on that platform.

Are there any programs that influenced the development of M? Any programs available today that are similar?

There were a number of programs that could be called interactive algorithmic composition programs that appeared in the late 1980s that exhibited M-like features. Certainly the other Intelligent Music programs, such as Jam Factory, UpBeat, OvalTune, and RealTime, were influenced by M. Emile Tobenfeld developed some software for Dr. T’s that he claimed were influenced in one way or another by M.

An indirect influence of M’s abililty to modify an ongoing musical process while it is being played is the almost universal adoption of real-time editing in music sequencer programs. This is the ability to make changes to the underlying sequence data in a song without needing to stop or restart playback. However, one could also credit Intelligent Music’s RealTime, which took this idea to an extreme, as a more direct influence in this area.

Many more traditional software applications today allow this type of editing while playing, so it doesn’t really seem that distinctive anymore.

Compatibility Issues

M 2.7.2 isn’t working right on my PPC machine, what can I do?

If you have a PPC machine, we are recommending that you stick with M 2.6, as M 2.7 eliminates some features and is primarily for Intel-based Mac machines. To download M 2.6, visit our Download page and choose the “older” version 2.6.

I’m using M 2.7.2 and I can’t use the AU DLS Synth as an output. Is there any way to do this?

This feature has been eliminated for M 2.7. You will need to route your midi data through another program in order to utilize the AU DLS Synth.

Does M 2.6 require anything special other than Mac OS X?

No, Core MIDI is included with every version of Mac OS X. You may want to visit sites such as osxaudio.com to learn about other applications you can use with M, such as MIDI Patch Bay and SynthTest.

Are there any features in M 2.6 other than OS X compatibility?

The only new feature is an Output Latency control in the MIDI Assignment window that allows you to introduce slight delays into the MIDI output in order to improve timing resolution with certain MIDI interfaces.

Does M 2.6 read in M 2.5 files?

Yes, however, OMS-specific device assignments in the MIDI Assignment window will be lost.

Can I use M 2.6 in conjunction with Max/MSP?

Yes. To feed MIDI from M to Max, use M’s MIDI Assignment window to select from M 1 or from M 2 as the device assigned to an M output channel you will be playing. In Max/MSP, choose from M 1 or from M 2 as the input for a MIDI object such as notein (double-click on the object to get a pop-up menu of MIDI ports). To feed MIDI from Max to M, use M’s MIDI Assignment window select to M 1 or to M 2 as the device assigned to an M input channel you will be listening to. In Max, double-click on a MIDI output object such as noteout to choose to M 1 or to M 2 as the output port.

Can I use M 2.5 in conjunction with Max?

Yes. You have can use the MIDI Manager and connect the output of one program to the input of the other using Patch Bay, or you can use the OMS IAC Driver (available as an add-on to OMS) to pipe MIDI from one program to the other. This requires System 7, and Allow non-OMS applications must be unchecked in OMS Setup.

Do old versions of M read in files created with the new version?

This is not something we have extensively tested. At the very least, there is information contained in the new version that will be ignored by previous versions.

Does M import or export type 1 MIDI files?

No, just type 0 files.

Sales, Support, and Authorization

How is M supported?

We provide free e-mail support, and in addition, we’ll add support information to this page as we encounter it. In addition, we’ll send you e-mail when bug-fix updates for M are available.

I own a previous version of M. Can I upgrade to the new version?

M 2.7 is a free update for owners of 2.5.7 or later, so you will need a new authorization code and serial number in order to install it. To get a 2.7 serial number, e-mail newm@cycling74.com and include your old M serial number.

For owners of versions earlier M versions, there is no reduced upgrade price. We have priced the new version so that it should be affordable to everyone who wants it. It’s far less than the original price in the 1980s.

Where can I get complete authorization instructions?

For complete authorization instructions, go to the authorization instructions page and choose M.