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Cycling '74 Max

Created by nick. Last edited by nick, 11 years and 314 days ago. Viewed 7,256 times. #6
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This is an article culled from archive material, circa 1997.


When Carter Scholz reviewed MAX in >>Keyboard magazine in April 1991, he described it as probably the most significant MIDI product to come out that year, or possibly any other. Having been a MAX user for more than six years now, I absolutely agree with this.

In a music software market permeated by prepackaged products like sequencers and editor/librarians, MAX distinguishes itself as a powerful and versatile toolkit for a wide variety of MIDI and multimedia applications. MIDI data can be processed in almost any way conceivable. User interfaces can be designed and implemented, and it's possible to build entire applications using the wealth of components supplied. I use MAX for a variety of tasks, from voice editing to effects profiling to algorithmic composition to performance. I have ceased to rely so strongly on sequencers as compositional tools, using MAX instead. For live work, MAX is an excellent tool, since performance systems can be built and easily altered (even during performance!), allowing a much more organic performance technique than is usual with electronic instruments. It is also extraordinarily stable; I manage to crash my MAX system about once a year on average, and generally have it running for entire days at a time.

As David Zicarelli says in the introductory documentation, most MIDI products are like pizzas, ready-packaged and convenient. MAX is a kitchen.

MAX is relatively easy to use, although a knowledge of the MIDI specification is pretty essential. Also, some care is needed when constructing large projects, since replication is expensive in terms of memory usage. It is possible to use embedded languages. External objects can be written in C (and I recommend THINK C version 5; later versions were wrecked by Symantec). Alternatively, James McCartney has implemented an excellent Lisp-like object language named Pyrite.

MAX has changed my life. My working methods have changed considerably, and MAX is indispensable for my particular kinds of performance project. However, it is not necessarily for you. But if you feel that there must be more to MIDI control than the sequencer, or if you have a piece of MIDI gear which seems uncontrollable, check MAX out.

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