"So when I started on Max I felt like I’d got past all that, and didn’t have to use someone else’s idea of what a delay, or a reverb, or a sequencer should do, or should sound like – I could start from the ground, and think in terms of sound and maths. It was like coming off the rails. Before there was all this padding between the computer and me. Now there was a blank screen as a starting point…" (Excerpt from Jonny's "Mini Interview" with Cycling 74, the makers of Max)more
Ah, Max. Or Max/MSP. Or Max/MSP/Jitter. Where to start?
Well, Max (we're on version 7 now, with 8 no doubt not too far away) will terrify you at least twice. It will terrify you once, right at the start, when you open it up and realise that there's nothing there. A blank slate. A total tabula rasa.
And then, when you've learned a little bit about what it's for and what it can do, it will terrify you again, as the sheer number of possibilities begin to open up in front of you. How deep does the rabbit hole go? You want to build a sequencer with just white noise for the sound source and ADSR-controlled steps with a separate filter cutoff value for each step? Sure. You want to build an xOx drum machine where the computer decides which steps will sound at any given time with the statistics controlled by a Markov table? Yep. You want to speed up an audio sample by a factor of 50 or even 500? Yep. You want to build a synth where you can draw the pitches on an LCD screen? Yep. You want to build an avant garde noise generator with 64 independently tuneable FM oscillators? Yep. You want to build a synth which combines Buchla-style wavefolding and West Coast style subtractive filters on one half of the screen and Karplus-Strong plucks on the other half? Yep. You want to run some oscillators through seven filters and six delays? Yep...
Max is an object-orientated visual programming language. It has its DNA in the MUSIC and GROOVE programs created by Max Mathews of Bell Labs in the 1960s (he who made the computer sing 'Daisy Bell'). In the 1980s it was developed by Miller Puckette and others at IRCAM at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Initially, it was entirely information-only. MIDI and messages. Then, in about 1997, David Zicarelli added real-time DSP to the basic system of information flow, and Max/MSP was born. A bit later, video processing was possible with the arrival of Jitter.
I'd start by creating some rect~ objects. Simple bandwidth limited squarewave oscillators. Then add a floating point number box to give the oscillator a frequency in Hz. Then add a gain~ object and an EZDAC so you can hear the wave. Then add another number box to control the pulse width of the wave. Good luck...
Some good books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Electronic-Music-Sound-Design-Practice-x/dp/8890548401
These are beautiful. They explain it all far better than I ever could.