Montreal-based Damian Taylor, music director and engineer for Björk, is the subject of an epic interview on, spanning music, life in Montreal, working with Björk and what makes her special, and what patching in Max/MSP can mean compositionally and creatively.

Damian has some especially nice reflections on what having an open-ended music environment can mean.

If you’re a musician or composer, Max is an amazing tool that will really open up a completely different way of thinking about music. If you’ve been working on sequencers, looking at time lines, working on tape, or reading off musical scores, then without really realizing it you start looking at music in this very linear way and your brain gets formed into a lot of similar patterns.

But the Max environment provides this whole alternate way of thinking, a whole different flow. Suddenly your own ways of thinking about time and harmony and melodies and everything, expands completely. Music kind of changes shape, you see it from this whole different side. So it’s really, really, really, worth putting in the effort!

It’s a great and well-deserved endorsement for Max, but I think it’s deeper than than any one tool — this way of thinking could also be applied to tools like Pd, AudioMulch (saw a great workshop on that last week), Reaktor, or code-based languages like Csound and SuperCollider. Or, for that matter, I think this notion of thinking in non-linear ways can even be applied to playing your acoustic instrument. It really gets at the heart of how to unlock creativity, I think.

In case you’re afraid of Max or other languages, Damian has some advice there, as well:

If you’ve never done any code or computer language programming before, there are a lot of times where you just have to try to absorb things without really knowing what the hell they are for. And I mean that in the nicest possible way!

I just slowly worked my way through all the tutorials, largely without understanding what the hell I was doing, but just absorbing what was going on, trying to follow every step that was presented. And yeah, it really was a case of locking myself in a room. If there was another noise anywhere, I just couldn’t do it. It took really intense concentration; just trying to absorb what was going on and follow a tutorial from start to finish.

But then at some point I figured I needed to speed things up, so I got in touch with Harvestworks, in New York, who I actually was aware of through an interview on the Cycling ’74 web site. I got tutoring from Matthew Ostrowski — and it was amazing, a complete revelation.

But best of all, for folks using Max/MSP, Damian gives you a leg up, with his nice Woodpecker tool available as a free download for MIDI sequencing.

Woodpecker creates fast 16th note midi sequences from your keyboard input. It’s designed to allow you to bring this very electronic feel into a live ensemble, free of set tempos and click tracks. There are options to allow you to vary the feel of the sequence, play triplets, and explore various arpeggiation styles.

(Nice use of Topspin for a Max patch download! Clever!)

Here’s some music for Damian, as well:
Damian Taylor by MissManagement

And absolutely read the full interview – it even has a nice shot of the Max rig in there:
An Interview with Damian Taylor []

Full disclosure: this terrific interview is by Marsha Vdovin, who’s also CDM’s business development manager. Thanks for the great work on this, Marsha; I enjoyed reading it, anyway!

  • Brian Tuley

    Max/MSP all the way!  The best way off the linear grid is Pd and Max.  I like to think that working in Max is more like working in a modular environment.  I'm often dissatisfied these days with what I kick out from linear DAWs but with max, there are so many challenges that one comes up with some crazy feedback loop sequences and such.  I have enjoyed making midi sequences in Max most of all.

  • glenn

    What was up with the Audiomulch workshop?  It's been a while since I heard anything new on that front.

  • I have to suggest an edit: the opening sentence should be '…life in Montreal, working WITH Bjork…' rather than '…life in Montreal, working IN Bjork…'

    Of course, I only say this because I have the deepest crush on her, and the thought inspires more jealousy for the man than it already does or ought 😉

  • A little late discovery…

    Can it be that Bjork never heard of MaxMSP 'til now? Ridiculous, Max is all over. 

  • Dan Pat

    Awesome. I feel the same way when I work i Pd as opposed to linear sequencers. I truthfully haven't used the program for a while now, but I hope to get back in the swing of using it soon! Also, I'm beyond excited for Bjork's new album this week. I think I have a crush on her too.

  • Bynar


    I would like to see more articles getting into the specifics of a "non linear" workflow. Really nice read. I have been trying to create tracks in Reason as of late with the use of only cv gate routings and no sequencer. Max without question is one of the most obvious choices for this type of workflow. 

  • cannot wait for max6 & gen~ object/concept.

    (currently listening Björk)

  • jalisco

    Can someone tell me how do you record a guitar or synth or vocal and produce a master, and also capture a "moment" like a polaroid using something non linear like max instead of something like lets say logic…

    Ups O-O