Say Hi to MODOCOSM!
Modocosm is a MIDI modulation matrix plugin for Ableton Live that I built to manipulate some of the functions of the amazing Hologram Electronics Microcosm effects box. For those who just want to get down to business, check out the Getting Started guide for more details, or check out the YouTube videos on installing and using the MODOCOSM plugin.
To call the Microcosm an ‘effects box’ is really setting the bar pretty low. Hologram Electronics more aptly calls it ‘A new effects toolkit for adventurous musicians’ and I whole heartedly agree!
It’s got 4 main effect categories like Micro Loop, Granules, Glitch, and Multi Delay, with 2 or 3 variations within each category. Each variation comes with 4 presets that vary the effect ranging from subtle to intense. All told there are 11 distinct effects and 44 unique presets.
All effects can be time synced to an external MIDI clock, and almost all functions of the box can be controlled via MIDI.
If that weren’t enough, it also has a 60 second Phrase Looper as well! I haven’t even started messing with that yet, but can only wonder where my fertile imagination and moderate coding ability will take me!
There are a few great YouTube video reviews on it to give you a better sense of what this thing can do. Here’s one by Ricky Tinez and a sound only demo of all presets on the Red Means Recording channel.
These effects will definitely add dimension, space, texture and harmonics to your sounds, and opens up a ton of possibility for surprise.
When I first got the unit I literally spent hours flipping through the effects and turning the dials, experimenting with a simple synth melody played on repeat. After a few sessions I got more comfortable with the main functions and decided to dig a bit deeper into the secondary functions and that’s when it hit me. Why not try to control some of the effects parameters using Ableton MIDI automation?!?
Time to get moving.
While the Microcosm certainly adds a lot of dynamic qualities to your sound, I thought it might be interesting to add some ‘motion’ to the sounds as well, by subtly or aggressively changing the amount and level of effects parameters over time. After all, the Microcosm has a resonant low pass filter, various reverb sizes, time multipliers, and more… All addressable via MIDI. These types of parameters are fairly common to find on synthesizers that can be controlled with source modulators like sine, square, and ramp oscillators. So hey, why not?
MODOCOSM provides just that, a light weight modulation matrix that allows you to automate Microcosm effect parameters using time synced oscillator wave shapes.
The MODOCOSM plugin is available for download from the Max For Live device library
The MODOCOSM plugin allows you to:
- Select a Microcosm effect and effect preset (A-D)
- Assign a modulation source to control one of 7 different effect parameters on the Microcosm
- 4 modulation sources available for mapping 4 different effect parameters
- Specify the shape, and tempo locked timing / frequency of the source oscillator
- Apply a ‘Scaling Factor’ to the timing to extend oscillation cycles beyond whole notes (1n) up to 4 measures
- Apply MIN/MAX range limits to the oscillator
- Per-oscillator and global oscillator synchronization
- This was written using Max For Live, and I believe will only run using Ableton Live ‘Suite’ - I don’t think it will work using ‘Standard’ or ‘Lite’ versions of Ableton.
- Each modulation source/destination pair is going to send out quite a bit of MIDI data! I’ve noticed that once I get 3 or so modulators running, it’s difficult to change parameters using the physical encoders on the Microcosm. To work around this, simply turn off one or more modulators in MODOCOSM, and you should be able to make manual changes using the encoders again.
- Oscillators will naturally get out of sync with each other due to different start/stop times, etc… This can be cool, but there may be times it’d be even cooler for them all to move in lock step. If this is the case, you need to set them all to the same note timing and scale factor. Once this is done, press the G-SYNC button, and they should all start moving together again
- I haven’t added all the possible effects destinations, but may do so at some point
- I haven’t added Looper control yet - but that could be interesting!
- It might be nice to save some user defined MODOCOSM presets
- This was written using Max For Live for the Microcosm, but there isn’t any reason you couldn’t hack this to send MIDI data to other devices.
Here’s a quick video about installing the MODOCOSM plugin.