a free Max for Live synthesizer
uniquely designed to work with Konkreet Performer
Oblique is a Max for Live synthesizer which is completely mapped to Konkreet Performer. As a regular
synthesizer, it receives MIDI notes from any MIDI device. Unlike regular synthesizers, the timbre of
the sound is controlled by OSC messages coming from the abstract interface of Performer.
The main idea behind Oblique is to extend Performer’s unique experience by creating a synth that takes full advantage on its capabilities.
We avoid the use of sliders and knobs, minimize technical descriptions of the synthesis process, all in virtue of a free-flowing, intuitive sound creation and performance. Oblique allows you to shape your sound without thinking about what is inside the box.
Control and Visuals are the two main assets of Performer, and with Oblique, Performer shines both as the exclusive control interface of the synth, and a visual representation of the sound it creates.
Oblique is not a general purpose synthesizer, but more a special audiovisual entity. Of course, you can use it just for its sound, but Oblique reveals its true nature when working hand in hand with the visuals.
As a Max for Live instrument, Oblique receives MIDI Note data right from Live. Additionally, but not as an alternative, it can be controlled from Performer’s interface. It will then produce sounds that are not possible through Live’s internal MIDI.
An Interview with the man behind Oblique
1. Clément, tell us about yourself. What have you been doing?
I just got a master’s degree from the Institut Supérieur d’Electronique de Paris where I specialized in signal processing. I did various projects in sound processing and environmental acoustics. At the same time, I studied music technology at McGill University for a year, and now I’m entirely focused on building software synthesizers.
2. What initially brought you to work with us at the Lab?
I was very impressed when the first Performer teaser video came out in October 2010. It was really far away from all the other control interfaces, and looked full of potential. I liked a lot the whole aesthetic of it. I immediately thought that it would be really nice to have custom-made sounds for it, so I contacted you.
3. Tell us a bit about Oblique, the challenge and what you’ve been trying to achieve with it?
Oblique is the result of various explorations of different mapping strategies over several months. The instrument has different access levels, which means that it’s quite easy to play for the first time, but there is a lot of room for a deeper exploration. Because you cannot rely on the usual synthesis parameters, you are forced to build in your mind the gesture/sound relationships. This should lead to a better interactivity and to a feeling closer to the one of a real instrument.
I wanted to build something sonically coherent, that’s why the sound palette is quite reduced in a way. Since the beginning, I tried to match the sound to Performer ‘s visuals as much as I could. I liked the idea of suggesting textures, space and atmospheres trough the gathering of small elements. Hence, Oblique sound is divided, and it is achieved through a careful organization of dozens of little audio tiles, much like neo-impressionism in painting. More classical techniques are also used, such as wavetable synthesis, to obtain plain and continuous sounds. The resulting sound can be sparse, harsh and aggressive, as well as quiet, flowing, and softly resonating.
The challenge was to build a malleable instrument to have a pleasant playing experience which would get the user closer to an audiovisual synaesthesia. The number of control nodes has been intentionally kept low (up to 5) so that it can be manipulated with one hand while the other one is playing a keyboard. You can also assign yourself the remaining nodes to any other effects, like delay or reverberation inside Live.
4. Why did you choose to work with Max for Live ?
I went first through a prototyping stage under Max/MSP. It was the perfect tool to quickly test different mappings between Performer and the sound synthesis engine without getting lost in coding issues. Finally, we decided to port the result to Max For Live to be able to use it in a real context. It’s then really easy to add other effects, automate and modulate each internal parameter.