My Favorite Object: the button (or "a bang")


    “With a bang” sounds perfect with what I consider to be my favorite object of all Max time: the button object. So I said to Gregory that I would definitely be the man for the task.
    I am ready to end this series with a bang and I know just how to make one.
    In my Max youth, when I learned Max (in a totally random and chaotic fashion), I used to refer to the button object as “a bang,” thinking of it this way: “OK, let’s hook 'a bang' there”.
    It’s only very recently that I realized that that “bang” object had “button” as its official name.
    So the mental representation I had (and still have) of the button object was “a bang” - something really basic with a simple icon which you can hook up anywhere in a patcher that just does “something”, whatever you do with it: click on it with the mouse, send it messages, etc. Just “bang”....
    To me - from a formal point of view - it is still one of the best inventions in the Max world. The problem is that praising the object means that no one is likely to learn anything really new here, or download any fancy Max patches. Rather, this is just to be considered an obvious celebration of Max by way of one of its more emblematic features. Allow me to explain:

    The button object is appealing

    At that time (when I started patching), I could just patch things like this...
    ... just for the beauty of clicking the big pink button and watching the chain reaction:
    At that time, it was Max 3 - MIDI only - and the button object had a real special appeal:
    The most appealing versions involved using one of the 6 available colors (Yes, there were only six colors available for all Max objects):

    The button object is stubborn as a mule

    As you can see in the above picture, the object is happily limited: send it any message or number and it will output a bang message (flashing gently for the occasion). Send it a bang message, and it will say “bang." Click on the icon, and the same thing will happen.
    When you start using Max, you may start first by wondering, “What can I do with that?” The object seems so obvious and so abstract at the same time - and it’s everywhere in any tiny help patch - it represents well how Max looks to non-users: attractive and mysterious. The cool thing is that you come to discover that the button object can do almost anything with that bang message it sends.

    The button object can be used everywhere for anything

    You may use a single bang to initialize a whole performance patch that may contain hundreds of features. If you want a simple way to reset your Max stuff at any time, use a button object.
    The button object also neatly represents the rhythmic dimension of events in Max, which might be summarized this way:
    To create rhythm in Max, find a way to automate bang messages.
    It may not sound that meaningful when put that way, but when you're using the button object, everything starts making sense at the moment when the button starts flashing in a regular (or irregular) fashion.
    It’s one of the best aspects of the button object - you can use it to do something or to monitor something visually at the same time. It's sufficiently inspiring to let you improvise many programming tasks in just a few minutes - such as this patch below:
    Or you can quickly create a random MIDI note generator based on the metronome model:
    And you can rapidly decide to hook the MIDI note-on information to a random sound file...
    ...and so on. Each time you want to connect one process to another one, you use the button object for the connection. That’s a kind of freedom the object provides. For that reason, the button object is, for me, at the nearest edge of the heart of Max - and that's why it’s my favorite Max object. ...Immediately followed by my second preferred object - the uzi object, which can output thousands of bang messages.
    Check out the entire "My Favorite Object" series: bucket, stutter~, jstrigger, multislider, plot~, trigger, rate~, jit.slide, curve~, jit.gl.mesh, button, jit.gl.pix.

    • Sep 29 2017 | 5:58 pm
      Nice celebration of the quintessential Max object, Manuel!
    • Sep 30 2017 | 1:17 am
      i always thought that the original design of the button in max 3 and max 4 looked a bit like a membrane made of cellulose or rubber, so that you have to be careful not to click it too hard and destroy it.
      btw, i guess nobody ever used the bangbang object, right?
    • Oct 02 2017 | 4:19 pm
      Everytime i use it, the nancy sinatra song starts in my head.