Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 6 / JANUARY 1989


The Now
and Future MIDI

by Jim Pierson-Perry
START Contributing Editor

This month, we'll cover some new MIDI products, upgrades and a wish list of MIDI application software.

New Hardware
Astra continues to dominate the MIDI hard drive market. Their latest release is the RM60/120, a 60-megabyte (Mb) rack-mount hard drive expandable to 120Mb. They also offer the MIDI Distribution Box interface. This box plugs into the Atari MIDI ports and supplies one in, two Thru and three Out ports.

The Phantom is a SMPTE synch box from Dr. T designed to work under his proprietary Multi Program Environment (MPE). It plugs into the ST serial port and can synch with all industry-standard SMPTE formats, song pointer encoded FSK or standard pulse. It also provides one MIDI In and two auxiliary MIDI Out ports.

The Video Jambox is a high-end SMPTE-to-MIDI interface from South-worth Music Systems. Designed for video applications, it has all the features of its predecessor (Jambox/2) plus direct synch to video frames. It can also superimpose SMPTE frame numbers, metronome clicks and status information over the video signal.

Akai now offers upgrade cards for their popular S900 sampler that lets it work with Atari (IB101/A) or Supra (IB101/S) hard drives. The cards use the DMA port and cut the time for a full memory load to eight seconds.

New Software
Software for all MIDI applications seems to be the motto for Dr T- they've just released new patch editors for the Roland D-10, Casio CZ and VZ-1 and Kawai K1 synthesizers. The initial D-10 editor release did not support the rack-mount version (D-110) but should be compatible by the time you read this. The CZ editor is a port of CZ Rider, long available for other personal computers, and it includes the ability to read CZ-Android format patch files.

The Dr. T D-10/110 Patch Editor. Software for all MIDI
applications seems to be the motto for Dr. T.

Keys is a new combination sequencer/notation program aimed at the educational market; it works with or without MIDI. You can enter notes and chords either from the keyboard or by typing them in. The notes are shown onscreen in standard musical notation and can be edited and played back through the computer sound chip and/or MIDI. You can use the program by itself although it's also upwardly compatible with other sequencers and scoring programs from Dr T.

Intelligent Music, the developers of M and MIDIdraw. has shipped two new programs. The Cartographer is an editor program for the Mapper-a MIDI data processing device that can convert MIDI commands/data from one type to another (e.g. pitch bend to volume). The second is RealTime, an interactive sequencer based on a rhythmic design similar to their Upbeat program for the Macintosh.

Digidesign continues to supply high. quality MIDI software from C-Lab of Germany. The newest import is X-Alyzer, a high-end graphic patch editor for the Yamaha DX7/DX7II synthesizer series. lt can convert the synthesizer patch into a sound file compatible with many samplers, and it uses the sample dump file standard.

Astra System's latest release for the MIDI user is the RM60/120, a
60-megabyte rack-mount hard drive expandable to 120 megabytes.

Kurzweil, known for their world-class sampler instruments, has ported Object Mover from the Mac over to the ST. Object Mover is a librarian program for their 1000 series of keyboard and expander instruments. Another new face is Performance MIDI Systems, which has released the Pro MIDI Player sequencer and ML-2412 Lighting Controller. This system is designed for live performance and control of stage lighting via MIDI.

Astra continues to
dominate the MIDI
hard drive market.

Going Up
Steinberg/Jones has announced several upgrades in their Synthworks patch editor series to maintain compatibility with new synthesizer models. The MT-32 editor will now support the Roland D20, D-10 and D-110; the ESQ-1 editor will support the Ensoniq SQ-80; and the TX81Z editor will support the Yamaha Dx11. Also underway is an upgrade to the Soundworks S900 sample editor. Their Mirage sample editor is also marked for updating later this year to add support for the new Ensoniq Performance Sampler plus improved looping and sample manipulation options.

Writing music for video will become easier with Master Tracks Pro 3.0 from Passport Design. This upgrade adds numerous features to marry music with video cues and is the first ST sequencer to feature "controller chasing" for automated mixing applications.

Beam Team Update
As mentioned last month, Steinberg/Jones has acquired the rights to the entire Beam Team software line. They will offer the Transform X-Syn programs as entry-level patch editor programs, complementing their own high-end Synthworks line. Several new X-Syn patch editors will be released to support the Oberheim Xpander, OB-8 and Matrix 6 synthesizers. The companion Beam Team sequencer and scoring programs (Transform X-Track and X-Notes), in development limbo for two years, will not be released.

Beginning of the Finale
Look for Coda, developers of the massive Finale composition/scoring program for the Macintosh, to enter the ST market next year. They are currently assessing the feasibility of porting Finale itself to the ST versus developing a different program based on Finale's underlying technology. The Macintosh version of Finale is $1,000; we can only hope that the ST version will be cheaper

The Wish List
With so much quality MIDI software available for the ST, it might seem that there are few avenues left unexplored. Actually, there are several areas where the ST lags behind.

Let's look at some of these opportunities not yet taken. In a few cases, software already exists on other computers and only needs to be ported over; other programs are on the cutting edge of the ST's capabilities.

To start with, we need better ways to score music to video. While some sequencers are better suited for this than others (because of timing control and interface features). there are no ST programs that can work directly from a cue list to juggle music tempos easily to fit video "hits." Some examples of this are Q-Sheet (Digidesign) and Click Tracks (Passport), both available only for the Mac. Both companies support the ST with other software, so there's hope.

Sample resynthesis is a different challenge that some Mac and PC programs are just starting to address. Resynthesis lets you start with a digitized sound sample, take it apart, modify it, then put it back together and use it with a sampler (For example, you could merge two or more samples into some hybrid sound that evolves as it's played.) These manipulations require a great deal of computational power (possibly even a math co-processor), complex algorithms and a well-designed user interface to deal with the process.

Algorithmic editing and composition is a hot topic but still in its infancy. Several such programs are available for the ST, based mostly on predefined musical element lists (note, timing, loudness, etc.) called templates. Using them is more like learning to play a new musical instrument than using an editing tool. If these catch on, a cottage industry may grow up around algorithmic templates, much the same as synthesizer patches. The next level is software that can follow your music in real time and improvise with you as you play. Intelligent Music's Jam Factory (Intelligent Music), available only for the Mac so far, is a step in this direction.

Semi-automated music transcription (scoring) is another application in its early stages. All major ST sequencers have companion programs to translate music files into printed scores. While pitches are accurately captured, rhythm is not as easily handled because of individual timing variations. Often, reproducing the rhythm requires considerable editing. Other nuances such as loudness or tempo changes, while contained in the MIDI data, are not attempted in the transcription. Artificial intelligence and pattern recognition techniques may prove effective here. Output options for the ST also need to be improved to use laser printers with the Sonata Postscript or similar fonts or to export score files to desktop publishing systems.

I would like to see a
generic graphical
rhythm editor for
building drum parts.

From the grandiose to the pragmatic, how about software for programming drum machines? I would like to see a generic graphical rhythm editor for building drum parts. Ideally, it would produce MIDI-standard format files that could be imported into sequencer programs. Another useful utility would be a MIDI note remapper within sequencers to handle differences in note assignments from one drum machine to another. To my knowledge, Dr. T's KCS Level II is the only Atari sequencer with this feature.

Finally, the overall music workstation needs to grow into a multi-tasking environment. We need software that lets us flip freely among sequencers, patch editors, scoring programs and librarians. Some software developers are moving in this direction but with proprietary systems that lock out or balk at software from other sources.

I could go on, but that's the major part of my ST MIDI software wish list. I know that forthcoming programs are addressing many of these points-and many more. The ST is a true child of the MIDI generation: we're only beginning to learn what we can do with the ST/MIDI connection.

START Contributing Editor Jim Pierson-Perry is a chemical engineer and semiprofessional musician. He lives in Elkton, MD.


S900 Hard Drive Cards: 1B101/A, IB101S, prices not available. Akai Professional, P.O. Box 2344, Fort Worth TX 76113, (817) 336-5114.

MIDI Box, $69.95; RM60/120 Rack Mount Hard Drive, price not available. Astra Systems, 2500-1 South Fairview, Santa Ana, CA 92704, (714) 549-2141.

Finale, $995, (current Macintosh price). Coda Music Software, 1401 East 79th Street, Bloomington, MN 55425, (800) 843-1337.

Q-Sheet, $495, Mac only; X-Alyzer, price not available, Digidesign, 1360 Willow Run, Suite 101, Menlo Park, CA 94025, (415) 327-8811.

CZ Rider $129; D-10 Editor ST, $129; K1 Editor ST $129; KCS Level II, $325; Keys!, $79; The Phantom, $249; VZ-1 Editor ST, $129. Dr. T's Music Software, 220 Boylston, Suite 306, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167, (617) 244-6954.

Cartographer, $100; RealTime, price not available. Intelligent Music Computer Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 8748, Albany, NY 12208, (518) 434-4110.

Object Mover $50. Kurzweil Music Systems, Inc., 411 Waverly Oaks Road, Waltham, MA 02154, (617) 893-5900.

Click Tracks, $249.95, Mac only; Master Tracks Pro 3.0, $395. Passport Designs, Inc., 625 Miramontes Street, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, (415) 726-0280.

Pro MIDI Player, $149; ML-2412 Lighting Controller, price not available. Performance MIDI Systems, Box 864, Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada, VOH 1HO, (604) 442-8362.

Video Jambox, $649; Jambox/2, $259. Southworth Music Systems, Inc., 91 Ann Lee Road, Harvard, MA 01451, (617) 722-9471.

Soundworks S900, $285; Synthworks ESQ-1, $259; Synthworks MT-32, $199; Synthworks TX81Z, $199. Steinberg/Jones, 17700 Raymer Street, Suite 1001, Northridge, CA 91325, (818) 993-4091.