Max (software)

Max / MSP is a graphical development environment for music and multimedia from Cycling '74, which is designed for real-time processes. It is used for 20 years by composers, musicians, software developers and artists to create interactive software itself - regardless of the aesthetic requirements of commercial products. In particular, in live mode, this language is widely used in contemporary electronic music, in the field of live video and laptop artists.


The first version was developed by Max Miller Puckette in the late 1980s at IRCAM in Paris. In early 1990, was a commercial version of Opcode Systems published (developed and expanded by David Zicarelli ). Since 1999, the software company Zicarellis Cycling'74 is sold. Max is named after Max Mathews, and can be regarded as the successor of MUSIC- N, even though Max can also be used for purposes other than music.

General information on the language

Max / MSP is a modular, object-based programming language. The objects exist either as written in C " externals " or " abstractions ", which consist of an interconnection of several " externals ". About visual programming, these modules, similar to the function groups connected by cable of a real synthesizer, interconnect in various forms. Max / MSP thus represents a form of software synthesizers, but can also be used for other applications, such as metrology and automation. In addition to commercially available MIDI controllers can be used to control the software patches with Max / MSP a variety of sensors.

Meanwhile, there are two principal extensions to the language Max as object collections available that are also available on Cycling'74:

  • MSP ( Max Signal Processing) for synthesis and audio processing in real time (since 1997)
  • Jitter for video editing and 3D graphics in real time ( since 2002)

In addition, there are numerous collections of Externals on the Web, most of which are freely available.

Hello world

The following figures show the implementation and execution of a Hello World program. Upon actuation of the top object in the message window of the corresponding expression Max is output by the print object.

Max Window

Similar software

There are some relatives of the system:

  • Pure Data is a free, open - source version, which is developed from the original Max programmers Miller Puckette.
  • JMax (s) was a Java-based version, which was also developed at IRCAM, has been since 2001 but no longer maintained. Some Functions were then in the FTM library for a Max and 2007 in Pure Data.
  • Native Instruments Reaktor created a software application that is simpler than Max / MSP to handle, however, contains a similar amount of modulation possibilities. Max / MSP is universal as modular programming, while reactor is primarily designed as a free- switchable recording studio together. While it is easier with reactor to create sound generators and processors, with Max / MSP real-time control by a variety of external controllers is possible.
  • The German company Meso Digital Media Systems Design offers with vvvv a distant relative of Max / Msp. vvvv is designed rather to the processing of real -time video data in comparison to Max, but also relies on a patch -based development interface.
  • SynthMaker is a fee-based development environment for VST instruments and effects with which can also have embedded real-time objects. SynthMaker still offers advanced ways to create more complicated user interfaces.
  • Plogue Bidule also offers an object-oriented system for audio, MIDI and OSC River. Bidule is particularly on spectral audio stream processing, for which there are some modules.