Max/MSP visionary David Zicarelli is fond of saying that Max/MSP is really about numbers. You might hear music, but it’s number crunching that makes it all happen. Understand how to make the numbers work, and you can make your music and visuals do what you want. (Happily, this does not require a whole lot of math acuity, or I wouldn’t be able to do it. Instinct and imagination seem to be the best hallmark of Max masters.)

Lest you believe numbers can’t really make music, though, there are always bizarre and unusual examples of sources for Max projects. The latest comes to us from reader Stanley Ruiz:

Here is a clip of my audio-visual work presented at the 4th Asia-Europe Art Camp in Helsinki, Finland (June 2006).

I used the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP per capita) as source to create sounds and manipulate video. GDP values were converted to MIDI data using a gesture-based sensor interface (the data is being sent as I move my hand). Converted MIDI values are then processed in a custom program written in Max/MSP. I used MIDIsense as sensor interface.

The output is an algorithmically composed music, as well as manipulated video (in this instance the video’s frame rate and contrast were manipulated).

… from Stanley’s blog.

(For more on sensor interfaces and MIDIsense, see our previous story.)

Okay, you can’t quite sing along, but Stanley is working on sonifying the GDP of other countries. Eventually, it should make the differences in affluence come alive in a way they might not on a bar chart. Got some unusual ways of working with numbers for music and motion? Let us know.