As we continue physical modeling month, here’s a free piece of software that lets you create music and sound (and visuals) using real-world physics:

pmpd, free external for Pd

Johan Strandell writes:

It’s not physical modeling in the usual sense; pmpd simulates things like friction, acceleration/deacceleration etc.; i.e., more useful for control of parameters rather than synthesis in itself. Some of the examples are really intriguing, but I’ve only scratched the surface on it. An article about it would be great, to see what other people are doing with it.

Consider your challenge accepted. May take me a while, but I’m doing some other work modeling physics, so this could segue nicely. As you can see in the visual below, you can use this to model fluids, matter, particles, and other substances. That could be easily applied to sound synthesis (and they include a number examples) as a way of making control less mechanical and more dynamic and organic. Since environments like GEM run 3D visuals on your graphics card, there’s nothing stopping you from dedicating your graphics card GPU to visual feedback while the CPU plugs away on the sound.

To run this, you’ll need the free Pure Data (Pd) environment for visually programming sound and multimedia. There is a Max/MSP port for OS X, and since he’s included source code I’ll try to compile for Windows, but since Pd is free and the examples and illustrations are in Pd, you’re better off starting there and worrying about porting to Max later.

There’s also a library for SuperCollider; I know there are some SuperCollider-using readers out there so let us know how this works out for you. Visual below.

Yeah, I know, it’s summer vacation — so, music technology faculty, I fully expect you to give us some examples, since you’re out in your summer cabin with no students to bother you. (I had a teacher once who said the one that would make teaching a perfect profession is if there were no students.)

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  • Damon


    I can now capture the allusive sound we all associate with Quaker hair styles and Amish female church going hat wear, but I am patiently holding out for Acidic Jewish beard and ear curl synth technology, surely to be spearheaded by Sonic Foundary. Yuc Yuc.



  • Tim Thompson

    Examples not immediately forthcoming, but I have gotten through all 40 or so included examples. On my powerbook, I had to slow down the computation on some of the more complex simulations (they use a metro object–pd at times reported my cpu as high as 120 with the default setting (17" 1.67G4 PB)–is that percent!?) But in most of the example patches, the PB did just fine. Next is to try the Max implementation.

    Anyway, it is very cool. Since I don't do flash, this will be a great way to use physical modelling for all kinds of performance aspects. I'm thinking of some little fun experimental projects to get a better handle on it, like a video game that can be controlled by playing an instrument or moving on a stage.

  • Mies van der Robot

    I am about to bust a gut from laughing at the notion of "Acidic" Jews. Whether intentional or not, I thank you for that Damon.

    If an Acidic Jew were a Base Player, would she spontaneously combust? 😀