I had a dream: The Grid Sequencer!
I walked into a room of what appeared to
be a pawnshop. Many mechanical and strange devices
were strewn about on tables and shelves. I heard
an interesting sound and looked up and saw to
my eyes what looked like an "old"
ARP 2600 synthesizer. It was a large rectangular
box with many knobs and even small speakers
on each side. It had a "gold" appearance
and shimmered in the pawnshop lights. What was
interesting about this "box" was that
it had a large grid in the middle of it. The
grid had many small pins inserted into it. Getting
closer to the instrument, I pushed a button.
Sounds started coming out of the speakers. Analog
bass sounds. I tweaked the filter controls.
Squeaks and squawks came out of the speakers.
Then I took a pin from the grid and inserted
it into another hole of the grid. The sound
changed. The notes coming out were different.
Then I realized that the grid was actually creating
the notes. I could insert a pin in another location
and that would change the notes coming out.
I looked up and heard the sounds coming out
of the speakers. I could almost feel the notes.
Then... I woke up!
Feeling inspired, I posted to the Atari
programmers forum and told them about the dream,
and felt that the grid concept might be a good
idea for a different type of sequencer and narrated
some possibilities. To my wonder, Matucana (also
know as Hellmuth Schomberg on the list) replied
and actually created a program based on my dream!
The result is Grid Sequencer. Instead of
pins, you use the mouse to "insert"
the pins into the grid. What's more, it is an
interactive instrument with many more possibilities
than I could dream of (literally). You could
say it was a dream come true!
- Start, stop with space bar or mouse.
- Random grid entries.
- Random pitch entries based on the scale
- MIDI channel selection.
- Seven clock rates.
- Eight BPM settings.
- Patch change (SND).
- Transposition +12 to -12.
- Selectable start and end points.
- 17x24 grid.
- Selectable pitch row.
- Pitch/scale editor in separate window.
- MIDI clock out.
- Save performance as standard MIDI file.
- Save as Grid Sequencer format.
- All functions can use mouse or keyboard
shortcuts with help screen.
- General MIDI (GM) patch display screen.
The best thing to do is to run the program
(see the file section at the end) and start playing with it. Get used to the keyboard
shortcuts. Try some different scales, as Matucana
makes it easy to try new scales with the Generate
Pitch selection from the file menu. The random
settings can be used as well. Simply pressing
[D] on the keyboard will generate a whole new
sequence based on the scale used. This as well
as using the transposition shortcuts, you can
create a composition which can then be saved
as a standard MIDI file. Grid Sequencer
also works well with percussion voices. Set
the channel to 10, and you can generate some
interesting percussion patterns.
What's more, Matucana is continuing to upgrade
the program as we are still implementing new
ideas. What started out to be a very simple
program has grown to a fully-fledged interactive
After posting about the program, I got a
comment from Laurie Spiegel (author of Music
Mouse) that the idea resembled the EMS Synthi
AKS (an early portable synthesizer used by
many groups such as Pink Floyd, Gong, Tim Blake,
ECT). Much to my surprise, she was right. Then
I remembered I used to play with one that was
loaned to me from my professor (Dr Allen Strange).
It has the same speakers in the front as well.
However, the grid was used for patch creation
and was not a sequencer function. You can see
the resemblance that might have been implanted
in my mind when I had the dream. Wish someone
would make a soft-synth out of this baby!
About Matucana (Hellmuth Schomberg)
Here is some background about the programmer
in his own words:
My musical career started in 1976, when I
started listening to a lot of pop music. I quickly
went from Abba to Kiss to more sophisticated
stuff. In 1981, I listened to records like "Blackouts"
by Ashra, "Caught in flux" by Eyeless
"Leichenschrei" by SPK, and to "99 red balloons"
1984 was a real landmark - 'e2-e4' by Manuel
Göttsching was released. Since then I listened
to it for about 1,500 times... and I still like
it no less.
However, my interest in quiet music developed
further. Records like Steve Roach's "Quiet music",
Ashra's "New age of earth", "Deep listening"
by Oliveiros/Dempster/Panaiotis, "Triadic memories"
by Morton Feldman, "The place where the black
stars hang" by Lustmord, or "Piercing music"
by Robert Henke are found among many others
in my CD collection.
Starting in about 1976, too, I learned to
play classical guitar. I was quite lazy and
not very talented, so I quit after five years.
Meanwhile, my mother had bought a portable keyboard
(a Yamaha, if I remember right) - coooool. I
had been interested in keyboards all my childhood,
although I very rarely got a chance to "play".
In 1982, I had a Casio VL-1 as well - yes, the
one the size of three cigarette boxes. I experimented
with tapes and played very childish stuff.
Skipping the years to 1988, I then had a
Casio CZ-1000 and a Yamaha DX-27. Oh yes, and
the Alesis Microverb I still use. I love its
sound. My father had just bought "Inside the
great pyramid" by Paul Horn, which sounded so
simple yet elegant... I tried to play something
similar, and it turned out to be the first of
my music I consider to be worth releasing -
and it will be.
Since then, my music and myself have developed
constantly. Friends tell me my music can be
listened to either if you concentrate on it
or if you do something else while it plays -
which I approve of. Light to the touch on the
surface and worthwhile if you look closer -
I could not wish for anything more.
New on TAMW (Tim's Atari MIDI World)
Main site: http://tamw.atari-users.net
This has been a very busy month for me as
we have many new exciting releases. Grid Sequencer reviewed above was also
released so you can see there is no stopping
- The Variegated Collection. MIDI improvisation
tools for the Atari ST. A new set of excellent easy-to-use
algorithmic applications, provided by Jonathan Bisset. Steem compatible. In
the same tradition as the Wolfgang Martin Stroh's algorithmic package:
- The Codehead MIDI software is now released,
this includes GenPatch, MIDISpy and MIDI
Max. I have been trying to get these released
for a good long time and it has finally happened.
Thanks for all those involved with the release!:
- General MIDI (GM) compatible instrument
definition file for the Atari Mozart's Dice program.
Created by Martin Tarenskeen (programmer of the YS
- Updates to the FMC (Fractal Music
Composer by Hugh McDowell) page.
- FMC manual now released: Hugh McDowell has now agreed to release the
manual. Using the initial hard copy manual I was able
to create a Word
document with the screen shots and numbering system as presented in
the original manual. It was converted to PDF format by Trond Einar Garmo
of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
is also a member of the Atari-MIDI forum.
- Special Steem version of FMC:
For running FMC in Steem, the Atari emulator
for PC. Contains a special program made for
this version by the authors of Steem. I
was also hosting a "software of the month"
clinic at the CN-Fractal Music Forum as we were
exploring Steem and FMC. Made some converts
to the platform via Steem (thus the special
Steem compatible version of FMC).
If you would like to join the forum,
the link is on the new FMC page:
- Take Note released.
Take Note is an educational ear training
program which can also be used as an alternate mouse controller (for
those of you who think of such things, myself
included!). Thanks go to Alexander Maas for
pointing the program out to me. I was also just
contacted by the author and he is digging up
a new version and also the source code which
will be made available:
- Last but not least: Pulsar version 2!
Neil Wakeling and I have been beta testing
a new version of Pulsar, so it is now in version 2. Lots of new features.
It's amazing we are still coding for our platform! Neil has put in
over 30-40 hours on this new version (with a little help from the TAMW
whip!). Please visit my newly created page
and help yourself to the new Pulsar: the Analog
Sequencer Simulator! This will be next month's topic as Pulsar
is a fantastic program worthy of review: