Alessandro Cipriani & Maurizio Giri (one of the most active Max-focused writing units around), introduced the first volume of their ‘Electronic Music and Sound Design’ series a few years ago - first in Italian, and then English translations by David Stutz, followed a bit later by a second volume. Both of these books that were published in real-world paper form by Contemponet. But about a year ago, they created what I think is a masterpiece: iBook-formatted versions of Electronic Music and Sound Design Vol. 1 and Electronic Music and Sound Design Vol. 2, complete with embedded sound and video that pushes the definition of media tool training.
This iBook version covers all of the material from volumes one and two of the original paper books – which is to say: it covers audio processing basics, and Max as a music-making, audio-generating system from beginner level to a very advanced level. It covers basic programming techniques, compositional concepts and audio object use. If you are a serious musician that wants to attack Max, these books will get you there.
Viewing the book on an iPad is pretty interesting – while it only supports landscape mode, the font is really clear and readable, and I didn’t really have any problems working with the text. The illustrations are impeccable; in some ways, it seems clearer to me than the printed version!
About the only thing that I missed was an overview Table of Contents. The iBooks format segments the TOC in a way that wasn’t as useful for browsing the book’s breadth.
The reason that I missed the table of contents is connected to the book’s strengths, hovever. One of the things that I appreciate about this book is the depth of its coverage. Rather than providing glossy overviews of concepts, it provides depth and detail on the theory, patching and resulting output of the material it covers. While this means that the book is going to require some time and careful attention to get the most out of it, you can gain significant expertise by following along with the authors’ approach - it repays your attention.
And there’s also the question of size. Since this is a digital book, it’s perfect for traveling by virtue of being “bigger on the inside” - it takes up no more space than the iPad it lives on. The ability to have this book, my OpenGL reference library and a couple of other books at my fingertips no matter where I find myself while on the road is awesome.
But the real winner here is the interactive material. Having audio playback makes some of the examples come alive, and the video material provides information that would take hundreds of words to otherwise explain. Writing a book about media art process is always difficult - you don’t have the ability to say “It sounds like this…” with paper books, but Cipriani and Giri take full advantage of the iBook format to do exactly that.
If you are interested in music and sound design, you will find an endless fount of information in this book. I’ve been doing this sort of work for a decade-and-a-half, and I still spend time with this book to give me ideas or remind me of techniques I’d long forgotten. On the other hand, it is specific to music and audio - you’ll have to look elsewhere for enlightenment on video processing, OpenGL programming or Gen development. That said, if you are into audio, music, generative sound systems or the like, you’ll almost certainly find something here that will tickle your fancy.