IanniX — From UPIC to IanniX from IanniX on Vimeo.

In the beginning, there was the bar.

Actually, wait – that came later. In the beginning, there were sketched outlines of notes. And the notes became fixed in pitch space, and then, increasingly, in time, in divided measures from left to right. And so, what we know today as Western music notation came to be.

But then, in the 20th Century, composers began to undo the rigid boxes that score produced. First with pen and paper, later armed with the computer, composers connecting graphic and sound started to violate those grids. They even escaped the idea that a score was a piece of paper you left for a musician to (you hoped) get them to do something. Iannis Xenakis, architect and composer, went perhaps further than anyone else, translating between pictures and sound and buildings and music. His UPIC system, sketching sound with a graphics tablet, was ahead of its time not only in the music world but in interactive design for the planet at large.

Xenakis would undoubtedly have loved the chance to use today’s IanniX – and not just because it’s named for him. The software takes his spatial ideas and imagines them both in two- and three-dimensional space.

In a new video, at top, the French development team explains what IanniX is, where it came from, and where it’s going. You may have seen this software before, but it’s been evolving at breakneck speed. The free and open source (GPLv3) software is now more mature and more flexible than ever before.

There are also some inspiring ideas in the video.

Connecting time and space. This relativism is what it’s all about. There, this futuristic software does owe something to what came before. Inspired by the left-to-right event structure of notation, or the advance of a tape head, the cursor is an essential element of the design of any such system. Since a sculpture can exist essentially out of time, this allows the three-dimensional forms to have some temporality. A line wipes across the geometry and triggers events and envelopes, so that the structure can unfold musically. Where things get interesting is in how you can shape those curves, in three dimensions and as well as two, and in the ability to use multiple timeframes at the same time.

Independent from any sound source. Part of what makes IanniX a “score” is that it doesn’t make any sound itself. Using protocols like OSC and MIDI, it’s intended to be used with other software, like Ableton Live, Max/MSP, Pd, and SuperCollider, just to name a few.

Visual – and now with Syphon support. To allow others to see the visual structure, IanniX is graphical – beautifully so. It now supports Syphon on the Mac for connecting to other tools (like MadMapper).

New spatial possibilities – now with Kinect. Because its design is spatial, scores in IanniX can be related to physical spaces or movements. You’ll see a brief proof-of-concept demo of Kinect integration. Given the topic of movement elsewhere this week, this is a big deal. It allows users to move beyond just using computer vision to turn body motions into a stand-in for a knob. Instead, physical motion can navigate a musical structure in a meaningful way.

Interfaces are so often locked in two dimensions, in virtual representations of knobs and faders, that it seems a great deal of this territory is unexplored. At first, like any unfamiliar landscape, it can also be unfriendly, too. (Some adventurers, in other words, land on new worlds. Others run out of food part of the way through and sink in a storm. I, uh, imagine all of us have felt a little like we’re experiencing each of those scenarios at one time or another, creatively speaking.)

But I hope that other artists take on IanniX and make it their own, and that soon IanniX isn’t quite so lonely on the frontier of spatial and three-dimensional musical interaction. The more musicians who boldly go where no music software has gone before, the brighter our electronic futures can become.

IanniX is developed for Mac, Windows, and Linux, with documentation in English and French.


Via Synthtopia, always-prolific source of everything happening – and I agree, in comments, in the need for a how-to video. Maybe I can carve out some time and give it a go myself, at least once I work out how to use it.

Have a good weekend, CDM readers.

  • chrisgr99

    Also check out GeoSonix:  Forked from IanniX about 10 months ago:  Better documentation including tutorials, more intuitive user interface, simplified but more powerful scripting language, built in harmony processor, and while retaining support for OSC, GeoSonix has better MIDI support.  Also the upcoming release will add extensive support for musical “events” i.e. Patterns of notes, rhythm patterns, note durations, note velocities, note articulations, etc.  Messages can also derive properties from the color channels of embedded images.

    Musical examples:
    – A Flower’s Piano Debut (with explanatory comments):  vimeo.com/44745643
    – Piano style riff: vimeo.com/42653192
    – Dark ambient music: vimeo.com/39200470
    – Trumpet Trio: vimeo.com/44821560
    – Another cool riff (with midi sync to Numerology): vimeo.com/41238748
    – Blues chord changes with the harmony processor: vimeo.com/33563425
    – GeoSonix announces itself: vimeo.com/36209199 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ah, interesting. Know what the reason was for the fork? Any plans to synchronize this branch in future (from either direction, really)?

    • chrisgr99

      I’m the author of GeoSonix and I got involved with IanniX by contributing to the IanniX release as of last September.  (e.g.  Embedded Javascript in messages, improved MIDI support, writing the updated English documentation, etc.)  However I found it impossible to coordinate ongoing work with the the IanniX team so I just decided to carry on myself.  I also wanted to backtrack and make changes to the user interface for better usability.

      Also part of my inspiration was Geomaestro, a brilliant but little known geometry-based musical tool based on keykit: http://www.zogotounga.net/GM/eGM0.html .  The IanniX team were interested in going in a direction of a more evolved version of Xenakis’ UPIC.  

      My goal is to create an updated, much easier to use version of Geomaestro with many added ideas of my own.  I think this can become an interesting tool for slightly more mainstream musical exploration:  anything from dance music, to electronica, to classical – things that tend to have rhythm and harmony.

      It would be extremely difficult to merge the projects due to a difference of philosophy and radical divergence of the code base, but we do tend to have been stealing ideas from each other. :) Users will have to decide which they prefer based the type of music they want to make.  They are both free so it’s easy to try both.

    • C Graham

      The codebases are now too different to re-merge but I intend to add features from IanniX that are useful to GeoSonix.  IanniX appears to have been adding features from GeoSonix also.  I realize it’s a duplication of work but my goals were different, and collaboration with the IanniX team proved to be extremely inefficient.  (I contributed to the IanniX release as of last September – Javascript in messages, context menus, testing and bug fixing, additional score parameters, usability improvements, writing the English language documentation (from which the French was translated).

      My interest is in music from a geometric score but that that includes strong support for harmony and rhythm in addition to IanniX’s emphasis on continuously evolving control messages. (Since it’s intended as an evolved version of Xenakis’s UPIC.)  I’m also focusing on usability and wanted to backtrack and rewrite parts of IanniX’s user interface and more extensively rewrite the documentation and add tutorials (which are now available in the current version).So users will have a choice depending on which they find suits their needs better and which they find easier to learn and to use.  Both are free so it’s easy to try both.

    • http://twitter.com/lodsb bumble b. barbrabra

      gotta check out the code :) I found that some issues that were apparent in Iannix around ver 0.7 still prevail (and partially in geosonix), might be fixable in a weekend hack!

    • http://audiozoloft.org/imagine/ Dennis Moser

      @google-ebfee068e2197ff3f32c5640c55d225a:disqus Thanks for the pointer — have just DL’d and am running it now, driving a Plogue Bidule that I quickly put together…this looks like it’s gonna be a fun ride as I dig in to it.

    • geosonix

      Be sure to check the GeoSonix forum for tips and tricks, and I’ll be happy to help with any questions or issues.

    • http://audiozoloft.org/imagine/ Dennis Moser

      Thanks, Chris — I’ve just signed on to the GeoSonix forum and will be reading it quite a bit in the next week or so. And thanks for the offer of answers!

    • papernoise

      GeoSonix looks totally great! I tried IanniX several times but was never able to get a bleep out of it. At least with GeoSonix the example scripts work! thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/michaeltodd Mike Todd

    this is a total game changer, to be certain. I think the separation of sequencing/score and synthesis makes all the sense in the world, and OSC is a damned good way to do it. Going to play with this today…

  • Roberto Duarte

    Amazing software!

  • gesslr

    I was intrigued by this software the last time I read something on it a couple of years ago (maybe on CDM?). It creates conflict inasmuch as it highlights the decline in the minimal programming skills I once had! :) So many interesting things: Iannix, Max, iOS, kyma, Processing. Where to start? How to start? A question for those who know more: Is your best bet to start with something like JavaScript and C / Objective C then branch into these things? Or should one start with Processing and Max and work into the other stuff from that direction? I can see advantages to both. The first way, you lay a foundation that may make the “applied” stuff easier (but it’s a long and rather academic slog). The second way of learning is a bit less theoretical and easier to see context and progress but may be a harder hill lacking the basics. Sorry if this is OT, but I’ve been struggling with this question for a while. Given the demands of the everyday, I’m interested in efficiency. …and I’m well aware that an answer may be: “Leave the programming to the programmers and just go make some music with the limited time you got…”. Ah well, nothing like a little online therapy. :-)

    • geosonix

      An off topic answer:  A good place to look for languages/environments for music coding with reasonably quick gratification is Toplap:  http://toplap.org/index.php/Main_Page  It’s a site devoted to languages for LiveCoding of music preformances.  The list of coding environments is here: http://toplap.org/index.php?title=ToplapSystems

      Bringing it back on topic, neither IanniX nor GeoSonix are on the list yet, and it’s an interesting question whether environments that offer this much graphical support for music fall in the ideals of Toplap.  A side goal of mine in developing GeoSonix is making its user interface and language increasingly suitable as a live performance graphical/coding environment.

    • http://www.gesslr.com/ gesslr

       I’ll check these out (and GeoSonix). Thank you.


    just to correct things from subtitles , the subtitles says iannix started in 2002 but iy is in fact 1992.

    • http://www.facebook.com/guillaume.jacquemin Guillaume Jacquemin

      We made a mistake in the video, the correct date is 2002, as in subtitles :)

  • Jeremy Abel

    Wow, very cool! Seems like they really thought it out and channeled their obvious passion for this sort of scoring into a tool we can all use. Great presentation as well.

  • geosonix

    To bumble b. barbrabra (in reply to your comment on issues in GeoSonix and Iannix, what are they?

    To Peter Kirn:  There seem to be issues with the Disquss forum system.  1) Some posts disappear 2) I wanted to reply directly to “bumble b. barbrabra’s” post, but that particular post did not have a “reply” option under it although all the others do. 3) I tried to report the problems directly using the CDM “Contact” system and it won’t let me send the reply because it’s reporting errors such as “ERROR: si-contact-form.php plugin says GD image support not detected in PHP!” I tried Safari, Chrome, and Firefox on my Mac (OSX 10.7.4) and the problem was the same on all.  

  • EATYone

     Yo Paper, i’ve test it yesterday night and driving my SMR4 MKII with it without any problem lol

  • Michael

    FYI, there is a basic IanniX class in Library for ChucK (LiCK) for interacting with IanniX through its OSC interface.



    and a not very useful example


    If the OSC APIs are the same (after a quick read of the list of changes blog post I’m not sure) then the same ChucK class will work for GeoSonix.  If not, there’ll probably be a new class in LiCK shortly.

  • http://www.skyron.org/ SkyRon™

    Cool software! Breathtaking paragraph that compresses about 9 centuries of the history of western music notation!

    Xenakis was great—no question! But, did he go further than, say, John Cage? Just asking’! 

  • anechoic

    Iannix has come a *long* way since I first downloaded it for OS X years ago — very nice! thanks for posting this :)