This month's round-up of all that's new in the world of computer music.
The ingenuity of some of these Apple add-on guys never ceases to amaze me. Latest in a long line is the DrumKey from the somewhat cryptically named PVI in Pennsylvania. According to their press release, this is an interface board/software package for the Apple II/IIe that lets you create percussion tracks with 28 different digitally-recorded sounds. DrumKey offers full programmability and storage for 100 rhythm patterns and 26 songs (with up to 250 patterns per song), and a scrolling high-resolution screen display of instrument staves for quick notation and editing. Other features include real-time or on-screen composition, selectable timing correction (from whole notes to 64th note triplets), and a sync out facility.
And all for just $139.95.
Also rather interesting is the hardware PVI have used to do all this: a custom chip complete with all 28 burned-in sounds and a DAC. And the people behind it? Well, remember the CM feature on the SID chip back in August '83 and the mention of its designer, Bob Yannes? It turns out that PVI actually stands for Peripheral Visions Inc., the custom music chip company that Bob and Dave Yannes started when the former left MOS Technology. And if the DrumKey chip is a representative sample of their ingenuity, theirs should be a company worth watching...
That guru of computer music technology, Hal Chamberlin, has recently put his money where his pen is and come up with the DigiSound 16, a two-channel, 16-bit digital processing unit for interfacing with any computer that has two eight-bit parallel ports. Specs are as follows: digitising/playback in mono or stereo, 16-bit resolution (96dB S/N, 0.0015% distortion), and programmable sample rates from 3.5kHz up to 100kHz (mono) or 50kHz (stereo). Other features include either single-shot or continuous-with-disk operation, a 32K sample buffer, three programmable data formats (16-bit, 12-bit companded, or eight-bit companded), and plug-in low-pass filter modules complete with proper de-glitching circuits.
It's curious, isn't it, how jokes get blown out of all proportion.
Which reminds me, how about the piece that's published on page 16 of the July 1984 issue of Keyboard? You know, the one that starts: 'The Soviet Union may be gaining ground on the electronic music battleground. At a recent meeting of the Ukraine Society Academy of Scientists at Minsk, a new digital computer-synthesiser system, the HAL-ICM FRIGIT, was unveiled. A member of the British Union of Sound Synthesists, invited to the gathering by the Soviet cultural attache in London, sent us a report.'
And so it goes on, a verbatim rendering of ESSP organiser David Tuffnell's HAL press release. Well, almost verbatim - Keyboard's assistant editor forgot to look at the date on the aforesaid: April 1, 1984.
So, who was it that said you can't fool some of the people all of the time...?
Continuing the bizarre angle, news is emerging of a project aimed at using conventional 5.25" floppy disks for storing digital audio. The claim of US company Compusonics is that their CSP1000 ('scheduled for retail delivery during the first quarter of 1985') will sell for around $1000 and record up to 45 minutes of Compact Disc-quality digital stereo on a single floppy!
Let's think about that for a minute. A double-density 5.25" floppy is pushed to get beyond a couple of megabytes of storage, translating to a bit count in the region of 20 megabits. In contrast, Compact Disc works with 16 bits at a rate of over four megabits per second. So, viewed in those terms, what chance is there of getting more than five seconds of Compact Disc quality from the standard floppy? Well, there are ways and means of improving the chances - going for 12-bit companding rather than 16-bit linear, using Delta Modulation techniques to conserve bits, and so on - but 45 minutes?
To give them their due, Compusonics say that they are expecting new high-density disks that hold 20 megabytes and expect to be able to reduce the head gap size from 20 microns down to 8, both of which will improve their prospects considerably. So, all we can realistically say is: watch this space.
These digital synth designs sure keep on coming.
David Rayna Software Systems have just announced their new S100 programmable digital synth board. This generates up to 59 oscillators with a 14kHz sampling rate, or 15 oscillators at a very respectable 50kHz sampling rate. These are fed from 16 on-board, logarithmically-coded, 1K wavetables with 16-bit frequency resolution and eight-bit amplitude resolution. Rayna has also developed a multitasking operating system for driving the synthesiser card which includes an editor for the creation of notes lists and instrument definitions prior to performance, but also allows real-time adjustments.
Finally, take a look at this rewrite of the Old Testament - according to James A. Moorer, the head of the Lucasfilm digital audio group and designer of the incredible Audio Signal Processor (a 32-track digital recording and synthesis studio in a standard 19-inch rack, capable of score editing, orchestration, and composition - all for about $700,000):
In the beginning there was the sample,
and the sample was with God,
and the sample was God,
and yea there rose one from the East,
who writeth the gospel according to Mathews,
and he did take that sample and compute it,
and he did convert it, saying 'Let there be music'
And there was music.
And he said 'Go forth to the whole nation and multiply and add.'
And there rose one from the West,
who writeth the gospel according to John,
and he did take these oscillators two by two,
and he did modulate them,
saying 'Bring me forth samples,
and with only one multiply.'
And then there came Lucas,
and he assembled a mighty amount of money,
and with it he did smite a problem,
saying 'Bring me forth samples in ever-increasing number. '
And they did multiply and multiply and multiply.
News by David Ellis
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