Last night I downloaded the latest release of Cycling ’74 Max. Or technically, Max/MSP/Jitter, since it’s all one program. Wow! The upgrade is amazing.

I’ve used Max in the past, though never for any serious creative work, mostly just reviewing it for one magazine or another. It’s a deep and sophisticated system for developing your own real-time performance software, both audio and video.

Unless you’re a diehard experimentalist, using a ready-made recording or performance platform (that is, a digital audio workstation, or DAW) would be a lot easier than digging into Max. But if you need to do things that a DAW won’t do, Max is the best ticket in town.

The new version doesn’t seem to be a radical upgrade in terms of the actual functionality. But the user interface is much, much nicer than before. Not only is it less geeky than it used to be, it’s actually sexy!

Max comes with a large set of excellent tutorials that will ease you, step by step, into the complex world of programming using graphic objects. The tutorials are not free of silly little errors, but even if you’ve never encountered anything like Max before, you’ll be up and running within a few hours of study.

The demo version is fully functional for 30 days.

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