​Generative music using Isadora

  • Hi,

    Does Isadora have an actor which will generate its own sound, which I can then manipulate, or do I have to pre-record all the sounds and use the sound player?

    I've been inspired by some of Brian Eno's apps (Bloom and Scape) which produce endless generative music from a few simple inputs from the user. I'd like to create some kind of installation maybe, where the audience come in and have an impact on the sounds being played, either through movement (motion tracking and/or transducer mics on the floor) to create an endlessly evolving piece of music.

    I have mostly only used Isadora for live capture/video manipulation up to this point but want to get more into it using sound. I'm guessing there might be something in the MIDI section but I haven't really used Midi music before (I have access to a basic midi keyboard) however I don't really want a keyboard in the space .

    I've had this idea rumbling around in my head for a while now but never done anything with it as I wasn't sure how.

    Thanks in advance for any help! :)

  • Tech Staff

    Are you on Mac or PC? 

  • @crystalhorizon Macbook pro

  • Tech Staff

    There are a lot of AU plugins out there you can use. 

  • Beta Gold

    I’d see about using Isadora to interface your sensors and then communicating with other sound-generating software via OSC or MIDI. Staying with pure Isadora, one can playback prerecorded sounds and have people’s movements affect the playback speed which would in turn affect the pitch, or have different sensors or situations trigger different prerecorded audio.

    Best wishes,


  • Tech Staff

    This could help

  • You can use a pure wave sound (saw, sine square and so on) and load it into wave player, then manipulating speed value you can change pitch. by this way you have created an oscillator.

  • Beta Gold

    @crystalhorizon @Maximortal 

    Are there native Isadora actors that create tones without other software or pre-existing audio-files? I admit that I'm not as well-versed on the audio side of things, as I usually leave that to musicians or sound designers when I'm working on a project.

  • Beta Gold


    MIDI Mock is a free (or possibly now $3?) simple virtual synth for Mac that I've interfaced with Isadora in the past via Isadora's Send Note and Program Change MIDI actors and the Isadora Virtual Out in the MIDI section of the Communications settings.

  • Beta Gold

    It's especially fun to combine with a Makey Makey if you're interested in making your own instruments or interactive sculptures out of scrap metal and recycled wire. I have an ammo belt full of metal plugs from theatrical lighting instruments that I've wired up with a Makey Makey and have played as a MIDI instrument while also operating projections live onstage as part of a multi-discipline ensemble.

  • @woland no oscillators, no filters, no party! :-)

  • Thanks everyone! Plenty to think about here.

    The midi programme might be my way forward 😊

  • @woland said:

    Makey Makey

     I've only just looked up what Makey Makey is, it looks amazing! How does it interface with Isadora? Do I need any extra software?

  • @crystalhorizon This video is very useful thanks. 

    One question, when I double click on my AUDistortion actor, its just collapses and expands it rather than opening up the second window. Any thoughts why that might happen?

  • Tech Staff


    To get it to pop up, it needs to be connected in the in and outputs

  • Makey Makey works as a tiny keyboard, so you just need to put some Keyboard Watchers in Izzy.

  • @crystalhorizon Ahhh that makes sense.

    Is there a guide anywhere on the AU actors? I don't really understand them as much

  • If you are serious about generating music via software, I recommend you check out Chuck, a powerful programming language designed for digital musicians which you can link via midi to other programs like Isadora. I recon it's not so easy to learn at first, but there's plenty of tutorials and it's really great once you understand it.

  • @dbini Cool! I might have to invest! :)

  • @haradan I've just had a look at it... I'm not sure I'm that serious about it yet haha! Maybe one day though...

    I was really trying to find out if Isadora had a way of generating its own sound without using sound files/external sources

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