First multi-channel composition

For my course in computer music performance, I have been given the opportunity to do my first multi-channel piece. In this case it is for eight speakers- two stacked quad systems.

There are many ways to go about doing a multichannel piece, and I really wanted to avoid any fixed or pre-recorded elements for this piece. I am sure that many of my colleagues will go that way, and I am sure I will hear more than enough drones at the concert. I want to do a more improvisatory and aggressive type of piece. Big sounds, and some really gritty timbres.

So now that I had my concept I needed to decide how I was going to realize it. I use Ableton Live for almost all of my production and performance tasks, but sadly, Live doesn’t have a ‘standard’ way of doing multichannel output. Max/Msp does, but I am not really interested in putting together entire performance setups in that software. So, as with most of my work lately I called on the versatility of M4L to accomplish this task.

There is a way to do multichannel out of live using the send tracks as the output sources. So I made eight sends, each corresponding to a particular speaker. Then I set up a max patch that pans left to right, then back to front based on two values. It’s not as simples as that though, I had to do some curvature of the panning curves to achieve ideal results. Hearing response isn’t linear, so linear volume changes would sound odd to us.

For the control scheme I used an x-y control to dictate the placement in a square, then a ‘height’ value to control the dispersement between the two quad systems. I also ported this control scheme to my launchpad, turning the button grid into an x/y controller.  with two vertical rows dedicated to height, and glide time. When using a button grid for anything other than triggers and toggles it is important to provide someway to control the speed the the value will reach it’s new destination. It creates a much more versatile and expressive form of control.

I am generating all of my material live using my bass guitar that is in an altered ‘open’ tuning, so I can use harmonics, and bent harmonics, to create interesting frequency relationships, and extreme beating. I am using a wealth of delay, digital distortion and feedback loops to create large sonic events out of small musical gestures.

As I was testing this on a 2-channel system I stumbled upon another interesting application of this program.  To make sure everything was working and the sound was traveling where it was supposed to, I loaded some effects onto the sends, and was able to create a kind of ‘effect matrix’. There is an effect on each of the eight points of the dual quad structure and you are able to move the sound into any of these effect regions, smoothly or abruptly based on settings.

I will post some recordings/videos of this system in both the studio and performance situations, as well as providing the patch for other people to abuse.

First multi-channel composition

2 thoughts on “First multi-channel composition

  1. Hi Just wanting to know more about your work with multichannel Live and Max/MSP I am currently working on such an issue looking at 8 speakers encoded in ambisonics via max/MSP and would love to see your patch it possible 🙂



    1. Darren,

      Thanks for checking out my post. I will have to port the patch from M4L to Max/Msp. It uses gain coefficients to dictate the amount of sound sent to each of the eight speakers. I will get this together after I return from vacation and send you the patch.



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