Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 8 / JANUARY 1981 / PAGE 60

The Musicsystem

Keith Harrell

The Musicsystem from Mountain Hardware gives the Apple owner the ability to create original compositions or transcribe sheet music. The Musicsystem is comprised of two boards and one disk that contains the Music Player, Editor, Music Merger and some demo compositions to play. Also included with the system is a light pen to use in creating and editing music scores.

The Musicsystem hardware consists of two music boards that have sixteen programmable digital oscillators. The sixteen programmable oscillators are divided into two groups which represent the left and right channels. Each oscillator includes a software based volume control and an overall volume control for all sixteen oscillators. The system provides two jacks which are connected to the auxiliary input of your stereo. The system is also capable of driving most high quality stereo headphones without a amplifier.

The Musicsystem editor is the tool that allows you to enter your musical score. The editor displays the regular music staff to create your composition on the high resolution graphic screen. To enter notes you may use the paddles, the light pen, or the keyboard. After loading the editor, the screen is divided into two areas. They are the upper screen, which displays the score of the composition being edited, and the lower screen, which can display up to four different menus.

Each menu contains different options that can be selected by the light pen or paddles. The main menu contains a choice of twelve different note durations (from a whole note to a dotted thirty-second note) with each displayed in standard music notation symbols. The main menu allows the selection of note or chord mode and a delete forward or backward. You may also select six different rest durations. Accidentals may be selected from the main menu to be added to a note. The main menu allows for three other menus to be selected, one of which is the signature commands menu. This menu contains the commands that will allow you to select the choice of time, clef or key for the composition. The third menu contains a choice of chord accents, and a choice of dynamic accents, and the ability to tie notes together. The fourth menu provides the capability of applying dynamics to the score and specifying the tempo. You may also define the spatial location to determine which speaker the composition will come from. To make a selection from one of the menus, place the light pen on that box in the menu, rotate the game paddle until the marker is positioned in the box that is desired, or simply key in the command.

The editor also has a save and load command for future editing of a composition. A composition may have multiple parts and each part may be assigned a different instrument and a different speaker. There are six basic instruments available to choose from depending on the octave you have selected. They are a bass, organ, brass, gong, string, and woodwind. The brass and the gong can sound like two different instruments. If a high octave is assigned, then the brass will sound like a horn and if a low octave is assigned, then it will sound like a tuba. The gong will sound like a chime for low octaves and a bell for high octaves.

The music merger is used to merge composition files together to form a longer composition. This allows you to create small segments of a composition with the editor and merge them together to form a large composition file that can be played with the music player.

The music player is used to perform the composition that was created with the music editor. The music player also allows you to change the instruments assigned to each part of the composition and to reassign the speaker location for each part. Any composition to be played through the COMP file, which is the file created by the music editor, must be compiled first. This also is the job of the music player. After the music player compiles the composition, the file may be saved so that it does not have to be compiled each time you wish to listen to the piece. The file is now saved out on disk but as a play file which cannot be edited. The comp file is still on disk as the source file to which addition or changes may be made and then recompiled.

You do not need to know how to read music to use the Musicsystem, as I have never played and instrument and was able to copy sheet music into the editor and play it with satisfactory results. The manual supplied does not explain in detail how to read music, but with it and another book I found at a music store, I was able to do almost anything I wanted without much difficulty.

The present software is not compatible with the new DOS3.3. The minimum hardware required to use the Musicsystem is one disk drive and 48k of memory. The suggested retail price is $525.00.