Live Coding in MaxMSP

Laurence Counihan clicking a heart shaped glyph today triggered a notification to me that brought one of my video recordings form 2010 to my attention… I couldn’t remember what
happens in ‘live code Max MSP 20100220‘, so I watched it again.

live code Max MSP 20100220 from Samuel Freeman on Vimeo.

I saw that Counihan had also clicked ‘like’ on Max/MSP Live Coding #2 from Kingsley Ash, of which I had been aware when recording in 2010:

Max/MSP Live Coding #2 from Kingsley Ash on Vimeo.

Using a buffer with variable speed record (poke~) and playback (index~) to generate sounds. Some really interesting noises using a very small number of objects, but the controls are unpredictable and sometimes slip out of range.

The subject of live coding is trending in my mind at the moment as I prepare for a number of things that happen or start in the next few weeks… rambling on that and those to follow (perhaps).

I don’t think I had seen this one before today, I’ve both clicked the ‘like button’ and added it to improvithing :

MaxMSP Live Coding nr.2 from Edo Paulus on Vimeo.

A realtime performance of creating a Max-patch, starting from zero.

The Rules:
– You have 6 minutes to build a Max-patch and do a performance with it.
– Start with an empty patch.
– Only use the standard objects that are part of Max/MSP/Jitter.
– Don't use externals, pre-build external datafiles, help files, or anything of that kind.

Personal interest here extends to the following observations:

The date 20100220 (used as title) is significant to me because it is the day before 20100221 which has been discussed in my thesis in connection the work that began in live code practice and later was given the name sub synth amp map… The video from Paulus above fits the same pattern of construction as sub synth amp map because it begins with the building of a soundmaking algorithm, a visual representation of data generated in that algorithm is then added, and then the algorithm is edited to control the (now audiovisual) output.

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77 of 250

77 of 250 videos that were found by searching vimeo for ‘improvised’:

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continued, complete, and to be continued

Continuing, and completing, looking back at the collection of ‘improvised’ video offerings that have accumulated on vimeo in the past few weeks (not including the past few days – I’ll have to get to that tomorrow!), and contemplating possible destinations for this research…

This CreativePact would have ended today-ish, but because I did not get even close to a post a day in the past 30 days, I’m planning to continue through to the end of September. What started out as a vague intention to re-engage with the inclusive improv thing from a different perspective seems to have become some sort of exercise in analysis of contemporary praxis as viewed through a very narrow slice of the internet.

That narrow slice is represented by this url:

That data is then filtered by the changing and evolving subjective parameters of what I consider to be found examples of improvised content in the videos returned by that search, and thus has become a neural entanglement of thought patterns within my skull. As the effort of not ignoring ‘those 250 videos’ (see previous posts) comes to a close, I wonder how best to externalise some the observations being made…

In the meantime, the promised list of listed video links is the next step…

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a process

never mind why, here’s what:   each page shows ten links to videos as image and title pairs, they don’t all fit on screen so one must scroll down to see them all;   whilst scrolling, some of the linked video pages are clicked in such a way that they load in new tabs;   at the end of the ten there are navigational links for loading the next ten, but before doing that, the opened tabs are visited one at a time;   (I have attempted to play multiple videos at once, but vimeo is programmed to suppress such behaviour)   the description under the video player is looked at, translated if necessary, and then maybe the video is played;   usually the video is watched attentively, headphones on for audio, and usually the session is over when attention is spent, but of late i have pushed to sometimes skipping ahead in time within the video;   when starting these 250 I decided to use the ‘watch later’ feature of the medium to save the ones that I’d like to see on the inclusive improv list;   (it would be cool by me if they were added, but I’m unlikely to add them;   maybe when i get back far enough in time to have looked over these 250 I’ll go back to page one and two (and maybe three by then) and maybe add something from there;   as those that made it to the watch later list… i’ll create a text file of their numbers and process that somehow for sharing)   the open tabs are closed in the browser until only the search results remain, where the ‘next page’ link is ready to load another ten…

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uke-yello (October 2013)

after some busy days, it’s time to get back to this CreativePact thing

On the 16th (two days ago) I had a quick look back at some of the ‘improvised’ videos that had been uploaded to (using this search url) and bookmarked some of them. One of those is no longer available; this one is from a 2009 performance and includes a number of edits; and two of the others are constructed as video edits (of improvised dance) arranged to non-improvised music; finally there are three that are of instrumentalists playing on camera (synths, guitar, guitar and bass), and the third of these – because of the inset video layering (see embedded below) – reminded me of a 4-track improvised video piece that I created last year…

At Last – 1963 Gretsch Double Anniversary 6117 archtop guitar – 1978 Fender Jazz Bass Fretless from franco1953meta on Vimeo.

Here’s the thing it reminded me of:

uke-yello from Samuel Freeman on Vimeo.

26 October 2013, Marsh, Huddersfield.

Both to take a break from thesis writing (i.e. procrastinate) and to confront the fact that I have never really got on with the ukulele as an instrument, the video here is an experiment that follows a process that I have employed several times before: using the built-in mic on the laptop overdubs are re recorded (with little or no rehearsal) whilst the previously recorded audio is allow to bleed through to the new recording (headphones are not used).

For this video the QuickTime Player (10.0) software was used, first to record direct from the built-in camera and built-in mic, and then on three more takes to record the desktop (screen-casting) whilst the camera input is visible alongside the previously recorded video.

The audio heard here is a stereo mix that was made by taking the audio out of the four videos that were recorded during the process.

…and then today, after deciding to actually post uke-yello I repeated the recent uploads search and found this:

The Calm Night Air (Ukulele Improvisation) from Stephen Froeber on Vimeo.

This is a Tenor Ukulele Improvisation that I recorded in one take while in South Korea.

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Rescued guitars

The description of this one tells of the work undertaken to restore guitars that are have been abandoned or neglected… to someone who has a slowly growing collection of such instruments, this (which is part of a series of) video(s) inspires in multiple ways:

Alain’s Guitars – Impro #1: Ouverture from Josue Febles on Vimeo.

Guitar: "MUNDIA-MUSIC" West Germany (1960/65)

EN: Some years ago my friend Alain decided he wanted to do something to rescue the lives of the poor, beaten, badly mistreated and often broken guitars he sees at street markets. He's become a self taught luthier since then. Alain always asks me to test his rescued guitars and tell him what I think. Some of the instruments he saves end up having a pretty good sound.
I love the principle of bringing those poor guitars back to life – I made 2 entire albums with one that only cost him 2 Euros -and a lot of work! The last time I saw Alain, I thought it would be good to do something else with his guitars. I spent an evening improvising on the ones that had the most appealing sound to me. We would've loved to film it outdoors, but it felt like Autumn in July! So we stayed at his place instead. These videos are the result. I'm calling this series: Alain's Guitars.

FR: Il ya quelques années, mon ami Alain a décidé qu'il voulait faire quelque chose pour sauver la vie des pauvres, et souvent maltraitées guitares qu'il voit sur les marchés de rue. Il est devenu un luthier autodidacte depuis. Alain me demande toujours de tester ses guitares et lui dire ce que j'en pense. Certains de ces instruments finissent par avoir un très bon son.
J'aime le principe de redonner de la vie a ces pauvres guitares – j'ai fait deux albums entiers avec une que lui a coûté seulement 2 euros (et pas mal de travail ) .La dernière fois que j'ai vu Alain, j'ai pensé qu'il serait bon de faire autre chose. J'ai passé une soirée a improviser sur celles qui avaient le son le plus attrayant pour moi. Nous aurions aimé filmer à l'extérieur, mais c'était l' Automne en Juillet! Donc nous sommes restés chez lui. Ces vidéos en sont le résultat.

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Melodica improv

A few technical hitches with rendering the video for this one… here’s a preview posted here whilst sorting that out:


The video is now uploaded:

Showing an improvised melodica part to an experimental work in progress titled ‘stretch’.

About the work: Five stereo sound recordings (of around ten seconds to two minutes duration) have been stretched to a duration of around 12 to 14 minutes; the digital audio workstation (DAW, in this case Reaper) maintains the pitch content of the original sounds, with some audible artefacts being introduced by the processing. The exact length chosen as the final duration for each of these five tracks was selected with some visual reference to their waveform displays in the DAW. Four of the five recordings were then pitch-shifted to roughly ‘tune’ them to the reference spectra of the first one recorded. This tuning was done quickly and with little thought, the Photosounder Spiral plugin (as shown on the right in this video) was used to observe the spectra of the sounds during this activity. A melodica part was then recorded as an improvisation, performed whilst listening to the mix (on headphones) and watching the spectrum analysis which was interpreted as a real-time score of sorts, suggesting the notes that could be played. After being recorded the changing spectrum of the melodica improv was also observed, this time using the Photosounder SpiralCM plugin (seen on the left in the video). An offset of pitch (-16 cent) was applied to the melodica in order to better align the fundamental frequency of each note to 12TET (twelve-tone equal-temperament). Some artificial reverb was also applied to the melodica recording, in lieu of the artefacts introduced by the extreme time-stretching on the other parts.

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Improvising Consciousness

To see what’s new, and possibly on topic, I used again the search URL posted yesterday…

There are 16 more videos atop of the ones found yesterday, here’s a selected few of them – in the sequence that they were viewed – one is added to the inclusive improv group collection.

Seeing the title ‘Improvising Consciousness lecture test’ I quite expected a test recording of an improvised lecture about consciousness, but it is a planned, prepared and edited together delivery of what would seem to be a new series of lectures on the subject:

At first the edits away from the improvised music, in the this next video, were perceived as interrupting, but the context they give to the project is welcome. Work by Hali Santamas was brought to mind by the book of photography accompanied by a CD of music described here:

Both Miklos’ Musical Odyssey from nicky almasy on Vimeo.

The momentum of this film that all music is improvised in it. The musicians didn't discuss anything just sat down and started to play. We were shooting around Yunnan Province, China where Hungarian guitarist Both Miklos was collecting folk melodies from locals. We were going from village to village, town to town with him and a sound engineer. He found this Tibetian singer, Yang Ji Ma, we arranged a session with her and this was the result.

Improvisations électroacoustiques et vocales“:

Lastly,’improvisation # 2′, which I only scanned through:

improvisation # 2 from kimsungik on Vimeo.


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two guitars and some live patching

I spent the day at Ben’s house, recording (guitars mostly) for an album that we (and others) are (sporadically) working on. Ryan joined us in the evening, and he played some guitar parts that Ben had written.

Ryan came up with a new guitar part for a tune that I’d written a few months ago. Whilst setting up to record this I really enjoyed the way Ben and Ryan were improvising together on the riff, and it started to sound better at the slightly faster tempo they’d gone to with it. Rather than pull it back to what it was before, I moved their amps/cabs to face each other, placed a Yamaha Pocketrak C24 between them, and set it to record in stereo. This meant that my laptop was no longer involved in the recording, and so my mind turned to video…

Whilst they played I took some photographs using an old Nikon E4600 set to its ‘continuous’ mode that, after the shutter button is pressed, takes 16 pictures that are saved as a matrix of frames in a single image file. The rate at which the 16 pictures are taken depends on light levels and other factors. Several of these were taken whilst the sound of the guitars being played was recorded. Here’s an example of the camera being moved while the frames are captured:


Using a utility that is a work in progress (I started programming it last week) the images can be split are recombined temporally as video… Post-production time is required for rendering this improvised (and somewhat experimental) video with its audio; anticipating that this would not happen before midnight tonight, I took a different approach to hacking a video together in (almost) real-time (only almost, because trimming the ends, and rendering it out are need).

After eating some cake, Ben and Ryan played guitar some more. Using the headphone output of the C24 as input to MaxMSP, the stereo signal was patched into my sub synth amp map patch, and I hacked together some jitter matrix manipulations to the visual output whilst recording the audio and a small section of the screen.

Here’s two minutes of the result – it’s pretty rough in more ways than one, but it’s improvised, and it’s video, and it’s newly created today:


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CreativePact is the hub of a group of artists, musicians and technologists who enter a pact to create and document some new creative output regularly over the course of a month. Pacts may begin between August-October and run for 30 days.

In years gone by the word regularly would have been daily, but I’m glad, for the greater good, that it has changed – doing and documenting everyday for month is quite a challenge. Yet it is day by day grind that this CreativePacter has committed to.

For me today is day two, and the new creative output of the day is going to be the addition of another, quite arbitrarily selected, video from the vimeo vaults. I fin myself questioning just how ‘creative’ that is, but then that question leads to whatever blah squeltch. Let’s just call this a research phase towards the more obviously newly created creative outputs I that hope to produce later in the month…

Overly detailed explanations of that research process shall be spared. Instead, today (and in no particular order), here is a shortlist videos that I have viewed this evening:

Having decided not to describe the process of deciding, it seems to me now that that process of writing is itself helpful in the ordering of thoughts towards a decision. Second-guessing and attempting to foresee where and to what and perhaps how things could be affected in the future by present choices is going on. Punctuation is needed in the previous group of words.

With only a vague idea of why, those embedded below are added to ← this is an open thing to which anyone can add videos…

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Day one for this CreativePact project (see the intro posted yesterday, and see for other projects going on this month), and to begin this month of collecting videos of improvisation I started with some simple searches. The term ‘improv’ returns many cases of words like ‘improvement’ in the video titles, descriptions and tags; nevertheless, this video did catch my eye:

Pressure Points Improv from James Cigler on Vimeo.

A short little improv of a simple FM+waveshaping patch being controlled by the Gate and Pressure outputs of a set of MakeNoise Pressure Points. Only the top row of potentiometers is used, controlling the pitch, the rest is all the Gate and Pressure voltages generated by touching the pads.

I love the way that the first part of this video is given to vocal description of the soundmaking instrument that is then played. On reflection, after viewing the next video to be discussed, this video by James Cigler can be thought of as having a certain nakedness about it: both in the way that the technologies being used are portrayed (rather than simply letting the hands be seen and the sounds they are making be heard, the performer exposes something of the underlying processes that would otherwise be unseen), and the visual aesthetic of the electronic instrument itself, which is a minimally dressed circuit board that responds to human touch, has (if not too tenuous now) a nakedness about it too.

Searching on vimeo for ‘improvisation’ – before applying any additional filters to the results – displays first the four results shown in the screenshot below:

Search videos for improvisation

These results, for me, raise number questions and potential issues for this somewhat un-planned-out project. Even before watching them the lower two of those, in particular, had me pondering along various trains of thought… for now, let’s just think about the improvised dancing from the woman without clothing:

Quick Improvisation from Bubulcus on Vimeo.

Natasha Improvisation. Music composed by SredAn / Based on Ethiopian song.

Nakedness is no big deal, especially in the context of the arts, but it’s also something that I don’t recall ever having to think about in the context inclusive improv, but rather than explore the question here, I’ll just let you do your own thinking, and will respond to any comments below… Moving on towards choosing a video to add the inclusive improv collection today let’s think about licensing.

Whereas Quick Improvisation has a (cc) by-nc license, the Pressure Points Improv video is without creative commons licensing. Although the video can still be added to vimeo collections (an option that can be switched off by the uploader) this subtle detail of the way the video has been shared by its creator helps to simplify the task of curating…

Add to the mix of ideas today that I’d rather focus on newer content, I decided to filter the search results to show, by date, videos with a (cc) by license, and then to go with the first result in that list. So the video chosen today is:

Search videos for improvisation (cc)by

I’m happy enough with that as a start:

Evan Parker Jams With The Reid School of Music from HSS Webteam on Vimeo.

International Saxophonist Evan Parker leads a unique lesson in musical improvisation at The Reid School of Music.

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CreativePact 2014: Inclusive Improv Vimeo Group

CreativePact 4 Aug – 4 Sep, 2014

In short:
share a video each day via (either something found or something new), and blog about it.

After an exchange of messages, few months ago, with someone on vimeo about the inclusive improv group on that site, a new description was added to the group:

Inclusive Improv began around Huddersfield in 2007, organising events of different kinds involving improvisation […]. This Vimeo Group is now open to addition of videos by anyone anywhere as a way to share diverse improv practices…

For CreativePact 2014, I would like to add a video each day to the inclusive improv vimeo group; these might be newly made (perhaps using the inclusive improv archive) or plundered from vimeo, either way I plan to write something about each one at in order to document the process of expanding this open collection of improv videos.

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