Musical Instruments – Room 269 >> or Art Technology room in basement. (See me.)

**Note that when I share a weblink to a Max/MSP Tutorial below, you will want to find the corresponding tutorial through Documentation >> Tutorials on your computer. The weblink will not link to the demo files that you can use in your own project. The files found under Documentation >> Tutorials will link to the demo files.**

Helpful Max/MSP Links:
Keyboard shortcuts are the fastest way to work in Max. Get in the habit of using these:
This object database may be useful down the road–consider bookmarking it for future use:
The Max object thesaurus is most useful when you have some audio background and are trying to find out the Max object name for something. For instance, if you want to make a sine wave, the max thesaurus will tell you that in max/msp you would need to use the cycle~ object:</


For your lab, you will be blending your new musical instruments topic with our Halloween theme: you will be creating an instrument that responds to light and shadows. When your classmates enter, you will turn off the lights in the room, cover as much light from laptops as is feasible, and provide flashlights for them to explore the space. (You may want to have multiple computers both to act as sound sources and for their video cameras.)

For inspiration, watch this excerpt from The Blair Witch Project:

Find the synopsis to skim here:
More on the film here:

Use this story to help guide the types of sounds you choose, and the environment you try to create.

To create this instrument, you will need:

1. A laptop with a webcam.
2. Max/MSP–With Max you can create a program that takes live video input, and then generates a piece based on the output. I’ve created an initial patch with instructions to help you get started. You will want to build on this initial patch for your lab. You may download the patch HERE. The tutorials that I hacked together to make these demos are HERE. Not all links are relevant for your group.
3. Some spooky sounds. Use the story to help brainstorm a list of sounds. Record these yourself, find them online, or both.
4. Some ideas about how to process these sounds to provide some variety. In the demo I’ve provided you with some initial, very basic ways in which you can process sounds (speed or rate, amplitude, choice of sound file). If you have time, I recommend exploring tutorials in the documentation and on youtube by Dude837 for some additional ideas. HERE ARE A FEW to get you started.
5. Ideas about how to map visual input to audio output. You will need to set up the ideal environment that your classmates will experience fairly early on, to test the conditions for video capture and output.
6. Ideas for the presentation: how will the room be set up? How will you encourage exploration/interaction? Will you give some sort of prompt or cue (verbal, aural, visual)? Is the room silent when you first enter, or is there already sound?

During the first half of the lab, consider dividing up some of the above tasks amongst yourselves, and check-in periodically with updates. Begin making and manipulating sound as soon as possible. Work independently, or in groups of two or three. During the second half of the lab, work together to piece together the different elements you have each created, test them out in action, and refine them.

As you begin to work on your lab, a few notes:

First, if you haven’t figured this out yet: expect things to go wrong. From the very beginning, always have a plan B in mind. What will you do if you can’t get some piece of technology to work? How can you mock-up a similar experience? Tech will always fail at one point or another. Having a back-up plan will give you some peace of mind. Note that one of the main selling points of Max/MSP is its capabilities for live, interactive installations. That said, as humans, you are all capable of live-interaction, too. If Max fails, can you use a person to trigger events instead of the computer?

Second, of all the programs we have looked at, Max/MSP will probably seem the most intimidating, initially. It is also the most powerful program we will look at, and it provides you the most flexibility. It is not something you can learn in a single lab, and I don’t expect that you are going to do a lot of coding tonight. Instead, think about this as an exercise in hacking. Rely heavily on the example patch I provided, and the built-in tutorials (when you first open Max, click on ‘Documentation,’ and then go to the ‘tutorials’ tab on the right to find example patches). Find a way to reclaim the tutorials/help files for your own purposes. If you are stuck, step away from the computer and think through what it is you want to happen as a simple list of instructions (like a recipe), some pseudo code, or a flow chart. Know that if you are having difficulties and getting stuck, you are doing something right. It should be hard.

Group Report Questions are here:


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