Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Music Hackspace 'Max meetup Europe #1' event report...

Just occasionally (Spitfire Audio please note), I get invited to music business events, so I was very pleased when the Music Hackspace (Based in Somerset House, London, although in these Covid-19 times, maybe 'Online' is a better location!) informed me about an interesting event in the middle of January... (I'm a MH 'mailing list' subscriber, and thoroughly recommend the Music Hackspace if you are into music technology...)


So 3pm GMT on Saturday, the 16th of January 2021, found me videoconferencing on Zoom.us, taking part in the first 'Max meetup Europe Edition'. Max is the commercial 'visual programming' language for multimedia published by Cycling '74 (Miller Puckette, one of the original authors of Max at IRCAM in France, has also released an open source branch called PureData

After the usual welcomes and intros, there were two short presentations on projects using Max: 

One (above) from Phelan Kane on using Weather metadata in a MaxForLive device to control music generation in Ableton Live (I loved the use of the 'dict.view' dict viewer object to give the hierarchical list), and another (below) from JB on exploring dual sampling and pitch manipulation using two instances of the 'groove~' object. Now I have to declare here that I'm a great fan of the groove~ object, and I have been working on a sample processing device using it for far too long, but that's another story. Here's a tease partial screen-shot showing one of the two groove~ objects...

My main 'go to' object at the moment is the live.grid object, but not with the chucker~ object that it is supposed to be used for. Instead I mis-use it to provide a neat user interface to some probability functions. And that is another story as well...

Breakout

After this, attendees distributed themselves into breakout rooms (including chill rooms for those who didn't want to go too nerdy). I joined the MaxForLive breakout room because I've been doing more M4L than Max for quite a while. Now maybe I should do more Max, but TAS, as I've been saying too much...

The conversation started around MIDI Controllers. There's something about people who program Max For Live - they often seem to have a keen interest in MIDI Controllers, interfacing them, emulating them, reimagining them in M4L inside Live, etc. As usual with any discussion of MIDI Controllers, the topic of 'Custom' came up. I'm not immune to this, I have a half-built custom MIDI Controller made using the Makey Makey device, and I backed the Kickstarter Ototo project with the aim of turning it into a custom MIDI Controller. But DIY hardware is tricky (although I do like the occasional mod here and there...) and so the latest incarnation, the Yaeltex.com 'we built your custom MIDI Controller for you, was shared and there was lots of 'oohing' as everyone imagined something custom... This set us along a thread of 'MIDI Controllers' you may not have heard about, and it turns out that Yaeltex do some predefined controllers as well (like the 'MiniBlock2' shown here).


So that all of the discussion wasn't lost, I took some notes, and produced a database of most of the things mentioned, plus some others. You can view it either via the Music Hackspace Discord channel (max-meetups) or here: https://airtable.com/shrAClKa1B9X4w3ZC 

MIDI Controller database

Mapping

Things then got a little bit philosophical as the discussion went into programming, particularly going 'deeper' than Max or MaxForLive. We talked about Gen, which took us to JUCE, and then to SOUL, then via Bela, and ended up with C++ or even DSP assembler. I think Axoloti was mentioned too, but no-one dropped in Faust. It struck me that this whole topic needed some sort of map, so I produced one:


I have deliberately avoided trying to position VSTs (or AUs, or...) or Faust on this mind-map, but it's a personal view of what part of the 'Audio Dev' landscape kind of looks like. I'm sure it isn't perfect, but it gives some positioning of technologies on that spectrum between 'Easy and fast to code, but middling performance' to 'Difficult and slow to code, but amazing performance'. It's a long time since I did Motorola 56000 DSP coding, and recently I've not gone any lower than Gen. I suspect that talking about this topic is going to be a regular feature of the Music Hackspace Max meetups - did I mention that they are monthly for Europe, and for the USA too, so that's fortnightly if you register for both. 

Oh, and they are free! 

All you need is your time and Zoom (not the music electronics company from Japan, but Zoom.us, the videoconferencing services provider...)

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed talking to other people about Max, and the conversation strayed well away from it as well, so it was more like a gathering of 'people who make music', and I'm always up for that. 

Here's a link to the Music Hackspace 'Upcoming Events' page, so that you can register for future events... 

I would like to thank the Music Hackspace for a fascinating and useful couple of hours spent in Max-land. I may well do it again!

Links

Music Hackspace - The hosts of the Max meetup...
Cycling '74 - Max and more...
PureData - A very interesting alternative end-point to IRCAM research by Miller Puckette et al...
Phelan Kane - More about, and more from...
Yaeltex.com - Pre-built and custom built MIDI Controllers
Makey Makey - DIY MIDI Controller enabler - just add physical hardware...
MIDI Controllers Database - Some of the available MIDI Controllers (let me know about others!)
Gen - is one layer underneath Max...
JUCE - do just about anything audio on a computer...
SOUL - even deeper down the rabbit hole...
Bela - C++, PureData, SuperCollider...
Faust - an alternative to C++?
Music Hackspace 'Upcoming Events' page - Future Max meetup Europe Edition & USA Edition events, and more...

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