Even before the Max for Live beta was opened up to the public, a community of testers was hard at work putting Max for Live through its paces. The integration of Max into the Ableton Live environment opened up a whole spectrum of possibilities that many users hadn't even considered until now, and it didn't take long before our beta testers were begging to show off their new projects to the larger community.
Once the veil of secrecy had been lifted, we saw an unprecedented flurry of blog posts, screencasts, Twitter updates and even whole websites devoted to the software and what people are doing with it. There was already a vibrant and engaged community of users developing around Max for Live before the product was even released.
Alternative Controllers in Live
One of the areas where there seems to be an explosion of development is the integration of various alternative controllers into Live sets. A lot has been said about the new Akai APC40 and Novation Launchpad, but Max for Live can benefit a variety of controllers. Ableton Live has a fairly friendly interface for mapping MIDI controllers, but users have increasingly desired interfaces for things like Open Sound Control , serial data, HID devices, and other non-MIDI protocols. With mature devices like the Monome, JazzMutant's Lemur, and others using OSC as their native communication protocol, Max for Live presents a welcome set of tools for use with Live. Monome users can expect to see many of their favorite patches ported to Max for Live in the near future, if they aren't already.
"Honeycomb maps incoming pad presses from the Snyderphonics Manta to a latticed tonal system of midi notes. This lattice turns the Manta into an isomorphic keyboard, allowing consistent chordal shapes to be played anywhere on its surface. A minor chord is always created with an inverted triangle having its root note in the upper left corner, while a major chord is always a triangle with its root at the top of the shape. This isomorphism makes it easy to play the Manta and produces surprising melodies."
Vlad is also busy working on devices for Monome control, porting his popular Daevl.Plugs, and all sorts of wonderful sounding experiments for Max for Live.
Livid Instruments has also been working on integrating their new controllers Block and Ohm64 with Max for Live devices.
For those individuals who like to create their own unique experimental controllers, here is a video from "Liubo" showing an Arduino connected to Max for Live:
Of course any device communication that natively works inside of Max should work the same inside of Max for Live, so gaming controllers, multitouch clients, serial boards and custom MIDI controllers of all varieties should work just fine. Combine this with the Live API objects and hardware controllers for Live are about to become way more interesting.
Pluggo Plugins Reborn
Included with Max for Live are 40 of the most popular Pluggo plugins ported as editable Max devices. This is the result of a labor of love to clean up the old patches, add comments where needed, and generally spruce up the user interfaces. Admittedly, even after years of Pluggo updates, the plugins themselves were looking pretty dated. Max for Live provided an excuse to weed out the best plugins and modernize them a bit, taking advantage of some of the features that are specific to the Live integration. Also, since all Max for Live devices are editable, users are welcome to take them apart, reuse bits of the patches, or look at them as some really quirky examples of patching.
Peculiar Instruments, Custom Effects, and Email
It is tempting to focus all of our attention on the grand productions that people will build in Max for Live, the fully realized synths and complex sequencers. As Robert Henke noted in a recent interview on this site, “MaxForLive allows people to solve their very individual problems with a high degree of elegance.” A lot of the devices produced in Max for Live are likely to be very simple solutions to very unique problems. To help you on your way, there is an impressive set of Max building blocks and tutorial devices developed by Manuel Poletti included with the Max for Live content. The building block devices show just how effective simple Max patches can be, and also offer less experienced users a set of well-designed demonstrations of common audio and MIDI processing approaches. Also included are the Big 3 devices developed by Darwin Grosse - Buffer Shuffler, Step Sequencer, and Loop Shifter - more complex devices that you can play with right out of the box. There will certainly be plenty of new toys to keep you busy.
During the beta process, long-time Max user Nick Rothwell decided to take off in a completely different direction and came up with some really clever devices. Since Max provides access to all sorts of programming and scripting languages, there is a potential to integrate any sort of scripting API into a Max project. Eager to test this idea, Nick decided to be the first user to create an email-reading device:
He then followed up with a Twitter client as well, using Java and python libraries:
As Nick's experiments suggest, we are bound to see all sorts of strange pairings once people start using Max for Live and exploring all of the options. As Robert says, “People will come up with ideas which totally exceed what any one of us would imagine people would do.” So, what will you build?