Composer Quest. (data base) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Gregg Keizer
Don't be fooled by Composer Quest's title. This multimedia exploration may dream of snaring game players by simply doing some name-dropping, but that won't work. Quest isn't always synonymous with game.
Instead, appreciate Composer Quest for what it really is--a miniature musical encyclopedia that plays snippets of famous classical pieces, offers up a few facts about the periods, and displays a smattering of biographical information. Sure, there's a game here, one with a time-traveling motif and a game-show, name-that-tune mentality, but it's nothing more than an unnecessary diversion from the real work at hand. What's that? Learning, of course.
You'll need a CD-ROM drive and a sound card before you can hear a peep from Composer Quest, which runs under Windows. Unfortunately, it doesn't take advantage of resolutions above the 640 x 480 of standard VGA, so you can't expand Composer Quest's display to fill the entire screen in 800 x 600 mode. A pity.
But looks aren't everything, as you'll quickly learn. Covering seven classical and three jazz periods, this CD-ROM title lets you point and click your way from time line to historical period to composer in a matter of moments.
Most of the 35 composers are represented by several of their most memorable pieces. Want Wagner? You can play his "Ride of the Valkyries." Bach? Listen to Brandenburg Concerto no. 2. The selections are all too brief (30 seconds or so) and leave you wanting more. Even worse, the most modern composers, including jazz greats such as Armstrong and Ellington, are without music. Their work hasn't fallen into the public domain--the obvious reason Composer Quest fails to include much of anything from this century.
Historical tidbits from the period, and even some onscreen images of art and architecture, help to put the music in perspective. You can, if you want, take quizzes to see how well you know the biographical and historical material.
Or you can, if you must, play the time-travel game. You listen to the music and then try to guess its creator by traveling to the right period, finding the right person, and identifying the right piece. This gets old faster than it takes to read this description.
Stick with Composer Quest's free-form exploration, and you'll be much happier. You won't drown in facts--you get little more than a wet toe. Composer Quest is an affordable and even entertaining way to learn something about the Western world's most famous musical creators.
IBM PC or compatible (80386 compatible); 2MB RAM; VGA; CD-ROM drive; Windows 3.1 or Windows 3.0 with multimedia extension; Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, or compatible sound board--$99
DR. T'S MUSIC SOFTWARE 124 Crescent Rd. Needham, MA 02194 (800) 989-MIDI
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