Standing on Max patches. Photo (CC) Sklathill.

Many people are asking about what Max for Live can do. That’s a short answer: everything Max/MSP/Jitter can, plus some new stuff to make it work with Ableton Live. It might be better called “Max in Live.” Max for Live has all the objects that Max/MSP and Jitter have – all of them. Right now, I’m gathering a big part of the testing Cycling ‘74 is doing is to try to make anything not work, but so far, it sounds as though everything does. That means Max for Live is an environment for JavaScript and Java. It means you could have Processing sketches, wrapped in Max patches, running in Live.

And it also means you get Jitter, which gives you video playback, processing, and output, plus 3D visuals. You’ll apparently be able to open a window for output, just as in Jitter. So you could have Live sets that trigger video clips, all from within the same tool – or, if that sounds unwieldy on one machine, have a Max patch that communicates with any visual app you like on another machine.

You can’t open Max patches directly, but so long as you own Max 5, you can adapt them to Max for Live into a device.

This also means that whether or not Live 8 supports OSC (it looks as though it doesn’t), you will be able to add that support however you like via Max for Live.

On top of this, you’ll get a collection of new objects that allow Max for Live to use UI elements from Live, interface with the program as Devices, and listen to and control events in the Live interface (like manipulating clips, Devices, warp markers, and whatever else they choose to support). It’s this interface area that’s really new, and that I hope to cover more soon.

The only catch to this is you have to make an investment in software before you get started. If you want to run Max for Live, you need to buy Live 8 and buy Max for Live as an add-on. (Ableton has said it’ll be a separate product, but no word yet on pricing.) If you already own Max 5, you’ll still need to buy Max for Live (though again, no word on discounts). And you will still need to own the standalone Max if you want to use your patches without starting Live.

For more discussion, there’s a thread on the Cycling ‘74 forum:

"Max for Live"?

Jeremy Bernstein of Cycling ‘74 says it best here:

Max for Live is, well, a superset of Max. 🙂 MaxMSPJitter + special features for Live integration
If you want to create a Max Device from a Max patch, you can currently copy and paste the main patcher into an empty device. We’ll probably offer a simple converter at some point, as well.

Right. What he said.

What Might it Mean for Open Source?

You can see that this is good news for:

  • Max and patching (a huge boost to DIY software)
  • OSC (the open communications protocol, supported – indirectly – for the first time)
  • monome (because all those patches can be adapted for Live, which was a popular app to use anyway)

It’s not such fantastic news for the open source world or competing tools, because this is a very proprietary and vendor-specific solution. That’s not a criticism, just an observation – I know fantastic people and friends who are supported by the business model that’s here. But it is worth noting, because I believe healthy software ecosystems incorporate both free and commercial models, and fully open and fully “integrated” (which are sometimes more closed) solutions. There’s no question where this lies. You’ll need the full version of Max to use these patches with even another host – and you’re likely to miss some of the specific solutions here.

That said, I think it’s still an opportunity for open source alternatives to differentiate themselves, and for the two to coexist harmoniously. For starters, open source software will have an easier in when it comes to talking to Live, if there’s a friendly set of Max for Live patches that help communicate with other tools. Also, open source software can be two things this solution is not – lightweight, and free. It’s also an opportunity for open source hardware to interface with this solution (again, see: monome, which I still think has some elegance things like the APC40 lack).

In fact, there’s so much power by the time you put together Live and Max and all your plug-ins (too … much … POWER!!)  that I could see some people finding it refreshing performing with just a simple Processing sketch and turning everything else off.

I might even go so far to say that, by association, Max’s open-source cousin Pd could benefit from this. (I don’t see Pd working in Live any time soon, though.) I do hope that Max patchers release at least some of their work as open source patches for others to use. Flash is a great example of a proprietary tool that has generated fantastic open source tools around it. That means you get Adobe’s support and quality level, but you can still share code – and clearly, the Max world can do some of the same things.

These are ultimately all tools. I’m pretty excited about developments in the open source world, and I believe that most people will use a combination of free and commercial tools. 2009 should be a great year for both, which means you’ll gravitate toward using the right tool for the job, and for your budget. For those who can’t afford all these glitzy new toys, you won’t exactly be suffering. (Next week, I’m going to try to put together a virtual, open-source “NAMM” rounding up some of those developments.)

If you asked me to wish for everything I’d want to come together, for the kinds of things we advocate on CDM, I couldn’t do much better than we’re doing already – and we’re only part of the way through January.

  • Waow. The only pb now is the price of Live 8 and the price of this incredible add on. But it seems really promising…

  • Well, and I will say for some people *any* price is a problem, so I recognize that. That means open source really is an important counterbalance if we want technology to be accessible to everyone. It doesn't mean that programmers shouldn't make a living selling stuff to people with the means.

    For those of us with the means, we just need to wait to find out what M4L costs. I'd say if you have a reasonable number in mind, start repeating it endlessly and maybe it'll have some influence. 🙂

  • j20xor

    I just really, really, really hope that I don't have to pay the full price for Max for Live when I already own full versions of Max and Live.

  • I'm sure they'll make an effort !

    (99, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99……..)


  • Will Max for Live require the same PACE/Interlok copy protection as Max does currently?

  • Quoting the Cycling 74 forums:

    <blockquote cite="Jeremy Bernstein">
    Pricing info hasn't been released, but as has been written elsewhere in this thread, if you own both Max 5 and Live 8, the price of the Max for Live addon will be very reasonable.

  • Max is available with challenge and response authorization, same as Live, so Imagine the copy protection will be handled via Live, just like other addons.

  • poopoo

    There is a win32 version of PD that runs as VST.

    If some smart cookie could combine this with the python LiveAPI you could create a dodgy hacked version of Max for Live for Free 😉

  • @poopoo

    That's the problem with pd in general. It's a dodgy, hacked version of Max/MSP. I tried to cobble together a prototype of a piece of hardware I'm planning on building in Pd and nearly tore my hair out trying to get it to work. I tried Pd so that I could more easily share it with my friends. I switched back to Max/MSP and bang-o took me a few hours from start to final touches. I'm sure I could have gotten the same result with Pd given an infinite amount of time, but here again is an example where open source is free only if you consider your time to be of no value…

    My thoughts: if you want to write software, then use and contribute to open source. If you want to get something else done, then use the easiest, most efficient option available.

  • i'm not a user of puredata (Pd) so i consider myself mostly unbiased. Pd is *NOT* a dodgy hacked version of Max/MSP. Anyone familiar with
    the history of Max would know that Pure Data is a reimplementation of Max with some of the limitations removed by the original author of Max. Its true that Max/MSP has been developed as a commercial product for many years, and thus has a layer of gloss on it that Pd has a hard time matching. But Pd is not just an open source hack that attempts to match Max – its what the original author of Max decided was needed to fix problems with the original design of Max (some of which have been independently addressed in Cycling 74's product, to be fair).

    my thoughts: use the right tool for the job. support open source when it offers the right tool. and finally, why do it the easy way when you can do it the Ardour way? 🙂

  • Mark, what OS were you on?

    If you're new to Pd, I highly, highly recommend Pd-extended. It has more documentation and fewer rough edges. And that's one advantage of open source — people can make distributions that do what they need, and developers who do want the bleeding-edge, unstable build can get that. (Believe me, these commercial projects all have bleeding-edge, unstable builds on their way to the — cough — hopefully stable builds you get!)

    There's no lack of maturity, polish, ease, and efficiency in open source software. It's not necessarily the *norm*, of course — but it isn't the norm in commercial software, either. The best tools rise to the top.

    Paul is absolutely right. These are both mature tools, Max and Pd. They diverged on their development paths (hence "cousins", not "siblings" or "twins"). Even with money being no object, people will be split on which is their favorite, whether or not they *ever* contribute a line of code. (Anyone contributed code to the Firefox or WebKit projects lately? No? But you use Firefox and Safari and such anyway.)

  • One of the first things I'll be looking into is making sure my open source ajm.ruby object for Max can run Ruby scripts in Live. You had an article on Archaeopteryx recently. I expect things like that to be able to run *inside* Live as generative music modules. There may be some rough spots though, we'll see how seamlessly this all works.

    Since there's also max objects for groovy, python, LISP, etc, it seems we'll be able to script Live using any language you want. Good stuff.

    As far as the open source vs proprietary system question, I don't see it as being that much of an issue. Good code is structured modularly, so useful projects will already run outside of Max/Live anyway. Then someone can tack on a Max for Live adapter for the people who decide to spend the money on all this proprietary stuff. I just see this as being one more potential integration point for flexible projects that integrate with many systems.

  • If it's similar to their normal price of max/msp + jitter, that's gonna be one hell of a sticker shock.

  • michel


    good points. what i like most about m4l is the integration it promises. it will allow people to take all the beautiful open source stuff out there and plug it into m4l. probably even without having to change the open source stuff. no doubt many max objects will be created to allow scripting languages in m4l, like you plan on doing with your ruby object.

    m4l might give us the framework to connect whatever we want. to use a modular synth analogy: we had cool modules before, all running on difrerent voltages. but now we're able to connect them and put everything in a nice rack. i foresee a lot of happy noodling.

  • @michel: definitely. The only real problem I foresee is having too many choices. That's already a problem for me and its about to get a lot worse! Gotta stay focused and make some tunes…

  • poopoo

    I didn't mean to imply pd is a dodgy hacked version of max. It is a great tool and for the amount of things I need it for, there is no way I can justify paying for max. My point was that pd can partially integrate into Live using pdvst and you could write a component using the python live api to increase the amount of integration.

  • michel

    @ adamj

    indeed, the overwhelming amount of choices make it hard nowadays. but to me, making choices is part of being an artist. as long as we all make choices, and the possibilities are endless, we'll see tons of diversity in how people make music.

    coming back to peter's original post, closed systems have a tendency to streamline everybody into basically the same mold. the general lack of a mold is what makes open source so great. i think ableton & cycling74 did very wise to open up the backdoor of their closed system.

  • Im curious, will externals work?

  • Paul

    the edit button reminds me of the XOXO laptop or MRMR on an ipod where you can with the click of a button see how things you are using work its a wonderful thing

    i would love PD in Live i use them together all the time anyway
    i have been holding back on a max 5 purchase but i feel before long it will be inevitable as i have been progressing through PD

    the news of max in live gave me childhood christmas face
    thank you ableton gods

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  • Chris Conover

    Do you think Max For Live is Cycling 74's answer for a new version of Pluggo? I felt like Pluggo was a great solution to allow Max patches to be used in multiple DAWs. Any word at NAMM on the current state of Pluggo for Max5?

  • Nate

    that… is… HOT!

    I have a Fireface 800 so I'm assuming I'm one of the lucky ones who may use this when it becomes available, whooyay! … well, now I just need to find some old CV synths.

  • Nate

    woops. wrong post!

  • in my experience as developer of Max and PD externals of physical models (see deliverable 2.1 in ), PD's engine is far superior to Max's (I spoke about it a long time ago in a comment).
    However, if you only look for musical (i.e., MIDI and the like) applications, Max is fine and easier and more comfortable. If you want to go deeper (e.g., manage high frequency events with high precision, more engineer-like stuff), Max can't stand PD.

  • Andrew Benson

    Pluggo will be updated, but not before Max for Live is released. After using Max for Live for a few days, you may have a hard time working up the motivation to build Pluggo plugins though. The "edit" button is a pretty sweet feature, and who knows, you may end up seeing some selections from the Pluggo library show up as M4L devices…

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  • gbsr

    man, if only we werent in an economic crisis right now. well, better start figuring out what crap i can sell then, if any.

  • @Andrew: Wait a minute here. The Pluggo functionality is by definition different from M4L. Does M4L include support for Pluggo's interface panels in the same way?

    I'm assuming if people are asking for Pluggo, too, that they a) want support for old Pluggo stuff and b) want support in hosts that aren't Ableton Live. 😉

  • Andrew Benson

    Yes, I agree that there are specific features of Pluggo that people will still want, no matter how awesome M4L is. The Pluggo egg-sliders won't be present in M4L, but you will have automateable Live-style UI objects and Presentation Mode. No messing around with "pp" or "plugconfig" objects. Beyond that, there are some performance optimizations and interface features (Live API stuff and sample-accurate automation, for example) that we can add due to the integration with Live that wouldn't be possible using VST/RTAS/AU specs. Also, because this is a long-term partnership, M4L isn't vulnerable to unexpected changes to VST, RTAS, or AU specs.

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  • I'd like to see what midi processing possibilities there are, 'ala Logic's environment style. This would go a long way towards allowing me to route/remap signals in the studio (one of two reasons I still rely on Logic).

    Add some refinement to automation editing in the arrange page (to make the display area bit more flexible) and I may consider carrying Live all the way to final arrangement & mixing.

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  • Peter, you say "(I don’t see Pd working in Live any time soon, though.)"

    Mentioned recently that we have PD working with Live just fine… in fact, works perfectly under the Mac OS implementation of Jack which loads as a VST enabling seamless integration of PD within Live.

    On my windows box I have PD providing sync to Live which in turn receives sync via 'netreceive' across a network switch. PD syncs to Live via myoke and literally "taps" a tempo out.

    This is cool… and with a little tweaking (latency issues), I can pull up Jack for windows and run PD through Live, straight audio processing, recording, etc.

    All this could be much improved on, but the rig works just fine and for what we're doing (Terminal Quartet Graz), I'm wrapped!

    No worries, no sweat (unless you're in Melbourne now, but thankfully I'm not) ^_^


  • <q>we have PD working with Live just fine… in fact, works perfectly under the Mac OS implementation of Jack …</q>
    Yeah, and Max/Msp has worked for years with any rewire aware DAWs…and has it's own (open source!) audio router (Soundflower) on Macs; a nice complement to the wonderful Mac IAC midi driver…in other words, it isn't just the integration of the PD app with the DAW: it's a question of unity of the workflow: in Max 4Live, we get to develop our tools inside the DAW itself, using tools that are *automatically* unified with the DAW's data and control systems.
    Pd is great: I am so happy we have it, but just because it works well with DAW integration tools that exist already (Jack/IAC/whatever) does not make it of the same level of functional integration we are promised in Max4Live…I own Live7 (soon 8) ,and Max/Msp, and Pd and PlogueBidule and Jack and Soundflower and other rewire enabled DAWs, and well, too much to cover.
    I still wait for Max4Live as an unique and uniquely powerful new integration tool.
    Heck, don't even need Jack or Soundflower to tie Pd or Max to a DAW: midi and audio can be sent around in the old standard ways, eh? 😉
    – charlieb aka j2k

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  • Andrew wrote above:

    "works perfectly under the Mac OS implementation of Jack which loads as a VST"

    – anyone know where to get this VST plug-in? I can't find it within the jackosx package, although it is mentioned in the manual

  • I need to send osc signals out of Live8 to control VDMX on another computer. Right now it looks like Max4Live is the only way to do it, but I have no experience with Max, and having to program my own patch just to get osc out sounds daunting. Should I get Max4Live or try and figure out some sort of networked midi or third party midi to osc setup?