Approaches to Composing Glitch Music using Max MSP?

    Jun 07 2012 | 2:17 pm
    Hey all,
    My name's Darryl and I'm an electronic DJ/Producer from Ireland. First off, let me say thanks for having me, I look forward to expanding my knowledge a bit more in the world of Max! I'm currently studying for my masters in Music Technology at the University of Limerick. The reason, I'm here is because I'm in need of some guidance with regrards my research topic for my thesis. I've chosen to investigate the use of psychoacoustic phenomena as a compositional tool in post-digital/glitch music.
    I'm relatively new to the world of glitch music and could only name a few of the more popular artists from the genre such as Ryoji Ikeda, Alva Noto, Autechre, Oval & Fennesz. Furthermore, I've never tried my hand at producing post digital, glitch or any form of IDM before now. So, I'm hoping that some of the more experienced members/ glitch coposers might be able to advise me on some of the well established approaches to composing glitch music, more specifically, approaches regarding the use of Max MSP. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

    • Jun 07 2012 | 3:14 pm
      Hi CAZABON,
      Nice to have you here in the forums. Sounds like an interesting research topic. I'm sure you're already aware that not all glitch music uses MAX but you certainly can make some interesting sounds. Really as a starting point I would look at the definition of glitch (personally I dislike the 'post-digital' moniker but other people like it).
      1.You say psychoacoustic phenomena as a compositional tool what's an example of this? 2. Are you intending to learn MAX yourself or just research its use by composers? 3. Glitch imho is pretty broad and may include things like chiptunes, hardware hacking (check out nick collins' book) etc. don't know if you want to look into those...
      Maybe check out: PITA, Kid 606, Kevin Blechdom (i think you can download her patches on her website).
    • Jun 07 2012 | 4:10 pm
      afaik, glitch stands for, noise of machine, that kind of noise that's not intended but resulting from a bug (a glitch), artifacts sounds, and so on. Hence the "post digital" ( :) ) : because you don't really, in this music, use the digital things to produce sound as they are designed for ; rather use any "unintended" sounds they can give to make music. Those are sounds of un/plugging wires, radio noise, clicks of all sorts, and sure enough any things in chip/cheap/tunes and hardware hacking. But from this point of view, Max is kind of not ideal (or is it ?) for that kind of music, because you don't really have artifacts in max, i don't know, maybe you do, but my look on it is that it's such a low-level programming thing that anything you do - however glitchy it can be - is something intended in the conception of the program. You can, though, use Max to make glitchy sounds, maybe read as audio a file that is not intended so, or read an audio file in a way that it's completely destrucutrated... So i don't know, i don't do those things, maybe i should.... And lastly you can order sounds in time in any way, which is kind of why Autechre use Max maybe. What i mean is, if your really would make postdigital sound in Max, you'd have to e.g. turn dsp on and off at a high rate, while playing any kind of synthesis, that would be in the spirit, no ? Or whatever. For the psychoacoustic part of it, though, i'm not sure what you're thinking about and what kind of help you're looking for, maybe the psychoacoustic effect of glitchy sounds on listeners is them imagining some machine completely distorted, broken apart, in a really high speed, thus a strange projection of electronic afterlife, combination of things unrelated give birth to new things technologics in your head, or everyday life you hear those unhuman sounds, here they die, you gain control on the Things ! etc.
      tl ; dr : i don't know what is glitch music....
      maybe Christian Zanesi is on topic ?
    • Jun 07 2012 | 7:19 pm
      Thank you both for your responces! I apologise in advance for my lack of knowledge with regards to this topic. I would consider post-digital music a term which discribes the use of sound objects extracted from 'failed' digital techology as the primary constituents for composing a piece of music. I would consider Glitch then, to be a bi-product of the post-digital movement, one which has developed to be primarily beat based in nature; a sub-genre of post-digital music. At least that's my understanding after reading papers such as Kim Cascone's "The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music". However, my understanding may be flawed; in which case, I'd be happy to gain a clearer understanding between the two.
      The problem is that after learning about the approaches and ideas behind other genres of contemporary music such as electro-acoustic or minimalist music, the processes that are used to compose a piece become quite self-explanitory. However, I struggle to grasp how glitch artists approach composing their music? My impression was that glitch composers would simply record their sounds from malfunctioning digital equipment and use the sounds as their sample library for composing in an everyday DAW like logic or pro tools. My supervosor however, mentioned that logic would not be a suitable programme to compose glitch music in, thus I question my above 'guess' on how to approach glitch music.
      I understand that not all glitch music is made in Max, however, I recollect my Electronic Arts lecturer mentioning how Markus Popp from Oval uses Max MSP patches to organize his click/cut libraries. Unfortunately, he couldn't recall where he came across the article and I've struggled to find any more information on the topic since. So, I guess I'm interested in knowing what part Max MSP plays in a glitch composer's workflow? If anyone has their own approach, would you be willing to share some secrets? Even if you might know where I could find some information on Popp's approach or indeed any other similar artist's methods, please let me know.
      As for the psychoacoustic phenomena element, I hope to implement ideas such as Dianna Deutsch's "octave illusion" as compositional tools when approaching glitch music. I'll be taking part in other dedicated psychoacoustic websites and forums such as '' for up-to-date research regarding the use of psy.phen in composition.
      I really hope that this added information will give you a clearer understanding of where I'm at? Any advice will be greatly appreciated and a big thanks for your response earlier.
    • Jun 07 2012 | 8:13 pm
      distorted snippets of buffer shuffling over a randomly chosen audio file do make glitches but not glitch music.
      any style of music involving computers in its generation/composition must also involve a good part of musical idea by the composer.
      this suggests that it could be a good way how you can find out how to create such max patches by starting from some concrete small musical idea. imagine (or write down in a traditional way) some phrase you have in mind, then try to build something in max which can create this.
    • Jun 07 2012 | 11:05 pm
      I had a mess around for a half an hour - I don't usually do glitchy music but I gave it a bash for the craic ;)
    • Jun 08 2012 | 12:59 am
      Re: post-digital, Yeah I have read that article by Cascone. I have a feeling there is another guy who talks about post-digital which I can't remember right now. I know that Simon Waters talks about some of the issues around this stuff in 'Music, Electronic Media and Culture'. Anyway, I guess mainly I don't like the term because 'post' is such an abused prefix :) You might want to check out Caleb Kelly's book 'Cracked Media: the sound of malfunction' it might be of help. Also if you want heavy theory/philosopy surrounding use and interpretation of technology this one is good: 'From Technical to Technological: The Imperative of Technology in Experimental Music Composition' by Michael Hamman. Its a journal article from 'Perspectives of New Music'. Brutal on the brain though :) I can't think of any specific readings about people using MAX for glitch stuff though...although Kevin Blechdom did most of her early stuff with it. The album 'The Inside Story' was I think made with the patch on her website. Klardiscopic the patch is called or something. I think there may be an interview with her on this website too somewhere...of course I don't know if her work comes under the definition you have stated.
      Re: glitch I think you might find that glitch is sometimes applied to music that isn't all that beat driven or IDM-ish. In your paper I would state your definition for the purpose of the discussion perhaps. As with all genre labels it is fairly broad and open to interpretation to a degree. I personally use it to describe any and all of the things classified above but I am a maverick :P
      I might have totally the wrong end of the stick here though....are you composing or writing a paper?
    • Jun 08 2012 | 4:09 am
      2 thumbs up.
    • Jun 08 2012 | 7:20 am
      Here is an interview where Frank Metzger of Oval describes how they accidentally discovered the CD skipping sounds:
    • Jun 08 2012 | 8:16 am
      Did you read the interview of Icarus describing the process of making their 1000 different versions of their latest album ? involving algorythmic processes and as, as Roman wrote, a pretty solid artistic concept and musical ideas from the beginning of the project ?
    • Jun 08 2012 | 6:46 pm
      Funny, for me the trick is to make sounds/patches without glitches :)
      Never heard a "glitch" track from AE and I've heard all their music I think - can you point me to one? There's a track titled "glitch" on Amber but I don't hear any actual glitches in it
      If you listen to the end of their live shows when they're winding down you can hear that the beats are perfectly intertwined and coinciding. If there was a "glitch" along the way they wouldn't line up I don't know what you mean
    • Jun 08 2012 | 7:33 pm
      Take a look at my (old-ish) Max work, available as a Pluggo-based plugin, Major Malfunction:
    • Jun 13 2012 | 11:51 am
      Hi Cazabon
      You might want to check out Evolvor, which was built in Max/MSP. It might give you a few ideas for building your own Max patch for use in your glitch projects.
      Best, C
    • Jun 13 2012 | 7:17 pm
      Hey all, thank you all for your contributions to the thread. I'm very greatful for your help and I think the info posted above should be more than enough to get my research off the ground! @ LiamCormacGould: thanks for the recommended reading, I only glanced through them but they seem very usefull! I have to compose a piece and write an accompanying paper. Cheers to both Grizzle & Dan for linking me your work, I don't actually have a max on my laptop so, I'll have to wait untill I get into my college comp to play around with them. @Carl, cheers for the Oval interview!. I'm sure I'll be back again with a heap of questions but for now, thanks once again to everyone who participated!