The ST/MIDI Connection
Who Ya Gonna Call?
by Jim Pierson-Perry
START Contributing Editor
There's a lull in new product releases this month (December) while developers race between the Audio Engineering Society (West Coast) and MIDI EXPO (East Coast) shows; more on them next month. Coming up fast is the Winter NAMM show (National Association of Music Merchants), the major U.S. trade exposition for MIDI products. Following up their success with the Fleetwood Mac concert at COMDEX, Atari will host performances by Josef Zawinul (of Weather Report fame) and Thomas Dolby at NAMM. Blinded with science, indeed!
The topic this month is where to find help for things MIDI. Most of the questions I receive are pleas for sources of information ranging from how to connect MIDI cables to interpreting system-exclusive codes for programming applications. We'll look at several different ways to get help: books, magazines, organizations and bulletin board systems.
Mea Culpa (Somewhat)
But first, let me straighten up a few loose ends. In my review of Matrix 6 Tricks by Dr T's Music Software (START, December 1988), I stated that the program could not be installed on a hard drive. It uses a key disk copy protection scheme which lets the program boot from a hard drive as long as the master disk is present in Drive A at startup. In fact, I run all my Dr. T software from a hard drive--after plugging all the master disks into Drive A one after another. Sorry for the confusion.
I had also reported that CZ Rider, the new CZ-1/101 patch editor from Dr. T, would be able to read patch files from Hybrid Arts' CZ-Android program. That is wrong, the translation program supplied will convert CZ Patch Librarian files (an earlier Dr. T program) to CZ Rider format.
Command Development has released the newest member of their Offspring program line. D-10 Offspring is a patch editor for the Roland D-10/110/20 synthesizers that features the offspring process for creating new patches from user-specified parent patches. The effect is likened to musical genetics. A demo disk is available for $5 from the developer and comes with a $5 rebate coupon that can be applied to purchase of the commercial version. The next in the series, M1 Offspring, is expected in first quarter 1989.
Looking For Mr. GoodMIDI
Merry Christmas! You took the plunge and bought a MIDI keyboard. What are those funny round holes on the side or back of your ST and how do they send music to your keyboard? Whether you are a spanking new MIDI initiate or a terminal MIDIot, at some time you are going to need help. This listing contains some of the best sources of help I have found to answer my questions about MIDI and stay abreast of current developments.
Let's start with books. The single best book for an overview of MIDI and its applications is Music Through MIDI by Michael Boom. This covers the MIDI language, common types of equipment and how MIDI is used for a variety of musical needs. Several case studies are presented of MIDI systems for particular applications: recording studio, home studio, live performance and education. The author is an excellent writer and the book is filled with numerous illustrations, program screen shots and equipment connection diagrams.
A more technical, but equally good book, is The MIDI Bookby Steve De Furia. This gets into more detail on setting up MIDI systems of varying sizes and purposes. De Furia has authored several follow up books in this series: MIDI Resource, MIDI Implementation Book, The MIDI System Exclusive Bookand Secrets of Analog and Digital Synthesis. The indefatigable De Furia has also co-authored The Sampling Bookwith Joe Scacciaferro, a guide to general principles with illustrative experiments that is applicable to all sampler instruments. For those interested in home recording, check out Multi-Track Recording For Musiciansby Brent Hurtig. These books are all available through the MIX Bookshelf, as well as hundreds of others covering all aspects of music and MIDI. Get a copy of their catalog and start building your library.
Several magazines are published that deal with MIDI. The most authoritative (other than START, of course) is Keyboardwhich regularly features application articles, current events, educational columns and comprehensive reviews of equipment and software. Electronic Musicianis also very good, tending to give more focus on do-it-yourself programming and equipment projects. Other magazines worth checking regularly are Music Technology, Home and Studio Recordingand Modern Keyboard. Publications aimed at specific MIDI-equipment manufacturer products include: Aftertouchfor Yamaha, Transoniq Hackerfor Ensoniq and the Roland Users Group Magazine.
For up-to-the-minute information or quick answers to problems, nothing beats the telecommunications grapevine. This is a great source of "hands on" experience to tap before investing in new equipment or software. The user base ranges from novices through professional MIDI programmers and musicians. Quite often users' software questions will be answered by the original programmers.
At the national level, CompuServe and GEnie have active MIDI forums. Common to both are large libraries of files containing patches, prerecorded music sequence files, reviews, demo programs and tutorials. PAN, the Performing Artist Network (described in depth in last month's column), is a professional musicians' telecommunication service. Its MIDI forum contains file libraries, hot lines to hardware/software developers and major trade publications, buy/sell/trade ads and a very active message base.
The best dedicated BBS is Midwest MIDI ((405) 733-3102), home of both MIDI-NET and the International Electronic Musicians User Group (IEMUG). MIDI-NET is an echo mail conference dedicated to MIDI that operates throughout the US and has branched out to Canada and Europe. Callers log on via local BBS nodes which all feed into a central message bank. The ST-specific main branch of IEMUG is the MIDI and ST Information Exchange BBS ((614) 848-5947); check in here for the telephone number of the node nearest to you. Besides the message base, there are many music and information files in the download library. Other good boards to try are East Coast MIDI ((516) 928-4986), MIDI World Network ((213) 826-4288, operated by Hybrid Arts, but open to all) and TACE ((817) 778-2506, large numbers of Music Studio and EZ-Track files).
A final source of help and support is through established user groups. Some of the better known national groups are the International MIDI Association, the International Electronic Musicians User Group (IEMUG) and Canadian MIDI User Group (CMUG). All feature regular newsletters, discount pricing on selected products and services and a large user base to draw on for help or advice. In particular, the IMA is in charge of the MIDI specifications (document version 4.0, just revised to include the new MIDI file standard). At the local level, many cities have MIDI user groups, typically centered around music equipment stores, that provide regular product demos and "how to" sessions. Now that Atari has aggressively committed itself to the MIDI market, you should start seeing a lot more of our favorite computers at these stores.
Contributing Editor Jim Pierson-Perry is a research chemist and semiprofessional musician. He lives in Elkton, Maryland.
Multi-Track Recording For Musicians by Brent Hurtig, $12.95. Alfred Publishing Company, Inc., 16380 Roscoe Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91410, (818) 891 -5999.
Aftertouch, P.O. Box 7938, Northridge, CA 91327.
Canadian MIDI Users Group (CMUG), c/o Eric Barager, Box 1043 Belleville, Ontario, Canada K8N 5B6.
D-10 Offspring, $160.00, M1 Offspring, Price not announced. Command Development, 11846 Balboa Blvd., Suite 135 Granada Hills, CA 91344, (818) 362-3550.
CZ Patch Librarian, $99; CZ Rider, $129; Matrix 6 Tricks, $129. Dr. T's Music Software, 220 Boylston Street, Suite 306, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167 (617) 244-6954.
The MIDI Book, $14.95 MIDI Resource, $17.95, MIDI Implementation Book, $19.95, The MIDI System Exclusive Book, $29.95, Secrets of Analog and Digital Synthesis, $14.95, all by Steve De Furia, The Sampling Book, $17.95 by Steve De Furia and Joe Scacciaferro. Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
Keyboard, call for latest issue and subscription prices. GPI Corporation, 20085 Stevens Creek, Cupertino, CA 95014, (408) 446-1105.
Modern Keyboard, call for latest issue and subscription prices. Harris Publications, Inc., 1115 Broadway, New York, NY 10010, (212) 807-7100.
CZ-Android, $99.95. Hybrid Arts, Inc., 11920 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064, (213) 826-3777.
International Electronic Musicians User Group (IEMUG), c/o Midwest MIDI Consultants, Inc., P. O. Box 30995, Midwest City, OK 73140, (405) 736-6676.