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Questionnaire Results (Part 2)

Readers' replies to the second half of our survey, analysed by David Ellis.


David Ellis takes a belated look at the second half of the recent CM questionnaire, with some thoughts on your responses to questions 21 to 50.


The latter half of our readers' questionnaire concentrated mainly on the editorial content of the supplement. Your reactions to the various features, projects and reviews - and the direction they should be taking in the future - make pretty interesting reading!

Questions 21/22



80.2% (162) of the readers responding to the questionnaire were interested in seeing articles on programming techniques. From these brave souls came the following suggestions for particular topics of conversation:

Language Votes
Pascal 5
Forth 39
Spectrum BASIC 6
Machine code 98
Z80 assembler 5
6502 assembler 20
CP/M 2
LOGO 3
CBM-64 BASIC/machine code 3
Microsoft BASIC 3
C 2
General BASIC 18
Fortran 2
BBC BASIC/machine code 33
Music programming 11
Oric BASIC 2

The overwhelming impression was that people wanted help in getting to grips with the essentials of programming - particularly in machine code. However, some readers were more specific in their requests.

Questions 23/24



A high percentage of readers (80.2%) thought that we should concentrate more attention on what can be done musically on the basic micro. Point taken! The micros you thought should be treated to such programming delights were as follows:

Model Votes
ZX81 24
Spectrum 52
Oric-1 12
Electron 5
Dragon 10
MTX-500 1
Jupiter Ace 1
Commodore 64 65
Apple lie 36
BBC Micro 73
Atari 9

That column of figures translates to a Top Four of the BBC, Commodore 64, Spectrum, and Apple. No great surprises there.

A few people felt that the choice of micros should be geared around what's available in the way of MIDI and other hardware, the point being that there's little sense in having a micro that's good at music on a basic, self-contained level if there's no scope for future expansion. One reader went so far as to suggest that we should consider 'only 16- or 32-bit micros capable of direct digital synthesis'. Well, in five years time, maybe we could get away with such a policy, but now...?

Question 25



The idea here was to get suggestions for using a micro's basic attributes, ie. without vast amounts of expensive add-on hardware. Here's what we actually got:

  • Real-time synthesis techniques (11)
  • Non-linear distortion techniques (1)
  • Real-time controllers for analogue synths and drum machines (28)
  • Sampling techniques (19)
  • Auto-composing (5)
  • Advanced sequencing/composing (17)
  • Chord diagram calculator for guitar or keyboard (1)
  • MIDI interfacing (37)
  • Music transcribing/printing (5)
  • Interactive MCL (6)
  • Correlating sound to graphics (1)
  • Speech synthesis and recognition (1)
  • Mixer interfacing and control (2)
  • Music education (5)
  • Rhythm generators (4)
  • Use of the AY-3-8910 (1)
  • Library of envelopes and sound effects (1)
  • Spectrum analyser (4)

Questions 26/27



Again, another high percentage (83.6%) for the affirmative response to the question of whether or not we do time on the technical side of the fence. Whilst it's true that a lot of this tends towards being onanistic, there's no denying that the main driving force for developments in computer music presently comes from the hardware rat-race, so you're almost obliged to give this some sort of priority.

Anyhow, these are the suggestions we received as regards the technical side of things:

  • Memory expansion modules
  • Problems with DACs/ADCs and using them for sampling
  • Digital signal processors
  • How commonly-used chips work and ways of improving them
  • New developments in sound chips with applications
  • Digital sound recording
  • Instrument imitation
  • How digital drum machines work
  • Design and operation of the Fairlight
  • How the Emulator works
  • Design of and using MIDI interfaces
  • Computer mixing techniques
  • How to go about micro control of analogue modules
  • Computer-controlled stage lighting effects
  • Synthesis using 16-bit devices
  • Pitch input devices other than keyboards
  • Digital filtering
  • Z80 music applications
  • Digital oscillators
  • Synchronising micro music with clock pulses
  • Design of analogue interfaces
  • Digital FM synthesis
  • Design and use of microprocessor circuits
  • Design of Fourier series oscillator
  • How micros can be used as real-time music processors
  • Hints on data transfer via interfaces

Phew!

Well, expletives apart, it's obvious that many readers would like to know more about the design and operation of the popular micro-based systems currently doing the rounds. One individual said: What about technical discussions on the way commercial systems work, (eg. the DX7), including circuits so that the owner can alter and personalise them? Well, as much as we'd like to help in this direction, and we do try to wherever we can, manufacturers are extremely loath to part with any info that might possibly give their competitors an inkling of what's going on in their systems. However, we'll keep on digging for more.

Question 28



Auto-composition is something of a thorny topic in computer music. In fact, it's the one area that seems to be of interest to both ends of the user spectrum - from University computer music labs to what computer magazines insist on perpetrating as 'music courtesy of the Spectrum's BEEP command.' The truth is that there's no point in charging into random number generators unless you're prepared to work out what sort of statistical funnel is needed to 'musicalise' the results. In short, auto-composition should reflect both Man and Machine. In fact, a fairly high percentage of readers (69.4%) expressed an interest in auto-composition, so we will be following this one up, despite the controversy.

Questions 29/30



Brian Eno... will E&MM ever get an interview?

We think interviews are a good way of bringing into the open how musicians actually get on with musical technology - the proof of all the technical pudding, if you like. Fortunately, most of you (77.3%) seem to agree, so we'll do our best to seek them out from the list you've given us (that's if we haven't already covered them in a previous E&MM - date in brackets after if we have)

Musicians: Brian Eno, Milton Babbit, Tim Souster (May '81), Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, JK Randell, Charles Dodge, Thomas Dolby, Landscape (Nov '81), Steve Hillage (June '83) Human League (Feb '83), David Vorhaus (June '81) Kraftwerk (Mar '82), New Order, Peter Gabriel, Larry Fast (June '83), Hans Zimmer (July '83), Depeche Mode, Jean-Michel Jarre (June '82), Isao Tomita (Feb '83), Tangerine Dream (Mar '83), Pete Shelley, Dave Bristow (July '83), Vince Clarke (Mar '84), Mainframe (Feb '84), and The Enid.

Systems and Designers: Robert Moog, Tim Orr, Dave Simmons, Synclavier II, Fairlight CMI, Yamaha DX7, PPG Wave/Waveterm, E-mu Emulator, Sequential Circuits, Roland Digital Group, John Chowning, Harold Alles, James Beauchamp, and alphaSyntauri.

Micros: Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum, and the BBC Micro (I'd never have guessed it...).

Well, this thoroughly eclectic selection certainly meets with my approval. It only goes to prove that E&MM readers have excellent taste!

Questions 31/32



The last thing we want is to bore people by going over ground that's of minority interest. That's the reason for the question about the history of computer music. In fact, the yes/no split was as near as dammit to 50/50, so we'll take this as an indication to go easy on peeks into the past. Anyway, the subjects that were of interest went as follows:

  • The evolution of MCL
  • The future of computers and music
  • IRCAM past and present
  • The history of computers in rock music and in studios
  • The evolution of FM synthesis techniques
  • How computer analysis of natural sounds has developed over the years
  • Further developments of MIDI (see supplement this issue!)
  • The development of synths from analogue to digital
  • The history of real-time computer music
  • The development of programming techniques
  • Advancements in Artificial Intelligence as applied to music
  • How the Fairlight has been used.

Question 35



A wide range of suggestions in response to this question. As someone said, "you get as good as you give"...

  • Mods to existing equipment for greater versatility and compatibility
  • The printing of music after playing a keyboard
  • Hardware FM digital synthesisers
  • Micro interface for Casio keyboards
  • Just intonation theory in practice
  • Synthesis algorithms encyclopaedia
  • Parallel processing languages
  • Computer light effects
  • Multiplexing circuits for CVs from micros
  • Analysis of programs and algorithms used in commercial products
  • Anything with good practical applications backed up with projects
  • The possibilities of AI in computer music synthesis and composition
  • Survey of MIDI software
  • The basics of programming in a musical context
  • Using micros in a live situation
  • The link between philosophy/psychology and computer music
  • A series on composers of computer music
  • More specific projects for the BBC Micro
  • The use of computers in music education
  • The use of synths in classical music
  • Computer music record and book reviews
  • Computerised multitracking
  • Getting the reader to do things
  • Readers' software and hardware designs for popular micros
  • A selection of programs for different micros
  • News of USA computer music
  • More programs listings and hands-on projects
  • How to obtain recording facilities for unemployed musicians/engineers!
  • An investigation of the musical possibilities of networking

Er, no comment!

Question 36



The McLeyvier computer system. A review will follow as soon as we can get our hands on one.

Always a problem, this. Does speech synthesis fit into the musical scheme of things, or not? Well, as it turned out, only 52.7% of respondees felt that it was worth having more articles on speech, so, again, we'll curb our enthusiasm in this direction somewhat.

Questions 37/38



79% of readers seemed to feel quite happy about reviews of expensive computer music systems. That's a good thing - because we enjoy reviewing them! Suggestions for reviews went as follows:

  • Fairlight CMI (43)
  • Crumar GDS (11)
  • Synclavier II (17)
  • McLeyvier (3)
  • Prism (2)
  • Con Brio ADS200 (2)
  • Buchla (3)
  • Yamaha DX7 (21)
  • SCI MIDI software (9)
  • Chroma/Polaris software (6)
  • PPG Wave/Waveterm (5)
  • Apple systems (9)
  • Emulator (4)
  • Roland CompuMusic (3)
  • Doepfer VTIS (1)
  • Jen Musipack (1)

Well, we last looked at the Fairlight back in June '81, and a lot of sampled waveforms have passed under the bridge since then! So, watch out for a Page-by-Page account of the current Fairlight in CM shortly. The Synclavier II has been well-covered in the Feb and June '83 issues, so we're not likely to tread that ground again unless New England Digital feel like parting with more technical info or new software comes onto the market. The Crumar GDS, McLeyvier, Prism, Con Brio ADS200, and Buchla are all fascinating systems, but for one reason or another, they're not yet available in this country. So, dear manufacturers, if your system is actually in production, please let us have one for review!

Yamaha's DX7 and their other FM-based systems will be receiving lots of attention shortly, so watch this space... CBS/Fender have recently hinted that they may be curtailing further activity on the Chroma and Polaris front, but if new software comes out (we did look at some in April '83), we'll take a look at it. And just in case you hadn't noticed, a full review of the PPG Wave 2.3 and Waveterm appears elsewhere in this issue of E&MM.

Apple systems probably get more attention than most, and their cost-effectiveness has been criticised, so we're being careful not to overstate their case. When Roland release their new BBC Micro and Commodore 64 software for the Compu-Music (now down to an RRP of less than £300, incidentally, and generally on sale for around £250), we'll take another look at it. Lastly, we're finding out about the Doepfer VTIS (a sound synthesis/sampling system from Germany), and we'll be reviewing the Jen Musipack and the new-model Emulator in the very near future...

Questions 39/40



Down from the pinnacles of technological development to ground floor level, we find 88.9% of our reader sample supporting reviews of budget musical software for the basic micro. However, when pressed for suitable examples, there wasn't an awful lot to play with:

  • MusiCalc (Commodore 64) (1)
  • Music Construction Set (Apple/Commodore 64) (1)
  • MMI Music CAI software (Apple) (1)
  • Music Composer (Commodore 64) (1)
  • Musicomp (Apple) (1)
  • Quicksilva MuProc (BBC Micro) (2)
  • System Music Editor (BBC Micro) (1)
  • Rornick Multisound Synth (Vic 20) (2)
  • William Stuart Systems Composer (ZX81) (1)
  • Synthy 64 (Commodore 64) (2)

Question 41



A printer's error put this question in the wrong place! In fact, it should have come immediately after question 38 - the idea being to check that our readers still had the right priorities, ie. music before technology. Still, placed as it was, it did reveal that 88.5% were still thinking about the music at the end of the technological rainbow, and that can't be a bad thing!

Questions 42/43/44



Roland's CompuMusic - subject of a recent price drop.

The rationale behind this trio of questions was to give us some sort of guidance when it comes to looking (or not looking) at the vast number of new micros and games trundling off production lines. 72.9% felt that we should include reviews of new micros, and 80.8% suggested that these should concentrate on the sound side of these machines. That's fine by us. Reviews of games were given the thumbs down, as only 32.4% voted for reviews of those with a strong sound FX or music element. Again, that's no love lost as far as we're concerned.

Question 45



The trouble with all this computer music stuff is that it's all too easy to end up hopelessly blinkered to what's going on around you. So, to redress the balance, we're constantly looking for ways of adding to the review repertoire. These are some of the possibilities you suggested:

  • Artificial Intelligence software
  • Databases for cataloguing music and records
  • Graphics linked to sound production
  • Fast, versatile languages
  • Decent plotters, joysticks, and mouse/trackball input devices
  • Anything on speech recognition and synthesis
  • Video interfaces

Questions 46/47



Well, 78.2% of questionnaire respondees thought that the OMDAC was worth pursuing in the direction of their own micros. Regular readers will recall that the OMDAC was originally conceived around the Acorn Atom. Unfortunately, that's about as dead as a dodo nowadays, so translation of the software onto other micros is essential of OMDAC is to be reincarnated, which it almost certainly will be. Software for the Spectrum is definitely imminent...

When pressed for ideas for CM projects, these are what you came up with:

  • Synth interface module
  • Improved Band Box with better sounds and larger memory
  • Companding DAC/ADC board for sampling and digital delay
  • 16-bit digital reverb unit
  • MIDI interfaces and software
  • Computer-controlled sound mixer
  • Intelligent sound-to-light unit
  • Digital sound processors
  • Music score reader
  • Add-ons based on Yamaha's FM LSIs
  • More software/hardware for Alphadac
  • SID boards for various micros
  • Self-contained sampling system
  • Modular micro-controlled analogue polysynth

Questions 48/49/50



The question about interfacing Casio keyboards with micros provoked a good deal if ribaldry from some readers. Quite justified, really, if you start imagining marrying a VL1 with an IBM PC, or an Osborne with Casio's new KX101 keyboard-inclusive ghetto blaster (a 'portable' computer music system for Mr Universe)... But seriously, folks, the Casio MT65 has a wealth of untapped synthesis potential (see Rumblings back in September '83) that's crying out for release from the confines of the hard-wired approach. In fact, 78.2% of CM readers were for us pursuing something in this direction, though exactly what remains to be seen.

On the subject of MIDI, a resounding 88% of readers supported the notion of some MIDI hardware and software. And no doubt if we took the same poll now (ie. post-Frankfurt and post-NAMM), that vote would be even nearer the 100% mark. So, as they say in the movie biz, 'Coming Shortly... The Midicomposer!' Finally, 74.8% of respondees agreed that projects should be presented as personal computer add-ons rather than as stand-alone units. What a sensible lot you are!



Previous Article in this issue

Rumblings


Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Electronics & Music Maker - May 1984

Computer Musician

Topic:

Computing


Series:

CM Questionnaire Results

Part 1 | Part 2 (Viewing)


Feature by David Ellis

Previous article in this issue:

> Rumblings

Next article in this issue:

> The Programmable Digital Sou...


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