Composing MH
an app for mac.

Creative Commons License
Composing MH by Yoshiaki Onishi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

(updated: version 2.3.3 on November 1, 2014)

Download the latest version of the application by clicking here.  (ZIP format, 36.9MB.  Defrost it upon downloading)

Created with Max 6.

An application expressly intended for educational use.

Yes, it’s free.

What this app does:

(1) It encourages, first and foremost, the users to be sensitive about different kinds of sounds, and to interact with them.  It aims to awaken within the users the essence of the creative process in music.

(2) Using eight preset sounds, the app allows users to utilize some of the tape techniques (looping, speed/pitch, reversing, etc.) to create a kind of musique concrète piece with a small learning curve.

(3) It allows to record the creative process itself and make .wav files.

(4) NEW! it allows users to add the custom sound files (in .wav or .aiff formats only) and experiment with the sounds)

Why this app:

In the summer of 2014, I was teaching a summer course in Music Humanities, an obligatory core curriculum course for undergraduate students at Columbia University.  As the session was nearing toward the end, a student asked me in class (I am paraphrasing the question here): “We’ve learned about composers and compositions, even some things about conducting and even some critical theory, but what about composing itself?”

Then it occurred to me that it would be a pity not to teach one thing or two about the creative process in music.  What kind of mindset do composers have when they compose?  And how does it feel like to put things together?  The students seemed to be interested in seeing the “creative process” in action.  They wanted to see me do something.  But then I secretively thought: “Well, why not let the students themselves be the composers?” After all, if I were to teach about the art of listening, why not let the students utilize their own sense of listening into action?

So I asked the students to record some sounds in their lives that interested them.  A student brought me the sound of mixing bowl stricken with a beater, while someone else brought me the sound of his own coughing.  I edited them down to small bits of sound files.

I asked them also to suggest some compositional techniques that they want to see them realized in class.  Some were interested in an organum, while others fugue, or even someone suggested that the emulation of Steve Reich’s Come out would be nice.

I built a patch with Max/MSP, then create an application that does a lot of what happens in the early tape music; splicing, looping, reversing, pitch/speed…, and using the sounds that they thought they were interested in, they could assemble small tape pieces.

In class, without saying a word, I demonstrated the app by improvising on it.  Then I spoke some things about “inspirations” and how composers discover different possibility of any given sound that composers might be interested in.  I mentioned how composing is often a dialogic process, notably in electronic music (i.e. assemble, listen/think, react (assemble), listen/think…).  I gave a small tutorial as to how to operate this application, and the students were ready to go.

Then I made it so that two students pair up as a team, and each team spent about 20 minutes to create a sound track.  I received the soundfiles from them, and made “The Mix.”  You can listen to it here.


I would like to thank my students who took the Summer Music Humanities in the summer of 2014 at Columbia University.  The initial eight sound files that are contained in the app are the ones that the students recorded.