Polyphonic Modular and the Roli Seaboard

The mc object wrapper included with Max 8 is one of the most exciting developments in the field of audio software and synthesis since… I can’t even think of a suitable comparison. Maybe since the initial release of MSP or Native Instruments Generator. However, when MaxMSP was released, my computer wasn’t really up to the task of native digital audio and I didn’t get a chance to hop on the Reaktor train until version 4, so maybe the cycles of my own life are coloring how excited I am about this development.

Bluetooth connection to laptop

Polyphony was possible in Max before via the poly~ object, but using poly~ was always somewhat of a headache. Any real polyphonic task in Max necessitated an abstraction of the synthesis engine which involved multiple files, navigation of the patcher hierarchy and sending remote messages to the abstraction which moved the process of exploring synthesis away from a real time exploration and robbed some of the joy. I appreciated the fact that it could be used for everything from simple polyphony to granular synthesis, but for 90% of the simple polyphonic tasks it was awkward. Reaktor’s approach to implicit polyphony had me gravitating to that tool for custom polysynths.

The mc wrapper instantly produces an entirely new, but robust and mature class of DSP objects in Max. After just a few days of initial experiments, I’m already creating timbres I’ve never been able to produce before. The feature is incredibly well thought-out with additional objects such as mc.voiceallocator and mc.mixdown. It’s also very easy to use. If you know how to get around MSP objects, you already know how to use the mc variants. In a way, it fulfills the powerful potential of poly~ and brings the fun back at the same time.

Making things polyphonic is really only one use of mc. The real unexplored territory is unleashing the sound design potential of mc. So, adding polyphony to Beap feels like the most obvious, pedestrian use of mc, but after using the handful of mc-capable modules, I’m a believer. First of all, polyphonic Beap sounds amazing. Each module I convert unlocks a new, powerful function that behaves in an incredibly intuitive way with polyphony. The original suite of Beap modules can be mixed in with the mc modules. For example, if you want a monophonic LFO, it just works as you’d expect. The MIDI modules are already polyphonic.

The accessibility of polyphony inside Max has also awakened an interest in MPE. While developing these mc Beap modules, I’ve been using a Roli Seaboard Blocks controller and it’s a fantastic combination. In this video, I’m using Y position to control LFO frequency (really nice with polyphonic LFOs (routed to filter cƒ)) and pressure to filter cƒ. It is super easy to patch up imaginative modulation routings from the Roli and I’m not even using initial and release velocity yet.

At my GitHub there are two branches of Beap that are not included with Max 8.0. There is a Max 8 branch for Beap that updates the appearance of the existing modules for Max 8. I expect this branch will be included in Max 8.0.2. The mc branch includes the polyphonic modules I’m demonstrating in this video. If you wish to download either of these go to https://github.com/stretta/BEAP Then select which branch you want (default = what is included in Max 8.0, Max 8 = the appearance update slated for 8.0.2, mc = the polyphonic modules seen in this video)

Once the archive is downloaded, you can drag modules into a Max patcher to use. This is the method I’d recommend as Beap development will be a rapidly moving target. However, if you want to replace the stock Beap installation, right click on the Max icon and select ‘Show package contents” then navigate to Contents/Resources/C74/Packages and replace the BEAP folder.

control click Max icon and select Show Package Contents
Navigate here and replace the Beap folder



Associate Professor, Electronic Production and Design, Berklee College of Music Opinions: my own

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Associate Professor, Electronic Production and Design, Berklee College of Music Opinions: my own