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[microsound] building blocks

the more they have created this environment that's very
easy for you to use, the more they've actually determined the kind of
work you can make with it. If you look at a program like Ableton Live
which is used by probably about eighty percent of people making sound
and performing out live these days, it seems like. It's good for a very
few things, it's good for working with loops, putting effects on these
loops and sequencing them, but it pushes you in one creative direction,
it pushes you into making a certain kind of music,
excellent post Derek...thanks!:)
this is a very important subject to me and why I travel the world teaching people how to utilize other methods of making music/sound art/noise/whatever using tools like Max/MSP (I give equal time to PD and FLOSS tools for those with no money to spend)

what end users don't see is the process by which most audio tools come about - it can happen a couple ways:
bedroom->internet model:
- Betty Laptop Musician codes an app that does exactly what she wants it to
- since she creates a certain type of music this tool aids her in accomplishing certain tasks easier, faster i.e. more productively
- she gets kudos from peers on said app and starts to share it with others into same kind of music
- demand for tool increases and she decides to make it a 'real app' with release cycles, upgrades, added features, bug fixes, some promotion, etc
- eventually she is crafting a tool that a particular market wants and gears all development towards this market
- think: Ableton Live

(sidebar question: why did Ableton Live become so wildly popular when Sonic Foundry's ACID had been out for some time before Live was introduced to the market?)

some of the other ways audio software gets developed are:
- corporate developers such as Digidesign cater to a pro market; development is less focused since the market needs are much wider
- think: Pro-Tools, Logic, Nuendo, etc
- driven by university research (which is the type of company I was involved in at Staccato Systems who developed Synth Builder)...in this case development begins as blue-sky research, gets some backing by licensing patents or developing industry applications (Staccato had gotten their sound engine into some EA video games which worked alongside their physics engine)...it becomes a product but has a small niche market of researchers, software developers or other academic centers as a teaching tool...
- FLOSS model: developers (mostly non-academic) have an idea for a tool, enlist the help of others who need/want same tool, want to make it available for free or as open source and tend to develop the app based on end user feedback (new features/bug reports)...sometimes this intersects with the academic research model...

in each of these processes there are drives to bring a software application to market/audience and hence the process is subjected to 'noisy forces' that shape the tool...
of all of the different methods I am partial to the research model and FLOSS models because the tools designed are to be used for experimentation and are sometimes extensible thru being able to customize the code...
I know Max/MSP is not open source (my excuse: I had bought it years ago when I had a 'real job' which was before the explosion of FLOSS) but it allows me to tinker in a laboratory environment of building blocks that operate on numbers and this fits my needs perfectly...I use Max/MSP for 99% of all my work (except for editing tasks for which I use Peak and sometimes Audacity on OS X) because I am not constrained by what the manufacturer thinks I want to be able to do...I am given a set of primitives (more atomic than most; more granular than some) with which to work and allows me to implement just about any music/audio related idea I can think of...
I concur with Derek: people really ought to try to break out of the pre-fab, shrink-wrapped software world and try to make their own tools...check out PD (Linux, XP or OS X) or Audio Mulch (XP) if your budget is tight or Max/MSP (OS X, XP) or Reaktor (OS X, XP) if you have some xmas money left over...

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