The Logical Song
ISLAND LOGIC CBM64 SOFTWARE
The Music System - now for the Commodore 64.
BBC owners wil be familiar with Island Logic's Music System, a very powerful and user-friendly composition and synthesis package driven by Apple Macintosh-like icons and pop-up menus. Just think what might be achieved with the 64K memory and SID chip of the Commodore 64. Then double it, and you have some idea of how good the Commodore version is.
The 64 Music System includes all the features of the Beeb version, plus extended printer interfacing, and a unique implementation of MIDI. This allows you to compose on the 64's QWERTY keyboard then play back on a MIDI synth, or play tunes on the synth and play back on the 64 (using only the SID chip's three voices, of course).
As with the BBC version, everything is controlled with pop-up menus and graphically brilliant icons. These little diagrams, along with a command line, tell you what section you're in and what function is being carried out.
Island are marketing two versions, the Advanced Music System at £19.95 and the Concise Music System, a one-screen cut down version, at £14.95.
AMS consists of six modules, each of which is reached via an initial control screen.
Section one is The Editor, which allows you to record pieces of music played on the QWERTY keyboard or MIDI synth. Musical phrases can be repeated in any order, and a subsidiary menu called Notepad allows "cut and paste" functions so that different voices can be assigned to different musical lines.
As with all sections of AMS, the music recorded is displayed in conventional "sticks and dots" style, on a scrolling stave with very clear animation. Obviously this decision to stick with conventional notation will suit some musicians, but perhaps present problems for musical illiterates (myself included).
The Synthesiser section has a large library of preset sounds, and also allows you to set up your own patches. 64 owners will be familiar with the SID chip's capabilities, and won't expect DX7 quality — still, some nice three-note polyphonic sounds can be built up by manipulating the chip's ADSR, filter, waveshapes and so forth.
This module includes a sequencer which allows a tune to be played through while the sound envelopes are being changed — a fairly amazing capability if you know anything about computer ROMs.
The Keyboard module, which can be used with Commodore's Music Maker clip-on keyboard if you so wish, allows music to be played in real time. The displayed note values change according to how long the note is sustained, another amazing achievement. There's also an animated ticking metronome.
The Printer module allows full musical scores, along with lyrics, to be printed out on a wide variety of printers. There's even a facility for loading your own printer driver software in case your device isn't standard.
The Linker allows multipart pieces to be cobbled together from previously saved Editor files. Each section can retain its own keys and time signatures.
The final module is the MIDI section. Any standard MIDI interface can be used to control a synth, recording and playing back polyphonic MIDI files. Up to six overdubs can be made, with a capacity of 4000 notes. MIDI files can be used to play a synth, or can be converted to three-voice versions to play the SID chip, and can be edited and recombined if desired.
Island plans to market a MIDI interface at under £10, both for the 64 and the Beeb, though there are no plans to package it with the Advanced Music System or the Concise Music System, which will probably be made available on cassette. It's basically similar to the AMS Keyboard module, with around 30 preset voices.
The Music System has been developed by System Software and Island's own programmers, under the supervision of Rob Partridge and rock photographer Adrian Boot. If you ask me they've done a marvellous job, making something which could have been very complicated and expensive very easy to use and gratifyingly affordable.
Some of the MIDI facilities, the printer options, and the fact that everything comes in one package, are unique. Quite simply, the combination of technical skill, range of facilities and ease of use make The Music System the best piece of 64 music software yet.
Price: Advanced: £19.95, Concise: £14.95.
Island Logic, (Contact Details).
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Review by Chris Jenkins
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