IRIN: Micromontage in Graphical Sound Editing and Mixing Tool
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e de Paris VIII
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Micromontage technique allows the composer to work a
musical ﬁgure point by point, shaping each sound particle
with microscopic precision. The software presented in this
paper combines graphic and script editing with algorithmic
generation and manipulation of sound sequences. It pro-
vides several tools to enhance both creation and organic de-
velopment of the musical material under this compositional
paradigm using a user-friendy visual environment
IRIN is a composition tool implemented as a Max/MSP
standalone (Zicarelli 1998), designed to enhance several com-
position operations enclosed in the micromontage paradigm1.
It uses a comprehensive user interface containing several edit-
ing windows allowing the composer to assemble, view, play-
back and modify several kinds of sound objects.
Generally speaking, micromontage technique consists of
the extraction of sound samples from sound ﬁles and then
rearranging them in time. Each extracted sound sample can
be multiplied and transformed through operations like speed
variation, ﬁltering, panning and amplitude envelope editing
(Roads 2001). These very simple sound processing opera-
tions are typically enough to build a wide-ranging sound cat-
alogue. Chosen groups of samples from the pre-composed
catalogue are then arranged in time into more complex sound
structures on a higher time scale that can subsequently be also
transformed and multiplied through several variation opera-
tions (Vaggione 1995; Vaggione 1996). This kind of compo-
sitional approach calls for a working environment that is able
to keep track of all important sound operations. Taking into
1IRIN was presented for the ﬁrst time as ”Mixage” (Caires 2003). Be-
sides introducing several new features, this version now runs under MacOs
consideration that sound transformation, far from a mere “ef-
fect”, is an act of composition, a memory of all actions and re-
spective data involved within the process of creating the tini-
est sound particle is needed so that a consistent proliferation
of the musical material can be achieved. All data concerning
sound manipulation is therefore stored and accessed through
IRIN’s graphic interface. IRIN was designed to offer control
over micro-time and macro-time levels of composition, al-
lowing the composer to browse smoothly between them with
an analogous outlook towards musical material.
2 Basic IRIN features and use
The functioning of IRIN can be summarized as follows:
1. Load up to 16 Sound ﬁles of any size depending on the
2. From each sound Buffer, select a region and edit it in
several ways to obtain a Sample.
3. Place samples on any one of the 4 available tracks,
knowing that tracks are polyphonic and sound parame-
ters are a track independent feature.
4. Store edited Samples in a sample library. Every stored
Sample (in a track or in the library can be retrieved for
later use or further manipulation).
5. Encapsulate sound sequences into a Figure object and
submit them to several variation operations. Store Fig-
ures in a library.
6. Encapsulate up to 8 Figures into a Meso-structure ob-
ject and submit it to several variation operations. Store
the Meso-structures in a library.
7. Add customizable shapes and colours to every sample.
Shapes are used for display in the Timeline window on
“shapes view” mode.
Proceedings ICMC 2004
8. Control all operations graphically and use a Timeline
to place sound events in time.
9. Render the ﬁnal result into a multi track audio ﬁle.
Concepts like cell, ﬁgure, counterpoint, polyphony, lay-
ers, background/foreground, variation/repetition, and so on,
are permanently involved in the process of composing, as
much in instrumental music as in electroacoustic music. IRIN
helps one to compose and organize sound material having
these kinds of concept in mind. Sound objects were organized
hierarchically into three different object classes: Sample, Fig-
ure, and Meso-structure. Each class inherits the properties
of its predecessor adding new ones belonging to the domain
of a higher time scale. Together, Sample, Figure and Meso-
structure objects form the pre-composition materials yet to be
organized into the macro-scale form of the piece. At the top
level, there is a fourth layer named Timeline. The Timeline
represents the “ﬁnal” score where all objects (from the sam-
ple to the Meso-structure) are arranged in time to be played
back or exported as an audio ﬁle.
Figure 1: Tree-like representation of sound object dependen-
The Sample is the simplest of IRIN’s sound objects. This
atomic object contains six properties editable from the Sam-
ple edit window (Figure 2):
Source sound ﬁle. The name of the ﬁle along with the sam-
ple start and end points.
Speed variation. Time-domain speed variation: changing
speed also changes pitch.
Filter. Implemented using Max/MSP biquad object (digital
ﬁlter speciﬁed by coefﬁcients).
Amplitude envelope. Controlled by a breakpoint function
editor accepting up to 256 points.
Phase shift or multi channel trajectory. Depending on the
current audio output conﬁguration one can choose to assign a
phase shift value 2, or edit a multi channel trajectory.
Shape. Each sample can be assigned to a preset graphic
shape of any color (shapes are used for display in the time-
line window on “shapes view” mode).
Figure 2: Sample editor window.
An array of Samples in a speciﬁc order, each one an-
chored to a speciﬁc onset time can be encapsulated in a Fig-
ure. Inside a Figure, the order of the events and their onsets
2Phase shifting in this context is used as a composition technique belong-
ing to the micro-scale domain (micro decorr´
elation temporelle). It concerns
the deﬁnition of spatial attributes of small sound particles by placing micro
delayed replica of it into different channels (Vaggione 2002b).
Proceedings ICMC 2004
are changeable. This means that each point of discontinuity is
a target for a compositional action (Schilingi 1998). Because
this class inherits the properties of the Sample class, each one
of the Sample properties described in the previous section is
also modiﬁable inside a Figure. Its edit window (Figure 3)
comprises several tools allowing a quick assignment of new
values for phase shift, speed variation and ﬁltering to the en-
tire ﬁgure. Among them we can ﬁnd two resizable multi-
slider panels for speed variation and phase shift edit, a break-
point ﬁlter editor to ﬁlter evolution within the Figure, several
reordering, scaling and reverse tools that can affect the whole
ﬁgure or just one of its attributes.
Figure 3: Figure Editor window.
A granulator is also available inside the Figure Editor.
It can be used to output a stream of a pre-deﬁned number
of particles with a particular behaviour as regards the evolu-
tion of their properties. The evolution of the duration of its
Samples, of the distance between them, of their phase shift
and of their ﬁltering can be set before outputting into a Fig-
ure object. Despite the use of the global laws strategy, the
Figure obtained can be then locally changed “by hand” since
each one of its elements is an instantiation of the Sample ob-
ject that, as previously mentioned, can be modiﬁed in several
ways. Direct manipulation, therefore, plays an essential role
in this context, since morphological properties of a given Fig-
ure (gestalt) arise from its local singularities (Vaggione 1996;
Vaggione 2002a). Eventually, after all local changes have
been performed, a Figure results as a conﬁguration (or pat-
tern) so uniﬁed as a whole that it cannot be described merely
as a sum of its parts.
How to achieve this is already a compositional issue.
Meso-structure is the locus for polyphonic development
of more complex Figures (Figure 4). Just like the interdepen-
dency that has been established between Samples and Fig-
ures, a Meso-structure can encapsulate several Figures. Its
editing window comprises an eight-layer sequencer where in-
dividual onsets can be assigned to each contained Figure. All
objects inside a Meso-structure keep their individual methods
and properties. A Figure remains a Figure and can therefore
be modiﬁed through its own editor which, in turn, gives ac-
cess to the Sample editor. In fact, the three main IRIN editors
(Sample editor, Figure editor and Meso-structure editor) are
permanently linked. The way IRIN’s interface was built di-
rectly reﬂects all class dependencies shown in ﬁgure 1.
Figure 4: Meso Structure Editor window.
At the top-level we have the Timeline window. Timeline
is basically a 4 track sequencer were Samples are represented
as a coloured bar, their size reﬂecting their duration (Figure
5). Figures are displayed as a white rectangle labelled with
the respective ﬁgure library name.
The notion of track used is somehow different from the
one we often ﬁnd in traditional audio multi-track sequencers.
For instance, whether in ProTools or in Digital performer,
panning and volume curves are edited in the track affecting
the sound blocks placed in background. In the case of IRIN’s
timeline, because each sound object keeps track of its internal
data, their properties (including panning and envelope ampli-
tude) are a track-independent feature. Thus, every event al-
ways keeps the exactly same properties if moved back and
Proceedings ICMC 2004
forth inside a track or if it is changed between tracks.
Moreover, tracks are polyphonic. The main advantage in
this approach is that all kinds of object can be superimposed
in complex conﬁgurations and yet all events remain visually
close to one another. Figure 5 shows an example of this: in
track one, for instance, two ﬁgures appear over a set of sam-
ples. Local sound agglomerations are easily tracked at a quick
glance, since the materials can be arranged as if they were in
a score, overcoming the usual multi-track distribution con-
straints. As a metaphor for score staffs, tracks may be used
precisely as a compositional tool, helping the composer to ar-
range the polyphonic stratiﬁcation of his material in a more
Figure 5: Timeline window.
Finally, Timeline includes two extra tracks: a Sound ﬁle
track and a MIDI track. Once included in the Timeline win-
dow, they are played along with the contents of the upper
tracks. MIDI track provides a limited representation of score
notation where all midi channels, represented by different
colours, become merged into a four staff score.
The set of available object transforms is being extended to
include more advanced operations than those included in this
version. It is important to mention that since all data concern-
ing Sample, Figure, Meso-structure or track, is stored inside
Max coll objects with speciﬁc labels, it is relatively easy for
experienced MAX users to develop custom functions, mak-
ing them available to IRIN. For whoever may be interested,
it is also possible to implement global post audio treatment
to each track, simply by intercepting the audio running in-
side IRIN. This can be achieved using Max send and receive
Detailed documentation on these subjects is being pre-
I should like to thank my supervisor, Horacio Vaggione,
for the advice and continued support. I would like also to
thank Christopher Bochmann for reviewing the draft of this
This research is supported by “FCT e FSE no ˆ
III Quadro Comunit´
ario de Apoio”.
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