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Sound Design, Max/MSP & the importance of getting lost

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Max/MSP is an incredibly powerful object-based programming environment used extensively in audio, video and many other disciplines across the arts. One of the most appealing aspects of Max to me personally is the ability to share your patching ideas with the wider community. This thriving online Max community has always been a hot bed for learning, development and innovation.

Obviously, this type of community engagement is not unique to Max, it is something that is prevalent right across the pro audio and music technology industries. There are many great communities built around and forums dedicated to the discussion of all manner of DAWs, Plugins & Hardware. What sets the Max community apart however, is the ability to stumble upon something so profoundly different and unique.

Sound designers, or anyone looking to create or process audio in creative ways are often on the lookout for new ways of working, new plugins, new virtual instruments, anything that will unlock that sound in their head and open up a new world of sonic possibilities. For those in this position Max can be an invaluable tool. Even if you are not a Max programmer yourself, by scouring forums, blogs and websites you will quickly find some of the most unique, inspired and downright strange audio tools available anywhere today.

I found one of my all-time favourite signal processors by accident whilst researching an unrelated troubleshooting issue on the cycling74 forums. The original patch comprised a brilliant, expansive delay. It would subtly pan and feedback source material until you ended up with a wonderfully wonky, beautiful soup of audio. I added a sample looper and variable filter to feed it excerpts of source material and the results were astounding. It had this bizarre quality of gluing everything together in the most satisfying way.

The following two recordings demonstrate the signal processing capabilities of the delay. The first excerpt is a sample looped with no effects, the second is the same sample with the delay applied.

Unfortunately, the original version of the patch was lost meaning I am sadly unable to credit the original author. However, for posterity the later iteration of the patch including the sample looper is available to access using the encapsulation code in the following link:

Encapsulation code:

There probably are plugins that produce similar effects to this patch and with them you have the added convenience of using them in DAWs other than just Ableton with Max for live. But I’m almost certain that no plugin exists that sounds exactly like this patch and is capable of reproducing all of its wonderful idiosyncrasies. So next time you’re searching for that elusive sound, don’t be afraid to get lost, you never know what you might find.

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Hi, Jay. Fascinating stuff. Noticed that the link to the "dry sample" actually links to your GitHub page; guessing it's a typo. Regards, cs

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