We’re spoiled by modern software as a canvas for experimental sound. Significantly, once constructed and encapsulated, these digital sound devices can fall away, allowing you to explore new noise frontiers through play, not only through calculated sound design. (That very question has come up in very different conversations with developers I’ve had in the last 24 hours or so, so I think it’s worth mentioning – whether it’s something you’ve created or downloaded, you can get to the point where you use your ears and intuition to find sounds.)

Let’s talk about that in regards to Ableton Live and Max. Here, a Max for Live grain instrument you can download right now (from none other than Robert Henke), one that’s coming soon, and to get straight to the sort of music you might make, a beautiful ambient creation and music video from someone working with processing in Max/MSP.

Granulator II

Just-released Granulator II for Max for Live, from sound maestro Robert Henke, has a wide variety of features for creating beautiful, singing timbres. Using “quasi-synchronous granular synthesis,” sound is squeezed and stretched into longer resonant colors. As Robert writes:

It creates a constant stream of short crossfading sections of the source sample, and the pitch, position and volume of each grain can be modulated in many ways to create a great variety of interesting sounds. Granulator II also offers two multimode filters in series to further shape the resulting timbre. Granulator II is the latest incarnation of a series of granular based synthesizers I wrote for my own usage since the additon of real time audio processing to Max in 1997.

Via and Synthtopia.


  • Drag-and-drop sample support (from within Live or your file system)
  • Graphical waveform display with zoom
  • MIDI hold pedal compatibility (and visual feedback
  • Grain size, spray, position parameters, all with real-time modulation
  • LFO
  • “Scan” through files as they play, for everything from one-shots to playable parameters
  • Windowing
  • Amplitude modulation with randomization
  • Velocity-based detuning (which Robert labels “experimental”)
  • Filter/FM ADSR envelope
  • Polyphonic MIDI control
  • Live audio input, using a 200 ms buffer or up to 16 seconds “grab”

Lots of sound samples and explanation on Robert’s site:

Free, under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license. (I still would like to see BSD or even GPL licenses on patches, but CC is not unreasonable. How to license free/open source, commercial, and proprietary patches should perhaps be a round-table post or something soon!)

Upcoming Granular Device for M4l

I’m sure there are many, many granular creations for Max for Live, but this upcoming work looks nice – simple, but with some beautiful sonic possibilities.

Granular Mirror Maze is the work of Maurizio Giri; you can watch his blog Amazing Noise for news on the Device, but he promises it soon.

And speaking of his blog, here’s a nice find by way of it, from 2012 but too gorgeous not to include here:

Beautiful Corruption – mergrim from Masato TSUTSUI on Vimeo.

realtime generated with Max/MSP/Jitter.
point tracking prepared with syntheyes.
soundtrack from “Invisible Landscape …”
2011.4.13 worldwide digital release. (BeatPort / iTMS)
music: mergrim
visual: Masato TSUTSUI