NIME 2020 – ScreenPlay: A Topic-Theory-Inspired Interactive System

Just over a year ago I was scheduled to demonstrate my research at NIME 2019, which took place at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. My journey there comprised three flights (Manchester to Paris, Paris to Rio de Janeiro, and, finally, Rio de Janeiro to Porto Alegre), with a total time of approximately 18 hours. Unfortunately, immediately prior to boarding my flight to Paris, I received a text from the airline telling me that my flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro had been cancelled. Assuming the provision of a suitable alternative means of continuing my journey, I decided to fly to Paris anyway. Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport, however, I was informed that, in order to complete my journey, I would be required to fly to Lima in Peru the next morning before catching a connecting flight to Porto Alegre; a change that added an addition 12 hours to my total journey time and would see me miss the first day of the conference. Accordingly, I instead decided to return to Manchester the next day, a decision which meant I would miss the conference.

Thankfully, I was able to showcase my research later that summer at Audio Mostly at the University of Nottingham and was again invited to demonstrate my research at NIME 2020, which was scheduled to take place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in the UK. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, however, it looked like my attempts to attend NIME would again be thwarted. The response from the conference organisers, however, was amazing and, in the face of adversity, they ran the conference remotely with great success. I was required to provide a real time demonstration of my research via Zoom, but also produce a demonstration video, which can be seen below. Despite less than ideal circumstances, my experience at NIME was great and I hope to attend again in the future.


Partials is a variable spectrum additive synthesiser with MC at its heart. Available as both a Max/MSP collective and Max for Live Instrument, the fundamental concept underpinning the design of Partials is one of variability and unpredictability.

The foundation of the instrument is the ioscbank~ object and, specifically, the dynamic variation of the distribution of partials between the fundamental frequency and uppermost overtone, which can either be linear or increasingly logarithmic/exponential. Unfortunately, an MC variant of ioscbank~ does not exist so it was necessary to utilise poly~ to mimic the functionality of such an object.

Partials comprises three additive voices, which operate in unison, and a sub oscillator. Parameter settings such as partial distribution, filter cutoff, and resonance are controlled by random envelope generators and fluctuate within a range of values as defined by rslider objects or number boxes. Random envelope frequency (the interval between newly generated envelope values) can be defined for each individual parameter, whilst deviation can be applied to create variation between the three unison voices.

Partials can be downloaded for free here!