Issue 18: Apr 2002






Build your own Retro game




Tip of the day


Setting up a MIDI system


8-bit vor 12 Party


Miniature Marvel


Activision's Pressure Cooker: Pre-processed Perils


Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

[Tim's Atari MIDI World banner]

A little-known application comes back to life as Tim Conrardy explores the left-hand side of MIDI


In my web searches, I stumbled across a programmer's page in which a certain programmer was writing about some SysEx utilities he developed for the Atari platform. I decided to contact him for availability. In doing so, he responded very positively by providing as freeware several previously commercial applications. These were developed in Germany by Jochen Nies (The Joker) and his companion Petra Wolf. They are now available. These include ZEUS, an editor/librarian for Emu Morpheus/Ultra Proteus. The next offering is Prophy, a Korg Prophecy bank loader. The last offering and perhaps the most interesting is MIDIGEN.

[Screen-shot: Main MIDIGEN screen]

MIDIGEN is an algorithmic MIDI GENerator created for Jochen's personal use by his companion Petra Wolf. It was not a commercial application. However, it is now being released to the unsuspecting Atari MIDI community in hopes it will be used in exploring other facets of music. It sounds like M, Tunesmith and Schoenberg Composer all rolled into one. According to Jochen, MIDIGEN was planned to be a "simple" MIDI event generator (for mostly note on/off and controllers), to overcome the poor user interfaces of the early '90s synths. It grew bigger and bigger. It was designed for use in his live set-up, for improvised music.

There are 6 sets of 21 generators each. It can send data on four MIDI channels, up to six controllers are available. MIDI and controllers have basically the same generation algorithms: random within range, intervals within range (ascending, descending and permutational-order) for generation of MIDI notes there are additional features:

  • Parameters for applying the 12-tone rule (has to go through all notes of scale, before a note repeats).
  • Tone interval: Sets the interval to 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16 of a note (using pitch-bend).
  • Dauer: Length of generated note (the polyphony is 5 notes per channel).
  • Mono: For monophonic synths, sends a Note Off before playing the next note controller only, switches off note generation for that generator (mostly to preserve computational power).
  • Timer T: Adds a random timing interval from a range.
  • Timer P: The same for generating program-changes.

When MIDIGEN loads, a generator screen comes up over the main screen. Notice you can scroll the windows left and right. If you click into the main screen (or close the generator screen) and then click into any of the "control" boxes with zeros in them, this brings up a screen in which you can change the playing parameters.

[Screen-shot: MIDIGEN parameters screen]

Clicking into Play will cause what is programmed into the generator screen to output its data. Experiment by clicking into control boxes in the main screen to see what is programmed in them. Then stop everything and try entering parameters of your own within the parameter screen, select Play and hear the results. You can tinker with this for hours!

You can also create tonal effects as well as random events, such as automatic patch changing, for some real interesting textures. Once you change a parameter, you can select the little check-box next to it to activate it.

The live element comes into play when you are on the main generator screen. You can select a generator by hitting a QWERTY key or function key. Thus you can generate all sorts of things all at the same time. You can have one generator set up for percussion, others for bass, and another for melody or complete random craziness! (Which seems to be its strong point) Careful planning on which generators to trigger can be part of the compositional process when working with MIDIGEN.

MIDIGEN works well on all STs, Falcons and TT030s with at least 1 MB RAM. For those with a 19" monitor (for TT High: 1,280x960 resolution) MIDIGEN is a real treat as you can spread out all the generator and parameter screens at once. It looks nice on a Falcon as well. 3D buttons and multiple screens make working with MIDIGEN a joy.

While there is no documentation for MIDIGEN yet, you can learn by the sure and tried method of point-and-click! I have discovered some "hidden screens" this way. Here is the method:

Clicking into one of the control boxes will bring up the parameters screen. Then click into "Takt". Another screen presents itself. Then clicking into "Zeige" will bring up another very graphical screen with six "mixer" controls. Granted, I do not know what they do, but it is worth exploring. There is more to this program than meets the ear! MIDIGEN also works in the Steem emulator for Windows, thus expanding its usefulness beyond TOS machines.

It is programs like MIDIGEN that make the Atari platform unique. You will not find another program on any platform that can do what MIDIGEN does. A jewel in the Atari MIDI heritage.

Useful links


[ Top of page ]

MyAtari magazine - Feature #3, April 2002


Copyright 2002 MyAtari magazine