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Computer Musician


Details of a new German computer musical instrument, MIDI software for the Apple Macintosh, and Passport's latest Commodore 64 music packages.

This month's round-up of all that's new in the world of computer music.

A German company called Klangenwerk is behind what's sure to be one of 1985's real biggies - the Audio Operator sampling keyboard, to be released at around the time you read this. Sampling is 12-bit at a rate of 40-50kHz, and there's up to 1 megabyte of RAM provided within the instrument for sound storage. Also included as standard is a 5.25" disk drive (with a second one optional) for sample and sequence storage. Talking of sequencers, the one in the Audio Operator sounds mighty impressive, with both real-time and edit modes, a capacity of 80-100,000 notes, MIDI sync, and optional SMPTE-compatibility. All this, plus the option of a five-octave dynamic wooden keyboard, serves mankind via 32 voices with full ADSR, VCF, and LFO control of 16 sample-fed digital sound generators. Other facilities include polyphonic arpeggiation, selectable keyboard split-points, multi-sampling, and a host of useful inputs and outputs. It's particularly nice to see printer and monitor interfaces in this latter category - meaning that the Audio Operator allows you to visualise what's going on inside with rather greater illumination than the average 40 character LCD display (which it also has).

Doubtless more will be heard about this system once the Frankfurt drooling is over. You'd probably also like to know the price, but that's something else that's pending discussion. For more information though, contact Lars Hidde at Micro Music, (Contact Details).


One of the most attractive features of Apple's Macintosh computer is its use of icons and a 'mouse' to humanise the business of interacting with a micro. In principle, this means that excess button-pushing and lists of convoluted commands become a thing of the past, but there's also the counter-argument that a little micro knowledge is better than none. In fact, some aspects of the Mac are nothing less than infuriating (the jettisoning of cursor edit keys in favour of mouse movements, for instance: hardly the way I'd want to word process) but there's also no doubt that icon-driven operating systems are here to stay, so the best bet is to make sure that they really do make the user's life easier rather than just adding yet more gimmick value.

Well, an oft-quoted statement is 'you don't need a master's degree to drive a Macintosh'. Similarly, you shouldn't need a master's degree to drive a MIDI. Which is roughly where the MacMIDI products from Musicworks come into the picture. First off is the MacMIDI MMU501 MIDI interface at $150 (but free with any three of the company's other products), followed by the MacMIDI VoicePatch Librarian (also at $150), which provides voice storage for a range of MIDI keyboards, including Yamaha DX7, Korg EX800, Oberheim Xpander and Ensoniq Mirage, and then there's the MacMIDISynth ($125), which appears to provide six-voice synthesis from the Macintosh itself.

The second set of software products comes under the heading of 'Musicwork Studio', and includes the MegaTrack MIDI Recorder/Sequencer ($150), the MegaMix MIDI Console ($100) - simulated automated mixdown on the Mac, interesting! - and MIDI Writer ($150). To cap it all, there's a further bit of software called Musicwork Studio (an extra $100) which enables you to 'create a convenient custom environment for the concurrent use of your MIDI studio resources' ie, the combination of MegaTrack, MegaMix and MIDIWriter. All of which sounds extremely impressive. For more info, contact Musicworks, (Contact Details).


...actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the Macintosh. Well, almost nothing, because it does borrow the Macintosh's style of graphics to make its point. In fact, MacMusic is Passport Designs' latest product for the Commodore 64 (and its soon-to-be-released successor, the C128, which has a special 'C64 mode') - sort of 'screw the SID chip to the limit' package that makes plentiful use of icons, pull-down windows and all the other graphical goodies that 1985 seems to throw at us with gleeful abandon. MacMusic will also operate with Passport's four-octave Music 64 Keyboard (which must be something like the fifth add-on keyboard for the Commodore to have appeared on the market so far).

Duran Duran, one of several bands featured in Passport's latest 'mass-market' music software.

More interesting (largely because of the copyright angle - see January's CM Editorial) is the news that MacMusic includes ten pre-programmed arrangements of songs by Michael Jackson, The Police, Lionel Ritchie, Willie Nelson and others. And that's only the tip of the iceberg of what looks like being Passport's best money-spinner yet - the co-publishing of music software and sheet music in what Passport and their publishing partners, the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, call 'Computer Sheet Music'. On the basic micro level, they're producing software for the Commodore 64's SID chip under the banner of Computer Hit-ware (ugh!), 'a computerised rock video program that gives the added features of arranging your own graphics to popular songs like 'The Reflex' from Duran Duran...' (surprise, surprise). Marginally more upmarket is the first Computer Sheet Music Thriller package, which consists of MIDI arrangements of the tracks on the Michael Jackson album, plus a book containing 'big-note, easy-to-play notation'. Well, it may not be your cup of tea, or mine for that matter, but if this breaks MIDI out of the pro music clique and into the home, then I'm certainly prepared to give it my vote. Who knows? Perhaps this is the road to sub-£10 MIDI software and £100 MIDI keyboards.

But until then, the prices will come a little steeper. For starters, if you want to be thrilled by Thriller, you'll need a Passport MIDI card - that's $195 for either the Apple II or Commodore 64 version - and the $29.95 Computer Sheet Music package. Alternatively, there's the Computer Hitware package at $19.95, the MacMusic software at $49.95, and the Music 64 Keyboard for $199. For more details, contact Passport Music Software at (Contact Details).


Worth joining, if your bag is computer music in the widest sense of the term, is the San Francisco-based Computer Music Association. They describe themselves (modestly) as a 'grass-roots organisation' dedicated to promoting the use of computers in music. Aside from providing the means for finding out about the latest hardware and software, there's also a quarterly newsletter and an annual conference. And to cater for different sorts of members (universities, individuals, impecunious musicians, studio cats, the pet gerbil), the CMA offers four membership schemes at varying subscription levels. To find out more, write to the Association at (Contact Details).

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


Electronics & Music Maker - Mar 1985

Scanned by: Stewart Lawler

Computer Musician



News by David Ellis

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