12-Bah Humbug - A Christmas Blues
I hate Christmas. All that mindless seasonal goodwill, the stomach-churning Christmas specials on TV, and gangs of small children who sing one verse of 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' — badly — and expect at least 50p for their efforts. (Worse still, suspecting a vague resemblance to the little darlings who staple-gunned earthworms to your front door when you foolishly chose 'trick' over 'treat', you actually pay up.) Oh yes, and I have to think of something vaguely festive and end-of-one-year-start-of-another-ish with which to fill this column.
It's not too hard actually — 1992 has been a rather good year for hi-tech musos, though it's recording hardware rather than instruments that has been the interesting area. Most notably, Alesis' ADAT finally made it into the shops, and it was worth the wait. We also have two new consumer recording media in DCC and MiniDisc. Quite apart from ensuring that the next generation of demos should be going on a superior carrier to analogue cassette, the arrival of the two formats (and let's just hope it gets whittled down to one ASAP) raises the prospect of products of direct interest to musicians and home recordists. Anyone fancy a MiniDisc-based Portastudio? It could happen.
It's been good to see manufacturers paying particular attention to price this year — there seems to have been more effort devoted to bringing out significant products at truly affordable pries. Gold stars to Akai for the S01 sampler, Roland for the Boss DS330 Dr. Synth and JV880 synth modules, Yamaha for the SY35, and Zoom for the 9120.
On the software front, Windows 3.1 has made a real impact, at last transforming the PC in to a computer that more musicians feel comfortable about taking on as a serious tool. Falling PC prices have also helped, and now PC users have a choice of sequencers to rival programs on the Mac and Atari for both appearance and features.
Looking ahead to next year, and what I personally would like to see, I'll return to my familiar theme of user interfaces. The most feature-laden, best-sounding synth, sampler or effects unit is just a lousy bag of chips if you can't work out how to operate it. There's still too much hardware and software out there that is too impenetrable, and life's too short to deal with it. Of course you'll still need to read the manual, of course a certain amount of complexity comes with the territory, but you should be able to get up and running without reading several chapters of a manual. Let's hope that 1993 brings the transparent user interface a step closer.
Apart from that, I would like: more time to write and record music, or maybe just some way of not sleeping for the next 12 months; Shonen Knife to release a record that's actually as good as the idea of Shonen Knife; a new Mac that's fast enough to keep up with me (and that I can sell for more than 50% of what I paid for it); a total ban on all cover versions; a fiver for every time anyone spends ages thinking that something isn't working properly before opening the manual and seeing the light.
So, with that thought: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Shalom, Live Long & Prosper, F.A.B., and if you see Santa, remind him to drop a couple of MIDIminis down my chimney... oh yes, and a Tracey Island too.
Editorial by Paul Ireson
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