DSI Evolver – Integrating The Keyboard Into Ableton Live With Max/Msp

DSI Evolver

This is a Max/Msp app and Max-For Live Plugin I put together to add automation and MIDI interface functionality to my DSI Evolver Keyboard.

Download: Evolver TI

With finals winding down, I had some time over the weekend to work on projects.  I recently picked up an Evolver Keyboard (MEK), and its been bugging me that I can’t use it as a MIDI interface in Ableton, or write automation tracks to change the synth’s parameters.  The keyboard, instead of sending standard MIDI code, sends MIDI SYSEX data, which is more versatile, but doesn’t really have a standard format the way MIDI does.  Unfortunately, as of version 8, Ableton still doesn’t accept SYSEX messages.

After picking up some experience with MAX/MSP programming a custom driver for a Stanton SCS3D (I’ll post that later), I figured I could take on writing some kind of app to get automation into and out of Ableton.  It’s a two part solution that includes a standalone app (Mac only! sorry!) and a Max-for-Live plugin that communicate over UDP.  The standalone receives SYSEX messages, and sends MIDI messages to the Evolver to automate its parameters.

It works! Well, most of the time.  I think there’s still some funny stuff going on with sending/receiving UDP messages, but it’s mostly pretty clean.  Here’s what its designed to do so far:

  • Control and automation for the 43 parameters of the Evolver that are MIDI controllable.
  • Write automation to automation tracks in Ableton (instead of clip automation, which is the only way to automate external MIDI gear AFAIK).
  • Automate changing the Evolver’s program and bank.
  • Control and write automation on-the-fly from the knobs on the MEK.
  • Use the MEK as a MIDI interface.
  • Uses Ableton’s takeover logic i.e. the ‘back to arrangement’ button via the API.

I don’t have too much experience with Max/Msp, so my patchers all look like spaghetti monsters, I’m sure there are better ways to do what I’ve done here, so I’m open to comments.  It ought to work with the Poly Evolver, too, but I don’t have one of those to test out on

I’d love to get around to automating all the parameter at some point – since they can all be accessed with SYSEX, I see nothing other than simple time that would prevent that.  Would be pretty cool, eh – being able to change sequencer parameters and modulation sources from Ableton?


5 Responses

  1. Rafael says:

    Dear Brendan.
    Thanks for that great plugin, it is really helpful!
    I want to tell you, that everything works on my evolver Desktop, except the knob for “FB1″ on Delay 1 is mapped to “Delay 1 Amount”
    kind regards

  2. Filippo says:

    I tried your devices but my Evolver desktop doesn’t respond. I tried one thousand of combinations in the input of your max device but it doesn’t transmit anything. Maybe I don’t understand how it work correctly, and what is the port number? How I must set the port?
    (I tried also the Rozzer plugin but it doesn’t work.)
    I’m going crazy but I love this synth :-)

    Thank you in advance for the answer,

    • Hi! It’s been a while since I’ve used this – I do remember the ports being a bit touchy, let me fire it up this weekend and see if I can get it running. I do have the Evolver out again after a bit of a hiatus, so I’ll see what it can do!

  3. Elias Skawronski says:

    Hello! Thank you for very useful device! Everything work awesome^ but device don’t switch programs and banks. How to do it? Thank You!

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