Forester II, a complete re-design… Again.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 | Building Things, Forester, Max/MSP, Music!, Software News | 19 Comments

Forester II

For those of you who don’t know Forester, it’s a quirky audio software application I made several years ago in which the user imports soundfiles and then navigates through the ‘forest’ of coloured discs which creates a changing soundscape. It’s actually very simple to use and quite mysterious as you never really know what the output is going to be.  Forester was actually a big hit, and is still used by lot’s of artists and crops up on numerous albums since it’s release in 2006.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

ahh Forester 1.4 looking cute

I’ve been trying to make a follow-up pice for several years, and have demoed several approaches, which up to now have all lacked the special magic that Forester the first possessed.  I think finally I have found a way of making Forester II work so here are a few pictures and a little video of my interface so far.

You’ll notice from the video above that the main thing about the interface is that there appears to be no interface. I want the visual aspect of the software to be very filmic, almost like interacting with a music video maybe… I like this idea a lot, and hopefully, when the software is ready, so will you!

Here’s another video, this time in ‘Bad Video’ mode, somewhere in-between a worn-out betamax and a crashing ZX Spectrum.

Take care,

Leafcutter John.

Another little forester 2 video

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 | Building Things, Forester, Max/MSP, video | No Comments

Been super busy here for the last few weeks – I’m making not one but two albums dont you know…. More about them later. For now here is a little video of me testing the currents in Forester 2. Don’t have time to annotate the video I’m afraid, but im basically changing 4 parameters of the current using a midi controller – yes forester 2 will be easily midi controllable. How fast the sound ball thingies move depends on their size and the strength of the current.

Leafcutter John x.

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Forester 2 is getting closer to release.

Monday, April 19th, 2010 | Building Things, Forester, Max/MSP, Software News | 7 Comments

I’ve finally had chance to work more on Forester 2. You can see my progress in the video below. I decided to ditch the 2D forest in favor of a 3 dimensional ocean. The idea is that you’ll be able to drop sound-files directly into the interface which will then be carried around the environment by the oceanic currents.

The software came from an idea i had tried out in processing (look) and later implemented in Max/MSP/Jitter.

In line with my growing philosophy of keeping choice and expectations down and being happily surprised with the results you will have very little control over what happens to your sounds. I plan to implement limited control over the the nature and directions of the currents but as in life you’ll pretty much have to let nature run its course.

I recommend watching the following in full screen 720 HD mode if you can.

Take care,

Leafcutter John.

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Gigs this weekend and project Updates.

Sunday, June 14th, 2009 | Forester, Graphic Scores, Live Shows, Software News | 1 Comment


I’ve been super busy the last few weeks hence the complete lack of posts here. I have a couple of gigs coming up this week (sat/sun) which I’d like to let you know about. I’m also involved in some great projects at the moment which i’d like to share.

1. The first gig – Sat 20th June – is at the Cross Kings Pub, York Way, London N1 0AX. I’ll be doing some new tunes, old ones and some improv bits. Also playing: Liberez, Benjamin Wetherill & the Trumpets of Death, B¿Layachi Cousins Duo. Cost:£6, adv £5 

2. The second gig – Sun 21st June – is an early one 6:00 > 7:00pm, Royal Festival Hall ballroom, London. This event is on the closing day of Meltdown 2009 and is before this years curator Ornette Coleman takes to the stage. I’m really looking forward to this, I have managed to get a group of amazing musicians together to play some of my animated graphic score pieces. We’ll be premiering a new one where the audience suggest words and phrases which will make up the score. It’s a free gig too! 

3. I just finished a BBC commission for Radio 3, I was asked to work with Shetland poet Jen Hadfield on a new work. I’m not sure exactly when it airs but i’ll let you know when I do. It should be available to stream from the BBC website so you can have a listen even if you miss the original airing. 

4. I have spent some very pleasurable days with my friend Tom Haines playing about with hydrophones in a little pink paddling pool. We are working on a new piece which will actually be performed (and listened to)  in a public swimming pool using an underwater sound system combined with a regular air speakers.

Paddling pool, hydrophones, and sound objects

Paddling pool, hydrophones, and sound objects

If you want to come and experience the first and probably only performance of this piece it will take place on July 22nd at Clissold swimming pool 63 Clissold Road,London, N16 9EX. Bring your swimsuit! More Info.

5. Last but not least I have been tinkering with Forester II and have come up with the beginning of a lovely new interface. Here you can see audio files rendered as circles.




I’m still some way off having finished software for you so please be patient. 

See some of you this weekend!

take care,

Leafcutter John x.

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Nodal Rhythm Developments

Sunday, December 14th, 2008 | Building Things, Forester, Max/MSP, Software News | No Comments

An experiment using Max/MSP playing a circular pattern of sounds. The distance between two nodes determines the time taken to go from one to the other.

A couple of things make this Vid a little confusing to watch. The frame rate can’t keep up with the position a lot of the time – take it from me the pattern remains the same: 1>2>3>4>5>6>7>8>repeat… etc. Also the tempo sometimes changes without the nodes changing position. This is because there is a master time multiplier off screen which i’m using to scale the speed. The relative times of the nodes stay the same. Also it’s hard to see the connections between the nodes on the video, that’s youtube’s video compression. Oh yeah and then there is the yellow marker who just sits there doing nothing, that’s my lazy programming.

Anyway if you like the sounds of machines starting up or spinning down you might like this.

Leafcutter John x.

p.s. and i nearly forgot to mention that if you want to try out some nodal music there are several free applications available to do this. I’ve not played with them much so i’m not sure what they are like to use.

Tiction Is quite similar in appearance to my program though it’s more fully developed. Mac, Win, & Linux.

Nodal is a fairly deep “generative software application for composing music” Mac only.

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Generative nodal rhythms and melody in Max/MSP

Sunday, November 30th, 2008 | Building Things, Forester, Max/MSP, Software News | 2 Comments

I seem to be having a very intense Max/MSP week. Last night I was thinking about interesting ways of generating rhythm. In particular how to create structures which balance recognisable loops with random choices. Saw a really interesting page of flash design pieces which gave me the idea of using a nodal structure with one sound mapped to each node. 

In the first incarnation of my software (shown in the video above) the nodes fire out midi messages when they are hit by the red marker. The midi messages go to Logic Audio and play specific samples in a soft-sampler. The connections between nodes are created automatically. The rules are very simple. The marker must move on every beat (a regular pulse) it may only move to another node to which it is connected. The connections are directional so if the connection goes A to B the marker cannot move B to A unless another connection is made in that direction. If a node is connected to more than one node a random choice of the available targets is made. As the video progresses I randomly add more connections which increases the number of patterns available.

The Video below shows a later development of the software where the node locations are positioned by hand. Connections between them are also made by hand. The rules remain the same. In this example there are two discrete systems with two markers. As the video progresses the systems are linked. Again the nodes trigger midi messages which this time trigger piano note samples. I built in probability to this version so fore example you can connect A to B three times and A to C once. Which would make A to B three times more likely to occur than A to C. The connections with stronger pink lines have stronger probabilities. Note that some of the nodes are ‘rest’ nodes and produce no sound.

The output from these systems can become a little monotonous after a while due to the lack of volume dynamics and the regular pulse. All the same I’m very pleased with my days work. I’m hoping to be able to build some of these ideas into the new version of Forester…

Hope you enjoy,

Leafcutter John x.

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Branching LSystems in Max/MSP

Saturday, November 29th, 2008 | Building Things, Forester, LSystem, Max/MSP, Software News | 3 Comments

I had a little more time to work on LSystems today and I’ve managed to get simple branching to work. I also discovered that Jitter has its own LSystem object – I’m going to continue to make my own system as I’m still trying to figure out a few things. Here are the first branching images.

More soon,

Leafcutter John x.

LSystems in Max/MSP

Saturday, November 29th, 2008 | Building Things, Forester, LSystem, Max/MSP, Software News | 3 Comments

I recently came upon this page which talks about generative design and the demoscene which both try and create media dynamically by giving (fairly) simple rules for reproduction. There is an excellent video of Brian Eno and Will Wright talk about generative forms and the idea of creating complexity from simple rule-sets. I was very inspired by this idea as it could potentially be of a lot of use to computer musicians. 

I don’t have time right now to go into how LSystems work but they can produce a wide verity of outcomes which often look like they could be found in nature. The LSystem tree is a classic example of This. (the tree pictured is not my own but it is created by an L system).  

I managed to make a simple LSystem patch in Max/MSP and all the images above were made with it (click then click again for full size). I’ll go into more detail in future but all images are created from very simple rules such as: ‘F = F F + B’ which are iterated many times to produce the output. The images produced exhibit complexity far beyond what you might expect from such simple input. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to make trees and I’m curious to see if there is an interesting way of generating Music by mapping the branching and self-similar structures.

I’m interested in hearing from you if you know about this kind of thing!

All the best,

Leafcutter John


Forester II Some interface ideas.

Friday, October 31st, 2008 | Forester, Software News | No Comments

I’ve been working away on some interface ideas for Forester II recently. I’m still trying to finalise how the thing will work but i’m pretty sure that i’m going to ditch the round trees in favor of rectangular areas because they will allow some interesting tracking/sound mapping options. I (and you, judging by your comments) want Forester II to be more controllable so i’m making the sound areas editable, I’ve even made a snap to grid option for those of you who like there forests nice and tidy. To retain some of the magic of the original Forester I’m planning to program in lot’s of surprising interventions which might only happen once every hour or so.

Again i’m using Max/MSP (4.6.3) to program the software, The drawing is done in Max’s LCD object. Hope you’ll enjoy this little teaser.


Leafcutter John.

Forester Goes it Alone in the US!

Friday, September 19th, 2008 | Forester, Software News | No Comments

 Well the time has come, Forester is all grown up and has started making radio appearances without me. If you live in the US you probably all ready know Electronic Musician magazine. Personally I’ve never seen it but huge respect to Len Sasso for trying to explain Forester on the radio. I’ve snipped the relevant part from the whole broadcast which originally broadcast June 18th 2008.

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you can hear the whole broadcast here

ta ta for now,

Leafcutter John.

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