Oh, yeah. It’s deep. To keep a cool head, perhaps put on "Music for Airports" on loop while you read through the tutorials.

Musicians and composers have long dreamt of computers and mobiles playing music that changes on its own, rather than playing static, pre-determined scores. But to actually pull it off, you need a number of pieces. One solution for putting those pieces together is finally here, with desktop-to-mobile delivery and an interesting combination of a generative engine with synths and effects that can work in real time.

We’ve been following the work of Intermorphic for some time: this team, experienced in generative music (as popularized by the likes of Brian Eno), has been building a portfolio of software for music making using generative and other techniques. At long last, their anticipated Mixtikl V1 suite is here. The idea is to combine a set of complementary tools for making and delivering music on computers and mobiles, with a particular eye toward interactive, generative tools. The components of the suite:

  • Partikl, the synth: Modular synth, DLS (DownLoadable Sound) MIDI playback, and effects “network,” Partikl works both on desktops and on mobile devices (currently PocketPC/PDA). There’s even a “particle generator.” Make tones, create modular synths and effects you can modulate live, or play back sample/loop content.
  • Noatikl, the generative engine: Here’s the good bit. Based on the evolution of the same Koan system employed by Brian Eno, Noatikl is a scriptable “hyperinstrument” that can generative musical structures. Partikl is designed to work with it, so part of your musical structure can be modulating your synths, effects, and samples. The full Noatikl doesn’t run inside Mixtikl, but a runtime does, so it can play back generative structures instead of limiting you to static MIDI files and the like.
  • Static content support: Even the most rigorous advocate of generative music will likely concede that some pre-determined content can be useful. So the suite supports static scores and audio files (OGG, WAV, AU, MIDI, MOD).
  • Apps to use them together: Remixer, Performer, and Player let you combine these elements for live use.
  • Packs: Tiklpak content  are generative packs that show off what the thing can do.
  • Desktop support: Mac, Windows. And having the ability to use plug-ins means authoring should be much easier.
  • Mobile support: Windows Mobile at launch (for almost any resolution currently available, even including Windows Mobile smartphones). Coming soon: Symbian, iPhone/iPod touch, and the multi-platform Antix Game Player (have to admit, hadn’t heard of that one).

Mixtikl Download Page [Desktop, Mobile]

Press release

Pricing: US$9.99-29.99 for Mixtikl; Noatikl $79.99+; various bundles and limited-time coupons available – but you can get up and running with quite a lot for around ten bucks

It’s good to hear the iPhone is back on the list after some doubts from Intermorphic earlier this year. (Apple easing up on restrictions may have helped!) The Intermorphic crowd note that:

If you do get a chance to play with it, do try out some of the Noatikl generative items in the Tikpak Cinematic 120d, which is one of two Tiklpaks that comes embedded with Mixtikl. The generative items show up as red in the content list. As some of these also use Partikl to dynamically create the their sounds (they do a lot) and they also use FX, these ones can really slow up your device, as they do consume a fair amount of processing power.

There’s something appealing about being able to take a generative composition with you, whether it’s listening on the go or actually remixing or performing with it. So the mobile delivery thing is really important.

It’s taken some time to develop this, so it’ll likewise take some time for us to spend some time with Mixtikl. Stay tuned – and let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to specifically see.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Am I the only one who took a while to realise that it isn't freeware?

    Not that I have a particular issue with them wanting to charge for their work; but I dunno – it seemed somehow less obvious than other things. I'd like to be reassured that isn't just because I was being a bit dense. ;)

  • bliss

    You're not the only one, gwenhwyfaer. I thought it was a freebie too.

  • Paul

    i bought noatikl a while back and have made quite a bit interesting stuff with it

    i worked an audio to midi patch in pure data that i control with a guitar and then feed into noatikls hyperinstrument or into some sort of ableton madness it is very nice

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Authoring won't be free (Intermorphic needs a business model somewhere!) but I believe there will be some way to distribute the runtime … more on how that'll work exactly soon.

    Generally, if something is free, you'll see me jumping up and down and labeling it free. ;)

  • Leslie

    I'll buy It as soon as It's released for iPhone and Mac… ;)

  • Leslie

    Sorry, it's me again…(Leslie)

    $9 bucks for this App is a bargain!!!

    I spend more for my daily lunch and newspaper everyday…

    PS; Maybe the developer of this app have chosen the wrong platform to release It first…

    iPhone users would just buy IT… :)

  • krissie

    This deserves a play and some time but my first impressions are that it seems to be an ugly unintuitive mess.

  • http://www.intermorphic.com Pete

    Hi!

    Pete here from Intermorphic!

    Yes, we have to make money. We've spent more than 6 elapsed years working on this, so charging a mere 9 dollars for a niche app seems pretty cheap to me…!

    iPhone/Mac: well, it *is* for Mac. Not iPhone yet (though it is ported), as there are various serious problems with Apple's SDK terms for iPhone that currently prevent us releasing it. The ball for this is in Apple's court, we're awaiting a response… but won't hold our breath. There are also basic technical issues with iPhone related to the near impossibility of sharing data between applications (and devices) that iPhone developers beat their mutual heads against…!

    Mess? Well, you won't know until you try it! Unintuitive? Well, a 5 year old can work out how to play the basic Performer mode without much prompting; Partikl might be more daunting though :) . Ugly? Not as pretty as the most beautiful iPhone apps, for sure; but we scale across a huge number of screen form factors. Does prettiness matter much to musicians? Who knows… shame if it does, but there you go!

    We've certainly packed a lot in there, as we've worked on it a very long time and have had a lot of dots to connect to make the suite we wanted to. There are approx 750 thousand lines of code in there, the UI works on a wide range of devices and form factors, and we haven't make every aspect of the UI as polished as we'd like. Our UI challenge is very different to those of a developer who is just targeting one device and one form factor (such as iPhone); we work on a range of screen formats, we ensure that we can be controlled on devices that have touch only, keypad only, or a hybrid of the two. We work on desktop and mobile. Plug-in and standalone. All in all, quite a challenge!

    Anyways, I hope you all enjoy playing with it and that many of you find it an inspiration.

    With best wishes,

    Pete

  • http://www.intermorphic.com Pete

    In the UK, 9 dollars is approximately 5 pounds; as Leslie points out, that'd buy a sandwich, a juice and a newspaper. Seems like a bargain to me… :)

    With best wishes to all,

    Pete

  • Leslie

    @Pete…

    … so when can we expect MixTikl to reach Apple iPhone "shores"…?

  • http://www.intermorphic.com/tools/mixtikl/ Tim

    Hi krissie

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I wanted to provide some further context to Pete's original comment… Yes, we do fully appreciate the significance of good user interfaces, and how important they are to get right. We have a particular set of constraints and challenges, as Pete outlines. That said, we know we have further work to do, and we will be improving our interfaces as we move forwards now that V1.0.0 us out the door!

    From a personal perspective, I have used a good deal of software over the years. Some software I have used may not have looked pretty or even been paticularly intuitive, but it admirably did the job I wanted it to. I have also used software products that have had fantastically sexy and beautiful interfaces, but that drove me quietly mad because they never let me do what I wanted to.

    Getting the balance right for Mixtikl, within all the constraints of multi-platform, multi-form factor variants, is a massive and never ending challenge! We hope you find you can enjoy using it, and get some interesting results from it.

    with best wishes

    tim

  • Leslie

    @Pete

    "… so when can we expect MixTikl to reach Apple iPhone “shores”…?"

    the reason I'm asking is, that most Apple users just BUY apps, most Windows users just download free "warez"…

  • http://www.intermorphic.com Pete

    As soon as we get a satisfactory answer from Apple Legal. So, I'm not holding my breath… :(

    Pete

  • krissie

    "Unintuitive? Well, a 5 year old can work out how to play the basic Performer mode without much prompting; Partikl might be more daunting though :) "

    Not seeing anything daunting in the package yet. What do you think is so cutting edge? Or would i need to be 5? ;)

    "Ugly? Not as pretty as the most beautiful iPhone apps, for sure; but we scale across a huge number of screen form factors. Does prettiness matter much to musicians? Who knows… shame if it does, but there you go!"

    The ugliness i was referring to was in the ui and structure but since you mention it.. yep its a dog too. I don't see a utilitarian bit of software which is above aesthetic niceties. (i hat iphone apps and would welcome that!). i see something with a load of ugly and badly chosen graphical flourishes… Not sure you can take the artistic high ground with this many clashing textures.

  • mister m

    I really don't understand some of these comments-Jeez.

    They should be praised for this work.

    Good job Pete/Tim.

  • cubestar

    Looks like fun, good job guys!

    :-D

  • crusty

    Gee krissie, you sure seem like you're about 5. As in, you seem like another hyper-entitled, snark-ridden "digital native" with nothing to lose.

    Have fun with all of that…

    (Nice job Pete and Tim. Noatikl rocks — looking forward to "Mixting" it up with your new app.)

  • Mark

    Will there be a Symbian version?

  • http://www.intermorphic.com Pete

    Hi all,

    Believe me: all comments, good and bad, are gratefully received!

    Fair to say that once you've all used Mixtikl, you're bound to offer great feedback that we'll try our best to incorporate.

    On the subject of UI: this is a huge issue for us, we've been very ambitious :) to try to support every screen format we're actually capable of running on.

    Our compromise has by necessity been towards function rather than form (neither of us are graphic designers – we do the best we can!). We've been working for a while to document the skinning system, in the hope that the community of Intermorphic software users might wish to contribute better skins than we can create ourselves… that information should be on our site in a few weeks.

    At which point, I'd encourage those of you who are so inclined, to take a look and see if you can come-up with a better skin for the application, even if only for one particular form factor of device! :D All contributions gratefully received…

    Symbian: well, this is a *dog* of a platform to write for, and we're still assessing the effort of porting the system (we *are* talking 750K lines of code here… though 90% of that is cross-platform core code, it is still affected by the appalling Symbian C++ compiler). We'll be sure to keep people posted, as we've had a lot of interest in porting to Symbian Series 60.

    Why is Windows Mobile the first mobile platform for Mixtikl? many of you might not realise this, but speaking from personal experience Windows Mobile has been by *far* the easiest platform to write code for, and fundamentallly this is why we targeted it first. It supports standard C++, allows easy use of cross-platform code, it has a superb development system and debugger (called Visual Studio), and fabulous emulators. I honestly don't know why it gets such a bad press… maybe it is simply "because it is Microsoft". :) Devices are cheap, too; that I like. :) The only issue from my perspective is that you require the Pro version of Visual Studio to write code for it; and that is quite expensive.

    iPhone – quite nice to write for, and has the advantage that there is only one screen form factor to target. Allows use of standard C++ (with some Objective C bindings). Nice debugger/dev system (albeit XCode is way less productive that Visual Studio). Major disadvantage of having no D-pad or other controller system; that space is instead taken by a button to close the current app . Biggest issues: some horrible stuff in the SDK license terms, and crazy lack of ability to easily share data between applications or desktop (presumably due to Apple trying to control access via the iTunes store); we can but hope this stuff gets relaxed soon as it hampers creativity big-time. Big benefit that you can easily distribute through the Apple store; big problem is that you can *only* sell through the Apple store (for example, what do you do if Apple reject your App for some reason?).

    Symbian: good grief, their C++ variant is from the dark ages (no templates, no multiple inheritance etc.) making cross-platform code very challenging. Very clunky development system. Microsoft and Apple way, way, way ahead of them here.

    Back to the feature list: some of you might think we've put too much in there; maybe you're right! It mainly comes from us wanting to support cross-platform generative music to the best of our abilities. That required embedding a MIDI DLS engine, and a full GM MIDI DLS wavetable (!), optional use of Ogg samples to save space, a modular synth fast enough to use on Mobile (which naturally had to be real-time editable on all platforms), an FX network editor, and a file player/playlist so people could simply play compositions on the move. Why did we include Karaoke support in the player? Because we could do it pretty easily, and it is fun for some people. :) Why did we include a visualiser system? Because it is fun and interesting, and some people will like it! Why did we make it an extendible suite? Because we intend to add more apps to it in the future, as we happen to like integrated applications, and now we've created the foundations, adding new modes of behaviour is going to be relatively easy…!

    Anyways – all brickbats and bouquets welcome, we'll do our best to give informed answers to all questions!

    A happy Christmas to one and all,

    Pete

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