- Cycling '74 radiaL Loop-Based Performance Software
Cycling '74 describes its product, radiaL, as "loop-based performance software with a beautiful and unique interface thoughtfully optimized for playing live or composing and designing in the moment." The basic features of radiaL are similar to most loop-based programs, including: sample-accurate and synchronized playback of loops; support for AIFF, WAV, and MP3 file formats; dynamic interchange of loops and DSP effects; a built-in library of external MIDI controller templates; and a free collection of loops and plug-ins. The program's history and development are very strongly oriented toward live/improvisational work rather than a production environment; it differs from most loop-based programs in that it does not include any way to view a linear time-line. radiaL, as the name implies, simply goes around in circles. The program's strength lies in how it goes around in those circles.
When you first launch radiaL, you are presented with a series of small windows floating above whatever is currently open on your desktop (see Figure 1). I recommend creating a backdrop (under the system menu) unless you have absolutely no Attention Deficit Disorder tendencies, or are controlling radiaL through another program. The default backdrop is a black window that slides behind the other radiaL components. The only danger here is a little feature called rippL, which creates a series of concentric circles etched in white onto the black background. It is strangely addictive in a "Spirograph" kind of way, and I whiled away some time creating backdrop art. If even this feature proves to be too distracting it can be turned off through the Preferences panel.
The main windows of radiaL are: 1) the Channels window, which shows the current loops; 2) the Files window, which lets you access and load loops; 3) the Effects window, where you load, monitor, and tweak the parameters of VST plug-ins; 4) the Outputs window, which provides master fader and level meters for radiaL's audio outputs; and 5) the Top window, which displays the current play status and tempo, CPU usage, and available memory. The Files and Effects windows also have Inspector windows, allowing access to more settings than one file or effect at a time. The Files window links to the Sounds folder within the application folder, so you have to move your sounds into your application folder or create aliases to your sounds in order to access them. This small hassle is offset by a little piece of Unix code embedded in the file window: to navigate through the menus you press "../" in order to move up a directory level. In addition to the five main windows, there is a Clue window, providing a brief description as you move the mouse over a radiaL control. If the Clue window sounds like the "assistance area" in Max, that's because it is: radiaL is an application designed and programmed in Max/MSP by jhno. [End Page 101]
Click for larger view
View full resolution
jhno, a.k.a. John Eichenseer, is a DJ and artist who worked as a developer for Cycling '74's Pluggo software; he has also worked with Interval Research, Laurie Anderson, and Thomas Dolby. In a 1999 interview he stated: "I have been trying to create a set-up that I feel really comfortable with, so I can improvise. I would like to begin a piece, having no idea where it was going or what it would become—and then just keep adding and shaping elements on the fly." This perfectly describes working with radiaL. If you are thinking of creating your own loop-based Max patch, I would advise you to try the 30-day trial version of radiaL and then...