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A Time Trip


Article from Polyphony, July 1976

John Simonton

I'm walking down a hall of oval cross section. Ahead and behind me the walls are colored by flowing patterns of blue, green, purple. As I pass, the sections of the walls closest to me burst into rapidly changing patterns of yellows and red. Softly, softly I hear a melodically changing pattern of notes and chords. I notice these things no more than you noticed the color of your walls when you woke up this morning.

A sign inlaid in the wall announces:


and I stop. In my mind I form a picture of a section of the wall sliding up and it does. I pass through the portal and picture the door closing.

Before me is a group of cabinets that obviously is a musical instrument. It's dominant feature is two stacked AGO keyboards. Above the keyboards, a panel with two central vertical doors about 1 by 6 inches flanked on either side by sections of grille cloth. To the right of the central console is a high speed printer and to the left a second keyboard, a typewriter keyboard, and above it a video terminal. In the upper left hand corner of the screen is written this word:


I open one of the narrow doors in the central console and insert a square cardboard jacket removed from a pocket in my assignment binder.

Sitting down, I type:


There is a barely audible click from the central console and after an instant's delay a colon appears on the screen. I type again:


and as I touch the lower AGO keyboard fat, juicy tuba notes come plopping out to the left speaker. Nice.

I type:

and now I get the tuba from the lower keyboard and left speaker while the right speaks phasey strings in response to my touch on the upper keyboard. Say, this is alright.

I type:

but this time a message displays on the screen. The message is:

ERR 10

Very cryptic. I remove a ring-bound manual from a drawer below the keyboards. "PAIA 14700/S - Systems Manual" and I thumb through it until I find a section called "error codes". Here I find this entry:

ERR 10 Undefined Instrument Name.

Well, rats. I could have sworn that a simple thing like dynamute would have been in my instrument list. Too antique, I suppose; but fortunately it's a simple voice and I know it by heart, I type:


And now as I play, the old familiar "wahp-waph"s come from the speaker. A little trite perhaps, but still musically useful in a piece that is to have an "old classic" sound to it. And just so I won't have to enter this voice again:


The central console clicks. Now, to the real work. I type:

:SCORE "BASS1" C2/4, E2/4, G2/4, A2/4; R; TF2, R; TC2, R; TG2, R; TF2, R; C2/4, G2/4, F2/4, A2/8, C3/8, D#3/8, E3/8, C3/8, A#2/8, G2/2; BRIDGE, F2/4, F2/8, E2/8, F2/8, F#2/8, G2/4, D2/4, G2/8, F2/8, E2/8, D2/8;

Immediately, the old familiar walking bass line "wahp"s its way into the room while I play string accompaniment on the lower keyboard. After diddling around for a while I come up with a melody line that I like OK and I type:


and play the lead that I liked. Now a moment to sit back and listen again. I type:


and everything that I played a moment ago is re-created. It sounds good but there's one note that's off. I type:


and the machine replies:

STR-LEAD: C4/8, G3/8, A#3/8,A#3/8, C4/16, D#4/16, E4/16, G4/16, A#4/16, A4/16, G4/16, E4/16, C4/8, G3/8, A#3/8, A3/8, C4/16, D#4/16, E4/16, G4/16, A#4/16, A4/16, G4/16, E4/16

I can see what's wrong. That third octave A sharp in the first measure should have been a third octave A natural. I type:


and the score is shown again but now there is a cursor at the end of the line. Using special keys on the keyboard I move the cursor back until it's under the error and then I press a key labeled "delete". The sharp is now a natural and with a PLAY instruction I have the line repeated. Now it sounds right.

Out of habit, more than anything, I type:


and wait while the machine scans this score and reduces the memory space required by inserting "transpose and repeat" instructions wherever possible.

Using SCORE, EDIT and PLAY instructions I lay down another six tracks and then type:

:PLAY "DYNAMUTE", "BASS1", OUTL, OCT3 :-----etc.

and then:


a click. And just to double check:


It's not bad. There are only eight parts, of course, and it did take me a little longer than the graduate students; but they have modern Cyber-net activated instruments to use too. Having to bang away at the keys takes time. And in any case, it's all my work. I didn't use the HARMONY or CREATE instructions once. Poor old Dr. Biggle will like that. Now, before I shut it down:


and the high stacatto of the printer assures me that I will soon have a hard copy of the score on tablature.

I type:

and the machine answers:


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Publisher: Polyphony - Polyphony Publishing Company

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Polyphony - Jul 1976

Donated & scanned by: Vesa Lahteenmaki


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> Random Noise

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> Add Muting, Decay/Release Is...

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