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!
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:
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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:
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:
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:
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.
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!
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:
A wide range of suggestions in response to this question. As someone said, "you get as good as you give"...
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.
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:
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:
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!
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.
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:
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:
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!
Feature by David Ellis
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