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The Tangerine Dream Machine By Dr Ambient

AEX : The Falcon version


The Tangerine Dream Machine
By Dr Ambient
Released as Freeware October 2001


Atari-MIDI forum member Guido Goebertus (also known as Dr Ambient), has created an excellent application called AEX, which simulates in an intelligent fashion, the analog sequencers of yesteryear made famous by the works of Tangerine Dream, the exploratory electronic music group. I have had the pleasure of being beta tester, in which we have now completed version 2 which has major updates from version 1. The updates include 2 voices as well as a percussion voice. ST Hi, TT Medium ( 16 color) and Falcon 256 color versions are supported. There are no longer 3 seperate programs, but only one containing all resolutions. AEX is a keyboard driven program. There is no mouse support. However this enables AEX to become a real time performance instrument once you become familiar with scrolling around the AEX screen.

New Falcon version
Some big news however: the Dr has been working steadily on a new 256-color Falcon version, which is now ready for release! This new version has many more improvements as well as excellent graphics making full use of the Falcon's color spectrum. A polished metal look and stunning icons makes this application a real treat to use for Falcon owners. The icons are not for show however; each one has a different function. There are also more algorithms as well as a transpose feature (using the numerical keys), which makes changing keys a snap as well as striking. The same updates have been added to the ST mono version. See below for the download!

New in version 2.0

48 algorithms. There are new arpegio algorithms, ( 1-24) for this new version of AEX. They sound quite nice as well!
These are accessed using the [(] and [)] keys on the numeric keypad. It is called the AEX index.
In the global menu:

Two Voices and a percussion voice for a real full sound. Selectable Algorithms for voice 2 and percussion.Muting of each voice using A.E.X on the computer keyboard. ( A=voice 1, E=Voice 2, X= Drums

Real time Immediate Transpose 0-12 semitones, using keys [Esc], [1] to [0] and [+], which brings the key up a full octave.

Copying patterns to Fuction Keys. Another major update. Works like a snap shot fuction of all parameters.

Help screen implemented: By pressing the help key, you scroll through the keyboard commands.

Inside AEX

When first opening AEX, you can see the screens are divided into five main groups. By using the numeric keypad of the computer keyboard you can access these screens. A matter of point here: AEX is keyboard-driven, which means there are no mouse actions available. However, this makes for more of a real-time system as you go quickly between screens and parameters and change them on the fly while AEX is running. Here are the main keyboard commands:

Numeric keypad

[1] Pattern screen
[2] Modulator screen
[3] Logic screen
[4] Scale screen
[5] Global screen
[(], [)] and [/] toggle through the AEX index, which creates variations in the sequence.
[+] and [-] scroll through the parameters to make changes.

Main keyboard

[Caps Lock] starts sequence
Space bar stops sequence
[L] loads pattern
[S] saves pattern (remember to put in .AEX as an extension in order to save it correctly)
[Backspace] exit program
Arrow keys scroll through the screen options (or cells) going from icon to icon or cell to cell in the Pattern screen
Transpose (0-12 semitones), using keys [Esc,] [1] to [0] and [+], which brings the key up a full octave.

Using AEX

Hit [Caps lock] to start AEX. Now hit [4]. You are now on the scale screen. Using the [+] and [-] keys, change F_5 to C_4. Hit [Enter] (not [Return]) to transact the change. Now using the [(] and [)] keys, change the AEX index to 9. Hit [Enter]. You will hear a change within the sequence. Now play with the AEX index a bit and change it to 1, then 2, then 3 and so on, hitting [Enter] as you go. You will hear changes within the sequence as it is running. This is very much a real time feature.

Hit [5] which brings you to the global screen. Using the arrow keys scroll to voice 1 parameters and change the sound ( patch) which is the second icon. Go over 4 icons to the Sub-voice icon and change it to 5 ( using the +- keys) thus making fifths). Go to the next icon where you can take AEX into or out of random mode. The next icon turns on and off the "conductor". With the conductor off, AEX makes a constant rythm. However to make variations, keep the conductor to on.(001)

The next row starts with a global icon for Tempo or BPM ( Beats Per Minute) Slowing down AEX creates different feels in the music. The next set of Icons are for the second voice. These include MIDI channel, voice( patch change) Volume and algorithms which change the rythm articulations of voice two. The next set are the DRUM parameters. Voice ( patch change), allows you to change drum kits, providing your module provides this function. The next Icon is Volume, and the last are algorithms for drum patterns. Changing these while the music is playing can create variation in the drums. These patterns are built into AEX and cannot be edited. ( yet)Try Muting each voice using the keys :A.E.X on the computer keyboard. ( A=voice 1, E=Voice 2, X= Drums) This is very much a real time feature.

What follows now is a description of the icons and their uses.

The pattern screen

The parameters in this screen can all be changed by hand (by going from parameter to parameter with the arrow keys), so this is one way you can use AEX. However, AEX is also set up to intelligently change these settings in an automatic fashion with many variations. Parameters for change include:

Key: the actual notes
Vel (velocity): the volume of each note.
Pan: the stereo placement of each note.
CC1: an assignable continuous controller message.
CC2: another assignable continuous controller message. You can assign them on the Global screen (see below)

The modulator

[2] on the numeric keypad - makes up a simple AR envelope generator, with five possible destinations. Icons (from left to right):

Initial (start) level (0-127)
Attack time (0-32)
Attack level (0-127)
Release level (0-127)
Destination (1-5, where 1=key, 2=velocity, 3=panorama, 4=CC1, 5=CC2)
Note: CC1 and CC2 are freely assignable controllers, the controller type can be set in the Global menu. In the DEF.AEX file they are set to 74 and 71 (XG: cutoff frequency and resonance).

The logic menu

[3] on the numeric keypad - a simulation of an LFO (low frequency oscillator), which has also five possible destinations. There are also differences, compared to a "normal" LFO: a value of zero means no operation, a value of 1 will affect every single entry, abd a value of 2 will affect two successive entries, and so on. Icons (from left to right):

Destination (1-5, same as the modulator)

The scale menu

[4] on the numeric keypad - here is where the actual sequence is generated. There are 32 algorithms available. These can be selected by pressing the [(], [)] and [/] keys on the numeric keypad:

[(] Value down
[)] Value up
[/] Random value
Icon assignment: 1-5 for the actual "scale".
Note: as calculations work from left to right, the first icon will in general reflect the lowest note produced.

The global menu

[5] on the numeric keypad

Upper row


MIDI channel (1-16)
Program change (0-127)
Volume (0-127)
CC1 (0-127)
CC2 (0-127)
Sub-voice (0-24 semitones)
Random playback (0=Off, 1=On)
Conductor: (0=Off, 1=On)
Note: Random will pick random note values from the "key" column, instead of playing them one after another. The Conductor mode looks if successive values in the key column are equal, and if so only the first will sound. If both random and conductor modes are switched on, AEX will keep "composing" new sequences every cycle.

Lower row

Tempo BPM (0-127)


MIDI channel (1-16)
Program change (0-127)
Volume (0-127)
Algorithm (1-32) ( changes the rythm pattern of voice 2) Programmed by Tim Conrardy

Note: Drums are transmitted on channel 10 by default.

Program change (0-127)
Volume (0-127)
Algorithm (1-64)These are built in drum patterns:programmed by Tim Conrardy(2-22) and Jos Van De Gruiter(23-37) more are yet to come
Muting of each voice using the keys: A.E.X on the computer keyboard. ( A=voice 1, E=Voice 2, X= Drums)

A new feature

Here is how it works:
Always make sure to be in the pattern screen! Position the cursor anywhere in the column you want to copy (e.g. key,vel,pan,cc1,cc2) Press c, then press a function key. In color mode the fkeys already used are highlighted, the key that is used the last will have a box around it.

More on logic and modulation

These screens allow you to create more variations, which will affect whatever number is set in the last icon parameter (the arrow going right), which is called the "destination". Possible destinations are pulled from the Patterns screen:

Key (or note)
Panorama (panning)
The best thing to do is experiment with these algorithms to see what happens to the music. Algorithms are represented by the graphs looking much like an oscilloscope. Remember that when you do a change, hit [Enter] to hear the change.

Use of CC1 and CC2

These are parameters settings to adjust controller messages.For example, XG synths use controllers 71 and 74 for filter frequency cutoff and resonance. In the Global menu, set CC1 to 71 and cc2 to 74 (icons 3 and 4, upper row). Then go to the Modulator by pressing [2] and set destination to 4 for CC1 or 5 for CC2.

The modulator parameters, (icons 1 to 4) are:

start value (0-127)
attack time (0-32)
attack value (0-127)
release value (0-127)
This makes it possible to make nice filter sweeps without the hassle of changing all the values in the pattern editor. Of course, this also works for other destinations like pan and so on. Experiment!

In the Logic menu you can do similar things: try a value of 4 for random (first icon) and apply it to destination 4 or 5. This will emulate the classic sample and hold effect.

Creating rests

It is possible to insert rests:

In the Logic menu, third icon, destination 2 (velocity).
In the pattern editor, by setting velocity to zero.

Note values can be altered in a number of ways:

In the Scale/AEX menu (where destination is fixed)
In the Modulator menu (not as useful)
In the Logic menu, set destination to 1
In the pattern editor: by using the [+] and [-] keys

While there is no official support for Atari computers, we are very thankful for people like Guido Goebertus for continuing to create quality programs for our platform. AEX sets an example of what can be done in this new century on a practical level as well as a creative one. Besides being a programmer, the Dr is an excellent musician, which is why his programs are well..so musical!

AEX works on all Atari's including 030 machines at High Resolution. For those with the 19" TT HI monitor there is a special version of AEX available, as this was the version AEX was originally developed. See below for the download link.There is also a version of AEX optimized for working in STEEM the Atari Emulator for PC.

For those with an ST floppy system only, you will need to delete a file from the AEX zip so it will fit on a 720K disc. The files to delete would be: [Aexf256.dat]. This file only has to do with the 256 color version of AEX.


A NEW Tutorial Pictorial representation of AEX by Dr Ambient.

The first versions are still available: 4 flavours of AEX:

DR Ambients Home page

If you just click on ENTER HERE on the first page of Dr Ambients site, the rest of his stuff comes up.Then click on Atari.

DR Ambients MP3 site

This page also has an example of AEX's output in a piece I did called PILGRIM (based on the Poem by Robert Service)This is in collaberation with Dr Ambient for his "Songs of the High North" project.