Book Review: Interactive Composition

    V.J. Manzo has been a busy guy lately. He’s written several books, created new Max object libraries, worked on updating and set up a non-profit arrangement for the site/project. All this while being an active teacher and Max education champion. Today we are going to look at this recent book release by Manzo and collaborator Will Kuhn.
    There are many different approaches to teaching Max, music and technology; I happen to find Manzo’s work to embrace a ‘populist’ method: have fun, make things and learn this stuff by enjoying yourself. Interactive Composition takes this on full-steam: Ableton Live (along with Max for Live) is used to create music of many genres, including Ambient, Pop/Rock, Electroacoustic, Hip-Hop/Trap, House, Dubstep and more. Each genre is used as a launching point to learn about both Live and Max techniques that can help in the compositional effort.
    The book opens with 56 pages of basic for Live and Max use, then dives right into Ambient Music and the development of Synth Pads (using Live devices) and floating melodies (designing an MFL MIDI device). Each genre adds to the complexity of both the Live and Max content, leading to some interesting and complex creations. The book ends with a section on creating ‘monster rigs’ using a hybrid Max/Live system, and leaves the reader feeling like anything is possible.
    But it is, right?
    I loved this book, and have already gifted it to some friends as a great way to expand their knowledge of both stylistic and technical concepts. It’s a great way to learn, but it also sets up an excellent approach for teaching music technology in a unique and fun way. Highly, highly recommended.
    Find Interactive Composition at these locations:
    Note: You can hear me interview V.J. Manzo in this week’s Art + Music + Technology podcast, found here:

    • Dec 07 2015 | 9:03 pm
      I reviewed it when it came out and contacted Will straight away on Twitter. I then used it in a Audio Design for Digital Production course I teach at the University of Florida, Digital Worlds Institue. The book is a great resource for connecting Ableton to max with a focus on artistic styles.