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Megastar Synthesizer Collective

Algorithmic Programs By Gareth Jones

Megastar Synthesizer Collective

Heres a story: One time Derek Johnson ( who writes the Atari-Notes column for Sound On Sound Magizine published in the UK.) told me about an algorithmic program called Schoenberg Composer. He said he would dig up his PD versions for me and send them. After a long time,( and my diplomatic pesterings! ) he finally found them and sent the discs to me. He also sent PD versions of the programmers other programs.Needless to say, I was very thankful, and posted them on the Atari-Midi file section for members to try out.

Right after this, during my Web searches for Atari-Midi programs, I actually came across Gareth Jone's Web site with an excellent section describing his Atari applications. With the advent of STEEM, the Atari Emulator for PC now working with Midi programs, he decided to release his applications as Freeware/PD. This is wonderful for those using an Atari as well as STEEM. These programs are excellent generative software that is easy to use as well as making it easy for non-musicians to generate music with a little twist to it. You can also use these applications for 'serious' work as well. Gavin Stevens (of the Atari-midi mailing list as well as the CN-Fractal mailing list) has composed some excellent piano pieces using Schoenberg Composer. I have done some work with it myself , contributing to the CN-Fractal CD project: Key Scapes. Have a listen here: The CN-Fractal Music web page at MP3.Com and look for "Fairhaven"

The Download LINK is at the bottom of the page for all of the Megastar Synthesizer Collective programs.


Schoenberg Composer Main Screen

SCHOENBERG is an algorithmic serial music composition emulator for the Atari ST and related computers. This program emulates the serial (twelve-tone) music composition techniques developed by the Second Veinnese School of composers, Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. These techinques are still widely used by many of today's "serious" composers.

The composition system is as follows. The twelve notes that make up the octave are arranged in a fixed order using each note only once. This is called a TONE or NOTE-ROW. The composition is then built from repeated appearances of the tone-row. The row may be used in four ways; forwards, backwards (retrograde ), upside-down ( inversion ), backwards and upside-down combined ( inverted retrograde ). The tone-row may also start at any of the twelve pitches within the row. This gives a total of 48 row variations from which to compose the piece. In composition more than one note from each row may be used to form chords.

With this program the composer enters a tone-row in to the computer which then automatically calulates all 48 variations and arranges them in to random order. When the computer plays back the music, it works through all 576 notes of the composition randomly picking out single notes and chords, and sending them to each of 16 virtual MIDI "players". As well as notes this program also has cmpositional data rows for note length, and note velocity. Both these rows undergo the same transformations to make up the finished piece of music. In the 1 Meg Plus versions the process is repeated 3 times to produce compostions of 1728 notes length ( in "ECHOES" PLAYBACK modes the composition are only a quarter of these lengths ). Although this program was written for pure twelve-tone music it is flexible enough to encompose other styles as well.

A Q/A session from discussions on the Atari-Midi Mailing List:

Dr Ambient Asks:

Tim, you have explored a lot more programs like this than I have, so I have a Q.
In what way does Schoenberg differ from other programs such as Tunesmith?
Dr. Ambient

Tim Conrardy responds:

Good Question! One of the main differances is that with Tunesmith you more or less get the same constant Output, however, you can change that, but that is the Tunesmith "sound" as I like to put it.Of course it is up to the indevidual on what comes out. Also it is more "realtime"..that is you can tweak it while it generating stuff. With SB5 (Schoenberg Composer version 5), you are actually generating stuff, and letting the program actually have a lot of control in generating the material. Also you get different rythms going in and out. It sounds real different then Tunesmith. Of course you set what pitches it will use, what rythm structure and what velocitites, plus other factors such as Echoing. Plus there is a realtime element, which I just read about and have to explore more. A session with SB5 means you are not touching your midi keyboard at all, but experimenting with inputing different parameters and hearing what the results are. If you like it , you can save it as a standard midi file or SB5 file. With Midi file output, you can bring it into your favorite sequencer for inclusion into a larger piece.Also, SB is perfect for GM as it has a GM map to assign sounds right inside the program. Very handy! I think it is similer to M in many respects, but it still has a different sound then M as well.

The best thing to do is boot up the prgram and load one of the demo files. You will hear a vast differance between TS and SB5.

A session with SB5: how to create "tonal" compositions.

By Tim Conrardy


1.Double click on the SB5 application. If this is the first time you have run the program it will ask for what "mode" of SB5 you want. Read the Installation Notes in the SB5.TXT file that came with the program.

2.The two opening screens finally load and you are presented with the main SB5 screen.

3.Now to get some initial output from the program, select the COMPOSE Button.It becomes highlighted. When finished it un-highlights itself. Now click on PLAY. You will an interesting flurry of notes in the 12 tone style. If you are using a GM module you will hear some interesting percussion added to the sound as well. While this may be interesting, there are ways to get some "tonal" output from the program.Hit the SPACE BAR. SB5 stops playing (WHEW!)

4. First thing to change is the MIDI Channel row for number 10. Change it to 11, or another suitable midi channel. This way we get rid of the percussion sounds (unless you want that..but for now..lets change it.)

5.Notice there are Three Rows or sections. PITCH, NOTE LENGTH, and VELOCITY.

6.Go to the PITCH row and click into the box above the [1]. All the notes in that row are erased waiting to be filled in with your own note (pitch)selections.

7.I have found that using only 3 or 4 notes, you can get tonal output from SB5. This is accomplished by clicking on the notes right below the empty row and they are filled in by your selections. For this example, select C, E,and G.Repeat that sequence all the way thu the 12 slots for pitch.Notice this is a C major Triad chord.

NOTE: I have also found that by just selecting the 'black keys', that is the SHARP notes, you can get excellent pentatonic compositions.

8. Now we will be selecting paramaters for NOTE LENGTH. The selection is the same as above. Click in the box above the [1] and the previous note lengths are erased. click on [12] ( for our example ) thru all the 12 positions in the row.

9.For VELOCITY, we can leave this alone for now. We can come back to it at any time.

10.Click on COMPOSE. Then PLAY. You will hear an interesting progression created from the C-Major triad.Press the space bar to stop it at anytime. It will stop by itself as well after it has finished generating.

Style screen in SB5

11. Lets change some things. Click on STYLE. You are brought to the STYLE screen. Lots of things here to experiment with. If you noticed when you play the piece, the timing was fluctulating a lot. To get rid of this and to make it more constant, RIGHT CLICK on LENGTH ROW (so it is unlighlighted) on the INVERSIONS colomn.Click on COMPOSE , then PLAY. You will hear the output a little more constant. Hit the Space bar to stop it. Lets go on.

12.Suppose I did not want to hear so much transposition in the piece. RIGHT CLICK (so it is not highlighted)on TRANSPOSE ROWS under TRANSPOSER at the bottom left corner of the screen. Now COMPOSE and PLAY to hear the results. It does not transpose anymore but stays in one key (more or less!).Stop it with the space bar when you are ready.

13. Lets try some more variation.Left click on ECHOES in the PLAYBACK Colomn. COMPOSE and PLAY. You will hear some arpegio sounding output.STOP, now try clicking on MULTIPLIER. COMPOSE and PLAY.

14 Sounds rather nice now. Lets slow it down a bit.Click on the tempo. For some reason, a higher number means slowing the tempo down. Right and Left Clicks make it go up or down. For our purposes, change it to 70. Now just select PLAY (no need to COMPOSE)Much Nicer!

15. Now lets SAVE your Piece. First click into MIDI FILE at the top menu bar. You have several selections there on how you want your midi file saved. I would select FORMAT 1. 192 PPQN, and GM DATA as well as GM NAME if you are using a GM module or plan to post on the net.Now go to SAVE. Select .MID. The file selector appears. You may want to save the MID file to the MID folder in the SB5 directory.Select that folder. then name your piece and PUT IN THE EXTENSION : .MID. Otherwise it will not save.

16. You can also SAVE your parameter settings by saving as a SB5 file from the save menu. Remember to put the .SB5 extension when saving your file!

GM screen in SB5

17.There is also a screen for assigning patch changes in GM format.( GM EDIT) You can even save your patch change referances as a GMF file . The same applies above when saving this file type as well.

18.The thing to do now is to explore by putting in different settings for Pitch, Note length and velocity as well as TRANsposition, and any of the STYLE parameters. The key is to put in some new values, COMPOSE, then PLAY to hear the results. SAVE if you like it and keep on going. You can generate many fine little pieces this way that you can export into your favorite sequencer for embellishments, or keep as is. It is up to you.


Midi Mouse Music selection Screen

Midi Mouse Music By Gareth Jones

This is an excellent Alternate Mouse controller. It is actually 5 programs in one.


The program opens with a dialog to choose your instrument. Click on MATRIX.

1.Matrix: allows you to play two scales (which can be selected by the user) in X and Y dimensions.You can choose what midi channel you want so each axis can have a different sound. You can also choose its key (or transpose) as well as Octave. It also has global settings for velocity and a sustain switch. Clicking on MATRIX will bring you to the grid. Using matrix is easy. By sliding the mouse up and down or around you can generate melodies as well as harmonies. The speed is not dependant on a tempo control as in Midi Square and Music Mouse but is dependant on mouse movement. So it is easy to go slow and fast at the same time and thus create some interesting articulations. One trick is to click once into a square on the grid. It will generate a two note cord. If you can remember the best combinations of squares to generate chords you can actually compose a piece that you can "play" in a predictable manner. Now RIGHT click to get back to the dialog, click on exit. It brings you back to the main menu.

Here follows some discriptions of the rest of the instruments. Follow the above procedure to get back to the main menu.

2.STRUM: A guitar strumming type controller.Only one voice (midi channel) is possable but interesting combinations can be achieved.Clicking on EDIT STRUM will reveal a dialog to edit the entire grid you will be strumming with transpose,octave and scale settings. Using various combinations of these variables will produce amazing results as you "strum" across the grid.Going vertically will allow an interesting combination of ALL the scales selected, while going horozontally will produce one scale in the row. Going in circles will produce a combination of both techniques.

3.STAVES: One channel can be selected along with transpose, velocity and what scale you want as well as a sustain switch.It appears that only the major scale can be selected for this instrument.The grid shows the GRAND STAFF STAFF in which you can move the mouse around to generate notes.

4.KEYBOARD is the same as STAFF however with Semitone being the only preset available under scales. You can use the mouse to generate notes on a piano type keyboard (much the same as in many Patch Editors)

5.JOYSTICK. Here is an interesting twist. Each X and Y axis can be assigned different continous controller messages. Also each x and Y axis can be assigned a different midi channel to control. This is much the same as a feature in the barefoot version of Edit Track, which has a joystick dialog for the same thing. You can control velocities, panning, modulation and a host of other features.

At present, the only way you can record MMMusc's output is with an external sequencer either as another Computer or hardware/synth workstation setup.

Have Fun with Midi Mouse Music!!!


ST Muse Main Screen

Here is from the ST-MUSE txt file which gives an excellent description of ST-Muse in Gareths own words:

ST-MUSE is an algorithmic MIDI music composer that uses simple mathematical sequences and digital logic to generate its output. It is best suited to producing repeating polyphonic sequences or, slowly evolving melodies and accompaniments.

I first came across a desciption of the "MUSE" in Hal Chamberlin's book "Musical Applications of Microprocessors" ( Hayden Book Company, IBSN 0-8104- 5753-9 ). The "MUSE" was a analogue music composition machine which the user, by using combinations of switches and levers, would control a digital sequence generator, which would in turn control the pitch output of a voltage controlled oscillator.

The machine would generate a number of binary digital signals from various counters, 31-stage shift register, and 0 and 1 logic lines. Then via the switches, these signals are combined to control a parity generator ( which in turn controls the output of the shift register ) and, through scale transition logic, a 5-bit digital to analogue conveter connected to the oscillator. Changing the switches would sometimes produce fixed sequences of notes, trills, long non-repeating melodies, or just random notes.

In this digital simulation all the counters, shift registers, scale transition logic, etc. are software generated, and the output is MIDI note data. I have "improved" on the original machine by adding polyphony, more counters, random elements, plus extensive control of scales, transpositions, MIDI channels etc. For Version 2 I have added a number of extra features including - more Sets, Scales, longer Set Sequences, the abilty to save Standard MIDI files, and a General MIDI editor.

ST Muse Scale Screen



In this digital simulation there are 4 types of signal generators that drive the data lines, COUNTERS, SHIFT REGISTER, RANDOM, and FIXED. There are 3 different counters used in ST MUSE, a 7-bit ascending counter, a 7-bit decending counter, and 6-bit divide by 3 counter. The Shift Register is a 32-bit type which is driven by the output of the PARITY GENERATOR, and is clocked at half the rate of the COUNTERS and RANDOM data lines. There is a 5-bit random number generator, and finally two data lines permanently set at 1 and 0.

The data lines from the signal generators control, via the virtual switches, up to 6 MIDI Voices, a Parity Generator, Set Sequencer, and a Rythym controller. Each of the MIDI Voices is driven by a 4-bit number ( 0 - 15 ), derived by the sum of the connected data lines. Number 0 is correponds to a rest and numbers 1 - 15 each correspond to a note of a selectable scale. In addition to this Voices 5 and 6 can be switched, via the MODE page, to give delayed versions of Voice 4.

All 6 sets of Voice parameters, MIDI Channel, Note Velocity, Scale Root, Octave Transposition, and Note Scale can all be programed together as a SET. Up to 6 SETs can be programmed on the SETS screen, selectable from the main screen. In addition the preset Voice Scales there are 12 user programmable Scales, which are set on the SCALES screen.

To increase the amount of variation in the music ST MUSE includes a SET SEQUENCER screen. Here you can control directly ( from the data lines ) or in sequence ( via a programmable number of clocks ) of up to 64 steps, which SET controls the output of the 6 MIDI Voices.

Also included is a General MIDI/Roland GS editing screen where you edit your synth's parameters as you program the music.

There are more of Gareths programs, which there is descriptions and downloads on his site. These include some excellent Fractal and Graphic Programs.These also include STEEM compatable files (with the .ST extension) Check out the links below.

Midi Mouse Music: Alternate Controller. 20 KB

Picture Music. Create Midi music from Pictures 100 KB

Psychdelic Movie maker 265 KB

Psycho-Fractal . Creates midi music from Fractal Images. 355 KB

Psycho-Midi. Another Image and Midi program! 87 KB

Schoenberg Composer Ver 5. Creates 12 row compositions. Algorithmic Composer 264 KB

ST Mus 2.Algorithmic Composer 236 KB

Schoenberg Composer specific files created by members of the Atari-Midi Mailing list.
Note: you will need to become a member of Atari-MIDI to access these files. See forums.

Gareth Jone's Web site