I've had a busy month, what with the MIDI & Electronic Show, various deadlines to hit, and a steady flow of hardware and software to check out. Hi ho, onward and upward!
This year's MIDI show was at Wembley and seemed to be busier than last year. There were a lot of PCs on the stands — in fact, there seemed to be more PCs on display than any other personal computer — although this is probably due to the amount of new product available rather than anything else. SDT were showing off their new Soundscape hard disk recorder and there was at least one Digidesign Session 8 on display, although I didn't personally see it working.
In general, there were a number of smaller companies handling software and providing services for the PC.
Soft Zone were previewing the new multimedia version of their entry-level sequencer SeqWin, which will be available towards the end of this month. The new version builds on the current user interface but allows you to handle Windows multimedia events within the MIDI sequence. This means that you can synchronise Windows Video clips (ie. AVI files), sound samples and even audio tracks from music CDs with your sequences. The new version will also have improved synchronisation facilities, which means that you should be able to use SeqWin as a multimedia authoring package.
Also on show was the Pianist package from PG Music, the Band In A Box people. This program should arouse interest amongst classical music fans, since it consists of over 200 classical piano pieces recorded in real time by professional concert pianists. This means that the performances have been essentially 'recorded' as MIDI sequence files, but unlike an audio recording you can change the tempo, transpose the key, and generally have fun playing around with the arrangement. Since the music is stored in standard MIDI files, you can also import the data into your favourite sequencer or use it as part of a multimedia presentation. The Pianist program displays the piece being played on an animated piano keyboard as well as showing you information about the music and its composer. There is even a built-in musical trivia game. The software costs a mere £29 and is available from Zone Distribution on (Contact Details).
"...the Pianist consists of over 200 classical piano pieces recorded in real time by professional concert pianists as MIDI sequence files..."
Users of this high-end music DTP program will be pleased to hear that there is now a European company supporting this powerful, but complex, software package. New Notations have been around for a number of years providing a bureau service to composers and music publishers who use Score. They now also sell and support this product from their Wandsworth headquarters, to the point of producing software utilities that enhance the capabilities of the Score system.
The company has two products that allow you to convert a Score file to — and from — standard MIDI file format: MIDISCORE (£175) takes a Score file and turns it into a MIDI file, complete with dynamics, articulation and expression; while MIDISCOREWRITE (£195) performs the conversion in the opposite direction, allowing you to import music from many other programs. New Notations produce a newsletter that they distribute free; if you are at all interested, then you can contact them on (Contact Details).
There is a new version of Power Chords, the innovative sequencer from the Canadian company Howling Dog Systems. The main feature of the software is that its user interface is modelled on a guitar rather than a piano keyboard (see December 92 PC Notes). The new version adds features such as improved cut and paste, better chord support, MIDI thru and Gravis Ultrasound sound card support.
The upgrade costs just $15 and can be obtained from Howling Dog Systems, (Contact Details) or by faxing your Visa details to (Contact Details). Howling Dog can also be contacted via electronic mail on CompuServe using (Contact Details) or (Contact Details) using InterNet.
A reader in Israel has written to say that he couldn't get through to me on the electronic mail address published here a few months ago. If you're having difficulty I can also be contacted using PAN, in which case the InterNet address becomes BRIANHEYWOOD@pan.com.
Whilst on the subject of electronic mail, users who have access to InterNet can now access a free MIDI support service available from PAN. The service gives you 'hot lines' to a large number of software/hardware vendors and a large number of magazines (including SOS). You access the service by telneting on to pan.com and then typing 'MIDISUPPORT' at the 'Username' prompt. Once logged on you can type '?' at anytime to see a menu and 'bye' will log you off.
Harman Audio were showing a preview of Cubase Score for Windows at the Northern Music Show in Manchester recently. Apart from giving PC Cubase users all the facilities that Atari and Mac owners have had for some time, it is the first Windows music package that I've seen that has a dongle. A 'dongle' is a hardware copy protection device that needs to be attached to the PC — in this case via the printer port — for the software to run. The use of dongles has a chequered history on the PC, users generally giving them the 'thumbs down', so it will be interesting to see if Steinberg can buck the trend.
Feature by Brian Heywood
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