With all the recent talk of the new Atari Falcon, the increase in popularity of the PC for music, and the new low-price Apple Macs, you might be forgiven for thinking that poor old Commodore have been shunted out of the musical arena altogether. The image of their Amiga computers, in music circles at least, has not exactly been glowing; perhaps this has as much to do with the Amiga's lack of factory-fitted MIDI ports as anything else. But over the past year or so Commodore have been gaining important ground in this industry, largely through the video and multimedia markets - and now they are launching into battle with the Falcon, to see just who will become the 'studio standard' in the next five years.
The new Amiga 4000/030 is the major player in Commodore's attack strategy. Launched on 22nd March, the 030 is the direct relation of the larger 4000/040, with the only fundamental difference between the two being the Motorola processor fitted inside - as you might have guessed, the 030 features the more economical 68030 chip, the same as that fitted in the Falcon and cheaper Apples. So, in straight spec terms, what we're talking about is a computer with a 25MHz processor, 2Mb or RAM as standard (upgradable to 16Mb), 40mb or 120Mb hard disk and incredible expansion abilities for a highly attractive £999 (inc VAT) RRP.
This is all very well, but just how does it relate to the world of music technology? Simply put, one of the packages available that features the 030 will contain the computer, Bars & Pipes Pro sequencing software, One-Stop Music Shop software and a Blue Ribbon sound board configured only for the Amiga (prices have yet to be fixed). Not just any sound board though - this one is essentially an E-mu Proteus, containing all the sounds from all three Proteus modules. Further boards, based around an E-mu Proteus MPS, a Kurzweil K1000 and Ensoniq synth yet to be decided will also be available, and up to four such sound cards can be installed in the Amiga at any one time, each accessible over their own individual set of MIDI channels. Ultimately, this means that Bars & Pipes can directly control four internal boards and a set of four standard MIDI outs simultaneously - how does 128 discrete MIDI channels sound to you?
But for those unfamiliar with the Amiga, the real joy lies in its true multitasking operation. The PC, for example, using the Windows system, gives the impression of multitasking - but in reality, when one Window is closed to access another program behind, the machine 'freezes' that program until it is reactivated. The Amiga's approach lets you run up to ten programs simultaneously, all accessible without closing windows. Instead, mouse commands can scroll the various screens around to let you work on one system while the other nine remain uninterrupted in their operation. Bearing in mind that with the right software this computer produces true, broadcast-standard video from one of it's rear panel ports, it suddenly becomes possible to run your sequencer, create animated graphics (a la Industrial Light & Magic, who have just bought a load of these machines), control your video signals, record onto hard disk (a DSP board is also optional) and edit the sounds on your synth all at the same time. No program stalls, no glitches are seen or heard - no other computer lets you do this.
So why don't we all rush out and buy them? Well, that depends on Commodore and the associated software developers. Providing they're willing to take the music industry seriously this time, we should be willing to take them seriously. It's about time we had some rivalry in the music computer market - long live individuality!
MIDI songfile suppliers Words & Music have added four new file-packed disks to their Classical Music collection. All files are in Standard MIDI Files format 1, and will load into any sequencer which correctly supports SMF.
The new files all conform to General MIDI/GS Format, so they will automatically play back with the correct type of sounds on such instruments as the Roland Sound Canvas series, Yamaha's TG100 module and Korg's 03R/W module.
Volume 4 includes an extract from Mozart's Kyrie Eleison, together with Purcell's Trumpet Tune, Mozart's Divertimento in F for String Quartet, Mendelssohn's Opus 25 for piano, and the Rondo from Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Volume 5 includes Erik Satie's three Gymnopedies, Debussy's Arabesque 2 and Danse, Beethoven's Opus 6 for piano duet, and Haydn's London trios.
Volume 6 includes Mozart's Piano Sonata in C major No.15, Chopin's Polonaise in A, ten virtuoso pieces for Spanish Guitar, and a collection of Mozart's early works.
Finally, the fourth of the new disks contains the complete set of 24 Preludes and Fugues which make up JS Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier.
Each disk comes with a four-page leaflet giving information on each file, plus a four-page instruction guide.
Available for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, IBM PC and compatibles (3.5" only), and the Acorn Archimedes, the disks cost £10.95 each, inclusive of p&p and VAT. You can save over £5 on the combined individual costs by ordering all four disks at the same time for £37.95. State computer type when ordering. Overseas readers should add £6 to the order cost, and ensure their cheque is drawn on a UK bank.
For more details, send an sae to Words & Music at (Contact Details).
Novation Electronic Music Systems Ltd, whose budget MM10 MIDI master keyboard includes a moulded recess for Yamaha's QY10 walkstation, have announced an adaptor moulding to cater for the slightly greater depth of the new QY20. The ADP1, which costs £15.99, clips into the front edge of the MM10's recess.
For more information, contact Novation at (Contact Details).
The brainchild of computer science graduate and keyboard player Alan Broady, Waterfall Digital is a new Manchester-based software house specialising in producing MIDI software.
First product from the company is Patchking, a generic graphically-based editor/librarian initially available only for the ST. With the addition of the appropriate Profiles (disk files which instruct the program how to edit a particular MIDI device), Patchking has the potential to provide editing and storage for any instrument in your MIDI setup.
Editing is performed by operating onscreen 'virtual' knobs and faders, by dragging envelopes to the required shape, and by selecting waveforms from graphic displays of their shape.
Patchking can run as a desk accessory alongside popular sequencing packages, giving users the ability to edit a sound graphically as a sequence using that sound plays.
If you only want to edit a single MIDI device, you can buy a basic version of the program for just £29.99, then buy further Profiles for £29.99 each as you add to your setup.
As an introductory offer, Waterfall Digital are giving away free demo disks of the program; all you have to do is ring them up and tell them what device(s) you're using. If they don't have a relevant Profile, they'll keep you on record and send you a demo version when one becomes available.
Patchking currently supports the following devices: Yamaha TX81Z, DX11, SPX90, DX7; Roland U110, U220, MKS70, JX10, D50; Korg M1. The company are planning to develop new Profiles at the rate of about three a month.
For more information, contact Waterfall Digital at (Contact Details).
Attention fans of Jean-Michel Jarre! May 8th is the date of an International Rendez-vous with all things J-M J (apart, it seems, from the man himself), to be held in Holland.
Following on from a similar event in Belgium last year which attracted visitors from far and wide, International Rendez-vous will start at 11am and end at 6pm. In between times, you are promised "a spectacular seven hours of sound, light and colour" which will include concerts, a continuous video display, an exhibition of rare and collectable items, an auction of Jarre material, and "a real Jarre-car" (!). Visitors can bring along items to sell in the second-hand market which is to be held during the day.
The latest issue of J-M J fanzine Conductor Of The Masses, features an exclusive interview with the man himself, along with a behind-the-scenes look at his recent "technofantasy extravaganza" in the mountains of Switzerland. The issue currently in production will feature an in-depth analysis of his latest project, which finds our hero in the Southern African republic of Bophuthatswana, using the unique architecture of the area as a 'canvas' on which to recreate The Legends Of The Lost City. You have been warned.
For further information on both International Rendez-vous and the magazine, call Mark on (Contact Details).
Users of Emagic's Creator and Notator sequencing software who would like a helping hand can now turn on their video machine, insert a video cassette from Labyrinth Video Manuals, and learn the visual way.
Part One of the Creator/Notator video has a running time of 1hr 45m and is aimed at the basic/intermediate user, with 18 step-by-step tutorials aiming to give viewers a clear overall understanding of the software. Part Two, which provides more in-depth coverage of specific areas, runs for around 1hr 45m.
Labyrinth have also just produced a video for Gajits Sequencer 1 and Sequencer 1 Plus, and are in the process of recording a video for Gajits Breakthru Sequencer.
For more information, contact Labyrinth Video Manuals at (Contact Details).
Well-known sample CD fiends The Advanced Media Group have moved to new premises in leafy Surrey, and can now be contacted at (Contact Details).
Keeping ever on the move CD-wise, AMG are releasing the latest sample CDs from German company Masterbits. Volume 6 in the Climax Collection, Saxophones, features baritone, tenor, alto and soprano saxophones playing licks and multisamples. In all there are 399 licks, grouped by type and bpm with pitch information included. Additionally there are 189 single samples plus 16 S1000 data banks for direct loading into the sampler via Akai's IB 104 interface. The cost of the CD is £59.
Meanwhile, the Sampling Collection 1000+ (£45) features sounds sampled from the K2000, KS32, SY99, SY35, SY85, JV30 and JD800 synths plus drums from the RY30. Also included are 'Hammond Organ' sounds from the XB2 and VK1000, and a 'Sci-fi and FX' section which was created using the Synclavier and the Fairlight.
New in the Uberschall series of sample CDs from Masterbits are World Party Dance Samples (CD: £50, S1000/1100 CD ROM: £249) and Special Sound Effects (£59). The former is a 'best of' dance sample collection which features loops, breaks, scratches, ethnic samples, vocals, FX, synths, basses, and Roland Sound Space FX. The latter, described by AMG as a "multimedia sample CD created using the latest 20-bit technology", has been designed for movie, TV and video use and features atmospheres, psycho sounds (!), horror, spacey, industrial, and comedy FX samples - some provided in RSS or Holophonic versions. Also provided are hundreds of 'zap' FX and the first-ever samples designed for four-channel use.
For more information, contact AMG at the above address/phone/fax.
Love 'em or loathe 'em, the likes of the Frankfurt and NAMM trade fairs do at least provide valuable focal points for the music industry - opportunities to suss out the latest products all under one roof, to assess current trends, to head for the nearest bar...
At this year's Frankfurt Music Fair (which took place in early March), the most interesting action was not so much on the surface level of new products as on the deeper level of underlying trends. We're talking nothing less than what renowned futurist Alvin Toffler would probably call a 'paradigm shift' taking place in the hi-tech area of the music industry. To put it bluntly, all the action, all the excitement and all the cutting-edge technological development is currently taking place not in the synthesiser market, as has traditionally been the case, but in the keyboard market. Yes, keyboards are getting sophisticated, sexy and s-o-o-o well-developed. And they're threatening the synthesiser's traditional position at the forefront of musical technology. Watch out for Technics' KN-2000 in particular - more on this soon...
At the same time, synthesisers are, well, stagnating - as is the synth market. Unless we're all about to be astounded and astonished by some totally new, totally exciting and totally easy-to-use method of sound synthesis which has nothing whatsoever to do with PCM samples, the synth as a distinct instrument genre could be on the way out.
To be blunt once again, there's simply more money to be made in the keyboard market, which is currently buoyant despite the 'worldwide' recession. There's also plenty of money to be made from the burgeoning budget GM/GS module market, with its tie-ins to the burgeoning MIDI songfile market and the burgeoning multimedia market with its computer connections. Yes, there's a lot of burgeoning going on.
When even Korg get in on the budget GM module act, you know that there's an irresistible tide of change sweeping through the hi-tech music companies. From Korg, then, come the 05R/W (basically a slimmed-down version of the 03R/W which concentrates on the 03's GM capabilities) and the Audio Gallery (similar but with a built-in computer interface and computer-type styling).
The importance of 'traditional' MI companies like Korg, Roland and Yamaha getting in on the populist act was underlined at Frankfurt by the surprise presence of Korean consumer electronics company Goldstar, who were showing a large range of GM/GS keyboards and digital pianos - some of which were even able to give 'music lessons' via their LCD windows. If the consumer electronics giants scent big money to be made, the existing MI companies had better watch out.
One happy trend for Euro-enthusiasts was the continuing evidence of an Italian hi-tech renaissance, with companies like Farfisa and Generalmusic gearing up for some heavyweight technological offerings - watch this space.
Finally, running completely counter to the tide of keyboards and GM/GS sound modules with their sonic predictability is Waldorf's truly wonderful Wave synthesiser - all £6000+ of it! For those among you who love slider-packed front panels, insane modulation routings and wildly beautiful, creative sounds: start saving your pennies right now! In the meantime, if you're lucky, there'll be a picture of the Wave in all its glory right next to this text.
This short piece is only a first glimpse of the musical instrument industry's very own New World Order - in upcoming issues we'll be expanding on the themes and the products discussed here. As always, stay tuned...
Further developments on the ex-Cheetah front have occurred since last month's news item ('Cheetah Roll Over'). A new company, Soundscape Digital Technology Ltd, has been set up by former Cheetah employees Chris Wright and Nick Owen, and has taken on the products which were about to come to market when the musical side of Cheetah was closed down.
This means that the Soundscape PC-based multitrack hard-disk recording system, the MS7000 and MS8000 MIDI controller keyboards and the MS6 MkII analogue synth module will all now be going ahead (the MS6 MkII in a more sophisticated form than originally envisaged, and with a new, as yet undecided, name). For initial details on these products, see the news item 'Cheetah: Cutting A Swathe Through The Hi-Tech Jungle' in MT Feb '93 (little did we know...).
Soundscape will be available at the end of April, while the controller keyboards are set for late June release, and the renamed and upgraded synth module will be released later on in the year.
Soundscape Digital Technology will be running two seminars on their hard-disk recording system at Gigsounds Streatham on April 19th, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. For more information, contact Soundscape Digital Technology, or Steve Black of Gigsounds (081 769 5681). Further seminars are planned for around the country.
Good news for Cheetah users is that the new company has also taken on servicing of existing Cheetah musical products under warranty.
For further information, contact Chris Wright on (Contact Details) or Nick Owen (Contact Details).
In the first case of its kind, the MCPS recently reactivated proceedings commenced last year on behalf of a number of copyright owners - and have had a judgement handed down in their favour.
The case was brought against North London independent dance label Shut Up And Dance for their persistent refusal to respect copyright ownership in their sampling of other people's music. As well as awarding damages and legal costs to the copyright owners, the court ordered a perpetual injunction against SUAD manufacturing and distributing copies of musical works embodying samples.
For more on the sampling issue, see the article Sampling Confidential elsewhere in this month's MT. Anyone wanting more details on the SUAD judgement and the current legal position regarding the use of samples should ring the MCPS on (Contact Details) and ask for either Nick Kounoupias or Graham Churchill.
It was perhaps only a matter of time before the two-year old mentality of the computer virus writer would turn its attention to MIDI software (though we are probably being unfair to two-year olds here!). Yes, it's finally happened, the first MIDI virus has been discovered on a Canadian bulletin board and is rapidly spreading through the comms-linked UK and European music fraternity.
The 'Under 16' virus - as it has been christened - takes the form of a System Exclusive code which can hide itself inside a standard MIDI file. On playing the file, the virus accesses the sound banks of any attached programmable synthesiser or sound module and reduces all their settings to their default state.
It has the capability to infect most musical instruments because it contains all the MIDI ID codes of every musical instrument manufacturer. When an instrument recognises, its code it lets through all following data, which, even if it doesn't 'flatten' all the settings, certainly has the ability to screw them up.
The virus also runs through the range of Device Numbers which an instrument uses to identify itself from a similar instrument in the same MIDI network. Device Numbers normally run from 1 to 16 to correspond to the SysEx MIDI receive channel. The virus only tries to access devices on channels 1 to 16, so any instrument which can be assigned a Device Number higher than 16 should be safe - hence the 'Under 16' tag.
Unfortunately, you can't guarantee to protect your instrument by ensuring that the SysEx/Bulk Dump Protect setting is on, as the virus can disable this in exactly the same way as voice and librarian software. The virus can also infect other MIDI files - although it only becomes active when you actually play an infected file. It searches the disk it was loaded from for a MIDI file header and writes itself into the file. This is usually to an otherwise empty track and unlikely to be noticed in today's modern sequencers.
Virus expert Professor Alan Solomon is currently examining the virus and developing a 'vaccine' which will examine MIDI files 'on disk' and replace occurrences of the virus with the musical equivalent of harmless REM statements. 'Under 16' virus killers for the ST, PC, Mac, Archimedes and Amiga should follow soon.
Meanwhile, to minimise the risk of infection take the following precautions:
- Don't load a file from a hard disk. If you do it could infect all the music files on the disk.
- Keep each file on a separate floppy disk.
- Check the length of each file when saving. If it increases, it may be infected.
- Only buy MIDI files from reputable suppliers and Bulletin Boards.
- Backup all the voices in your instruments.
- Assign your instrument's Device Numbers over 16 if you can.
- If you do discover the virus in a file you can destroy it by removing all SysEx data in the file with an event editor - although this will, of course, also remove genuine SysEx data, too.
We'll bring you an update on the situation as soon as we can. We're currently trying to organise the distribution of a virus killer - perhaps as a cover disk. Meanwhile, let's be careful out there...
Of the various synth manufacturers it is perhaps Korg who have most closely aligned themselves with the workstation concept - and it certainly seems to have done them no harm. The company recently announced that, across the complete range ie. M, T and 0 Series, they have sold over a quarter of a million workstation synths worldwide.
For more information on the current workstation line-up, contact Korg UK at (Contact Details).
Essential Software have upgraded their Protege 123 Librarian/Editor software for the E-mu Proteus series of modules so that it will now also edit all aspects of the MPS and MPS+ keyboards. The V2.03 software also features easier creation of multitimbral setups, much faster screen redraws, and enhanced Voice editing with Intelligent Random Voice Generation and Preset Envelope Styles.
Protege 123 V2.03 costs just £29.50 including p&p. Upgrades for existing users can be obtained by returning the original disk together with £5. A demo version of the program is also available, costing £2.
For more information, contact Essential Software at (Contact Details).
Having outgrown their original Staffordshire base, the equipment-locating and sales company Music Control have moved into new, two-storey premises in Alsager, Cheshire. The company have also updated their already extensive computer database of secondhand and rare keyboard equipment. Demonstration facilities are available for 'retro' analogue synths from Roland, Moog, ARP, Oberheim and Korg, along with the latest in hi-tech equipment from Akai, E-mu Systems, Mackie, Generalmusic and Korg.
For more information, contact Music Control Ltd at (Contact Details).
Edinburgh music shop Rainbow Music have moved to larger and more modern premises at (Contact Details). They now have 1500 square feet of floor space spread over two levels, and stock acoustic and electric guitars, amplification and PA equipment, synths, keyboards, digital pianos, 4- and 8-track recording equipment, effects processors, drum machines, sequencers and software. A sound booth is available on the lower level for you to try out new equipment.
For more information, contact Rainbow Music on (Contact Details).
Bluebridge Music are bringing in a new 88-note MIDI controller keyboard from Italian company Orla, the Commander C80. Fitted with a piano-style keyboard responsive to both velocity and aftertouch, the C80 also comes in a sturdy flightcase. Default patch mapping on the C80 is to General MIDI standard, but the mapping can be changed to suit other MIDI modules.
The C80 provides four independent keyboard zones, each of which has its own volume slider and can be assigned to one of four independent MIDI Outs. Zones can be freely split and overlapped as required. Also provided by the keyboard are two mergeable MIDI Ins with independent MIDI data filtering, and two MIDI Thru sockets. A fifth section is dedicated to the control of drum machines and sequencers, while a sixth section allows two control changes and two patch changes, both programmable, to be transmitted. Other features include a backlit LCD, C80 Patch chaining, and a MIDI DDL.
The internal memory of the C80 can store up to 280 controller setups, while a further 280 can be stored on an optional memory card.
RRP on the Commander C80 is £1199 inc VAT.
For more information, contact Bluebridge Music Ltd at (Contact Details).
New from specialist publishers PC Publishing is the MIDI Survival Guide, a 96-page book written by MT's Technical Consultant and UKMA founder, Vic Lennard. Providing practical advice on "starting up, setting up and ending up" with a working MIDI system, the book includes over 40 cabling diagrams and discusses how to connect together synths, modules, sequencers, drum machines and multitrack tape machines.
The MIDI Survival Guide costs £6.95.
For more information, contact PC Publishing at (Contact Details).
It had to happen sooner or later. Well-known MIDI songfile purveyors Heavenly Music have taken to the dancefloor with their latest venture: Technofiles! Fighting shy of modesty, Heavenly claim that each volume contains "16 of the heaviest club grooves to be found anywhere!".
All files are configured for General MIDI/GS Format and come in Standard MIDI Files format 1 (format 0 files will be supplied if demand is great enough). Each file comes ready-configured with empty template tracks set up and ready for you to start making music straight away. And the price of this serious grooving? Just £16.95 + £1.50 p&p.
For more information, contact Heavenly Music at (Contact Details).
The Dynatek range of mass storage products is now available in the UK courtesy of new distributors Key Audio Systems. Dynatek are the largest manufacturers of mass storage products in Canada, and their hard and optical drives, which have fast access times, are ruggedly constructed and are approved by such companies as Digidesign and Yamaha - in fact, the company are official data storage suppliers for the latter's CBX-D5 Digital Recording Processor.
For more information, contact Key Audio Systems Ltd at (Contact Details).
New from The Groove Factory is a collection of 50 rhythm patterns, complete with associated variation and fill patterns, for Alesis' best-selling SR-16 drum machine. Music styles covered include '50s/'60s/'70s/'80s pop (!), house, funk, bossa nova, swing, march, slow rock, Motown and the lambada.
The data is available in two formats: datacassette and (on disk) Standard MIDI Files. Both formats cost £10.45 including p&p.
For more information, contact David Myhill on (Contact Details).
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