Musings to the Max: Bring on the Interactivity!

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The blank canvas that is an empty patcher window

Yesterday, I purchased Max 7. I’m pretty excited to have finally been able to get my hands on the program! While an undergraduate, I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to take a year-long course in electronic music. While the first half of the year was devoted to electroacoustic music, the second half focussed on interactive works using Max  to create

customized and personally designed real-time processing. I remember being enrolled in the class at the time, and thinking how overwhelming Max was. I had a fantastic professor, so my feeling towards the program was through no failing of his. I always felt that to really do all of its ins and outs justice I would need to spend some solid time with it—something that I just couldn’t manage to do while in school.

Fast forward to graduate school and Max returned to my realm of consciousness. This particular interaction was akin to meeting up with an old flame after a few years: there is a sense of familiarity about the interaction, but everything, somehow, still seems a little different. That difference, it turns out, was primarily the evolution from Max 6 to Max 7 (with a fantastically streamlined user interface!) My curiosity was piqued once again, and again, time proved to be my obstacle.

Now I have much more time and far fewer excuses. So beginning this year, though not as part of any sort of resolution, I’ve decided to reintegrate myself into an arena of potential creation: interactivity. Being finished with grad school does have the great benefit of once again being in the same geographical location as my harps. As soon as I had some time, I decided to acquaint and re-acquaint myself with some of the pieces for harp and electronics that are floating around in the world. This is certainly an area for development and personal contribution. It doesn’t seem like too many of the composers writing things for harp and electronics are actually harpists themselves, which results in many lost opportunities compositionally. Anyone can run string plucks and soundboard whacks through a delay, but there is so much more that can be done!

Not only is the idea of Max’s facility with interactivity appealing for the aural side of things, but perhaps even more so for me now, it is appealing for the visuals. Finally, I have the opportunity to really go crazy in experimentation, creating interactive and generative visuals. I’ve always wanted to orchestrate a large-scale installation. Now I possess the tools.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going to start diving into the creative process. I’ve got my eye on a few of the Jitter tutorials, and have an idea for an instrument that samples and processes an audio input live. I will have more details on that later as I delve in. It’s hard to imagine what it might entail given such a vague description.

Until then…

 

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