A novel little program for ST owners with a leaning towards pictures and music
MidiDraw for the Atari ST - the Picture Performance Program.
Intelligent Music started the ball rolling with programs such as M. Now they're kicking it a bit further down the lane with a program which performs your pictures. It runs in high or medium resolution.
The idea is simple - you use the mouse to draw in the centre of the main screen - the Drawing Field - and the program turns your doodles into music. Holding down the left button plays a note. As you move up the screen the volume increases and as you move to the right the pitch rises. Basically, the result is cascades of notes.
The melodic content is determined by the Tonality selector which lets you choose the notes which will sound within an octave. This allows you to construct your own scales. You can also select the notes across a five and a half octave range which lets you change tonality as you move across the screen. Actually, there's a bit more to it than that.
Surrounding the Drawing Field are four control panels. They have several parameters in common which are used to select MIDI channels and make Program Changes. You can also set articulation and add sustain.
The Picture Control Panel (top left) lets you set a repeat rate (which makes the note repeat as long as you hold the button). You can adjust this as you draw.
Lower left is the Delay Control Panel. This repeats the notes played by the Picture Panel after a short delay, anything from 200 milliseconds to two seconds. You can add sustain and transpose the delayed notes - rather good for chordal textures.
The Recorder Control Panel sits on the top right of the screen and is used to record the mouse movements you make. You can alter the parameters on playback adjusting tempo, sustain and velocity variations. The recording loops as it plays allowing you to change parameters on the fly.
A couple of interesting options are the Skip Note Percentage feature which sets the percentage chance of a note sounding (eg. a setting of 25% will give each note a one in four chance of playing) and the Note Order Toggle which selects notes from the sequence at random. Similar operations can be found in M.
The last panel is the Interpreter Control Panel. It picks out plotted pixels from the Drawing Field at random and plays a corresponding note. It has a Skip Note Percentage option too, and can play in sync with the Recorder screen.
You can set the Interpreter on automatic with the Starry Night Effect. This turns the Drawing Field black and as the pixels are picked out it starts to look like stars. It could take six hours to clear the screen completely.
Panel settings and Tonalities can be saved as Snapshots. There are 15 Snapshot boxes and each setting can be recalled instantly by clicking on it.
You can't save the contents of the Recorder or the picture but you can save a performance as a Movie file - another similarity with M. Files are saved in MIDI file format and can be loaded into other sequencers which support this.
MidiDraw is certainly an interesting idea but the Interpreter is rather a disappointment. The pixels - and therefore the notes it plays - are selected at random. One picture sounds pretty much like any other. A more constant method of interpretation would be nice along with the ability to load and save pictures. That's what it's supposed to be about, surely, after all.
However, although MidiDraw falls quite squarely into the experimental type of music program, it is immediately accessible and usable - after a brief run through the excellent manual. If you're into music of a tonal nature you'll love it.
Apart from its fun aspect, the ability to load performances into a more conventional sequencer is probably its most practical application.
Supplier: MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).