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MaxMSP: guía de programación para artistas

One reason you might be looking at this book because you are interested in making some pieces with Max/MSP.


Before I say a few things about learning Max/MSP, I want you to think about learning to use a camera. I am not a good photographer, but I can operate my camera and when I take pictures, the scenes look pretty close to what I was seeing. However, when I review the pictures later, I notice many problems. For example, I tried to take a photo of a statue at night and didn't notice that a bright light on the outside of a building was shining directly at the camera. When I took the picture, I was just looking at the statue. Indeed, when I was looking at the statue, I was just looking at the statue. I wasn't looking at the light.


Learning to be a good photographer means seeing things in terms of light, much in the same way that learning to draw means looking at shadows and not just objects. Look at this rather boring photograph of a curtain. Can you see the darker horizontal line behind the curtain? This is the top of the window frame. Try to see the image just in terms of shading and imagine how you would draw a picture to give the impression of a window frame behind a curtain.


Light is the medium of photography, and learning to be a good photographer (as I understand it) is first learning to see a scene in terms of light and then learning to use the equipment to deal with it. But what is the medium of interactive music? How do you think about it?


I think there is a simple idea that might help guide your exploration of working with interactivity. I think it helps to focus on the idea of change. I think change is the "light" of interactivity - it is what you will manipulate. You might think you manipulate sound, or images, or maybe robots. But this is really the same as saying that you take pictures of statues. It is literally true, but it only takes you so far. I suggest thinking, at least to some extent, not in terms of notes or sounds, but in terms of what you can change and how you can change it. As an example, perhaps you are familiar with a slide whistle. If you blow into a slide whistle, it will play a note. This is one way you can change it. The other way you can change it is by moving a slide. This changes its pitch continuously. The pitch is the thing we can change, and the slide is the way we change it. This is a simple relationship and anyone can make noise with such a thing.


Now think about the slide whistle more abstractly. Imagine that you have sensors to measure the pressure of your breath as well as the current position of the slide. Furthermore, imagine that the whistle no longer makes any sound. Now you have a way to change things -- you have a controller. What I am going to do with this abstract controller? As an exercise, try listening to some music -- it could be any music -- and imagine that your abstract slide whistle is performing it. How would you describe the things you could change, and furthermore, how would you think about the relationships between actions on the controller and these things you can change?


In my view, creating an interactive piece is about defining processes that afford opportunities for change, then defining relationships between controllers and the changes you can make. Another way to say it is that you are composing a new kind of feedback loop. Rather than the simple feedback loop between moving the slide and hearing a sound that permits you to adjust the pitch on a slide whistle, your feedback loop can involve anything you can imagine.


There is one other level of interactivity to mention, however. The creative process I have described above is much more fun and productive if it too can be interactive. This is where Max/MSP comes into play. Just as I can learn to be a better photographer with the immediate feedback from a digital camera, I can master the exploration of interactivity if I can test my ideas immediately, then modify them based on what I learned. That is the fundamental idea of Max/MSP -- the idea that making interactive pieces should itself be interactive.


I hope you will enjoy your time with Max/MSP and use this incredible resource that Francisco Colasanto has assembled to guide your explorations.


David Zicarelli. CEO C74