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Article from Music Technology, August 1993

News from the cutting edge of music and multimedia technology

Big Red Book 93

If you've ever fancied owning an up-to-date list of every musical recording available in the UK (and a list of the deletions) then you'll probably be interested in the Music Master 1993 Big Red Book. It's big, it's red and it's the kind of thing record shops use for ordering recordings. For £215 you get a Big Red Book, free fortnightly updates including classical information, and a loose-leaf binder.

For more information contact Music Master, (Contact Details).

A big fat zero from heaven

For those MIDI Song File users on format 0 systems, Heavenly Music have just completed conversions of their entire Megga Tracks MIDI song file library, so now Yamaha's MDF2 and the likes have access to nearly 600 top-quality titles. A starter pack is available from HM for £3 (refundable against your first order of three or more titles). A utility is also available for Atari users to convert format 1 MIDI files to Format 0, priced £12.95.

Also available via HM is the essential Jarre collection, nine Jean Michel tracks on one disk configured for GM/GS compatibility. This costs £19.95.

For more information contact Heavenly Music, (Contact Details).

Escape to Kentish Town

The Forum at Kentish town has started a monthly club called ESCAPE. Future Vision Productions, the organisers, describe it as "a progressive musical and visual extravaganza with elegance". It will mix the finest in upfront dance music on the main dancefloor accompanied by a major visual experience mixed live. The upstairs ESCAPE bar offers a more relaxing alternative with new up-and-coming DJs.

The Forum has a state-of-the-art PA and lights. The four bars stay open until 2am with drinks "at pub prices, not club prices". There's even a Haagen Daaz ice-cream machine for the real trendies. The ESCAPE club runs monthly from 23rd July.

For more information contact The Forum, (Contact Details).

A Sound Impression for PCs

Asystem USA has announced the release of Sound Impression v3.5 multimedia software for Windows 3.1. When combined with a suitable sound card, Sound Impression will "transform your PC into a digital audio and MIDI production system". The system is intended to provide a low-cost opportunity for company presentations, broadcast and video production, home recording, games creators, multimedia authors and musicians.

It offers a stereo component rack-mount interface for Wave recorder/player, MIDI player, CD player and mixing panel. Five more components are also accessible from the front panel including the 16-Track Wave Composer, Session Manager and MIDI Program panel.

The system features hard-disk recording, editing and mixing capabilities across 16 edit windows. Among the features mentioned above is the 16-Track Wave Composer. This is similar to a digital audio sequencer, letting ypu mix any or all 16 tracks of digital audio into a single composition, The system requires a 386 or 486 PC, 4Mb RAM, hard disk, a Windows compatible sound card, EGA/VGA graphics, Arial True Type font and Cb-ROM drive.

Sound Impression has a UK list price of £89 including VAT.

For more information contact Digital Music, (Contact Details).

Blue Ribbon service

Owners of Blue Ribbon Soundworks software packages Bars and Pipes Professional and SuperJAM! for the Amiga may be interested in a new UK Customer Support Service. Set up to deal with orders and software enquiries, it's available to anyone who is in need of any kind of information regarding Amiga music software and existing owners of Blue Ribbon software who are in need of technical support. A 24-hour telephone service is provided, manned during office hours, and they promise to answer all calls within four rings!

For more information contact The Blue Ribbon Soundworks, UK Customer Support, (Contact Details).

Multimedia 93: showing the way ahead?

Videoconferencing, desktop video, full-motion video on CD... There can be no doubt that visuals are the fuel powering the multimedia engine - and visuals aplenty were on display at this year's Multimedia Show, which took place over 3 days in June in the spacious surroundings of Earls Court 2.

Notable by their absence were Apple, Commodore and Philips, all of whom had prominent stands at last year's show - maybe they're saving their pennies for the Consumer Electronics Show later this year. However, there were still some 80 exhibitors demonstrating a wide range of multimedia applications and services, from interactive training software to CD-ROM entertainment software, desktop video editing systems to desktop videoconferencing systems, optical media mastering and duplication services to optical media packaging services, add-on video boards to plug-in sound cards, interactive POS (Point Of Sale) systems to image archiving and compressing services...

On the desktop video front, systems included the Fast Video Machine (Mac and PC), the Radius VideoVision Studio (Mac), SuperMac's Digital Film (Mac) and the Avid Media Composer (Mac). These are all systems which allow for the digital capture and editing of video in the computer domain, and - with the exception of the high-end Avid system - they bring sophisticated facilities to the desktop for a few thousand pounds.

The Amiga's sole presence at the Show was in conjunction with the Videopilot V330 computer-controlled video editing system. This allows you to compile video edits and add special effects to your videos by remotely controlling a pair of edit VCRs. A Complete Video Editing Solution Pack consisting of the Videopilot V330, an Amiga 1200 with 80Mb hard drive, Scala and D-Paint software and a user video is available from distributors Apollo Mercury Ltd ((Contact Details)) for £1995 inc VAT. To that, of course, you'll need to add the cost of a couple of VCRs and a camcorder. A PC package is also available at £2495 inc VAT.

To my mind the most striking multimedia technology at the Show was videoconferencing. Instances of this new technology in action were provided by VISIT, a £3000 greyscale video system for the Mac and PC from Northern Telcom, and a £50,000 colour system from PictureTel International, who had a live linkup with their central office running during the Show.

Holding a remote conversation with someone on one of these systems is a strange but captivating experiencing, a bit like being able to talk back to your TV (and wouldn't we all like to be able to do that). However, there's a lot more to videoconferencing than being able to see (and, of course, hear) the person at the other end of the line - at the same time you can pass files between one another and sketch out ideas together on an onscreen 'whiteboard'.

The possibilities video conferencing opens up for remote collaborative working are exciting - as a musician, for example, you could collaborate with other musicians anywhere in the world. Videoconferencing effectively collapses geographical space; unfortunately, what it doesn't collapse is the cost of the phone calls! Current systems work via ISDN lines, which are widely available on current telecommunications systems (basically, they transfer data digitally at high rates down existing copper-wire phone lines).

With the honourable exception of Roland, who were exhibiting a pre-release version of their RAP-10 plugin GM/GS sound card and MIDI songfile playback software for the PC (see news item 'RAPping with Roland' for more details), the MI companies stayed away from Multimedia 93 in droves - which just goes to show how clued up they are. Aren't GM modules supposed to be the hi-tech music companies' contribution to the multimedia mix?

As it was, the field at Multimedia 93 was largely left open to mass-market PC sound-card manufacturers like Creative Labs Inc., the Singaporean company responsible for the Blaster series of sound-cards - including the Wave Blaster GM-compatible card, which retails for just £149.95. Westpoint Creative are the distributors, on (Contact Details).

Although Multimedia 93 wasn't a huge show, it did provide a very effective - and very well-attended - forum for presenting the latest multimedia developments in (almost) all their diversity. If there was a shortcoming, it was the business orientation of the Show - consumer applications were all but ignored, perhaps because absent companies like Sega, Nintendo, Philips, 3DO and the like see the Consumer Electronics Showas the right forum for consumer multimedia.

Also notable was the absence of any street-level developments in multimedia, as exemplified, for instance, by Hex. Unfortunately, the consequence of such absences was a shortage of riveting content - and ultimately it's content, not form, which will kick-start the multimedia revolution.

Save cash and shoe leather

Going to the Scottish Music Show or the Scottish Record 'N' Pop Fair? Why not go to both? It's dead easy this year as they'll be in adjacent halls at the SECC Glasgow on 11th and 12th September.

And, as an added incentive to visit the two shows, the organisers have got together to offer visitors special discounts on admission prices. Visitors to the Scottish Music Show will be given a 50 pence discount on the admission price to the Record 'N' Pop Fair while those attending that event will get £1 off the admission price to the Scottish Music Show. So, no excuses really.

For more information contact Music Maker Exhibitions, (Contact Details).

Hey teachers, leave those recorders alone!

Are you a music student fed up with plonking xylophones when you'd rather be sampling? Or, are you a secondary school teacher baffled by your kids talking about MIDI, multitracking or mixing? If your answer to either of the above is "yes" then you may be interested in three new courses offered by the City of Westminster college. Designed to meet the needs of secondary school music teachers, these I courses look at the practical and I theoretical sides of music I technology and its use and development in the classroom. The emphasis will be on music technology as a creative tool and - on giving teachers plenty of hands-on experience as well as ideas and inspiration for encouraging student composition.

So if you want to get 'with it' or simply want to drag your teacher into the twentieth century, give em a call.

For more information contact The City of Westminster College, (Contact Details).

Two more for your microwave

Two more sound cards are now available from Metro Sound for the Waldorf Microwave. Each card has 64 sounds and 64 multi programmes. They cost £45 for ROM and £65 for RAM (both prices including VAT).

For more information contact Metro Sound, (Contact Details).

Pop solutions

Looking to get yourself noticed above the melee of people making music for fun and profit these days? If so, maybe what you need is a fresh marketing angle - and one company have come up with just that.

rGB Image Solutions was founded in 1992 by technical illustrator Terry Burgess and mechanical engineer Tristan Greatrex to enable them to pursue their ideas concerning interactive presentation and entertainment material. One idea which they've come up with is the PopDisc, a floppy disk for the Apple Mac containing textual information on a group or solo artist together with pictures and digitised sound - effectively a 'press kit on a disk'. The company have already produced 2 PopDiscs, one for the band Trousershock BC and the other for metal guitar hero Michael Schenker. The former includes band photographs and biog, a discography, a picture of an NME front cover and a review from the rock weekly, together with around 1 minute 15 seconds of recorded music ("resampled to 11kHz in order to make the file sizes workable") accompanied by a sequence of animated video frame-grabs of the band. The Michael Schenker disk includes the guitarist's complete discography from 1972 on, details of his new album, a puzzle section, and a competition section with CDs of the new album as prizes for 5 winners; a portion of the album's first track is also included on the disk as a sample loop. The company intend to sell the Michael Schenker PopDisc for £3.50.

Both PopDiscs were produced on an Apple Mac IIfx with MacroMedia MacRecorder, Mass Microsystems QuickImage frame-grabber, Canon UC10 camcorder and Agfa flatbed scanner hardware, together with MacroMedia Director, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MacroMedia SoundEdit Pro, MacroMedia Player and Stuffit DeLuxe software.

As you might imagine with all this heavy-duty graphics hardware and software, rGB also undertake graphic design work; among their completed projects is the artwork for Michael Schenker's current solo album.

For more information, contact rGB on (Contact Details).

eScaping from The System

Multimedia makes for some strange bedfellows, it seems. Take, for instance, videopunk visionaries Hex (cf. news item in MT June '93) and consumer electronics giant Philips. Last year Hex approached Sandy Mackenzie, Publishing Manager of Philips Interactive Media UK, the branch of Philips responsible for developing titles for the company's CD-i interactive home entertainment system. Speaking to MT, Sandy recalls: "They showed me the work they'd done on Global Chaos a title for Commodore's CDTV system. Although CDTV was supposed to be a dirty word around Philips, I was intrigued, and asked them to come up with some ideas which would play to the strengths of CD-i."

The result was eScape, a CD-i disc which has, according to Sandy, "generated more column inches in the short time since its launch than almost any other title on CD-i." eScape combines dance tracks from the likes of Irresistible Force, Eon, Coldcut and B12 with interactive psychedelic computer graphics.

So pleased have Philips been with this addition to their CD-i catalogue that they recently held a post-launch launch party for it at hip London club Ministry of Sound. The corporate bullshit was put on hold for the night (ie. no boring speeches and market analyses from grey-suited drones), and the assembled throng of media types got down to some serious networking while downing copious amounts of psycho-active 'smart' drinks and experiencing eScape in the sort of setting it's ideally suited to, complete with large video wallscreen and pumping club sound system.

"We are so excited by the possibilities shown by eScape that we've commissioned two more titles from Hex," says Sandy. "Although we gave them some technical support on the first disc, they're already pretty much self-sufficient in CD-i now, and they're developing the next two titles themselves. These will explore the further-flung corners of ambient and techno music, and will give fans of Hex's style of visuals a chance to peer further into the darker recesses of their imaginative world."

Sandy adds that the work with Hex is just part of a range of music titles he's currently developing at Philips Interactive.

"You'll soon be hearing quite a lot about a title from indie label Rhythm King," he says, "and in the pipeline are some fascinating titles which will bring all the features of synths and sequencers and a video editing toolkit to a CD-i player near you!"

So, forget all those boring golf games, encyclopaedias and the like - CD-i is connecting with the fast-moving, mashed-up culture of the streets.

For more information on CD-i, eScape and upcoming titles, contact Philips Interactive Media UK at (Contact Details).

Korg get interactive

Due soon from Korg is the X3 Music Workstation, essentially a cheaper version of the 01/W. Features include 32-voice polyphony, a 61-note dynamic keyboard, 6Mb PCM ROM, 200 internal RAM and 136 internal ROM Programs, 200 internal RAM Combinations, a built-in 2DD floppy disk drive with Standard MIDI File compatibility, and a 16-track onboard sequencer with a 32,000-note capacity. The 136 ROM Programs form a General MIDI-compatible sound set, with 128 individual sounds and 8 drum kits for MIDI songfile compatibility.

To introduce the new synth Korg are also bringing out a mixed-mode CD which contains 9 music tracks created using the X3, playable on any standard CD player, and 1 CD-ROM track, for which you'll need an Apple Mac computer with 4Mb RAM, a colour monitor and, of course, a CD-ROM drive.

Of course, not every potential X3 buyer has a Mac, let alone a CD-ROM drive, so this is something of a trail-blazing move on Korg's part; however, the demand for Macs and for CD-ROM drives is growing all the time (you try getting hold of an Apple CD300 CD-ROM drive - there's a waiting list of several weeks for the damn things).

So what does the CD-ROM track give you? Well, in addition to an explanatory 'Read Me' file, you get an illustrated, interactive onscreen guide to the features and capabilities of the X3, and a 'remote control' program for the music tracks (which can be played via the CD-ROM drive's audio outputs). Some of the demo songs have been annotated by their composers to provide specific information on the techniques and sounds which were used in their production ie. you click on an onscreen button at a particular point in the music and the Mac program presents you with the appropriate information.

Could this be the future of product promotion for MI companies?

For more information, contact Korg (UK) Ltd at (Contact Details).

Transparent sampling for the Amiga

See-through sampling from Silica

Silica Systems have just announced details of a new 8-bit Amiga sound sampler, the Great Valley Products (GVP) DSS 8+. Silica are aiming it at "more serious users of sound samplers" who aren't happy with their existing set up but can't afford to pay the higher prices of 16-bit samplers. It comes with a wide selection of software including a sequencer and control software allowing the DSS 8+ hardware to be accessed from other applications and other sampler software titles.

The hardware includes automatic channel switching, a programmable low pass filter and a built-in mixer. This is mounted in an unusual see through case allowing users to see all the intricate bits 'n' pieces. The DSS 8+ costs £69 including VAT.

For more information contact Silica Systems, (Contact Details).

Lucky Bastard's on his way!

Bloody nice bloke that Vince, all his royalties from the CD will go to chariddy.

Vince Clarke's sample CD - the latest in the Producer series from AMG - is due out this month. Subtly titled Lucky Bastard, the CD features analogue-man Clarke's favourite bits, recorded during April this year at his studio in Amsterdam. Included are such classic synths as the ARP2600, VCS3, MiniMoog, Emulator Modular and Oberheim Xpander. The synth drums and percussion used on Erasure's recent Chorus Tour are also thrown in. The CD runs for more than 70 minutes and costs £49.95.

AMG are also currently running a 'Buy three get one free' offer on their other Producer Series CDs. Since they are also giving a free NOW demo CD away with every order, you effectively get five CDs for the price of three. The offer lasts until the end of August.

For more information, contact AMG at (Contact Details).

Music to MIDI

Producing musical notation from MIDI data is has been with us for some years: those who can't read music can fool their friends or music teachers into thinking they're experts by converting their MIDI compositions to scores in an instant. Now, you can do it the other way around with MIDISCAN from Digital Music, a PC software package that converts printed sheet music into type 1 (multi-track) MIDI files by scanning the printed music. Once scanned, the music can be edited and then converted into standard MIDI file format for use in your MIDI sequencing or notation software.

MIDISCAN is available at a special launch price of £195 + VAT - a saving of £90 against the list price of £285 + VAT.

For more information contact Digital Music at (Contact Details).

Suck on this

It's the ad on everyone's lips; the perfect attention-seeking statement, symbolising yoof, rebellion and, er... female bits. Fantazia, Britain's most successful 'legal' rave organisation, have been showing their nipples around the country in an advertising campaign for their new compilation double-album which features of the best acts from their many raves. Twice as Nice follows their successful first album, Fantazia - The First Taste. It features 10 artists who've all contributed previously unreleased material. Included are Rat Pack, Sunset Regime, DJ Vibes, PSI, Transhuman, Nicky Mac and Shake ¥a Bones. Orca provide a whole five-track side of ambient music for the album, completing an aural experience that should satisfy most taste buds.

For more information contact Fantazia c/o Mark Borkowski PR, (Contact Details).

Travels in HyperSpace

"We are a loose alliance of people involved in integrated and interactive media production. We are committed to increasing knowledge and awareness of digital media through arts, educational projects and events."

So runs the press release/manifesto from HyperSpace, an independent and self- financing group operating out of the unlikely setting of the Regent Palace Hotel in London - also, coincidentally, the venue for hip London club Knowledge.

HyperSpace organise meetings to exchange ideas and information related to the production of digital media. As well as covering such topics as animation, sound production, graphic design and hypermedia, they discuss the cultural and social implications of these developments. They also produce HyperSpace, a magazine on a disk which is intended to provide a base for people to show innovative and creative work.

"If you are producing or thinking of becoming involved in multimedia production, check us out," say HyperSpace.

If you want more information or want to be included on their mailing list, write to Tony Hall, HyperSpace, (Contact Details).

RAPping with Roland

On display for the first time at this year's Multimedia Show was the RAP-10, a Roland GS sound module on a plug-in card for the PC. It features 300 CD-quality sounds and independent 2-track recording to hard disk with 8- or 16-bit sampling in mono or stereo. This allows singing/dialogue recording and simultaneous music playback, as the RAP-10 also comes with software providing playback of MIDI files as well as sample editing on a PC running Windows 3.1.

For more information contact Roland, (Contact Details).

George tries a new angle

The Palace Zaandam, Holland (above) and the Venue Dundee get George's treatment

ABQ is a new lighting design company run by George Ashley-Sound, previously Director of Design with Light Angles. ABQ London offers a lighting design service for touring light shows and installation, if required. George is best known for his design work on The Empire, Leicester Square, Nik Kershaw's world tour, Motorhead's lighting and the visuals at the Garden Club, Covent Garden.

For more information contact ABQ, (Contact Details).

Sony's free hour

Two tapes for the price of one-and-a-quarter... or something

Sony have slashed the price of their Metal-XR tapes in a new promotion aimed at giving consumers a feel for the Tape.

Described by Sony as "ideal for CD recording", the tape has also been praised in the hi-fi press, voted Best Metal Tape by What Hi-Fi magazine in 1991 and 1992.

The price for a two pack of 90-minute tapes will be £3.99 until the end of August - £2 less than normal, so you effectively get three hours for the price of two.

For more information contact Sony, (Contact Details).

New group for DJs

It seems that certain people within the music industry are finally realising that your average DJ knows a thing or two about music. The Association of Disc Jockeys has been founded to give recognition and raise awareness of how important the DJ is to the industry. The ADJ will enable members to be aware of changes in the marketplace, including new equipment, job opportunities etc. They are also hoping to provide assistance to the professional DJ on all aspects of the industry through a series of workshops and regular newsletters. A series of competitions are planned to find out the best DJ within several music categories with an annual awards ceremony to announce the winners.

The annual membership fee will be £25 but further incentives to join include discounts at certain music, hi-fi and clothing shops and discounts at various nightclubs and on travel. Quite literally great!

For more information contact: ADJ, (Contact Details).

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Publisher: Music Technology - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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Music Technology - Aug 1993


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