in MAX

Programming an emergent composition in Max

This project is a little complex, so I have created a YouTube video (below) to help explain some of the patcher elements.

Max/MSP and Messiaen

As part of an assignment for an Interactive and Emergent Programming Techniques module (part of my MA), I had to compose a piece of generative music for an imaginary art gallery/installation. The composition was set to be around fifteen minutes long, have more than one audio track (backing and melody), and playback a unique song with just one click. After a couple of days of mulling over, I had the notion of making a piece of music for an abstract style art exhibition (Rothko, Johns, etc.). Alongside this, I felt like I wanted to play around with time patterns, remembering the natural generative effect Messiaen achieved using prime numbers and multiple rhythmic pedals in his masterpiece Liturgie de Cristal. Inspired, I located the score for the (29) piano chords Messiaen used and converted the notes into midi values  – before creating a list [coll object] to trigger a synth in Max. This list would become the starting point for the composition, where Messiaen’s chords could then be (randomly) manipulated in terms of playing order, sound, note length, and level.

Randomized bird sounds and melody synths/modules were added, along with Ligeti style glitches and a Mark Fell inspired random drum trigger (playing 909 inspired synth drums). Pattrstorage preset morphing was programmed (utilizing random triggers) to flow smoothly between randomly selected settings. When it came to mixing the piece, numerous effects (compressors, reverbs, bit crushers, delays, and auto-pan) were created – with help from loads of different online tutorials.


The result is an everchanging generative composition. I hope you enjoy it.


Mark Fell Masterclass Video

Pattrstorage info: here and here.

Synth drum sounds inspired by Really Useful Plugins: Video

Contact me for a copy of the Max Patch.