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Overcoming PCAD: Patch Completion Anxiety Disorder.

Dec 19 2009 | 2:31 am

Hello, my name is cudnylon and I’ve been a Max/MSP programmer for 6 months.

Initially it was a rush. Creating delay lines, sample players, granulators. After my first abstraction I was hooked. But then a feeling crept into my brain. I had all of these pieces, but the puzzle was never finished. Every time I set a deadline to finish my main patch something would stand in the way. Does this have enough features? Is it too complex? Should I change the layout? Will one midi controller be enough? With another self-imposed deadline looming I’m feeling myself slip again. Can I finish this by the end of the month or will I let the fear get in the way?

How do you deal with PCAD?

Dec 19 2009 | 11:41 am

sketch the idea of your patch out first, maybe a little UI draft to get an idea of what the patch will do and how the user will interact with it.

also, don’t be afraid of limiting what the user can do

Dec 19 2009 | 12:40 pm

Fortunately for me, I have Patch Completion Anxiety Indifference, I kind of like that I’m never fully finished with a patch. I like to get to the point with a project where I’ve made it as well as I can, then use it until I realise I now know how to improve it, then improve it.

That probably stems from the fact that I’m not trying to make patches for other people, they’re always for my own use, so constant upgrading and evolution is an exciting thing.

Dec 19 2009 | 5:12 pm

you can only heal the anxiety disorder if you stop believing that there
are finished patches. such things do not exist so dont try to make them.

max/msp is a fluxus artwork, it has started in the 1990ies and it will
never end. you are only a small part of it, and you have almost no control
over it, except maybe the color of the connections.

make an abstraction which does nothing but [+ 7], and then try to
explain why it is finished now. or why it should be finished.

finished work is an illusion.

110 (finisher of everything)

Dec 19 2009 | 6:24 pm

I just thought I would add, like Mike says, having built in limitations is often a very good thing. Reaching the limits of what something can do often forces you to be more creative, which is always good! Not a rule-of-thumb by any means, but something to keep in mind.

Dec 19 2009 | 7:48 pm

my theory on the reason there are unfinished patches is that people are overwhelmed by the possibilities of the program, while at the same time not having the decisiveness to say ‘this is what i want my patch to do’ and sticking to it. a lot of this is down to your compositional needs, and finding out what they are could save you a lot of time in the long run. the recent c74 interview with robert henke is worth a watch as he talks about similar experiences when making his own patches. i suppose the idea of finished work varies from person to person, but for me there are many of my patches and compositions that i consider finished.

and i disagree that the software itself is a work of art. of course masses of time and thought have gone in to it, but without people to interact with, it can never be anything more than a bunch of code. it is a tool to create art.

Dec 19 2009 | 10:37 pm

Thanks for all the advice. I think it’s mostly that I get caught up in programming and rarely use the actual patches, so it’s less of wanting to call a patch done but say "ok, this is v1.0. i’ll work with it for a while and then see where i go from there." I never sit down and get comfortable with my patch as it’s constantly in a state of change. Henke’s idea of forcing us to use only the runtime for 6 months is a concept that has a lot of weight for me.

I was actually going to delete this topic when I first made it because I felt silly afterwards, but the new forum seems to lack an edit/delete option. It was still nice to hear the comments in the end, though.

Dec 19 2009 | 11:18 pm

I for one think this thread is great, and am glad to see it. There’s a huge difference between making patches for yourself and for others. Also it depends on how picky you are about certain things with layout etc., presentation mode helps a lot with this and I need to get better at using it. Stubbornly sticking to the old ways… pros and cons to both, but I’m not utilizing the pros as I could.

Most patches will never *really* be done, but parts of them really *can* do everything they need to and nothing more, and be pretty much perfect regarding the UI, if you want them to. Plenty of the "black box" function areas like subpatches that you never need to go into are done, done, done. It’s the overall scope that never is. And yes, there’s far too many possibilities… you start seeing how many ways different modules can overlap between projects and what they’re acting upon (the cool ramps you made for a delay line could plug into your 3D model positioning, ad infinitum). So it never feels like you’ve put everything into the current patch that you’ve learned and built in the past and that could be cool. I’m not sure how you would, without some kind of amazing organizational ability…

At each step you’re usually not adding possibilities, you’re multiplying them. That gets complex really fast. At the same time it opens up totally new ways to interact, which continues to draw you in. I for one haven’t slept very well since getting hooked, but that’s OK, I like the late nights…but it’s also good to step away…

Dec 19 2009 | 11:54 pm

This is one of the reasons that I use version control. It points out, at least to me, that while any given patch may never be "done," there are way stations along the path to "done."

Dec 20 2009 | 10:55 am

could not resist chiming in, apologies in advance. crazy sunday feeling.

really, if you ‘master’ and ‘control’ max/msp/jitter/m4l, you are not being creative and something is wrong, and that includes the ‘myth’ of ‘finishing’ patches / artworks – it never happens. (and roman is right – max is an ongoing artwork in itself). i like to point to the following text [quoting]:

Astruc’s caméra-stylo is what we all want – romantic ideal of genius at one with tools.
Problem is, however much I admire the guy, Bazin was just wrong, and wrong for one simple reason: never really made the stuff himself .   Idea is to lose control, not BE in control.
Quest-for and belief-in similarity of reality and fiction is what makes Godard’s Bazin-influenced early work so technologically minded for me.   But my reading of this work at odds with dénouement of Godard’s (Bazin’s) arguments.   Like all great art, was mostly an accident.   That outrageous editing, the enforced (thank fuck) need for brevity, the on-purpose-inaccurate (like a ‘musing’) hard-cut sound world, coalesce a hybrid surr eality that RESPECTS above all viewer/listener.   No need to explain to us what is ‘meant’; follow the ‘story’? – what matter if we do or don’t; sentences that scan? – (you get the idea).   The engagement is in the WAY we experience, not the boredom/burden of facts we may or may not take in (like Hollywood on Prozac).   Script, shot, soundtrack – integrated in a way that could be nothing other- (no other creative act-) than the cinema AND IT’S TECHNOLOGY.   Like Chion’s contract upsidedown.   [Paraphrasing]: "I don’t push the sounds around" said Mr F in response to Herr S – Dan Lander has this gift in his cinema-for-the-ear – this essential ignorance at the point of creative decision-making, to which if we let the technology dictate we would gain too much control.
A friend of mine once proffered a very convincing argument (I paraphrase here) concerning technology-in-creative-practice and WAR.   He suggested that as all technological advances come down to us creative types second-hand via the advancement of the U.S. army’s ability to blow people up, to utilise technology for the production of ones creative goals is to support the very capital function that wants to blow up critical thought.   " We must see, learn to see that when the time comes to add up all the defeats and victories, very often we have been fucked and we’ve been fucked because we, I, didn’t want to see, you, she, he, nobody wanted to see that all their dreams are represented … he didn’t want to see that all his dreams are represented at any given moment, given and taken back, by zeros which multiply them… ", as someone once said for Jean-Luc.   My friend: probably being provocative, like including this anecdote in this anecdotal musing; but it is an attractive thought…
The technology in my work? – but I hate ‘it’.   Merely a means to an end that no more ‘engenders’ than ‘undermines’; surely it depends who is in the Director’s-Chair?   You know, I still carry around with me wherever I go, a small music-manuscript-notebook and a pencil – I guess they’re my ‘girl and gun’.

Dec 20 2009 | 2:01 pm

i think it is worth noting the differences between an open ended idea and a closed one. of course the former is very appealing, and max really lends itself to this type of idea. but is there not a sense of control when you declare an idea open ended?

Dec 20 2009 | 9:35 pm

chris wrote:
"This is one of the reasons that I use version control. It points out,
at least to me, that while any given patch may never be "done," there
are way stations along the path to "done.""

yeah it is called "temporary final version", something which you can find
in most of my 1500 abstractions.

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