Amazing Maze

Infinite and Interactive Realtime Composition for Sampled Sound Particles
© 1993-2018 by Karlheinz Essl

Universal Binary Windows XP   vs. 4.0    NEW
released: 2 Aug 2018 (Freeware)

Creative Commons License

"Great little app. I am an e-musician and if you really get into that scene, you see that it is all dominated by the 'tyranny of the groove'. So much crap in 4/4 time, loop-a-dupe... It's just really refreshing to hear the intelligent chaos this software produces. I feel my sonic pallette cleansed. And to be able to have a hand in controlling the unpredictable results! Yeah, I'll throw out a web of unpenetrable, post-GarageBand soniphrabletonica!" (soundman)

MacUpdate - 15 Jan 2007

Basics | History | Download | Listen | Video | License | Articles | Reviews | Performances

Karlheinz Essl performing Amazing Maze with the new MAURO controller
Queensland Conservatorium Research Center (Brisbane, 5 Aug 2016)


Amazing Maze is a work-in-progress that started in 1993 when I was working at IRCAM (Paris). In this realtime composition I attempted to realize ideas that have been haunting me for many years, and which I first accomplished in Lexikon-Sonate (1992-2007) for computer-controlled piano. Both pieces envisage a new type of music

Amazing Maze is represented by a computer program which generates music by manipulating sampled instrumental sounds according to certain compositional strategies that are carried out in different structure generators. Each generator synthesizes its own characteristic sound world.

The compositional algorithms are currently programmed in MaxMSP by taking advantage of my Real Time Composition Library (RTC-lib). This collection of software modules offers the possibility to experiment with a number of compositional techniques, such as serial procedures, permutations and controlled randomness.


User Interface of Amazing Maze
vs. 4.0 (2018)

The sound material used in Amazing Maze is based on instrumental interpretations of three different types of sounds: points, grids, and planes which have been worked out for different instruments exploring sound qualities beyond the normal playing. This was done in collaboration with the following musicians:

bass clarinet: Donna Wagner (Vienna)
flute: Sylvie Lacroix (Vienna)
prepared piano: Florian Müller, Karlheinz Essl (Vienna)
percussion Elisabeth Flunger (Vienna)
vocals: Trevor Wishart (UK), Karlheinz Essl (Vienna)
saxophone: Jeremy Ruthrauff (Chicago)
accordeon: Ute Völker (Wuppertal)
electric guitar: Bruno Reininger (Vienna)

Additional samples have been extracted from Karlheinz Essl's instrumental compositions met him pike trousers (1987) for large orchestra, et consumimur igni (1990) for three ensemble groups and à trois / seul (1998) for string trio. In total, the piece includes more than 300 tiny sound particles which are used as the sonic material for various algorithmic composition procedures.

NB: Please note that this freeware represents a composition by Karlheinz Essl that you might use for your private recreation. The included sounds are an integral part of the composition which cannot (and must not) be changed.


Amazing Maze explored by students at CMMAS, Morelia (Mexico)
Masterclass on Algorithmic Composition given by Karlheinz Essl, 25 Aug 2011


Amazing Maze: demo, generated in realtime on 21 Jan 2016 at Studio kHz


Originally, this piece was conceived as a hermetic sound installation (implemented on IRCAM's Signal Processing Workstation ISPW and running on a NeXT machine) which generates music on-the-fly in a completely unforeseeable manner without repeating itself. In 1996, this version (called "Realtime Composer") was ported to the Apple Macintosh computer using Max as the programming language.

During an extensive E-mail contact with the Chicago-based composer R. Albert Falesch Amazing Maze transformed itself into a computer-based electronic instrument. In this form Mr. Falesch premiered the piece at the Chicago International NEMO'96 Festival on the computer together with the bass clarinetist Gene Coleman.

An E-mail based contact with the electronic cellist Jeffrey Krieger led to a new phase in the development of Amazing Maze. Thanks to his demands and suggestions the piece was modified into an improvisation environment for live performers, where the soloist also takes control over the behavior of the structure generators by the means of different control devices suchs as MIDI pedals and buttons:

Amazing Maze, an interactive computer environment by Karlheinz ESSL (Austria) is a computer program written in Max that allows the performer a great deal of interaction. The performer uses MIDI pedals and the computer keyboard to ‘steer’ the improvisation. But the fingerboard of the e-cello can also trigger events as well. Through the use of the pitch-to-MIDI converter the performer is able to trigger sound files within the computer or tell the computer to compose a motivic idea. The computer acts like a ‘virtual’ partner composing music according to a set of compositional algorithms. The instrument takes on a new feature of being an actual controller as well as a sound generator. The work is for the advanced e-cellist. (Jeffrey Krieger)

Due to the collaboration with the oboe player and composer Joseph Celli (New York), I customized a version for him and his Yamaha WX7 MIDI horn. Afterwards, a version of the piece was done for the British percussionist Paul Peterson (Les Mans) and his drumKAT percussion controller.

In 1998 I started to developed an extended solo computer version for my own performances which is called m@ze°2 (Modular Algorithmic Zound Environment). Here I use an Apple Macintosh Laptop with all its control facilities (keyboard, mouse) and attached MIDI controllers as an electronic instrument for live performances and improvisation. It also incorporates realtime sound synthesis and processing routines.

In 2000, the piece was again completely rewritten in MaxMSP for an interactive sound installation that was presented at the new museum of the Essl Collection (Klosterneuburg/Vienna) and at DEADTECH in Chicago.

Seven years later I rewrote the piece again and released it as freeware which runs on all newer Apple Macintosh machines, including those with Intel processors.

User interaction at DEADTECH User interaction at DEADTECH

Presentation at the DEADTECH Gallery in Chicago (2000)
user interaction / duo performance with Boris Sinclair Hauf


Amazing Maze is a composition of Karlheinz Essl. It is distributed as freeware and protected by copyright. As far as the entire content of the original distribution is not changed and no money is charged, this program may be spread freely and can also be included in CD-ROMS and Internet archives.

When performed a public, the proper credits have to be given to its author, Karlheinz Essl, and a notice about the performance must be send to him.

The work provided here for download is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work under the following conditions:

Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

Creative Commons License

What's new in version 4.0?

Amazing Maze 3.0 for Windows is compatible with Microsoft Windows-XP or later. It has been tested on Windows-XP and Windows-7. It is also expected to function properly on Windows Vista and Windows-8. Selection of audio output drivers is flexible: In the Max DSP window (Audio Status) window, select any default Windows audio driver, such as ad-directsound, ad-mme, or select ASIO if your soundcard uses that. Default drivers may impose greater latency than the typical ASIO driver, but that should be of no significance in a generative application such as AmazingMaze.


Universal Binary Amazing Maze 4.0 for macOS 10.8 or later (64-bit) NEW
released 2 Aug 2018: ZIP archive (41.7 MB)

Universal Binary Amazing Maze 3.0 for Mac OS X (10.6 or later) - Intel only
released 24 Jan 2014: ZIP archive (25.1 MB)

Windows XP   Amazing Maze 3.0 - for Windows XP (thanks to R. Albert Falesch!)
released 7 Feb 2014: ZIP archive (20.1 MB)

Amazing Maze
Recommended on FDM
Softpedia Clean Award


english Program Note: World premiere at the NEMO '96 Festival

german Program Note: concert at the Konzerthaus Vienna (7 Nov 1996)

english Program Note: concert at the ORF KUNSTRADIO (18 Sep 1997) - live broadcast on the air and on the net

german Interview: with Reinhard Kager about the interactive live performance at the Austrian Radio program KUNSTRADIO (18 Sep 1997)

german Reinhard Kager: Die Poesie des Augenblicks. Interaktive Kompositionen des Österreichers Karlheinz Essl; in: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 2/98 (Mainz 1998)

german Karlheinz Essl / Bernhard Günther: Realtime Composition; in: positionen, ed. by Gisela Nauck (Berlin 1998)

german Internet radio interview with Hanns Abele: Komponieren im Cyberspace (Vienna, 29 Dec 1998)

german Hanno Ehrler: www.essl.at - Der Wiener Komponist Karlheinz Essl - radio feature (Bayerischer Rundfunk, 9 Sep 1999)

german Georg Hajdu Der Computer als Inspirationsquelle für Komponisten; in: Mathematische Musik - musikalische Mathematik (PFAU-Verlag: Saarbrücken 2005)

german Florian Hartlieb: Kunst komponieren. Der Einfluss generativer Verfahren auf das Schaffen von Karlheinz Essl, in: positionen: Generative Kunst, ed. by Gisela Nauck, vol. 99 (Berlin 2014)

More music software by Karlheinz Essl

  RP REplay PLAYer (© 2000-2023)
generative sound file shredder

REplay PLAYer is a computer program that de-constructs a given sound file and re-composes it by using realtime composition algorithms. It can be used as a tool to generate an infinite and every-changing sonic stream from a single sound file for artistic, compositional or mere recreational purposes. It can also be regarded as a computer based instrument for live performances, as an interactive sound installation or a generator for ambient music.

  fLOW fLOW (© 1998-2023)
ambient soundscape generator

fLOW is an audio computer program running on Apple Macintosh machines. It generates an ever-changing and never repeating soundscape in real time that fills the space with flooding sounds that resemble - metaphorically - the timbres of water, fire, earth, and air. This ambient sound scape generator adjusts itself through various parameters and controllers that are represented in real time on your screen.

And even more...

Home Works Software Sounds Bibliography Concerts

Updated: 10 Jun 2023