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

More description:

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.

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  • martin wheeler

    hell yeah !

  • This is a great development. I have a copy here, which I'll be looking at more closely as soon as a tiny installation issue (in Windows 7) is ironed out, which hopefully will happen within an hour or two. My main reservation is that CsoundForLive requires MaxForLive. This is probably necessary for technical reasons, but it reduces the size of the potential user base rather dramatically.

  • robert

    I have been using csound inside of ableton live/max for livd for some time now utilizing the csound max msp external. I'm curious about what the difference will be in csound for live. Multiple csound patches running at the same time? That would be rad.

  • digid

    Wow! Just wow!

    If Ableton could just move on to Live 9 soon, and included some much needed improvement to the application as a DAW, things would be really, really sweet.

  • Woooo!!! I'm so glad you're giving this some light. Colman and Dr. B worked extremely hard on this release!

  • Gonlis

    I feel like I'm about to cry because, I knew this day would come eventually.

  • John Clements

    The unique feature I really enjoy about this set of plug-ins is that, in combination with the Canonical Csound Manual and the FLOSS Csound Manual, you can edit and add to the functionality of the already amazing-sounding instruments and effects to suit your creative needs.

    It's possible to learn quite a bit about how Csound works while using the instruments creatively, out of the box – and Max for Live offers a flexibility of design that makes Csound's high level of precision, control, and sound quality instantly available to Live/Max for Live users, producers, sound designers, and performers. This is really exciting!

  • Jeff Brown

    So if you buy this thing, are you buying a collection of Max patches that host Csound code?

  • tiago morgado

    I had already seen all these environemts, sc3~, rtcmix~, pd~, processing~ (or something close to), csound~, and many others a long time ago. I event tried them out. but I've tried them and it was kinda weird, In the sense that most of them were not quite stable, and when you put all of them together, crossing many streams of different periodical, and aperiodical dsp streams, some weird things tended to happen. are they running stable right now? ftm is also a very powerful tools these days in maxmsp, and it's running stable (it's the most powerful library from maxmsp).. you also have dips from these japanese guys living in netherlands, which puts all together a series of environments for maxmsp, and it now runs quite stable, but for some reason, I like to program quartz and open frameworks outside of max.

    http://www.myspace.com/tiagomorgado http://soundcloud.com/tiago_vla http://vimeo.com/user7827914 http://www.youtube.com/jamesvla http://xsrecordsptnetlabel.blogspot.com/

  • J

    For a Csound user with a MaxMSP license it will still cost a ton of money to buy Ableton Live and Max for Live (with Max user discount).

    349€ + 79€ = 428€

    So I won't be using these tools even though they look like a cool package.

    Curious about the possible licensing issues of old code..

  • I can't download anything. All links default to the 'coming soon' page.

  • John Clements

    According to the website, it goes live on October 17, 12:01AM.

  • Juno

    Sounds intellectually interesting BUT will actually want to hear something apart from generic techno made with this before caring one whit.

    So far the ratio of hype to output it sounds like a overly complex way of making yet more plug ins.

    Still ready to be won over!

  • I'm a little skeptical. If you're a non-coder just looking for plugins, you could find equivalent tools in the form of free max patches or vsts. If you're a coder, Max already has the csound~ object.

    I hate to be all negative about this, but it just feels wrong paying for something as simple as this. (And the poor website design and unimpressive examples don't help my skepticism…) However, perhaps future developments will convince me otherwise.

  • To address Agargara's comment — yes, you could do it that way, or for that matter by running Csound separately and sending MIDI messages back and forth between it and Live. What CsoundForLive gives you are, first, a bunch of Csound instruments and effects that are ready to go, with no coding; second, a bunch of Max4Live "wrapper" patches, which include both front panels and communications with Csound; and third, the ability to customize a set of plug-ins using Csound coding, which some people (myself included) find more intuitive than Max patching. It's not a technological breakthrough, in my opinion — but it may give some musicians new tools that they'll be happy to use.

  • Pal

    Holy shit!

  • Just to note that timeline editing and scripting of Csound objects has been available for ages in Blue. Plus it's cross-platform. And free.


  • Peter Kirn

    @robin: Yeah, I should add that to my "roundup of ways to perform with this stuff." I love the way Blue works; wish I had time to delve into this more. I'd love to see these "packs" be available for those free environments, too.

  • On the subject of "packs for free environments," the upcoming release of QuteCsound (which is being renamed CsoundQt) will have a greatly expanded set of files in the Examples menu. I'm also aware that Steven Yi is working on expanding Blue to incorporate DAW-type MIDI recording in some manner. There's a lot going on in the world of Csound (including my upcoming book for newcomers, Csound Power, which will be published in early 2012).

    In this context, I would add a fourth "plus" for CsoundForLive: It will introduce the community of Max For Live users to a highly sophisticated composition, synthesis, and performance environment. Having discovered it, they will absolutely be able to copy and paste all of the plug-ins in CsoundForLive into the Csound environment of their choice and develop them further. And unlike the jump from Max For Live to Max/MSP, they won't have to pay another penny.

  • digid

    So, uhm, which 12.01 AM are we talking about? Don't mean to get all nerdy, but even if we are talking LA time, shouldn't it be out now?

    (I have to get a life, I really do)

  • I love these bombshells in my inbox on a monday morning! However, its a shame that its tied to Max for Live (a separate purchase on top of a Live upgrade which I probably wont make until v9 comes out).

    Could this have been done in a more open way – ie Exposing the csound api to a generic audio unit or vst, rather than trying it to max for live? Or is it just dependent on the M4L environment for control messages?

  • Peter Kirn

    @We Make Sound: AU/VST may or may not be more open. The Max approach simply has more flexibility, I think, as you suspect, and I'm sure these folks wanted to use Csound with Live!

    See the comment above — Blue would be the more open way of doing things, as in a way that doesn't require specific software, can be freely customized, doesn't cost money, and runs on any OS.

    If you're really into Csound, and do own Max for Live, you might even use both.

  • Agent Cooper

    Looks cool, but you can already do all this for free in Live or any other VST host using Sensomusic's Usine. Usine is available as a VST/VSTi and can run Csound in realtime. Plus you can build customizable GUI's for Csound, automate it live etc. Def worth a look 🙂

  • digid

    Ah, there you go – postponed to tomorrow, the 18.

    The day announced software is available when they say they … oh, I will stop whining.

  • @agent cooper – arse! this is windows only right? Stuck between a rock and a place called hard 🙂

  • Megatonne

    Hey We Make Sound

    an OSX version of Usine is on the cards. once they've nailed the windows 64 bit version if I'm not mistaken.

    The Usine license is also (or at least will be) multi-platform, so you could pick up a license now and build patches on a Win machine until the OSX version comes out. Something I'm considering.

  • @We Make Sound – you pretty much nailed it – Csound is responsible for ALL of the signal processing and Max (in the form of M4L) is responsible for handling all of the control messages.

    We don't hide any of the CSDs "under the hood" either – from the front panel you can click on our logo and they'll launch CsoundQT and you can freely edit the code – or if you're inclined, use something else as the 'front end' to manage the control messages.

    12 are FREE + 2 that will run ANY CSD inside Live.  Plenty to get you started and familiar with what is going on.



  • I'm wondering about how the licensing of old code is being dealt with as well. One of the plugins is based on a reverb orchestra of mine from 1999, and I just found out about this yesterday. I think someone translated my orchestra into C code at some point, which would get around any licensing issues (my code may have been GPLed, but the algorithm within it can't be covered by the GPL). But it is a little weird seeing code that was posted on a mailing list over a decade ago turned into a commercial product, and I doubt that I am the only old school Csound guy who is wondering about this. Are the new plugins open source?

  • adam

    First, this looks awesome.
    I have to say though, my first thought when I saw this was “gee. this looks a lot like blue (a daw for csound) at least with respect to blue’s ability to manipulate csound based objects similar to how live handles audio samples. ” That said, live is already an incredibly powerful tool for audio synthesis, real-time performance and composition. Adding Csound capabilities to live just makes me drool !!!

  • adam

    First, this looks awesome.
    I have to say though, my first thought when I saw this was “gee. this looks a lot like blue (a daw for csound) at least with respect to blue’s ability to manipulate csound based objects similar to how live handles audio samples. ” That said, live is already an incredibly powerful tool for audio synthesis, real-time performance and composition. Adding Csound capabilities to live just makes me drool !!!

  • adam

    First, this looks awesome.
    I have to say though, my first thought when I saw this was “gee. this looks a lot like blue (a daw for csound) at least with respect to blue’s ability to manipulate csound based objects similar to how live handles audio samples. ” That said, live is already an incredibly powerful tool for audio synthesis, real-time performance and composition. Adding Csound capabilities to live just makes me drool !!!