The team behind Cycling74 are one of the quiet heroes of the music and interactive design world. While most of us came to know and love them care of the wave of IDM music that championed their tools, such as Autechre all but ditching their studios to rely on Max/MSP for genre-defining tracks like Gantz Graf, the wider creative industries have followed along over the years. And now have a new tool for their creative rigs: the mysteriously titled RNBO.
RNBO bridges the gap between patch and package
At its core, RNBO (pronounced "rainbow") is a tool that allows users to take Max-like patches, transform them into portable code, and compile that code for a myriad of platforms. Whether you're aiming for a VST plugin, a Max External, or a hardware platform like the Raspberry Pi, RNBO has got you covered. A great example of this right now is Ableton's Learning Synths project, which is based around an interactive website featuring RNBO components. More specific examples are given in the fantastic explainer video from Cycling74.
Why RNBO matters for creatives
The primary reason why most Cycling74 fans will be excited about RNBO is the seamless integration with Max/MSP and the ability to wrap those patches up as neatly self-contained plugins. This makes Max more portable and more able to be embedded in other experiences, while also benefiting from RNBO's expansive export options. Imagine crafting a unique sound patch and being able to deploy it as a standalone app, a web experience, or even a custom hardware device.
While RNBO is undoubtedly a groundbreaking tool, its true potential lies in the hands of the artists who will use it. Much like derivative's network-based audio and visual design tool TouchDesigner, there's a lot of power here and something of a learning curve for the casual user. For those of us who were exposed to Max/MSP "back in the day", the recent releases and updates feel like a revelation, but one that would do well to keep onboarding new users through accessible tutorials and bootstrap templates.
RNBO has an almost unlimited potential
RNBO's release is more than just the launch of a new software tool; it's a testament to Cycling '74's commitment to pushing the boundaries of what's possible in the realm of music and art. For musicians, sound artists, and creatives everywhere, RNBO offers the ability to extend all of Max's functionality into entirely new form factors. And those can be used inside of other tools like TouchDesigner or Ableton. Making it not much of a stretch to say that the potential is pretty much unlimited, as we head into an era where almost anything we imagine can be created. So let's get creating.