Section C:  Tech Requirements and Setup

C-1:  Software/hardware requirements;

Macintosh computer with System 10.6 (Snow Leopard).  System 10.5 may be possible; I haven’t tried it out on that system.  It needs a fairly fast computer with the DSP Scheduler in Overdrive mode.

2 keyboard MIDI controllers with 5 octaves, one with sustain pedal output (Ctl # 64. Controller keyboard is MIDI ch 2, performance keyboard is MIDI ch. 1;

MIDI standard sustain pedal plugged into KB controller MIDI Ch. 1.  Controller # 64.

MIDI interface with 1 in and 1 output.

Continuous MIDI controller with control nos. 1-120, such as a Knobby Slidemate or JL Cooper Fadermaster.  The panel numbers in the illustrations refer to the Slidemate.  I have available other panels with other controller numbering systems (or will be willing to provide such with user input).

External MIDI sound modules, synthesizers, samplers with up to 16 MIDI channels;

Output mixer for sound modules and sound system;

MAX/MSP 5 with Macintosh fast computer with System 10.6 (Snow Leopard). The standalone version (the one I recommend for users to start with) requires no MAX/MSP software at all.

Screen optimization: Composers’ Playpen is optimized for a 17"  screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.

C-2: Installation.  The Composers Playpen works with either a full-scale version of MAX/MSP 5 or with the runtime version, where you can’t edit anything (although you can save your own settings and presets and sequences and everything you’ll need to make music).  Specific installation instructions will be available for those wishing to install, as they must be somewhat customized for each situation.


This is set up so that the Composers’ Playpen sends MIDI information to 16 separate MIDI channels.  These may be one synthesizer (or sampler) in multi mode, or several in poly mode, or a combination.  Setup as follows: 

KEYBOARDS:  Plug your MIDI pedal (cont. #64) into the pedal input of KB controller MIDI Ch. 1. Set its MIDI channel output to 1.

INTO THE COMPUTER:  The two  keyboard controllers and MIDI continuous controller all go into the  input of your MIDI interface.  You will need the appropriate MIDI merging to do this depending on your setup. The MIDI interface connects to the computer’s USB or Firewire or other port.

OUT FROM THE COMPUTER:  From the computer via the interface, connect from the MIDI interface output directly to the synthesizers/sound modules via MIDI cables.  Each module should have the MIDI going in, and then out its “thru” to the next module.

Program changes are designed (as in multi mode) to affect only the program on that particular MIDI channel. With synthesizers in poly mode, the program change will affect all channels, which drastically limits your options.  In multi mode, most synthesizers will allow separate program change messages to affect only that MIDI channel.  Make sure your synthesizer is not set up to also accept program changes that also change the multisetup. 

HOW TO SET UP YOUR SOUNDS: Go into the external control section of your synthesizer and designate MIDI controllers 1 (modulation wheel) and 2 (breath controller) as your external controllers. Basically, the COMPOSERS’ PLAYPEN is designed to work best when the breath controller (MIDI controller #2) controls a low pass filter on the instrument, so that the value of "0" is close to inaudible and "128" is a full volume. I have designated the modulation wheel (MIDI controller #1) to affect various miscellaneous areas depending on how you want to set up your sounds. Some possibilities are, (1.) use it to control the amount of modulation (the traditional use), (2), control the patch select, where it selects one of two or four different sounds as it passes through its values. No doubt other uses are possible, depending on the capabilities of your instruments.  Of course these are just suggestions.  You can use the MIDI controllers 1 and 2 any way you wish. 

SYNTHESIZER MAPPING:  Each individual sound or group of sounds should play across the synthesizer range, from C -2 to Bb 5, keeping in mind that you will be using MULTI mode.   DO NOT MAP SOUNDS BEYOND Bb 5, since the notes B5 and C6 in KB MIDI 1 are used for other purposes.

Composers Playpen Manual: Tech Requirements