Intended to help you find your way around MIDI, Midia forms part of C-Lab's educational ST software programme. Ian Waugh finds it indispensable as a MIDI monitor.
ALONGSIDE NOTATOR ALPHA and Aura, Midia is one of three programs comprising C-Lab's Education System (see reviews elsewhere in this issue), and although it comes under the education banner, it could well find a home in many a musician's MIDI studio. Essentially, I suppose, it's a MIDI analyser, but it's presented in such a way as to remove much of the "mystique" which surrounds the bits and bytes of MIDI messages.
One main screen contains icons for most of the common MIDI messages. When plugged into your MIDI system, the program reflects actions and events which your system generates and - and this is the interesting bit - vice versa. For example, a keyboard runs along the bottom of the screen and pressing keys on a connected MIDI keyboard lights the corresponding notes on screen. Click on the onscreen keyboard and your system will play the notes. A couple of vertical bars indicate the On and Off Velocities while a couple of "wheels" mimic modulation and pitch bend wheel movements.
Other icons correspond to aftertouch, program change number, foot control, volume control, sustain, portamento time, soft pedal, sostenuto, hold pedal and MIDI transmit channel functions. Wait a minute, I hear you say, what about balance, data entry, pan, breath control and the hundred and one (well, 128) other MIDI control functions? Each icon can be assigned any MIDI control message, so if you tend to give short shrift to sostenuto, you can replace it with something more useful like celeste depth. In this way you can customise the program to respond to any specific areas you wish to check.
Above the icons is an event list, but rather than showing data as an incomprehensible list of numbers, the messages are explained in English. For example, a Note event will show the event name (Note), the MIDI channel, the key (note name) and MIDI note number, and velocity. There's also a "special" interpretation which shows the velocity as a dynamic symbol ranging from ppp to fff. A window below the list helpfully supplies more information about the message currently highlighted.
The list acts rather like a sequencer; events generated by the program or from an external source are stored in the list and can subsequently be played back. This lets you record data, edit it and retransmit it. For detailed analysis, you can print the list, too.
Trouble with active sensing? Use the filters to remove it from the incoming events. You can also remove MIDI clock, aftertouch and a whole range of other types of data.
Another set of eight filters will hide certain events in the list so you could, for example, hide note off messages, aftertouch or pitchbend data. This affects the display only and doesn't remove the actual messages.
Using the functions described so far, Midia can be a useful check if you think your equipment is acting up. You can make sure your gear is transmitting what it's supposed to be transmitting. But more than that, Midia can handle system exclusive data. You can load sound definitions into it and save them off to disk, so turning it into a cheap voice storage device. The SysEx data appears in the event list. You can look at it in ASCII and edit it if you wish (if you dare) before saving. The adventurous can even create their own SysEx messages. To assist the stout hearted, a handy MIDI calculator is available to convert between binary, decimal and hex. Alterations made in the calculator can be inserted in the list.
Like Aura, Midia runs in hi-res only and comes on a copy-protected disk (which can be copied but which then acts as a key disk). All in all, Midia is an intriguing little program which could well find applications on both sides of the educational fence. Although it can help you understand the nature of MIDI messages, I wouldn't have thought this would have a particularly high priority in education. But for any educational establishment in which it does, Midia will be a worthwhile investment.
From a muso's point of view, Midia can act as a useful data analyser. Although you don't get the raw MIDI data (except in SysEx messages), in most detective cases this will be an advantage. Usually you simply want to know if equipment is putting out note, program change, pitch wheel data or whatever. MIDI hackers will know if Midia will suit them or not.
Midia can even help the casual user, one who simply wants to know more about MIDI or, for example, someone who wants to check on certain aspects of his equipment such as the program numbers transmitted by instruments with voices arranged in banks or the pitchbend or mod wheel data generated by an instrument. And as Midia can generate MIDI data, it can also be used to send messages to equipment which may not be able to generate such messages itself. Last, but not least, it offers simple voice dumping facilities.
On top of this it's fun. My main regret is that it doesn't run as a desk accessory but you can't have everything, I suppose...
Price £65. Price may be subject to change due to the recent increase in VAT.
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Review by Ian Waugh
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