A Granular Toolkit for Cycling74′s Max/MSP

April 4th, 2002

SEAMUS 2002 National Conference @ University of Iowa.

ABSTRACT -Since the generation of granular textures was first automated using a computer (Roads 1978), granular synthesis has grown to become a popular tool for creating new sounds in electro-acoustic music. Many effects can be achieved through the granulation of sampled sound including time compression (Jones and Parks 1988) and expansion (Truax 1990) independent of pitch alterations. Such effects can be created using Cycling74′s Max/MSP software, allowing them to be utilized in real-time. However, the software does not include sufficient externals to meet the need for maximum efficiency and flexibility in creating such effects. This lecture/demonstration will detail the toolkit for Max/MSP that the presenter has created with the aim of meeting these needs.

The toolkit includes four new externals that handle the generation of grains using various control methods. Each strikes a unique balance between different levels of precision and processor usage so that users can choose the approach best suited for their desired results. The externals are able to apply interpolation for smooth playback at various sampling speeds. In addition, the new externals allow the user to be confident that grain parameters are updated precisely at the beginning of each grain. The grain generation techniques will be explained along with additional details about companion externals that the presenter has created to generate control data.

In addition to providing new externals for low-level granular manipulation, larger abstractions have been included in the toolkit to provide “ready-made” effects. Each is built with a simple, consistent design intended to allow for easy incorporation into larger patches. Two forms of each effect exists, one allowing for a fixed sampling buffer into which a sound file is loaded and another for continuous sampling that can be applied to any input signal (even those that are live). These abstractions may also act as a guide for users on how to assemble custom granular effects. A description of the different effects available via these abstractions and how they are intended to interface with a larger patch will be given.┬áThe presenter will also explain how he has been using this toolkit in his own research to develop granular techniques that expand the amount of achievable granular sounds.

With its externals and abstractions, the granular toolkit should appeal to both the novice and expert user of Cycling74′s Max/MSP. Novices will find useful effects built to be easily incorporated into their own work. Experts will find useful tools that allow them to freely experiment with the possibilities of granular synthesis. Both should be pleased with the efficiency and flexibility that the granular toolkit offers to all.

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