Fwd: Acma-l On Improv, computers etc

Subject: Fwd: Acma-l On Improv, computers etc
From: Kevin Austin (kevin.austin@videotron.ca)
Date: Thu Mar 17 2005 - 20:32:02 EST

Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2005 12:00:08 +1300 (NZDT)
From: acma-l-request@list.waikato.ac.nz


Message: 4
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 23:39:45 +1100
From: Brent Williams <brentwilliams@ozemail.com.au>
Subject: [Acma-l] Re Laptop Improvisation (Damien)
To: Damian Stewart <damian@frey.co.nz>

Hey ya, Damien.

Took me a while to respond to your original posting, and I see you have
had a few replies already. I have not read all of the replies so you
may have already heard of the stuff I've written about here...

Computers have long been legitimised as real-time instruments well
suited to improvised performance. I'll endeavour to have a bit of a
look through my disorganised stacks of archival material for articles
and books that you might be able to read on the subject, and for names
of prominent performers and composers in this field - this might take a
while (I'm always a bit flat out - aren't we all?). You could try
contacting the Make It Up Club in Melbourne <www.makeitupclub.com.au>
and the NOWnow in Sydney <info@thenownow.net> for info on computer
improvisers that have played at their gigs.

One book I have read on the subject of real-time computer music
performance springs to mind: It's titled "Composing Interactive Music:
Techniques and Ideas Using MAX" by Todd Winkler (published in 1998 - a
bit old but still worth a look). It's about building MAX patches that
you could use as improvising instruments among other things. Are you
familiar with MAX/MSP (software by Zicarelli and Puckette) or PD (Pure
Data - software by Miller Puckette)? These are object-orientated music
programming languages that allow a composer / musician to build their
own computer instruments and signal modifiers (as well as control
surfaces for external MIDI devices, etc.). MAX and PD also allow you to
modify patches quickly during performance, and instruments can evolve
from gig to gig.

MAX/MSP is not freeware <www.cycling74.com>, but Miller Puckette's PD
(Pure Data) software is (PD is very similar to MAX - the early
development of both programs was a collaboration between Puckette and
Zicarelli when they were both working at IRCAM, I think...).
Hans-Christoph Steiner's site has good installers for Windows and Mac
versions of PD, as well as links to community sites
(<http://at.or.at/hans/> or <http://at.or.at/hans/pd/index> for the PD
stuff only). Sure MAX and PD are a bit "geeky", but I advise you to
embrace your inner (or outer) geek and get into it!!!

If you are using Abelton Live, despite this being an excellent program,
you are probably already aware of the limitations that the interface
(or any other GUI) places on performance and on the way you work as a
composer (as does ALL software, and all instruments for that matter).
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but programs such as MAX and PD
allow you to design your own unique and purpose-built instruments and
interface. These can be specific to each individual performance. You
mentioned that you improvise without using any prepared material.
Sure, using MAX, and working with MAX patches is not really starting
totally from scratch, but neither is using a computer with a
pre-installed operating system or music software. This does not mean we
are not improvising when we use this software - the software is
analogous to a musical instrument. It is not incumbent on a computer
musician to "build the instrument" at the performance - I'm sure the
guitarist you jammed with didn't build his axe at the gig...although
that would be a cool performance! It's the spontaneity of the musical
material that's the thing, and finding the right tools to allow maximum

Another book to check out is "Interactive Music Systems: Machine
Listening and Composing" by Robert Rowe (published in 1993 - also a bit
on the old side, but a decent look at how early developers looked at
the idea of interactive systems for music). There is also some
worthwhile material in books by Curtis Roads ("The Computer Music
Tutorial") and a book by Dodge and Jerse, the name of which escapes me
at present (something like "Computer Music Systems").

In the replies posted, someone mentioned "M" and "Jam Factory"
software. Joel Chadabe was responsible for coding the "M" software and
"Jam Factory" was Zicarelli (again). You could check out Chadabe's
book, "Electric Sound. The Past and Promise of Electronic Music" (this
is mainly an historical survey for the lay-person but it's a good read
nonetheless). Check out Max Matthews, and his old Bell Labs colleague
Laurie Spiegel (her "Music Mouse" software dating back to Atari days is
still one of my favourite improvising tools - Laurie's website is <
http://retiary.org/ls/>, although it was down last time I tried to hit
it.). Another interesting chappy is Ross Bencina. His "Audiomulch"
software, and his work with VR gloves as a music software interface are
both worth a look. Ross was living in Melbourne until recently moving
OS (not sure where - Spain??? - Audiomulch website is

Cheers. As I said, I'll be in touch if I find anymore stuff. Hope this
was helpful. Go the Aussies for the 2nd test!

Brent Williams

PO Box 977 Wollongong 2520 NSW Australia



Message: 5
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2005 05:35:53 +1100
From: Angelo Fraietta <angelo_f@internode.on.net>
Subject: Re: [Acma-l] Re Laptop Improvisation (Damien)

Don't forget the locally made products. If you are a windows user,
Algorithmic Composer is also available for free.


Angelo Fraietta

PO Box 859 Hamilton NSW 2303

Home Page


There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge - that is CURIOSITY There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others - that is VANITY There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve - that is LOVE Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153)

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