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Computer Musician


Featuring sequencer software for the IBM PC from Octave Plateau, Sight & Sound’s Music Processor software for the CBM64 and a music-copying program in use at Oxford University’s Music Faculty.

A further bulletin on latest developments in the computer music field.

According to Kiki Ebsen, Vice President of Marketing for a Californian company called Syntech, 'Studio 1-2-3 is by far the most exciting software around' and is 'truly musician friendly'. Which is the sort of hype we've come to expect from companies attempting to break into an already-flooded MIDI software market. The sort of hype, in fact, I've just been talking about in this month's Editorial (what d'ya mean, you always skip that bit?). But don't let that put you off - Studio 1-2-3 makes more sense than many.

For starters, the software is available for not one but three different micros - Commodore 64, Apple II, and IBM PC. Furthermore, Syntech's product seems to be the first on the scene to work with Sequential's own MIDI interface for the 64 - good news if you're bored with their software. And if you don't already have one of the Passport/Yamaha MIDI cards for the 64 or Apple, Syntech will be only too happy to supply their own MIDI card, 'available for the lowest prices'.

Studio 1-2-3 looks equally promising on the software side. Sixteen eight-track sequences in memory at once for chaining into up to four songs; record and playback from any 'transport position'; realtime punch-in during playback; auto punch-in/out using preset edit points; auto-correction; all manner of editing facilities; and last but far from least, a digital delay emulation mode which Syntech say 'can be reversed for greater effects'. Shades of the infamous Zlatna Panega ACS100?

For further information, contact Syntech, (Contact Details).

Take Note

Word reached us recently from an organisation called Take Note about their plans to put computers and music on a firmer footing in education. They say they're currently in the process of setting up a co-operative enterprise whose activities will cover many of the points raised in the Editorial of May's Computer Musician. Nice to know somebody takes note of my ramblings...

Take Note also intend providing an overall educational programme for computers and music - peripatetic seminars, videos and teaching sessions - which they see as being of value to both educational establishments and community groups. I heartily support all that. Also on the cards is a much-needed advisory service for prospective purchasers of computer-based music systems, plus relevant workshops at a recording studio that's being set up in London's docklands.

We'll keep you posted on further developments, but for more info on present activities, contact Take Note, (Contact Details).

Sight + Sound

Yet more musical activities on the Commodore 64 come courtesy of Sight & Sound Music Software in Wisconsin. But programs doing valiant battle with recalcitrant SID chips are ten-a-penny, you cry. True, but the real interest of Sight & Sound's 'Music Processor' actually lies in non-aural directions, because they've just upgraded the software by adding a pretty impressive printout facility. What's more, it's cheap - $29.95 over in the States.

Something else they've just released is the 'Music Video Kit'. Sight & Sound claim that when this is combined with the Music Processor, 'it's possible to design, orchestrate and record computer-animated music videos on the personal computer'. Sounds like fun. For more details, write to Sight & Sound Music Software, (Contact Details).

Dreaming Spires

'Descending from ivory towers' is hardly a description you'd expect to attach to as solidly a musicological establishment as the Music Faculty at Oxford University, but on the basis of a report in the Sunday Times of June 2, it seems that even they are being dragged into the hi-tech eighties. Actually, that's a mite unfair. After all, if they've got a Fairlight in situ at the department, they can't be that behind the times!

But this particular story relates to the age-old problem of copying music from illegible manuscript to the printed page. Seems a doctoral student by the name of Richard Vendome had the unenviable task of copying out 400 17th Century keyboard pieces for his thesis. Realising the Herculean task ahead of him, he made use of the wisdom of a physicist friend to learn about computers. A year and a bit later, the musicologist had been transmogrified into a programmer, and his thesis was nearing completion courtesy of a self-penned music-copying program.

More than that, Oxford University Press have announced their intention to market the software next year at an expected selling price of around £500. So who said academic music doesn't pay?

OTT with OP?

At long last, Octave Plateau have released their IBM PC MIDI sequencing software, now known by the ever-so-humble name of 'Sequencer Plus'. And it really does sound ever so impressive, what with up to 64 polyphonic tracks and 60,000 notes if you've got 640K in your IBM PC. Putting the software on an IBM PC also means that you've got more dots for your dollars in a visual as well as audible sense. Somehow, after you've seen step-time graphics on an IBM PC or an equivalent hi-resolution micro, all those MIDI programs running on Apples, Commodores and the like look pretty pathetic.

That doesn't just go for Octave-Plateau's step-time graphics (which do a better job than most at representing all the vertical relationships in polyphonic music without resorting to traditional notation), but even those for the Sequencer Plus' 'Main Track Menu'. This time, for each of the tracks, you get the name of the instrument assigned to that track, the corresponding MIDI channel, the program number, any track-specific transposition, quantisation, looping, muting, and then the number of bars. It's amazing how well-laid-out information turns what can be a toy in some people's hands into a really professional-looking musical tool.

But at 'between $400 and $500', Octave Plateau's software is also very expensive. Not quite in the same league as the UMI software for the BBC Micro, I grant you, but still more than the average guy in the street is going to be prepared to fork out for a software sequencing package, MIDI or not. Remember also that on top of that sum, there's the Roland MPU401 to be added into the picture. And is the IBM PC really such a hot option in these imminent days of sub-£1000 micros with 68000 processors and massive amounts of RAM? Let's hope that Octave Plateau are thinking of doing a version of Sequencer Plus on the Atari 520ST and Commodore Amiga, because from what I've seen, the software really does look too good to miss. For further info, contact Octave Plateau, (Contact Details).

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Atari 520ST

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


Electronics & Music Maker - Jul 1985

Computer Musician



News by David Ellis

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