With great power comes great learning curves – or maybe not. Csound for Live, just announced this weekend and shipping on Tuesday, brings one of the great sound design tools into the Ableton Live environment. You can use it without any actual knowledge of Csound, without a single line of code — or, for those with the skills, it could transform how you use Csound.
For anyone who thinks music creation software has to be disposable, you’ve never seen Csound. With a lineage going literally to the dawn of digital synthesis and Max Mathews, Csound has managed to stay compatible without being dated, host to a continuous stream of composition and sonic imagination that has kept it at the bleeding edge of what computers can do with audio.
Csound for Live does two things. First, it makes Csound run in real-time in ways that are more performative and, well, “live” than ever before, inside the Live environment. Second, its release marks a kind of “greatest hits” of Csound, pulling some of the platform’s best creators into building new and updated work that’s more usable.
If you’re not a Csound user, you just dial up their work and see what your music can do. If you are, of course, you can go deeper. And if you’re somewhere in between, you can dabble first before modifying, hacking, or making your own code. And that means for everybody, you get:
- Spectral processors
- Phase vocoders
- Granular processors
- Physical models
- Classic instruments
It looks great. It works great. It sounds… beyond great.
CsoundForLive is a collection of over 120 real time audio-plugins that brings the complexity and sound quality of Csound to the fingertips of ANY Ableton Live user – without ANY prior Csound knowledge.
Capitalizing on the design power of Max For Live, what once took pages of text in Csound can now be accomplished in a few clicks of your mouse.
Move a slider on your APC40 and deconstruct your audio through professional quality granular synthesis…
Touch a square of your Launchpad and warp pitch and time with real time FFT processing…
Press letters on your keyboard and create sonically intricate melodies through wave terrain synthesis…
And Dr. Richard Boulanger, unofficial Jedi Master of the Csound movement, instigator of this project, and Berklee School of Music sound and music wizard, posts a bit more:
With my former student, and now partner, Colman O’Reilly, I have been working around the clock for months to collect, adapt, create, wrap, and simplify a huge collection of Csound instruments and make them all work simultaneously and interchangeably in Ableton Live. In this guise, I am able to “hot-swap” the most complex Csound instruments in and out of an arrangement or composition – on the fly. This is something Csound could never do (and still can’t!), but CsoundForLive can, and it makes a huge difference in the playability and the usability of Csound.
Two weeks ago, I played a solo concert in Hanover Germany, at the first International Csound Conference. There, all of my compositions, from 20 years ago to 20 minutes ago, were performed in real-time using CsoundForLive. Tonight, at the Cycling ’74 Expo in Brooklyn, NY, I will be demonstrating the program; and next week, I will be releasing this huge collection (on Tuesday, October 17th, at 12:01am).
A huge part of the complete collection is FREE, and I hope it will make the creative difference in your (and your student’s) lives that it is making in mine. This is a serious game changer for Csound. Check it out. Dr. B.
If you’re at Expo ’74, do say hello to Dr. B for us (and I think you’ll get some nice surprises with this project).
I’ve got a copy in for testing, so stay tuned. And I’ll be doing some follow-ups with Dr. Boulanger and company.
The only bad news here, of course, is that both a supported version of Ableton Live and Max for Live are required to be able to run Csound in this way. In fact, sounds like we have a nice four-horse race going. Max 6 overhauls how multiple patches work (on top of Max for Live), SuperCollider has its own possibilities for multiple real-time patch loading, someone suggested in comments using pd~ inside Pd to manage multiple Pd creations (something fairly new even to most experienced Pd users), and now we have Csound in Live.
But overall, Csound for Live looks like a no-brainer for Max for Live owners, no question, and an exciting taste of the ongoing convergence of cutting-edge creative sound and code with live music making for everybody. As I hinted at in the Max 6 post, I think it’s suddenly a Renaissance for all these platforms.
Silly geeky footnote: With pd~ for Max, I know it’s possible to run Pd for Max. And via another external, Pd can also run Csound. So we could theoretically run Csound in Pd in Max in Live. But let’s not get carried away.