Csound for Live

I had been meaning to experiment with this for some time; Audivation have  brought out some Max for Live based plugins to embed Csound into Ableton Live. These are cross platform and basically you need Live 8.2+ max for live and Csound running on your computer. In fact you need 3 applications aside from Ableton and Max; Csound (free), Csound~ external object (free), QuteCsound (front end, free).

Then, of course, Max for Live and Ableton Live.

You can then load the plugins in the say way you would any Max for Live patches.

There are some free plugins, which is what ive started with; then the collection divides into six-packs, selected by theme; FM Synth Collection, Granular, Physical Modelling etc. They’re very cheap- each six pack is £4.95 and the entire collection can be purchased for £37!


Installation was a nightmare, made worse by having no previous Csound experience. Although the website provides the three essentials for installation (Csound, Csound~ and Qutesound) it makes no reference that for this to work Qutesound has to be running in the background as well as Ableton. Whats more the Csound~ object must match Qutesound- So if Qutesound Double is used the Csound~ has to be Csound~_double. This took a fair amount of googling and testing to get this to work, and really this should be on the website especially bearing in mind this product is about spreading understanding and use of Csound further; theres nothing more off putting than incomplete installation guides.

Also found that if I installed Csound 5.18 then the plugin would load in Ableton- and promptly crashed, taking Ableton with it. At the moment Im running Csound 5.13 and its working fine, in due course I will endeavour to find out what the issue with Csound 5.18 is, it could well be my previous configuration.

In use

Ive installed masters collection 1&2,  Theres a good cross section of stuff here; theres a brilliant but super-CPU heavy additive 10-harmonic synth Additive10, by Ian McCurdy which is a stunning tool ,but boy does it drink CPU! Normallay on my powerful laptop I can run 8 softsynths in Ableton and CPU rarely goes over 35-40% leaving headroom for lots of other stuff, but one of my keyboard improvisations tipped the meter to 65%! So this, I think, will be a studio tool as opposed to a live tool, unless I use it exclusively

Dr. Richard Boulanger, is represented with 5 synths and one effect here. These are all superb and very usable out of the box. I’ve put together a short demo here of using the synths Pearl and Copper

Click here for Audioboo link 

My comments are Im very pleased with the sound but there are artifacts in the upper registers which I will endeavour to code out or EQ out in any mix where Im likely to use these.

Update- Another demo, this time using the other three- BlueEmerald and Taupe

Click here

Learning Csound

One of the great things with this is the plugins can show the source code, so its a great help in learning Csound (am already familiar with Max) so that this workflow can be extended into my own (future) Csound patches; basically Max for Live acts as a host, sending control data to Csound and receiving audio back, which is then passed onto Ableton- with the advantages of not having to bother with Jack or Soundflower and being able to automate from Ableton- this level of integration means in a developing piece I can control Csound just like any other synth/effect making mixes much more straightforward and live use more stable.

I look forward to experimenting more with this format

About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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