A Conversation for MIDI - Speaking a Synthesiser's Language

Algorithmic Composition

Post 1

Steve K.

I've used MIDI in many ways, but one of the more interesting is algorithmic composition. This involves letting the computer do the music composition, within parameters set by the user. Ideally, the parameters can be varied in real time, so the music can be created jointly by the computer and the user. For example, hitting a MIDI controller keyboard note while the program is generating music would not necessarily play that note, but, say, change the "root note" of a repeating pattern. Or the number of (preset scale) notes playing polyphonically. Or the tempo. Or ...

I use an old DOS program titled "Sound Globs" which has many, many features but has been long discontinued. (I even maintain a 386 machine just for this program, since it requires a "real" MPU401 interface, including coprocessor - pretty much an antique?) I haven't yet found a current replacement, the best would be MAX from Cycling74 but its available only for the Mac. From their website:


Max is a graphical programming environment for music and media applications. It currently runs on the Mac OS. The Windows version is in development and will be released this year. [This statement has not changed for a number of years - ed] One of the main goals of Max is to let you control anything with anything. For instance, you can use MIDI to control a laserdisk player, or mouse movement to control the playback of a Quicktime movie. Max excels as a way to customize the logic of building an interface to interactive media. It lets you schedule events with millisecond accuracy, create complex mappings for incoming data, and run a large number of operations in parallel.

Building applications with Max is fun and interactive. You create programs by wiring together objects. The moment you connect the wire, the program is working. If it doesn't work the way you want, just try something else. For example, here's a very simple program that makes an awful racket by letting you play MIDI notes as fast as you can move the onscreen slider. [Graphic not allowed, I guess - ed]


OK, racket may not be very valuable, but it gets better ...

Algorithmic Composition

Post 2


Max can take a while to learn but it's worth it as you do produce results that are different to working a traditional sequencer. There are other free open source alternatives too like PureData and OpenMusic.

They take a little while to learn but there are algorithmic composition tutorials for all of them here


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Algorithmic Composition

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