Thursday, October 29, 2015

MAX/MSP Proposal


Electroacoustic music developed from playing through mono tapes, to stereo speakers and with simultaneous technical developments, surround systems are commonly used today. The travelling of sound in a space will provide a sense of spatial awareness. This academic paper will propose the use of surround systems using Max/MSP for Electroacoustic performances. At the end of the academic course, the writer will combine the use of Electroacoustic surround systems with live visuals to create a live performance. This live performance will push the creative boundaries of audio-visual works and fully utilize the spatial depth of an area.


The writer is an audio-visual artist, specializing in early electronic music such as Musique Concrรจte, Acousmatic and experimental noise music. She was also trained to create visual images to combine her videos with her composition. Subsequently she was invited to perform live visuals in several events. She is greatly interested in playing her violin using extended techniques and further processing her violin sounds. Furthermore, she would play recording samples and manipulate them during live performances together with the processed violin sounds. Trained as an architecture and interior design student at a younger age, spatial planning and visuals are still influential to her current artistic works.


The objective of this Max/MSP patch is to provide an audio input, a playback, effects and surround outputs for the live performance. This Max/MSP patch will have two sources transiting or playing at the same time, namely the acoustic violin and field recordings.

The acoustic violin will have a bridge pickup that will send its signal to the direct injection (DI), then to the Komplete Audio 6 interface. This will produce clean signal before sending the output to Max/MSP, which runs on a Macbook Pro. The audio input signal will need a gain to control the signal of the violin. Acoustic instruments need to be equalized well and can be a tedious task to do; therefore an equalizer must be placed after the gain to reduce certain frequencies. For the acoustic violin and pickup for this setting, reducing some of the highs will provide a more pleasant sound.

The violin sounds will then be sent to a switch, which allows the user to choose between the distortion and ring modulator. A bit crusher reduces the resolution or bandwidth of the digital audio data; the “dirty” and distorted sound may provide an edge to the piece. Additionally, the distorted sound will be sent into a peak amp. On the contrary, the ring-modulated violin sounds will be sent to time-based effects, such as the reverb and delay. Experimentation is needed to test out the different reverbs available; convolution, plate or spring reverbs are taken into consideration for this patch. When the violinist is playing pizzicato or short accented notes, a Ping-Pong delay will create a continuous sounds to fill in empty spaces in the piece.

Field recordings will need a playback for playing and triggering. The audio sample will be sent to the equalizer that is able to control the “frequencies”, “Q” and “gains”. To generate synth-like or electronic sound, a frequency modulator will be able to produce a different sound palette to suit the overall Acousmatic piece. Time based effects will also be included to have more diverse sounds. The hall reverb will probably create a sense of space for the processed samples. Field recordings usually will have ambient sounds unless recorded in a studio or in a completely silent space; therefore a simple delay will not cause too much chaotic and unwanted noise. It is important to create space in a piece during a performance or a piece of composition. A Ping Pong delay will produce too much ongoing noise that is not suitable for this context. In addition, a compressor can be added to the signal chain to have compressed sounds, which might blend in with the violin-distorted sounds. In case of emergency, a compressor can also help to prevent peaking. Reversing audio samples are very commonly used and can create another texture to the piece. A reverse audio playback can be added after the processed sounds.

Transition is going to be hard for a soloist triggering so many buttons and playing the instrument at the same time. A looper can help to prevent silent and helps to create an underlying track that transits to the next section. The looper will be programmed after the violin-processed and field recordings sounds. Moreover, these signals will be sent to a limiter and to the surround panning. Panning holds a great important to surround systems; the sounds need to be manipulated properly to allow the audience to hear the sound travel. For recording and documentation purposes, a recorder that is able to bounce out to digital files like wav, aiff files and analog disc will be included after the output.

Midi controllers placed a great importance to live performances, being able to control different parameters on the fly can create more texture, density and dynamics to a piece. The flowchart will indicate the control inputs needed. 

Due to the time constraint for this project, the writer will start off with experimenting with 5.1 surround speakers. If there is additional time allowance, more speakers can be added in at the later stage of development. Motion sensors, foot pedals or designing a foot controller using Arduino can be taken into consideration at a later date. The writer also has great interest in video performance. Research about Nintendo, Wii controllers and other motion sensors to trigger the live visuals can also be taken in a consideration too.

Work Schedule
Work Progress
1 to 5
(23/09/2015 – 27/10/2015)
Lectures and introduction on Max/MSP.
One to one tutorial

Submission - Proposal for Project Using Max/MSP by 11pm.

28/10/2015 – 03/11/2015
Setting up the audio input for the violin and the recording samples playback.
04/11/2015 – 10/11/2015
Setting up the gain and EQ, frequency and ring modulators for the violin and sample tracks.
11/11/2015 – 17/11/2015
Setting up the peak amp and time-processing effects.
One to one tutorial

18/11/2015 – 24/11/2015
Setting up the compressor, reverse, looper and limiter. Troubleshoot.
25/11/2015 – 01/12/2015
Work on the surround panning, mapping the midi controllers and recording.
02/12/2015 – 08/12/2015
Work on the surround panning, mapping the midi controllers and recording.
09/12/2015 – 15/12/2015
Testing out the live performance and recording.
16/12/2015 – 20/12/2015
Testing out the live performance and recording.
21/12/2015 – 03/01/2016
Testing out the live performance and recording.
04/01/2016 – 07/01/2016
Reviews and checks.

Submission – Project using Max/MSP by 4pm.
11/01/2016 – 15/01/2016
Seminar Presentation