Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: March 2011

March 9, 2011

Whelp, Said The Mother Dog...

by Chris Randall

I had hoped by this time I'd be putting up a "HEY ZOMG BUY NOW!!!!111!1" post about SimpleMidiPad, because in my experience (which, in this particular subject area, is not vast, but exists), when an app goes in review, a few hours later it's good to go. SimpleMidiPad went in to review, all right. On Monday morning.

And there it sits. The days of the dreaded Apple Pocket Veto via "In Review" Limbo are long gone, so I can only surmise that the wait is due to the fact that they pushed an iOS update out today. So I don't have that to talk about, and I don't want to leave the Pd post at the top, because it is just sending ripples of bad vibes... uh... rippling, I guess, through the coffee shops of San Jose and Cambridge, and the more fashionable Scandinavian cities.

So, I guess we'll have to Open Thread this shit. You start. What's on your mind? Could it be this post Tom Ellard just put up?

March 7, 2011

Old And Busted < New Hotness...

by Chris Randall

I'm sad to say that I'm pitching Pd. While it is reasonably stable on my PC, on the MacBookPro where I do most of this sort of work, it is something of a travesty. I've put up with its little annoyances (having to set the MIDI and audio I/O every single time I open it, or its incredibly hard-on-the-eyes UI, e.g.) for years, but I just can't take the crashing any more. By virtue of being a software developer, I'm fairly patient with software problems, but there's no rhyme nor reason to Pd's instability, and something as simple as instancing a new object (say, a simple metro or something) can randomly cause it to just disappear.

I have no idea how much work I've lost over the years with Pd's OS X behavior, but I imagine it is quite a bit. I have successfully built fairly complex patchers (Axon was designed entirely in Pd, for instance) and indeed entire songs using Pd, but the benefits no longer outweigh the detriments, unfortunately.

So, the other day I downloaded the trial of Max 5, to see how things had shaped up. To give an idea of how long it has been since I used this program, I was employed at C'74 on the QA team for the initial Windows port of Max, which if you recall occurred at the cusp of the 3->4 transition. So, almost 8 years since the last time I opened this program. I imagine this will come as no surprise to the Max users among the readership, but come to find out there is a world of difference between Pd (and indeed Max 3/4) and Max 5.

I was able to bang out a fairly complex song in a matter of hours, it didn't crash once, and lo, and furthermore hark, I forgot all about vst~. The baby Jesus wept.

Anyhow, an adjustment to my workflow over the weekend (luckily not a drastic one, as Max and Pd are quite similar in operation), and Max 5 is now the hub of my generative lifestyle, pitching both MIDI and audio hither and yon. The patcher I've got going on pictured above is mostly procedural drums and synth stuff, with a couple AD plug-ins for effects, and a couple outboard synths and effects, with full MIDI CC control, and not a single crash. The mere thought of trying to do something so hybridized in Pd gives me little tiny hives all over my face.

So, sorry, Pd. I tried. I really did. But you've gotta go.

March 3, 2011

Just To See If I Could, Really...

by Chris Randall

This was interesting to make. Instead of sequencing the MIDI for this track, I made a Max patch that shits MIDI notes via an intricate system of nested metro and delay objects. Sort of a brute-force generative system. I also picked up a BOSS RRV-10 reverb (the little half-rack jobbie under the MeeBlip) last night. I've been looking for one of these for years as I have a couple circuit-bending tricks I wanted to try on it, but I didn't want to pay the going eBay rate. Finally found one on Craigslist here in PHX for $50, which is much more reasonable.

Anyhow, yeah, you can pretty much tell what is going on here, I imagine. The face-melting foot is from the Source; normally that synth isn't really very good for percussion sounds, but it can do that one fairly well. The only sound not from one of the hardware synths is the snare, which originated in New Zealand in the Goldbaby Labs, and makes its way to your ears via Kombinat. I think this about wraps things up for my "experiments" videos, and I'm going to get down to the nitty gritty of writing and recording the next EP, which (as I've mentioned in previous posts) will be complex and time-consuming.

March 1, 2011

Well, That Was Easier Than I Thought It Would Be...

by Chris Randall

I've now submitted SimpleMidiPad to the App Store for review. Normally this sort of thing isn't so quick, but for this particular app, which I dearly wanted anyhow, I had all the parts lying around from other projects, so it was just a matter of piecing them together.

I'll make a video showing it in use, and simple techniques for hooking things up. If you don't have the Camera Connection Kit and a compatible USB MIDI interface, or do your music on an OS X machine, you're kinda outta luck. It defaults to a Network Session MIDI node, and looks for a host on your Wi-Fi network. As those of you who have used this know, it's a little tweaky. For realtime CC it's fine, but I wouldn't want to play a synth over it. But it works.

If you plug in a USB MIDI interface via the Camera Connection Kit, it grabs on to that and stops sending to the Network Session. There are a number of MIDI interfaces that work; I have this one, which works fine, but doesn't have anything in particular to recommend it otherwise, except perhaps that it doesn't have integral cables like so many 1x1 interfaces do (and which I intensely dislike.) I was amusing myself for a bit by driving my modular directly from the iPad. The MIDI->CV interface I have only has two CC out, so I could only use one pad, but it works as advertised regardless.

Anyhow, four pads, and you can set the X, Y, and Z CC destinations for each. (Z is just off/on, of course.) It remembers your previous settings, but I didn't provide any sort of preset mechanism aside from that. I put it in at what Apple calls "Tier 2 Pricing," which is $1.99 in the US and Canada, and whatever your local equivalent is. I'll keep you informed on the progress, of course. Should know in a couple of days if it was approved or not, but unless I made some silly mistake (entirely possible) it'll be rockin' sooner rather than later.

Assuming it is approved and those of you that try it provide some good feedback, I'll adjust the framework accordingly and bang out a couple of the other simple ideas I have. Then we'll give porting the Axon sequencer a whirl, which is necessarily a much more involved process. If you have a request for a specific MIDI generator for the iPad, now is the time to bring it up.

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