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The Interactive Algorithmic Phrase Generator


Tunesmith The Interactive Algorithmic Phrase generator By Jim Johnson

The Technoids dream

Tunesmith is one of the most facinating Algorithmic Programs to appear for the Atari, and in my opinion , unequaled on any platform. With todays rave on Techno and pattern based Instruments (such as the Roland Mc505,Yamaha RM1X)) Tunesmith would feel right at home. It is capable of complex yet pleasing phrases of exotic beauty with complete control in the hands of the user. Algo-comp at it's best.

Just a little background on Tunesmith. It came out at the time when algorithmic programs were the "big thing"..late 80's. Actually Dr T kicked it off with the "Algorithmic Composer" package for the Commadore 64. A Certain Jan Hammer found out about it and had to purchase a Commadore 64 system to put next to his $30,000 Fairlite just to run Algorithmic Composer! He used it on his Miami Vice scores. Then Jim Johnson, the Author, decided to upgrade his ideas and the result was Tunesmith for the Atari. Also Dr T (Emile Tobenfeld) put out "Fingers", another algo-comp program.Both could be used as modules for the MPE system on Dr T's KCS sequencer. Also "M" (Intellegent music) and Ludwig(Hybrid Arts)came out at the same time along with Music Mouse (Laurie Spiegel) Quoting from the manual:"Tunesmith is a program for generating Musical themes and variations. Themes my be played using Hundreds of different scales, and an accompaniment generator allows the creation of an infinite number of accompiments based on these themes.Themes can be linked to form a complete song."

Basically (in musical terms) It takes a scale (such as a C-major scale) and creates a "theme" from the scale using parameters you specify. Variations of the main theme can be created as well.The theme then can be transformed into a 5 part Accompaniment, with controls for patch change, octave,articulation, velocity, with "algorithms" for harmony "types" and more. The settings can be saved as presets for later recall when you "play" the themes into a module called the Arranger which makes it into a "song". Much like taking "patterns" in a sequencer and linking them together to form a song. What makes it interactive is that you can click on any of the parameters while it is in "record " mode and it saves it in the arrangement. Much like "M" which captures your "performance" as a "movie"and saves it as a midi file. In Tunesmiths case, you can save it as a Tunesmith file, or save it as a KCS sequence file, OR..it operates within the MPE and records right into KCS!

Tunesmith Now FREEWARE

I am Happy to announce that Tunesmith for Atari is now FREEWARE! Thanks go to Trond Einar Garmo of the Norwegian University of Science and Technolgy for providing the latest version of Tunesmith that is without copy protection. (from the time when Dr T software removed all copy protection) and also to Jim Johnson for coding it and giving permission to have it as Freeware. Thankyou Jim! (now I can stop bugging him!) There is now a 030 compatable version provided by Donald Skaggs (of the Atari-MIDI mailing List) as well. DOWNLOAD IT BELOW.

Jim did have his own web site with some very interesting MIDI software for PC.However he has now closed it. To see the notice go here:
http//: www.technotoys.com

The Tunesmith Midi Patterns

Here is a collection of small midi files that contain Tunesmith "Themes". Some were generated using custom scales, some with the built in scales in Tunesmith. These midi files or "Tunesmith "patterns" can be used with any sequencer that sopports the Type 1 midi files standard.

Most of the files contain a track called SETUP which allows you to change patch numbers, velocity, ect. They can be used effectivly with a General Midi module or soundcard that sopports GM. To change the patch numbers, ect, bring the track into the EVENT or LIST editor of your sequencer.

These Midi files are meant to be used as "loops" or "patterns " that you can chain together to form a background of a Tunesmith generated piece.Use the tools available in your sequencer to bring these "patterns" to life.

My wish is that even musicians that do not have an Atari, much less Tunesmith, can have the pleasure of "playing" with algorithmic generated patterns, and thus keep the flame of "Tunesmith" alive. ENJOY!

  • DOWNLOAD Tunesmith Patterns in General Midi format

    Within the TUNSMITH.ZIP are my own Tunesmith files in a folder called TUNSTUFF. Here you will find Scales and Tunes and a unique Tunesmith file called MATRIXKY.TUN.The idea for this came from an alternate "keyboard" I used to own by EML called the matrix keybrd. It was basically a matrix of pads arranged 4x4=16 keys, with indevidual knobs for tuning each pad. I created my own scales. Thru time, I lost that keybrd. However, I am able to reproduce it somewhat with this file! Since each QWERTY key in Tunesmith can be assigned a scale, I assigned only ONE NOTE across the scale, so each key on the QWERTY keybrd is actually one note. Then I created a "scale"across the QWERTY keys. So when you Select START in Tunesmith, you can "play" the QWERTY keys like a keybrd controller. The only thing is it is rythm dependent on Tunesmith's tempo.But it is Unique. A way to go beyond a softwares intention!

    The TUNE files called TIMSCALE**.TUN contains my library of Tunesmith scales that are assigned to each key on the QWERTY keybrd. On these "scales" I did not follow traditional scaling, but created my own "patterns" to create the results that I wanted.You can load any of these files by going to MENU and selecting LOAD TUNE.

    System Requirments

    Tunesmith will work on any ST, however the original version will NOT work on a TT, and perhaps NOT a Falcon. (have not tried it)

    However there is now a 030 compatable version provided by Donald Skaggs (of the Atari-midi mailing List)See below for the download.If you have enough memory, it will load into KCS as an MPE module.This works well on a TT030 and Falcon.

    Tunesmith looks very nice in ST Medium Res, as the colors are configurable.(see below for the procedure) However ST HI is also sopported. ST LOW is Not however.

    Tunesmith Tutorial
    A Session with Tunesmith.

    1. Double click on the TUNSMITH.PRG. the program opens. Once you get to the main screen, press the space bar, or click on "PLAY". You will hear an Acending scale.

    2.Press any of the QWERTY keys or the numbered keys above QWERTY to hear a scale that is assigned to that particular key stroke. Notice the Number keys contain more "normal" scales such as Major, oriental, ect. The other key contain scales based from other sources.

    3.Press some of the function keys. these effect "model" changes in Tunesmith.

    4.Press some of the 10-Key numeric keys. These change the Keys and Octaves of the scales.Press " ( " key to get back to "C".

    5.Go to the Themes Generator Window and RIGHT Click on TA. You will hear an Algorithmic variation of the scale that you previously been hearing.

    6.Go to the Theme and Varaition Parameter Window. Set Microbeat to "6", Pulse to "2", Rest probability to "0", Rythm Algorithm to "1", and Variant to "1".

    7. RIGHT Click on TA again. You will hear a more constant phrase being generated.

    8.Go to the Accompaniment window to the Status line and click on the second Mute Button to Un-mute it. You will hear an identical line coming out in unisyn.

    9. Go to Harmony on the same window , click on the first line and change it to "4". You should hear some harmonies being generated from the original phrase.

    10. go to Program in the same window and change the values of channels 1 and 2 untill you find an interesting combination.

    11. Click in the letter "B" on the Accomplanament Preset Window. This saves the accompaniment you have just created to a preset for later recall.

    12.On the Themes and Variation window, click on VA1. You should now hear a variation of TA. Click into TB. This will create another Phrase or Theme.

    13. EXPERIMENT: Change parameters in the theme and variation parameters window.Then click into TC to TE areas in the Theme and Variations window to hear what Themes (Phrases)your new settings create. Unmute more voices and experiment with program changes, types of harmony, octave, velocity, accent, and articulation. Save your settings as a preset in the Accompaniment preset window..Try changing the channel number to 10 (drums) and the harmony types to get different drum patterns going. Click into anything to see what happens

    14. Hit backpace to stop playing, or use the mouse at the botton of the screen.

    15.You can get HELP by hitting the HELP button and all the commands and algorythms are listed for your viewing pleasure.

    16.To change the screen colors go to the MENU and select CHANGE COLORS. A dialog appears for you to do just that. Once you are done, save it as the DEFAULT.TUN, and your color scheme will be saved.

    17.To change other settings, go to MENU and select SET OPTIONS. Here you can select for midi thru (or merge) to be on, change mouse cursers,(mouse pointer)and other stuff.If you want these setting to be there everytime you start Tunesmith, save it as the DEFAULT.TUNE.

    18. Also within the Menu is EDIT SCALES. First select a QWERTY key you want to edit the scale from. Go to MENU, then EDIT SCALES.From there you can use your Midi keybrd to input a new scale, call it what you want and save it it indevidually to disc, or go OK and when you save the overall TUN, it is saved in that tune.Some of the other menu Options are Obvious. Just explore those Options.

    19.Have Fun with Tunesmith!


    Most of the time I record Tunesmith's out-put directly to Cubase on my Atari TT030. Tunesmith sends midi clock, so I am able to syncronise it to Cubase using the External sync option on Cubase. Once I get a pleasing Tunesmith piece into Cubase, I add other "lead" instruments, perhaps more percussion, whatever seems to fit the piece. So I mainly use it as a Techno background for melodic exploration. I did try a piece where all I did was minipulate only the Tunesmith Parts. The copy and paste commands as well as track copying to other midi channels came in usefull to accent certain "phrases" of the piece. Within Tunesmith is the ability to create custom Scales that you can assign to any QWERTY keystroke.Also you can save indevidual scales to disc so you can have a library of scales to choose from. I have created some of my own scales, however instead of creating acending or decending scales, I input a pattern of notes. A melody or phrase of my own design. Then THAT is used to create themes in Tunesmith. Fancinating results are obtained. Sometimes I use KCS (Dr T's keyboard controlled sequencer) along with the MPE (Multi Program Environment so that Tunesmith loads up right along side of KCS. So anything I generate in Tunesmith goes to a Sequence track in Open mode of KCS.Once I do a few short pieces in Tunesmith, I go to the Open mode playback screen and I am able to play my Tunesmith pieces by selecting QWERTY keys, starting and stopping any Tunesmith piece at will. I can even play them ALL at once for a very wierd effect!

    There is so much more to this program that I am only at the foot of the mountain of all the possabilities.


    Tunesmith and Tonality

    One of the unique thing about Tunesmith, besides creating themes and accompliments, is it's TONALITY SECTION. This is one of the Genuies of Jim Johnson, as he integrated many ideas in the Tonality section of Tunesmith.

    Just as a starting note: It might be interesting to know where Jims original ideas came from for Tunesmith. The seed was planted from an article in "Contemporary Keyboard" called "Automatic Improvisation with Modular Synthisisers" by Roger Powell(former keyboardist with Todd Rungrens UTOPIA band as well as a creating his own sequencing software called TEXTURE)The Tonality section ideas came from a book called "Music Possable" by Stan Jungelieb, then director of publications at Sequential Circuits.The concept of Microrhythms came form Jack Citrons book "Cybernetic Music". Looks like a lot of heads came together to bring us this program.

    Tunesmiths Tonality sections includes 4 clusters of keys on the computer keyboard.These four sections determine which notes Tunesmith will use at any given moment as it converts it into actual Midi Music.

    1.SCALES: Every key on the qwerty keyboard starting at numerical key 1 to 0 and q to / can be assigned a different scale. There are 46 default scales. The first 38 scales are derived from the scale clasification as set out in the book called "Music Possable" by Stan Jungelieb. The rest are "user scales" However, any of the scales can be over written with user scales. (See CREATING USER SCALES) The keys in the Top row select the more common scale families: major, minor, ect. the further you move away from the 1 key, the more exotic the scale is.The 5th help screen (Just select help and click 5 times)shows a list of all the default scales. Once you get into tunesmith, you may want to try creating your own scales, or inputing a pattern of notes that Tunesmith can use as its pitch structure, and not nessisarily a scale.Load the VOYAGE.TUN for an example of this.

    2.MODES. The Function keys F1-10 This selects a MODE that the scale can be altered to.

    F2- the first mode:equivalent to the scale itself
    F3-selects the second mode, ect up to
    F8 which select the 7th mode.
    F1-selects the 7th mode one octave down F10 selects the 2nd mode one octave up.

    The best thing to do is start Tunesmith playing in a MAJ scale (no 1 on the top part of the keyboard)and start hitting the Function keys to hear the results. From there you can be more selective. You can create a whole arrangment with just alternating Modes. Most Jazz music has discovered this, instead of changing keys.

    3.KEY Selectors: These are the 12 keys at the top of the Numerical keypad at the far right side of the computer keyboard .The "( " key is the beginning .Going to the left, it transposes the scale selected up one semitone.

    4. OCTAVE selectors: On the Numerical keypad, the 1,2,3,0,and . keys deturmine the octaves. the "0" key is No transposition. The "." key transposes DOWN one octave. "ENTER" transposes down two octaves. The 1,2 and 3 keys transpose up by one, two and three octaves respectivly.


    This is where Tunesmith can be an interactive instrument, by selecting different Modes, scales and kets as well as changing octaves on the fly.All of these actions can be recorded using the ARRANGER mode.

    Try sticking to one or two scales, and then changing the Modes as well as being very selective in the KEY settings. You can create an entire arrrangement from using changing these parameters IN REAL TIME.

    Let me stress that THIS IS A REAL TIME PROGRAM Which brings us to the point why Jim Johnson did NOT use GEM is programming Tunesmith. Gem would be too slow in a real time situation, so he purposly avoided it.

    Once you get used to the Tonality section, it becomes a lot of fun to create interesting accomplments that you can use in your own creations.

    Midi Control of Tonality.

    1.Open Tunesmith
    2.Go to menu, and select SET OPTIONS.
    3.You will see the many options and 'toggles" available for you. You will see an option called MIDI CONTROL. Select it so it is highlighted.
    4.Right across from it you will see a dialog that says:MIDI CONTROL CHANNEL. If it is not set to channel 1, change it to reflect this.This presumes that your keyboard controller is set to TRANSMIT on channel 1.
    5.Select OK, and you are back to the Tunesmith screen.
    6.Either load up a TUN file (Menu/Load Tune)or create a new theme. In other words, get tunesmith going by pressing the space bar and clicking on START.
    6.You can now select keys on your midi keyboard and this will control the Tonalities as well as the keys!
    7.Here is the MAP:
    The ten white keys centered on the second octave of a standard 5 octave keyboard (B2-D4) selects the MODES. The 11 keys in the second octave from the top of the keyboard (C5-B5) select the key.

    Using Tunesmith under Midi Control opens up a lot of LIVE interaction possabilities. It is easier to vusualize the modes and what they do and turns Tunesmith into more of a performance tool then a generator of phrases.

    Creating Custom Scales in Tunesmith

    1.Once you open the program, select the Q key on the computer keyboard.The Tunesmith display should read "SCALE: Q A3."

    2.Select MENU at the bottom.Now select EDIT SCALES.

    3.The EDIT SCALES dialog appears.

    4. You will see the SCALE KEY which refers to the qwerty key assignment. In this case, since we had selected Q previously, you see KEY SCALE Q in the dialog. The Name is A3.

    5.Go to your midi keyboard and play a scale.You will see the notes in the dialog change to the notes you are "writting in" on your midi keyboard.

    6.Select A3, and now you can rename the scale to your own imagination.

    7.Down at the bottom of the dialog is OK, CANCEL,LOAD and SAVE. You can save this scale indevidually and use it latter. OR select OK, and the scale is writtrn to the letter Q. Then when you save the TUN, the custon scale is saved with it.

    8.Click on SELECT SCALE. A dialog asks you to "select the scale key". Select another letter on the qwerty keyboard. Without leaving this dialog, you can reprogram all the scales used on the qwerty keyboard.

    9.APPLICATIONS: You can either program some unusual scales and create a library of scales structures in which to choose from.Or you can actually create a "pattern" which is not a scale, but say a BASS LINE or melody. If you program different patterns for each key on the qwerty keyboard, you can easily build many compositions based on this library of patterns. If you 'randomize" the patterns using the Theme generator, it even gives you more possabilities.

    Just found out some HIDDEN FEATURES from close reading of the manual:


    The accomplaniment generator has TWO hidden features which uses mouse clicks to get at them.

    1. COPY: all the accomplaniment parameters (exept the staus of the Mute switch) may be COPIED from one voice to another by CLICKING on the Voice Number below the channel label.A dialog will appear in the display window asking for a destination track.The UNDO key will cancell the copy.

    This would be extremly usefull to enter parameters very quickly and also LIVE on the fly when the program is running for some interesting effects.

    2. LOCK: Indevidual voices can be LOCKED OUT from preset changes with the Voice Lock feature. If you click on the empty space to the LEFT of a voice number, a funky icon will will appear in the space.This locks out that row of any preset changes. This is usefull to develope a "lead" intrument, and keep the settings that go with that instrument while you can change any of the other ones while the lead instrument remains uneffected