making of an Atari musician
tells his tale
We all have
a tale to tell and a beginning road, which
we have all travelled upon. We have had
shared experiences as well as unique ones
which we call our own. Here is my own unique
tale, which I hope you can identify with
in your own musical journey.
My parents planted
the seed by encouraging me to play musical
instruments. I first tried violin, then
trumpet. Then my brother brought home a
guitar. When he was not using it, I would
sneak in and try to play it. I eventually
got my own guitar and thus started my musical
In McLean Virginia where I went to
high school (late '70s), I became aware
of electronic music through the progressive
rock of the times with groups such as Yes,
ELP, Gentle Giant, Genesis, and others.
I was also influenced by a radio show called,
"The Keyboard Filter" which played
the more avant-garde material such as Karlheinz
Stockhausen, Edgar Verese, Todd Dochtoder
and other forms of music concrete and experimental
music. During this period I purchased an
EML 500 synthesizer, which was my introduction
to synthesis. I was also experimenting with
creating different sounds with my guitar
by plugging it into the EML 500 and using
the filters and envelopes to modify the
Saratoga, California, I became involved
with the DeAnza college electronic music
department then taught by Professor Allen
Strange (now at San Jose State University).
I quickly became the electronic music tutor
where I instructed students (including my
wife to be) with the intricacies of the
Roland 100 system and ARP Odyssey synthesizer
as well as classic tape techniques. During
this time I also purchased an EML 200 system
with matrix keyboard controller. This was
a modular system, which I still have, minus
the matrix keyboard.
and had a child. Then the DX7 came on the
market. I had to have one. Borrowing some
money from my supervisor at work, I brought
it home on a bus! FM synthesis came naturally
to me, and I could not figure out why people
were having such a hard time with it. I
programmed my own sounds straight from the
front panel. I was also involved with creating
DX7 sounds for a ROM cartridge called, "Sound
Connections". It had good reviews in
Keyboard Magazine at the time. Then I purchased
a Yamaha CX5M computer. This system had
built-in MIDI ports (sounds familiar?) and
had an excellent DX7 editor and step-time
sequencer as well as built-in synthesis
(which basically was an FB01). Then I added
a Yamaha QX7 sequencer and Roland TR505
drum machine. I learned a lot about sounds
and MIDI during this period.
Then a fire
struck down our mobile home where I was
living, but my DX7 was saved (See my DX7
page for the story: http://sites.netscape.net/timconrardy/dx7.htm). However, what
seemed like a disaster actually ended up
better as we were able to purchase a house.
Then I got involved with IN Music (Investments
in Nature) and we produced four CDs with
a rain forest theme. I worked with a percussionist
named Tajalli as well as an Ensoniq TS-12
synth workstation and Alesis ADAT machines.
I was the engineer for the studio and we
worked on other projects as well.
From there, I felt the need
to get a music computer as the CX5M was
gone from the fire. One time I was at a
thrift store and noticed they had an Atari
1040ST for sale. Not really knowing about
Atari, I called some of the local music
stores asking if there was software available.
I did get one response, not for software,
but an offer to get a complete Atari TT030
system (with Cubase installed), TTM195 19"
monitor as well as the SLM605 laser printer
all for US$200.00! After viewing the system,
I decided to go ahead and get it. What a
ride it has been since then!
found out about B&C Computer Visions
(http://www.myatari.com), which at that
time was local to me. I was a real green
Atari user and Bruce of B&C helped me
out more than once. One time I purchased
Steinberg's TWELVE sequencer program, and
not knowing what I was doing, put the 12.PRG
in the AUTO folder on my hard drive. Then
I could not get back to my desktop. Panicking,
I called Bruce. I was able to get the HDX.PRG
PD disk and boot up from that and remove
the culprit. Another time I found a nice
little program on my TT that I thought was
a game. After clicking into the various
boxes, I exited and had the error message,
"C drive does not exist". I later
found out from Bruce I was playing with
a sector editor! I had to reformat my drive.
Fortunately, I had done a lot of back-ups
on disk previously, which should be a lesson:
always back up!
set me up with Hybrid Arts Edit Track, which
was my staple for a while, as I could not
get the Cubase application to work yet on
my TT. Then I called Stienberg support and
actually got some help that was enough to
get Cubase working on my TT. Cubase was
splendid on the 19" 1280x960 resolution
monitor. It also had a module that interested
me greatly: the IPS (Interactive Phrase
Synthesizer). This got me started in algorithmic
Then I remembered
some programs that Bruce had at B&C.
They were Music Mouse (Laurie Spiegel) and
M (Intelligent Music). I also remembered
reading about these programs in past issues
of Keyboard Magazine. I dug out the magazines,
re-read the articles and then decided to
get the programs, which were at a good price
at B&C. Bruce was telling me, "You
don't want these. They are old programs".
But I insisted. Glad I did, as these programs
would be helping me a lot in what was to
come. Bruce was a big fan of Master Tracks
Pro. Even though he could not play keyboards,
he enjoyed playing MIDI files and tweaking
them in Master Tracks Pro set up on a TT030
and played back on a Roland Sound Canvas.
Sometimes I would bring in a disk of MIDI
files done on Edit Track or Cubase, and
he would play them back on that system.
I was amazed at how good they sounded on
that Sound Canvas. Before he left to El
Dorado, Bruce gave me a demo of Master Tracks
Pro with one of my MIDI files right on the
disK! What a treat. I still have that disk.
another occasion, after Bruce and Cathy
had moved to El Dorado, that I wanted Tunesmith
(by Jim Johnson). My wife, knowing I wanted
the program, ordered it from B&C. Then
Bruce brought the program to his house in
Santa Clara where he was getting it ready
to sell. My wife then went and picked it
up, and presented it to me for my birthday.
What a nice surprise!
I was reading the letters section in Keyboard
Magazine. There was a letter that caught
my attention by saying, "Keyboard Magazine
did not support Atari users anymore"
and that he was unsubscribing. I looked
at the location of the person with the rebuke,
and he happened to be local to me. So I
called information, got his number and made
the call. "Do you use Atari computers?"
I asked. "Why yes, I do" was the
answer. We got to talking about MIDI and
Atari. He came over several times and set
me up with more MIDI programs as well as
the internet using NEWSie and CAB. Much
later, I was the inheritance of all his
Atari stuff as he made the move to Mac.
This inheritance included a 4MB 1040STE;
with hard drive (from Toad) a 1MB 520ST
(which I use as a backup), many monitors,
tons of software, which included a dongled
Notator program with complete docs!
of Tim's Atari MIDI World
At this time, my
provider allowed 1MB of space for a web
site. Using Home Page Penguin (HTML wizard)
I created my first efforts at a page using
some simple graphics and text. I called
it "Tim's Atari MIDI World." The
idea was to present Atari programs with
screen shots and tutorials. I learned how
to create pages within pages using Penguin.
I learned about creating screen shots using
an desk accessory to take the snapshot from
within the program where it outputs it to
a Degas File. Then using TOUCHUP, I converted
it to GIF. My first pages were Cubase and
M. I had a demo version of M that was downloadable
on the page. Then an internet friend sent
me a "libed" copy of M, meaning
it did not have copy protection. I found
out about www.cycling74.com where David Z was
continuing to upgrade the Mac version of
M. I wrote him and asked for permission
to have the libed version as a download,
releasing it as freeware. He agreed. But
I was still disturbed that it was a libed
version. I noticed that the port to the
Atari platform was accomplished by Eric
Ameres. At the time, I was also in communication
with Laurie Spiegel about Music Mouse, so
I wrote her regarding the whereabouts of
Eric Ameres to see if there was an unprotected
"real" copy of M. She forwarded
my requests to Eric, and although Eric did
not have a "real" copy for me,
he gave his consent for the "libed"
version and also gave permission to release
his own program called, "RealTime",
a fantastic MIDI sequencer with many algorithmic
possibilities. Thus, out of a chance communication
and networking, I was able to get two programs
released, and the beginning of my quest
to write to programmers and companies to
finally release their former Atari MIDI
I have come
a long way since then, finally moving to
a free web space with some more room and
making more contacts. A lot of these were
just by chance, such as the time I finally
contacted Tom Bojoras (former Hybrid Arts
programmer) I put his name in a search engine
and came up with an article, which showed
his email address, but as Bob Bojoras. Taking
a chance, I emailed him, and lo and behold,
it was the Tom Bajoras I was looking for.
He released a slew of former Hybrid Arts
software he programmed, and also connected
me with Stefan Daystrom in which I was able
to get the famous Edit Track released.
contact was Emile Tobenfeld, AKA Dr T, in
which he has been very patient with me for
my endless pestering! He has been more than
kind and has released many of his programs
for inclusion on my site which includes
the famous KCS Omega (ver 4), Tiger Cub
and his very interesting Midi Ax algorithmic
system. Other Dr T products from other programmers
are now available such as Jim Johnson's
Tunesmith, Cris Sion's Copyist as well as
all of Bob Melvin's Caged Artist series
of synth editors and most recently Jeffery
Reid Baker's Dr T Keys, a step time tool.
web wanderings, I would go to programmer's
pages, find out who programmed Atari MIDI
programs in the past and then email them
regarding availability. Many of these were
also composers. I was very successful in
this regard with applications such as Eduardo
Miranda's CAMUS application, Christian Banasik's
AFSTS algorithmic system, Harry Koopman's
MIDI Joy as well as Petra Wolf and Joker's
"Klang Piraten" software. These
contacts however took a lot of time and
patience on my part, as sometimes I had
to wait weeks and months to finally obtain
permission, to the actual program as well
as the documentation. But it has been rewarding.
However a lot of these programs would not
be on the site if it were not for the Atari
MIDI mailing list.
MIDI mailing list
I answered a post on the
Atari newsgroup (alt.comp.atari-st ) about
a concern that there was not a dedicated
newsgroup for Atari musicians. I indicated
there are mailing lists that can be under
any subject you want. However the consensus
was that there was not one for Atari MIDI.
At that time I belonged to the Mirage-Net
at One-list.com (a mailing list dedicated
to the Ensoniq Mirage). I visited the main
page at One-list, read the instructions
for creating your own group, and before
I knew it, I had created the Atari MIDI
mailing list! Since then, One-list migrated
to Egroups and now it is Yahoo groups. The
list turned out to be a valuable resource
for all who joined. It became (and still
is) a passion and a responsibility for me,
which I enjoy immensely. There is a teamwork
and mutual helping attitude prevalent in
the group. There are questions that I do
not know the answer to, but somebody else
does. This is a relief to me, because as
a consequence of putting up my site, I get
a ton of emails from people who think I
am the Atari expert. I answer the best I
can, and what I can't answer, I take to
the Atari MIDI group. Members have also
been responsible for a large number of the
programs released on TAMW such as the Caged
Artist Editors, Tunesmith, including a rare
version that was specially coded for 030
machines as well as many of the other Dr
T and Hybrid Arts programs. I am forever
indebted to this great group of people from
all around the globe that share a common
bond: Atari and MIDI. Currently we are over
250 members strong!
During the years,
my studio has grown and comprises mostly
of what can be called budget synths. It
started with a Yamaha PSR510 controlling
a DX7 Mark I, and a Suzuki SX500 expander
module, along with my EML 200 analog synth.
Since then, I have expanded to more FM goodies,
which have come down in price considerably.
These include a Yamaha TQ5 (same as a TX81Z,
but with sequencer and effects) FB01, TX7,
TXP1 piano module, a Roland MT32 (which
I have found has enormous analog sound potential)
and a Kawai K1M. One time, a received an
email from someone who had read my story
on the burned DX7. He offered me a DX7s
(which is a mono version Mark II) in mint
condition as well as a TX81Z for a really
excellent price. I wanted these instruments
together as you can tune them microtonally
using the Caged Artist Editors. I also have
an Ensoniq Mirage, which I find most excellent
for sampling despite its 8-bit architecture.
Add to this an RX11 drum machine, a Boss
digital reverb and Korg 12-channel mixer,
various noise makers, percussion instruments
and guitars, all being fed into a Tascam
Porta 01 4-track cassette recorder.
I have three workstations. A pair of Atari
computers: Mega 2 and 1040STE with a pair
of mono/color monitors each and a Falcon
and TT030 both with 19" monitors. I
combine all of these with MIDI. I like to
run several applications at the same time
for a great variety of possibilities. I
see each system as a module that has a specific
purpose. For example, I can run Music Mouse
on my Mega 2, which I use as a controller
to create scale structures in Tunesmith
running on the STE. Then Tunesmith is run
through the Hotz Translator software on
the Falcon and I can record the whole thing
in Cubase running on the TT where everything
ends and goes out to all the MIDI instruments.
I also use
a PC running Sound Font technology as well
as soft synths and an excellent program
called Key Kit which first started on Atari
and grew to a full-blown algorithmic application
(www.nosuch.com). I also use the
PC to record my mix-downs from the Tascam
and burn to a CD or create MP3 files. As
of late, I have been experimenting with
Steem, the Atari emulator for Windows, and
find it works well with most MIDI programs.
It seems like Atari machines
are magnetically attracted to me. There
have been many instances where I have been
given Atari systems. For example (previously
mentioned) when my friend decided to go
Mac and I inherited all his Atari stuff:
1040STE with Notator, plus a Toad HD, boxes
of software, plus a 1MB 520ST (for backup
purposes) and four monitors (for free).
I answered a post from the Atari newsgroups
and picked up two Atari systems (a Mega
2 and an STF) with laser printer and boxes
of software and four monitors (for free).
A friend from work sold me his Mega STE
another friend by tracking down a Falcon
(for $80.00) where he had Best Electronics
install a 360MB hard drive and 16MB RAM.
I loaded up the hard drive with Atari MIDI
stuff, gave it back and he was happy. However,
a year later, he said he did not have time
for it anymore and gave me the system (for
free) so now I have a Falcon. What a friend!
gave me his 1MB 520ST with monitor and a
box of more software, and I also found an
Atari XL 8-bit computer lying in the street!
I am using it as a decoration.
I did not keep all these systems, but gave
some away to local friends/musicians so
they could get started on Atari. One friend
is very happy when I set him up with SMPTE
track so he could sync it to his 8-track
analog tape system. He also uses Robobop
to program the drum parts.
I am still
waiting for a friend to pick up his Mega
ST2 system. He'd better hurry. I am beginning
to like it!
to all the programmers and companies who
have released their former Atari MIDI software,
we can now enjoy a multitude of excellent
and unique applications with more to come.
I am glad to be part of this union of technologies,
which enable us as musicians to freely explore
new realms of possibilities, which we have
only begun to fathom.