Creating Sounds from Scratch – Project 3 – DIY Event

Students use the audio & data processing functions of Max/MSP to create the soundscape of an event and then use MIDI and OSC to externally control and modify the parameters of the soundscape.

Activity Objectives

Create synthesizer & sampler patches using Max/MSP’s audio features

Understand the basic principles of MIDI and OSC and be able to program and utilize software and hardware solutions in order to control information

Design a sonic event that incorporates both linear and non-linear storytelling methods

Activity Goals

Basic HCI and UI practice
Using multi-channel sound in a non-linear application.
Narrative storytelling
Efficient programming in Max and other tools


Use digital tools to create a modifiable soundscape of an event.

Choose the story that you want to tell and how you want to tell the story of this event.
Your soundscape can be a combination of real and surreal sounds. When considering modifiable parameters, choose a cross section of both big and little changes. Little changes might include slight changes in pitch, speed, amplitude, filters, and panning. Large changes might include shifts from distant to close, calm to agitated, or mellow to intense. Some of your content adjustment can occur automatically, but some of your content adjustment should occur manually. Manual control can be executed with midi/OSC/Bluetooth/whatever devices.

You may use any digital tools you like, but your patch must be performable and analyzable in class.

Your project will be turned in via your USB flash drive.

You will make a brief presentation to the class.

Your grade will be based on design conceptualization, programming ambition, elegance and functionality of modifiable parameters, and quality of finished product.

Detailed lesson plans, class patches, demo patches, and quiz patches for instruction in Max/MSP Audio and MIDI & OSC External Control can be found at the following links.

Time Required

Four hours of in-class instruction per week (see attached instruction outlines above) and Six to eight hours outside-of-class work per week for 4-6 weeks.

Required Materials

Computer Software:

  • Max/MSP software and included demo files
  • TouchOSC software

External Control devices of some kind, such as:

  • iphone
  • Android phone
  • Lemur
  • Wii remotes
  • MIDI keyboard or control devices

Optional Software

  • OSCulator (required if using Wii Remotes)
  • Lemur Software


This project was conceived for students who already have experience in developing and communicating story. For students with less experience in storytelling, the instructor can define the parameters of the event and provide a prompt to the students.

This project works well for a group no larger than 10. If the class is larger than that, then the instructor’s time is spread too thin helping students think through their individual challenges with Max and the other tools. Larger classes could be accommodated with experienced TAs.

An entirely effective version of this project could be developed with just MaxMSP, a smartphone/tablet, and the TouchOSC app. MaxMSP has a free 30-day trial period, old smartphones can be acquired pretty cheaply, and TouchOSC costs $5/seat.


Students are evaluated and receive written feedback on design conceptualization, programming ambition, elegance and functionality of modifiable parameters, and quality of finished product.

Vincent Olivieri
Univeristy of California-Irvine