Here’s a blast from the past — an algorithmic compositional blast from the past, that is. M is a unique piece of software for “interactive composition.” With patterns, cycles, and conducting options, you can create algorithmically-generated music, adjusting various parameters for sophisticated results rather than sequencing directly. It’s a totally different approach to working, something that’s easier to experience than to describe. M launched way back in 1987 and eventually support Atari, Amiga, Mac, and Windows; it was a big hit in the years afterward. The creators were David Zicarelli (now with Cycling ’74, and a sort of father to Cycling’s Max/MSP), John Offenhartz, Antony Widoff, and Joel Chadabe. (Check out the whole history.) I saw it for the first time at a summer program at Oberlin and loved it immediately. Now, with a computer stacked full of soft synths and the recurring desire to get out of my head, compositionally, I think I actually have more use for it in 2007.
It’s not very often that vintage software gets update
d with current tech while retaining its original interface, but that’s exactly what Cycling ’74 has done with M 2.7. Intel compatibility means it can run on your brand-new Mac Pro, but the angular throwback interface will make it look like a Mac II. (Got a good System 7 skin, anyone?) But the real story here is Core MIDI support. It allows you to plug M into your existing soft synths. Imagine M plus Logic’s Sculpture, or combined with a monster Max/MSP patch.
It’s great to see someone recognize that it’s not only about the upgrade that’s just around the corner. Virtual Console games are selling by the millions on Nintendo’s Wii. Hopefully creative technology, even in limited form, could be next. I’ll be testing M soon; I’ll let you know how it goes.
PC users/Atari lovers: See details in comments on the freeware Atari version. But what’s this about an emulator? Time to scour eBay for an Atari ST, I think.