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Algorithmic System by DR T

Midi Axe main screen showing FINGERS

The Midi AX

Algorithmic System
By Emile Tobenfeld (Dr T)
Released as SHAREWARE MARCH 2001

Emile Tobenfeld (DR T) developed a unique algorithmic System basically for his own use which incorporated a combination of an alternate Mouse Controller and his former algorithmic program FINGERS. The program was never introduced to the general public in a commercial way.

Today, Emile has agreed to a Shareware release of this system.


The Shareware Conditions for Midi Axe is to purchase one of Dr T's (Emile Tobenfeld) VIDEOS which are available at his site. These videos are creative and shows what the Doctor has done for midi he has now extended into video. Please go here:


There are pages to also review the videos with animations provided .
Then go to the ORDER page and fill out and Print Out the order form.
Then send it to the address provided with a Note that it is the SHAREWARE FEE for MIDI AX.
If you have a CD or Tape you have created using DR T's Midi products, send that along as well as the Doctor likes feedback.
Please Support Atari programmers .


This program should work on all Atari computers with at least one Meg however the more memory you have the better. It is also very stunning on a COLOR monitor as all the colors are configurable and can be saved to the default.cmb/app file. It can work with KCS, or as a stand alone application.

Trond Einar Garmo of the Norwegian University of Science and Technolgy and a member of the Atari-Midi mailing list composed an excellent description of MIDI AX from which I could do no better. The following is the Midi Axe description followed by a Tutorial to get you started and also to understand the concepts. Thank you Trond!

Here is a short MIDI-axe description:

MIDI-axe, written by Emile Tobenfeld (Dr. T.) is a program that uses the computer as an interactive musical instrument. It belongs to the same family of programs as M and Music Mouse. MIDI-axe is the second generation of the program originally released as Fingers. I don't think it ever was officially released. It works as an MPE module in Dr. T's KCS (Omega) program, and records it output to KCS or interacts with sequences in KCS. The user interface has no graphics, just columns of numbers and letters. It is necessary to read the manuals to figure out what the cryptic letters means.

The program has two interacting parts, Fingers and MIDI-axe. Fingers is basically 4 monophonic "lines" where the musical elements pitch, time, velocity and articulation (short or long notes) are separated. MIDI-axe is a mouse-play program where the playback also can be controlled by the computer keys, Fingers, KCS or MIDI continous controllers from external instruments. If you don't use the Fingers part when playing MIDI-axe you can get rid of that screen and get a blank matrix instead.

In Fingers the upper 3/4 of the screen consist of 13 or 16 columns for pitch, time, velocity and articulation. The user enters values in these rows. The lower 1/4 of the screen have controls for each line, for instance for mute, time division, MIDI-channel, patch, transposition, direction, linking to other lines etc. When playback starts, the cursors will run down or up the columns. Then the user can redirect or change values in realtime. The output will be somewhat similar as that of M. It will be boring soon if there are just short patterns with the same length in all columns, that will sound just like a short looping pattern. But if the elements has different lengths and/or internal loops, random elements etc., you can create music that is changing all the time. It can be used to create rhytmically interesting textures or ever changing harmonies.

The AXE screen

MIDI-axe use the computer screen as an XY pad, where the X and Y directions means pitch, velocity or time division. The two mouse buttons can be set up to do different things. At its most simple use you get a middle C with a velocity of 64 if you click once in the middle of the screen, and then higher or lower pitch or velocity as you click in other parts of the screen. You can then set the note you click to repeat, and change the time division between each repeat. Or you can drag the repeating note (or several notes) around and get changes in pitch or velocity or time divisions. Instead of a note you can also start a KCS sequence, which can also be dragged around. This sequence can either play back its original timing, or it can be even time divisions between each note. You can start multiple copies of a sequence at different pitch, velocity or time divisions, or change to other sequences. Repeating notes or sequences can be controlled by the mouse or by sliders that you set up on the screen. These sliders can be controlled by mouse clicks, by the computer keys, from Fingers lines, from KCS sequences or from MIDI continous controllers. How the sliders work and what they control can be changed. The sliders can also control Fingers. They can even change notes inside KCS sequences.

Presets screen

MIDI-axe is extremely user configurable. How it works and use the computer's keys and mouse buttons is up to you. And a lot can be changed while playing. So in a way you can design your own musical instrument on the fly.

The program takes some time to get used to, and you need to experiment a lot. Personally I bought the program around 1994, and have had a lot of fun with it. I think that it can be used without KCS, but then you would miss some features. The Doctor himself also used the program together with an alternate MIDI-controller. (the Buchla Instrument THUNDER ) MIDI-axe come in 4 versions, of which two have special controls for this controller.

Options screen

Well, this was a short description, there is a lot more. The program is highly recommended for people who like to experiment with music, and who is not afraid of non-friendly user interfaces and manuals.


MIDI axe has many levels. You can use it as Fingers only, as a mouse play program only, or combine the Fingers part and the MIDI axe part, or combine MIDI Axe with KCS open mode playback, or Fingers with open mode, etc. MIDI axe playback can be controlled from the mouse, the keyboard (in many different ways), from "sliders", from KCS open mode sequences, and from external MIDI devices.


On one of the options screens (Toggle Switches) you can choose "NO FINGERS" to get rid of the Fingers part if you don't need it. This gives you a simpler screen with a big cross for reference. This would work a bit like "Music Mouse". At the most simple level there are three options: note, noterep and gliss. The speed of the repeats can be changed with the alt-key. But if you load some sequences into open mode you can go further with the sequence play modes. All of these give different results. The manual says which ones are the most useful, but you just have to experiment with them. The bottom line has some letters in pairs, like R, H and L. The H stands for Holds, which you should try next. This makes a mini recording of your "gesture", and a number (1 and upwards) will blink on the right side of the screen. If you control-click on this number it will change to a +, and you can "drag" the held sequence around in pitch and velocity. There are also several different ways of starting recordings, which will go into open mode and be available for instant mouse playback. The "return"-key is one of them.

The Fingers and MIDI axe parts are not syncronised in tempo etc. But they can control each other in different ways if you go into the sliders part. A slider can control many parameters, both held gestures, all aspects of Fingers, even open mode sequences, plus MIDI continous controllers etc. So you can for example change the harmonies that Fingers produce. The Sliders can on the other hand be controlled by a Fingers line, by clicking and dragging on visible sliders, via the keyboard, via MIDI, or via open mode sequences with cu-events that determine the slider number and position. If you want to use sliders to control pitch parameters, my experience is that only KCS cu-events or Fingers lines can control it accurately . (However the computer keyboard can also be used.) So if you want to use it to control the Fingers harmonies you should learn this first. The other control possibilities has too low resolution, (you get around 60 values out of the MIDI range of 128), so they are best used for continous controllers etc. (If you want to control percussion sounds, maybe the resolution doesn't matter. Then it is quite cool to use the mod-wheel to change sounds. Just remember that it will skip every other sound.)

Unlike most of the other algorithmic programs, MIDI axe don't give you anything for free. You have to enter everything yourself, and you have to work on it a lot to know how to control it. Well, some things are quite uncontrollable also, so you won't always get predictable results. But it's fun!

Trond Einar Garmo


There is now a special edition of MidiAx bundled with KCS (Keyboard Controlled Sequencer ) along with tutorial files to make it easy to get started on this system. It is on the Midi Ax download link Below.
Here is the Tutorial :

Midi Axe Tutorial

By Tim Conrardy

Using the special version of KCS and Midi Ax.

This version of KCS (version 4 ) is configured to work with Drive A. Unzip the contents without folders onto a 720K dos formatted disc (if you have 720K disc drive...otherwise use the normal 1.4 M discs if you have a TT030 or Falcon)

If you want to use this on your Hard disc, then just copy the files to a folder on your drive , then edit the KCS.INF in a text editor with the correct paths.

1. Click on KCS40.prg. The program loads. KCS and tiger loads and finally defaults to the Midi Ax screen. Midi Ax is FINGERS and MIDI AX together. What first appears is FINGERS with a preloaded FINGER file. You will see columns of letters and numbers.

NOTE: Clicking on A.PRG will load Midi AX and the default.cmb file into memory for use with this tutorial if you do not want to use KCS.

2.Lets hear what FINGERS sounds like. Hit the TAB key. FINGERS begins to play its intoxicating patterns and you see some rather stunning graphics as numbers seem to go up and down the various columns. Hit on the 4 key on the Numeric keypad. Hear FINGERS transpose. Hit any of the other Ten key numericals to transpose the FINGERS patterns to different keys. This is ONE of the interactive parts of FINGERS.To return to the original key, hit "(". Look on the very bottom left corner of the screen below the word EDIT. You will see a ROW with a line in the middle. Click in the Row. This is actually a TEMPO slider. You can adjust the tempo of the playing here.To stop FINGERS: look at the bottom right corner of the screen . You will see XX. Click on that to stop FINGERS.

3.Lets now get into the MIDI AX part. First, look at the right bottom corner of the screen next to the XX. You will see ME. This means MEnu.Clicking on this will bring up the Midi Ax Menu. You will see a selection called LOAD, with 3 different file types to load: APP,CMB, and sliders. Select CMB.The file selector appears. Select the DEFAULT.CMB. and select OK. The file loads. BUG REPORT: if the screen does not redraw and you see a hole where the file selector was, simply go into the Menu again and select MIDI AX OPTION or FINGERS OPTIONS.The just select OK from there and the screen is redrawn.

4. Now go into the Menu by clicking on ME and select TOGGLE SWITCHES. On the left colomn , click on NO FINGERS so it is highlighted. Then click on OK. You are presented with a very simple uncomplicated grid to move our mouse around.

5.Look at the second row from the bottom to the left where it is marked EDIT . Following that to the right you see NOTE 1 This is the preset for the LEFT Mouse Button. Following that to the right is another NOTE 1. This is the presets for the RIGHT mouse button. (P1 and P2 in the manual ) You will see these presets described in the manual. The one set up for us now will play a single note when you left or right click into the screen. Try it. You will notice if you click into the lower part of the screen, the velocity is softer. Going up toward the top, the velocity is louder. NOTE will play a single note with each mouse click.

6.Lets play some more with the presets. Click on the LEFT Mouse preset symbol "> "where it say NOTE . It changes to NotRep . (BTW: the < and > symbols are called Arithmitic Icons in DR T language and it used quite a bit in his programs. < is decrease. > is increase. A very simple language) With NotRep , click into the screen and keep pressing the left mouse button. You will hear the notes repeat at a tempo set by the tempo slider (previously discussed) Try adjusting the tempo slider , then left click and hold down into the screen to hear the results.

7.Lets try another preset. Click the > symbol again at NotRep and it changes to GLISS. Now while pressing the left Mouse button, slide the pointer across the screen. You of course hear a GLISSINDO effect.

8.Now comes an interesting part. Click TWICE on the > symbol at GLISS so it changes to NotSeqR . Now left click into the screen and hold it. Keep it in one position. You will hear a pattern, which is actually a KCS sequence that was loaded into KCS when you loaded the DEFAULT.CMB. This particular sequence contains many prerecorded sequences created with Laurie Spiegels program Music Mouse. ( a mouse to another mouse!) Now that you hear the sequnce play, try moving the mouse around the screen. You will hear the sequence change in pitch (or key) Try changing the tempo to very fast and slowly move the mouse from left to right across the screen for a cool effect. Now click on the 2 symbol next to NotSeqR . This chooses what sequence you will play. Try choosing different sequences and seeing what the results are in playing with the mouse movements.

9. Now go to the RIGHT Mouse presets. It is still on NOTE 1 . Change it to NotRep Now press BOTH mouse buttons down and click into the playing screen. You will hear both actions at once!

10. Now lets try something different. At the very bottom of the screen is a row with letters in it. Click on the two H symbols so they are highlighted. H means HOLD. Now left click and slide your mouse across the screen once (BTW: this is called a "gesture" in Midi Ax) You will see a number 1 at the top right part of the screen. Now slide across the screen twice in succesion. You will see the numbers 1 and 2 alternatly. Now lets RIGHT click and slide and see what happens. Remember that the right Mouse position (P2) is still on the NotRep preset. Go across 4 times. You will see the numbers 1 thru 4 on the top part of the screen. They are repeating the notes you just played. The tempo of the repeats is set with the tempo slider (if you want to adjust it) These will continue forever. This can get rather wild by using left and right clicks and sweeping the screen.Another trick is to left click once, then left click agin in the same position. keep on clicking and Midi Ax creates a "round" of the preset sequence.

To PAUSE it, click on the P symbol at the bottom of the screen. Now clear the repeat/hold field by hitting CLR HOME on the computer keyboard.

11. EXPERIMENT by selecting different sequences to drag around (see no 8 above) and different presets for each mouse button.( P1 and P2)Look in the Midi Ax manual for further descriptions of these presets and what you can do with them. Now the program is not so much of a mystery and you are now free to experiment and create some music with this application.


It has been reported that Midi Ax works well under emulation with the Atari Emulator for the PC platform called STEem Engine. This is the first emulator that works with Midi applications. See Tims Atari Midi world front page for the Link to STEem.


A special Bundled Edition of KCS(ver 4) with Midi AX 342 KB

MIDI Axe: Contains 3 versions of the program in which two of them are for use with an alternate controller used by Dr T (the Buchla Thunder) 410 KB

Docs for FINGERS and MIDI AX in TXT and ST-Guide Hypertext Format 175 KB

A FINGERS file by Jacky Schreiber.Excellent African beat with Mirimba's and Kalimba's 4 KB

text file: Midi Ax and Looping by Trond 3 KB

text file: Tips on Editing the KCS.INF file on the special Edition of Midi Ax bundled with KCS ver 4 by Gregory Rayee 4 KB

MIDI file: Improve1. No overdubs.all done live. 25 KB

MIDI file.Example of Live performance of Midi Ax (in GM format) 25 KB

Tims Finger Files to be used in the Fingers part of Midi Ax 17 KB

Eugine Martynec is a Midi Ax Artist.

Go HERE and HERE for information and RealTime Audio examples of his work.