A member of the Atari
MIDI mailing list pointed me in the direction of Matucana's
web site where he describes his software called MSG
(MIDI Sequence Generator) for the Atari platform. I
contacted him, informing him of the Atari MIDI mailing
list where Atari is still very much alive. Needless
to say, he joined, and then produced for the group a
new version of his program as well as taking out the
shareware code thus releasing it as freeware to the
Atari MIDI community.
What is MSG?
MSG is a sequence generator,
in that its main purpose is to create patterns using
the many tools and modules available within MSG, and
export them as MIDI files for auditioning and finalizing
in a MIDI sequencer of your choice.
For example, you can
generate files algorithmically from within the program
without loading in a file. You can also import your
own MIDI files for modification. You can take a picture
(a Degas or Pic file) and transform it into music. You
can take any text file and transform it into music.
It also has a drum pattern generator and transform module
much like Cubase transform. Also a very nice feature
of transforming your own MIDI events into the style
akin to Steve Reich's Drumming, which has to be heard
to be appreciated. MSG is not really a "real-time"
application, although you can play a sequence from within
the program. It is meant to be an addition to your present
sequencer with functions not normally present in most
sequencers. Anyone can have fun with this program. You
don't have to go into all the screens, you can just
work on one section at a time and see what is generated.
Some features to generate
- Generate sequences
with random, Lissajous, sine, math or fractal functions independently in pitch, velocity, and
- Unusual arpeggios.
- Weighting of values
for pitch, velocity, and length possible.
- Generate sequences
from the graphical display of any file.
- Transform a text
into Morse code.
- Drum pattern editor
with eight independent and editable instruments.
- Graphical input
of MIDI notes.
- MIDI standard file
- All sequences can
be modified, like harmonise/dis-harmonise.
- Multi-copy with
- Legato function
(keep note length or note position).
- Matrix transformation.
- Add, multiply, logical
- Vary according to
Steve Reich's "Drumming".
- Musinum module:
generate sequences in the same fashion as Lars Kindermann's
Music In the Numbers (MusiNum) application for PC.
A new feature just
implemented by Matucana is the Musinum module, which
incorporates the same ideas presented in Lars Kindermann's
Music In the Numbers (MusiNum) application for PC. As
a matter of fact, the manual for Lars' program can be
used to make use of this module. You can set up many
tracks generating at the same time as well as custom
scale set-ups. The difference between the two programs
is that Lars' application is real-time, while Matucana's
is not. However the same results can be obtained.
My suggestion is to make
a nice manual for MSG. Go to this site, print all the
MSG material, including the snap shot page. Copy the
MSG picture from the site, and paste it into a document
processor, so you have a cover page. Then export the
text file from the MSG docs to your document processor
and put it all in a nice binder. This keeps everything
together. Also print out the tutorials and have them
available in the binder as well.
Tutorial: the Make
you first open MSG you are presented with the Make module.
A lot of interesting music can be generated with this
- Decide how many
events you want to generate. The dialog at the lower-left
determines this. For the sake of this tutorial,
left-click in the box until it reaches 50 events.
A right-click will decrease this amount.
- Decide how many
MIDI channels will be used. The next dialog over
allows you to input this information. Select 1 to
6. This function is similar to the Yamaha TX81Z
parameter of alternate mode. It will alternate the
notes between the MIDI channels. You can use up
to 16 channels to alternate notes.
- You will see Make
divided into three sections: pitch, velocity, and
length. Let's look at pitch.
- At the
top you can see Lower limit and Upper limit.
This dialog allows you to set limits to the pitch
distribution when Make generates a sequence. The
default is C2 to C5. This gives a good range to
work with. Just keep as is for now, or change it
if you want.
- Next you will see
Mode. Clicking into this box, you can scroll through
many modes already set up for you. These are the
scales of pitches that Make will use
when generating sequences. The default is minor/eolic/asawari. For the sake of this tutorial,
scroll to penta major I.
the Mode dialog is Key. You can select the root
key the sequence will be generated. For the sake
of this tutorial, left-click until you change it
to the key of D. This means our pentatonic major
scale will be in the key of D.
Key is a graphic of the scale being used. Clicking
into it will bring up another dialog allowing you
to edit the scale and save it into six presets. For
now, click on Cancel. You can explore this later.
the scale graphic is a dialog for edit probab. table.
Clicking into it will present the table used for
pitch generation. This is an advanced sub-module.
Reference the manual for this. For now, leave it
alone, just as long as you know it is there for
further exploration. Click on Cancel.
we come to Function. The default is Random.
Clicking into Random, you will see many more possibilities:
melody, math, arpeggio, fractal... Reset it
that is the parameter table. This is used for
the function generator.
we come to Env or envelope parameters that allow
more control over upper and lower limits. Clicking
into Edit envelope brings you to a graphic dialog
where you can graphically change the envelope settings.
See chapter 4 of the manual for more explanation. For
now select Cancel. You know it is there now.
at the Velocity and Length sections we can see
the same type of parameters used in Pitch, with
a few parameters left out. For now, keep the values
the same as the default (of course you can
change them if you want).
- We now
come to the point of creating a sequence. To do
this simply hit [Return] (not [Enter]) The status
at the bottom-right will now show,"Sequence:
- Let's hear something
of what it sounds like. Hit [F1]. You are switched
to the editor, which resembles Steinberg's Pro-24
editor. Click on the Play button. You will now hear
the sequence play. Nice, eh? It might sound different
when exported to a real sequencer, however. Click
on Play again to stop it, or simply hit the space
bar on the computer keyboard.
- Now let's save it
as a MIDI file. Hit [Control]+[F], and the file
selector comes up for you to name your file. Name
it PENTA1.MID. MSG goes through the creating writing
process. Hit [Alternate]+[M] to get back to the
Make module. You can also select it from the menu
- Create another sequence.
Change the mode in the pitch window. Try changing
other parameters. Remember, this program is to experiment
with different possibilities, so now you can try
things out. Once done, hit [Return]. You are presented
with another dialog with choices to merge or insert.
To start a new sequence, select Delete old, and the
parameters you just set will replace the previous
- Hit [F1] again and
play back your sequence, then save it as a MIDI
file as before. To have another view of your sequence,
hit [F2]. You are presented with a graphical view
of the generated events. Selecting Axis display will bring up a dialog so
you can change how the events are displayed. For
now just select OK. Then [Alternate]+[M] to get
back to the Make screen.
- Keep on generating
new sequences until you have several MIDI files.
Then quit MSG by hitting [Alternate]+[Q] or from
the menu under Process.
- Now start your sequencer
program and load one of your sequences generated
from MSG. It will sound a little different, but
still interesting. Using the tools in your sequencer
develop the MSG generated sequences (or several
MSG sequences) into a larger piece.
- One suggestion is
to load many MSG sequences into KCS Omega Open Mode
and play the sequences right from the QWERTY keyboard.
Other tricks using
the Make module
- Go to the Pitch
section and select under Mode penta minor
- Now just press [Return].
At the bottom-right of the screen you see how many
events you have generated. It should say 32 of xxx.
- Now press [Return]
again! A dialog comes up on "how would you
like to proceed?" Select Merge to point.
The default point setting is 1/1/0. This is the
beginning of the sequence. Normally I would
select Delete old if I want to generate a brand
new sequence, but in this case, I want to merge
a second round of events on top of the first set
of events generated.
- Once you selected
it, it calculates the events generated and brings
you back to the Make screen. You now have 64 events.
- Press [Return] again
and Merge to point again! You are creating an
intricate pattern by layering events on top of events.
You have now generated 96 events.
- Let's hear what we
have done so far. Press [F1].
You are now in the editor and can see the events
generated as a graph in the same fashion as the
Pro-24 edit screen. Then select Play. Sounds cool,
eh? When done listening press the space bar. Then
[Alternate]+[M]. This brings you back to the Make module.
Now press [Control]+[F], and you can now save what you
have created as a MIDI file using the file selector.
- Let's modify what
we have done. Go to Process on the menu and
select Ornament. You are presented with a dialog.
Click into Harmonic shift. We will just use the
default values. Then [Alternate]+[M] to get back to the Make
module. You now have 96 events generated. Hit [F1],
and have a listen to it from the editor by clicking
Play. It changed, right? Sounds more in a minor key. Hit
[Alternate]+[M] to go back to the Make module. Then
[Control]+[F] to save the MIDI file.
Of course, you can change
and alter any of the settings on the way with what we
have done so far, so I leave it to you to experiment,
but the above method gives a way to create some intricate
patterns using MSG.
MSG: Spice up your
MSG can be an excellent seasoning to round out the tools
found in your present sequencer and can also be a source
of inspiration that may develop into your next masterpiece.
You can even run it as an MPE module in KCS (using the
Make MPE utility provided in the KCS4.ZIP). This enables
you to create some sequences in MSG, then quit MSG
and you are taken right to the KCS track screen so you
can open the MSG generated files from there to audition
them properly and also assemble them into a larger piece.
MSG is also Steem-compatible.
- Symbolic Composer shareware
Thanks to Trond Einar
Garmo of the Atari MIDI mailing list, Symbolic Composer
for Atari has been released as shareware. It is downloadable
from the Symbolic Composer homepage (shareware price
is 39.95 Euros):
It is a hefty 6 MB download,
which also has all the documentation, which comprises
most of the size of the ZIP.
What is Symbolic Composer?
In the words of Trond, "This program is
in my opinion the most comprehensive composing environment
ever written. It was developed on the Atari from 1987
to 1996, but was ported to the Mac in the beginning
of the '90s. The Mac version has a much nicer user interface
with menus and is a quite different beast today,
but the main set of functions are the same for both
programs. A PC version is in the works also, but the
project has been delayed a few years.
Symbolic Composer is
a LISP-based programming language. It kind of lives
on top of LISP, although LISP functions can also be
used directly in the source code. When you have
written your source file the LISP interpreter/compiler
compiles standard MIDI files. In the Atari version
these files must be edited in a sequencer to add MIDI
channels, programs, controllers... The best environment
for the compiler and text editor is KCS with MPE,
although both Cubase with MROS and Notator with
Softlink can be used.
The program takes some
time to learn fluently, but the package comes with
good tutorials and many example files in a number of
styles - rock, jazz rock, new age, electro-acoustic
and C20 classical style compositions."
I will be creating a
web page on TAMW soon so look for it.
- Music Mandala and Session
Partner removed from TAMW
This is a bit of sad
news, as there was some confusion on the release of
the Atari versions of these programs between the programmer
and his partner. Hopefully this will get cleared up
and these wonderful programs can be put back on-line.
In the meantime, these programs are now off TAMW.