Controller as notation

Been pondering making a Max for Live version of Plane.

But I don’t have an arc and my grid is a 128. Past experiments with plane + 128 have shown me that scrolling gets annoying quick. But the notion of making controller and notation conceptually interchangeable just seems like such a direct way to compose, I can’t shake it from my mind.

So, I’m wondering if any 512 owners out there might be willing to share their own experiences with this setup? Does @stretta still compose this way? Should I scratch this itch and build a 512? Or should I make peace with the idea that a mouse and a piano roll work well enough?


No experience with plane, or scrolling for that matter, but that’s a cool idea worth unpacking.

I definitely think that controller(/mapping/software) is interchangeable with what we use “notation” as generally (encoded musical thinking/ideas), but in a larger sense, notation as concept/approach is super applicable too.

Although thinking about it now, you probably meant “notation” as a display of information (like the 512 holds the “score”). I was trying to figure out what the problem with a 128 would have been, but yeah that makes more sense now.

Yes, I was looking for a 1:1 map-to-reality relationship between controller and score. Requires a lot of buttons to do it efficiently.

So far my way around this is to either use expressive controllers so that the emphasis is on playing rather than composition, or to use generative tactics so that scores can be expressed very minimally. But I’d like to have this third avenue available as well.


I guess it’s also worth exploring other types of interfaces/controllers for this too. The monome offers an interesting surface for control and feedback, but for multiparametric information, the “low resolution” of the monome could be a(n unwated) bi-directional limitation.

Maybe something like an iPad + Apple Pencil could make for an interesting (though complicated to set up) manifestation of the idea as it would offer really low latency, which would be important in a situation like this. (My brain initially went to wacom-type surfaces, but the displays tend to have some latency).

But then again, once you’re presented with the infinite scale of a high resolution screen, it’s something altogether different.


I’ve played with Koushion and Xynthesizer and they sorta work. Probably a lemur template paired with a max for live clip editing device would get me closer to the mark. The iPad Pro pencil would definitely help with the resolution problem. We might acquire one in the fall (people in the know suggest to me that might be the time of the next iPad update, right now the larger screen version is lagging behind the smaller screen version in a couple key specs).

I’m curious to see if they fold the Pencil into other devices (I saw a patent for the areas to the side of the track pad on the current laptops working like a wacomesque surface) in the future too.

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Just wanted to chime in, to say that I always thought of modular as a performative notation isntrument. The fronting of connections, which reveal maliable structures, makes it a living diagram of the expressed/experienced sound.


Totally agree, although my bias tends to slot that more into the category of sound design rather than composition, even though modular has a way of blurring or obliterating such distinctions.

I feel that what I’m talking about can potentially complement a modular approach. I’m just finding, as I (too slowly) make my way through The Geometry of Music, and Modalogy, that in spite of my love for Partch, and raga, and maqam, and microtonality, etc, the fact remains, I was born in USA, raised on rock and roll, blues, and (on the very good days) jazz. Quantized chromatic pitches and their harmonic relationships have worn deep deep grooves in my brain. I love to challenge those sensibilities, but at other times I dearly wish to indulge them as deeply as I am capable of.

And I’m always looking for more efficient ways to accomplish that. Not the least of which, so that I can get through the books I mentioned above more quickly!

Wanted to mention a really beautiful piano roll I encountered recently. Helio workstation has lovely interaction design for zooming, scrolling, and note manipulation. Unfortunately the Mac version is crashing when it scans my plugins, so I need to try the other versions. Fortunately it is quite cross-platform (including Windows, iOS, and Android).

I also need to remind myself why Touchable didn’t gel with me as an Ableton MIDI clip editor. And another option altogether is bitwig on a Windows box with this Dell 2714T touch monitor I own (that sadly lacks Mac drivers).

But given all of the above, I think I’ve backed off the “build a 512” cliff for now.

It’s big. Shame about the resolution though.


Thought I’d pitch in to this

I only really use my 512 as 2 separate 256’s

along with a walnut 256 too

I did have an arc but unfortunately sold it before I had the DIY 512. :frowning:

Plane is very cool but as you may know there aren’t many 512 apps

i’d absolutely love a m4l version of plane if you could assist? :slight_smile:

I think I’ll revisit this tonight!!!



plane definitely needs a knob of some kind in order to be useful.

I’m on the hunt for a knob again now jason

sounds wrong lol

Edit: you can use a mouse too or keyboard to scroll as per the plane docs

My memory forgot this too !!

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Yeah, give it a try and please do let me know what you think. My main question is, is it a big enough improvement over a mouse and piano roll to warrant the effort of building a 512? Is 512 even enough resolution for this?

will do jason

I didn’t build the mk kit 512 (actually got for free) and its massive

a newer 512 kit would be be nice though

let you know later