Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NAMM 2009 - MaxMSP - Math

Once again, long time no post.

With my Serge lust more or less in check these days, I headed off to NAMM '09. I saw many cool things, particularly the new Plan B Zero cases (if you read this blog, you no doubt have already seen pictures), but I was surprised with what caught my eye the most.

The first was Max for Live. Most folks who pay attention to the Ableton community knew that something like this was coming after Ableton and Cycling '74 "joined forces" last year, however I didn't really expect such a simple, yet elegant implementation.

The other thing that really stuck we was the JazzMutant Lemur. I finally got to see one up close and personal and I was very impressed with what I saw. Not only the quality of the hardware, but with the programming environment and the new v2 software.

Lots of interesting new things, and the one thing that it all spurred was for me to take a good look at MaxMSP for once.

I used to own Reaktor and stumbled through that ok enough, but never really pleased with what I came up with. It was probably part lack of knowledge and part lack of direction, but it always seemed like the result wasn't worth the amount of time necessary to achieve that result. I had similar expectation with Max going in, and when I tried diving right in, deconstructing some of the example patchers, I was immediately confused. Rather than get discouraged, which I'm used to doing, I decided to take the less exciting route and go through the tutorials one by one. And boy am I glad I did.

The tutorials are very well thought out, don't move forward in too big of steps, and the overall documentation is excellent. Being able to select an object and hit a quick keycommand to pull up the full documentation on that object is wonderful. My favorite though is being able to just hit 'n' to start creating a new object...just start typing the name of the object that you want it will start auto-completing the various possible objects. Too slick! Max 5 is looking great too, I'm a bit of a picky bastard when it comes to UI and the older generations were always a bit of a turn off.

Another interesting turn is that I've become more interested in the math behind digital synthesis. I was never very good at math, although it wasn't do so much to lack of skill as it was a lack of motivation. Like many more in my generation, I suffer from a severe lack of motivation for things I'm not interested in, and during high school and college, I couldn't have been less interested in math. I could never see a practical use for what I was learning, and being a total smart ass, I would pose that question to my math teachers frequently. I really did want to know though, and I never did get a good answer. Always the "you need to know it" or the slightly more specific "you need to know it for calculus". The last math I actually remember studying was quadratic equations and polynomials. What do know, that's the basis behind much of digital synthesis, particularly waveshaping and filter design. The last few days have been filled with wonderful exploration into the world of Chebyshev polynomials, and their very pleasing results on sine waves.

So, where am I going with this? It's a basic plea to math teachers, should any read this blog (or even if you know some math teachers). PLEASE, please, tell your students some interesting or at least practical uses for the math that you are teaching them. If some student asks "what do we need to know this for", they may not be trying to be a smart ass, they very well would just like to know. I really wish someone had done this for me during my education. I might have come to really enjoy and like math, rather than hate it and, later in life regret, not putting in more effort.

Oh well.

PS. I have a few euro modules for sale currently, if any of you are interested:

Cheers everyone and Happy New Year!