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December 2001



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Tip of the day


A Bird's Nest


Snap Happy


The SCSIDRV programming interface


Sprite Editor


Atari UK


E-Jag Day 2k1


Put some Charm in your Chaos


Anodyne Competition results





PhotoTip 3.10


AtarIRC and AtarICQ





Tim's Atari MIDI World

Put some Charm in your Chaos

Tim Conrardy explores Electronic Cow's algorithmic application Charming Chaos and a first impression of Clarence Barlow's Autobusk


A certain Danny McAleer formed a company called Electronic Cow which produced many fine MIDI programs for the Atari ST/030 computers. Recently, he has decided to make them freeware so the Atari MIDI community can continue to use them.

Charming Chaos

This month we are going to be looking at a very interesting application in the Electronic Cow collection called Charming Chaos. Charming Chaos (or CC for short) started life as a two track algorithmic generator which has now grown to a full blown four part generator capable of exotic rhythms and patterns. The algorithms are also editable in a module called the DNA Seed Construction tool. CC can be used as a desk accessory (ACC) so you can run it at the same time as your favorite sequencer. It also works well on the Falcon and TT030. The high color modes can be used with it as well and CC is very striking in full color and a joy to use. However, ST High resolution is fine and completely operable at this resolution. ST Medium and Low are not supported.

The other neat factor about CC is you can change the algorithms while it is playing with special parameters for modulation change. This will be explained in the tutorial. Also, you can create MIDI files for exportation to your sequencer of choice, which can be used in a larger composition or a generated background for live work.

Electronic Cow has also made the manual available, which is well written. However, experimentation is the key to using CC, so here is a tutorial on getting started with your own explorations of the program.

Charming Chaos tutorial
By Tim Conrardy

  1. Double-click on CHAOS.PRG. Program opens up to a VST-style module.
  2. To get some immediate action from CC select the PLAY button in the transport area. You should now hear the "chaos " portion of CC as many of its algorithms play against each other. When you have had enough, select the square Stop button.
  3. Now let's make some "tonal" or even pleasant music to generate. In the main view, you will see four sections or modules. Each is a separate generator, but identical to each other. On the far right of each module is a set of increment buttons. This is to adjust the algorithm used for the module. For this experiment, adjust all 4 modules to algorithm 9 (the end one).
  4. When ready, select the Play button on the transport bar. You should hear a pleasant sounding chaos this time around. However, it is going a bit too fast. You can adjust the tempo while it is playing with the tempo increment buttons below the transport. Slow down the tempo to 70 BPM. Much nicer!
  5. Now let's have a bit of fun. You will see some funny labelled LEDs with each module: TM, AM, PM, CM. These are for the modulation of the algorithm. You will notice CM (Controller Modulation) is already selected. You should also hear (if using a stereo module) the output is panning back and forth. This is caused by modulation of controller 10 (panning).
  6. Now select PM (Pitch Modulation) for each module so it is highlighted. Play your MIDI keyboard. Your playing will modulate the notes to what you are playing on your MIDI keyboard. This is an excellent real-time element that is not present on most algorithmic generators. This feature alone makes this application a blast to use. You can also change keys using this function so CC is not so monotonous. You have to experiment and adapt your playing to create changes.
  7. Here is another real-time element: try moving your pitch bend wheel. You will see it adjusts the tempo of CC while it is playing! A bit tricky to work with but can be very useful.

DNS Seed Construction

  1. Now let's try changing an algorithm. On the transport bar is an icon that looks like DNA. Select this and you are brought into the DNA Seed Construction module. Here you can create your own algorithms.
  2. To the far bottom left is the "Seed select" section. This tells you what algorithm you are editing. There is also a copy function that lets you copy one algorithm's parameters to another location. Let's try this. The default algorithm to copy to is 0. Change it to 9. Now change the EDIT algorithm to 1. Select the big button by the arrow. This copies algorithm 9's parameters to algorithm 1.
  3. At this point, try changing some of the parameters, such as the icons in the Velocity Mapper, the Seed Mode (from mono to poly). Change the "Beat template". Also the note values (1/8 notes, 1/4 notes and 1/16 notes), and the Depth and Rate controls of the Key Mapper. You could change the scale as well by clicking into the keyboard graphic. But for now, let's keep it the same. When you are ready, select the check mark icon.
  4. You are brought back to the main module. At the present time, all the modules are set for algorithm 9. On one of the modules, decrease the algorithm to number 1, which is the one you just edited. Now play it. You will hear some more variations created by the other parameters you have set in your edited version of the algorithm.
  5. The trick to working with the DNA Seed Construction module is to select what algorithm you want to work on, have a module display that algorithm, and then go into the edit mode. Make sure the "Seed Select" area is set to the correct algorithm. Experimentation is the key here. You can also save your algorithms with the disc icon (within the DNA Seed Construction module).
  6. When you feel you have created a good set of algorithms, you can save the whole thing by selecting the in-arrow disk Icon, or "Save as" from the menu items.
  7. To record the performance as a MIDI file, simply select the red button on the transport bar. A dialog comes up asking, "Record MIDI file to disk?" Select Start. The item selector appears. Put in a good file name with the MIDI extension and go OK. CC starts recording and saving  the generated piece as it is playing. You can also tweak things while it is doing so, and it will record your actions. When you feel you are done, select Stop and rest assured your performance was recorded (in real-time).
  8. There are also a lot of hot keys you can use while it is generating. A good one is [Control]+ [1] through [4]. These are the mute/unmute hot keys for the four modules. Also for each module, you can change its patch and MIDI channel by selecting the appropriate areas of the module. There is also an area where you can input controller messages, the defaults being volume and panning. Refer to the controller messages chart.
  9. This should get you started on your exploration of Charming Chaos! There are probably details not covered here, but refer to the manual. Now let's go ahead and make some Chaos that is very charming!

Here is a list of controller messages that you can use for use in CC's controller fields. You can send two controller messages at once and adjust them with the virtual knobs! The default is volume and panning.

To put in a new one, enter the number in the field, then hit the "button" right below it. This 'sets' it to send that controller message.

You can also set controller messages as part of a DNA seed in the DNA edit section.

Controller Name Number Range
Modulation Wheel 1 0-127
Breath Controller 2 0-127
Early DX7 Aftertouch 3 0-127
Foot Controller 4 0-127
Portamento Time 5 0-127
Data Slider 6 0-127
Main Volume 7 0-127
Balance 8 0-127
Pan 10 0-127
Expression 11 0-127
General Purpose #1 16 0-127
General Purpose #2 17 0-127
General Purpose #3 18 0-127
General Purpose #4 19 0-127
LSBs for #s 0-31 32-63 0-127
Sustain Pedal 64 0 or 127
Soft Pedal 67 0 or 127
Hold 2 69 0 or 127
Filter and harmonic content 71-74 0-127
General Purpose #5 80 0 or 127
General Purpose #6 81 0 or 127
General Purpose #7 82 0 or 127
General Purpose #8 83 0 or 127
Tremolo Depth 92 0-127
Chorus Depth 93 0-127
Celeste Depth 94 0-127
Phase Depth 95 0-127
Data Increment 96 0 or 127
Data Increment 97 0 or 127
Non Reg. Parameter MSB 98 0-127
Non Reg. Parameter LSB 99 0-127
Reg. Parameter MSB 100 0-127
Reg. Parameter LSB 101 0-127
reset all controllers 121 127
Local Control On/Off 122 0 or 127
All Notes Off 123 0
Omni Off 124 0
Omni On 125 0
Mono On (0=omni off) 126 0-16
Poly On 127 0

Charming Chaos is a unique application as well as very modern looking. Danny has done a great service in making this program available, and has greatly enriched the Atari-MIDI community with his other programs as well, for which we are very thankful indeed.

Helpful Links
Charming Chaos file section at the Atari-MIDI Yahoo site. Includes a text only version of the manual.

Web page at Electronic Cow


The manual

Autobusk by Clarence Barlow
I have been trying a long time to contact Clarence Barlow after I heard about his program called Autobusk. It appears he beat me to it, and now you can download it and even gives instructions for use in STeem (the Atari STE emulator for PC). Well worth checking out! See the links section.


Autobusk is a program for the real-time probabilistic generation of MIDI signals, primarily note on and off (mappable to other command types), in up to three parallel note streams (more than one computer used in parallel offers multiples of three streams). Pitch sets (scales, major or minor) and pulse sets (metres, 6/8 or 4/4) serve as the main input material. A set of 12 variable parameters, externally storable in time-tagged score form, can form MIDI and/or filed output; re-inputting the latter also sends MIDI events along two given routes. 14 attendant programs (with, like Autobusk, the extension .PRG) serve to enter and compile the material and to process "meta-scores". Autobusk itself took 272 days to write, spread between 18 August 1986 and 30 October 2000.

Autobusk: first impressions
Copied the disk to my Falcon's hard drive and ran AUTOBUSK.PRG. Came up no problems, seems to be lots of set-up files happening in the background.

The main screen looks fascinating. Looks like it auto-loads a file called INVENTIO. Instructions in the bottom say to hit [Return] to start and [Esc] to stop. Once you do that, you hear an interesting piece coming out. Hitting [Esc] stops it. Then when you hit [Return] again, it says PRMS (parameters) are alterable. Then you can go around with the mouse, and first going into the box(es) where it says OSTINATO: and clicking it, you can then move around the mouse to the parameter screen above it and change stuff. You will also notice that by positioning the "cursor" over a parameter, there is another field which reveals its hot key! I have found if it says, [Kk] selecting k (small) will bring the number down, while [Shift] + [K] will bring up the number. Neat method. You can also use the hot keys while it is playing for real-time control of the parameters.

Things to change are (for example ) Pitch center, tonic pitch, melody scope, event length, dynamics, attenuation, sound/controller/MIDI channel, eventfulness and others

After you change stuff, hit [Return] and it generates MIDI music based on what you have input.

That is all I have figured out for now. I am waiting on the manual, but this system looks fascinating and I am glad it is now available.

Autobusk site with download

Tim's Christmas cheer

Let's spread a little Christmas cheer (just what you wanna hear!)

Here are some links to do just that:

This program will turn your Atari into a nice Christmas MIDI file player with a Christmas tree blinking to the music! Runs in ST Low. It plays Christmas carols one after the other. There are a lot of them! You can also put any MIDI file in its directory and it will play it!

Here is my Christmas MIDI file page with my own MIDI files created with Atari Computers, of course!

Merry Christmas to all Atarians!

MyAtari magazine - Feature #9, December 2001

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