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Dr T's M Package & OctaMED Pro v.6

Amiga Notes
Published May 1995

There have been plenty of goings‑on in the Amiga world during the last four weeks. Paul Overaa spills the beans...

One of the many pieces of news this month is that Dr T's M package has finally appeared on the Amiga. Many Amiga users are probably not aware of this program, and so a few words of explanation are due. M is primarily a composition aid, and whilst it can be used to create fully‑fledged arrangements, it is not an auto‑arranger program in the same vein as say Blue Ribbon Soundworks SuperJAM. In fact Dr T's M shouldn't be compared to SuperJAM at all, because it is fundamentally different in operation. SuperJAM achieves its magic to a large extent by modifying pre‑stored riffs and merging them with your melodies and chord ideas. M, however, is able to perform far more complex changes (both user‑directed and algorithmic), effectively creating new riffs and food for thought as it does so. Furthermore, M has been designed so that most of the changes are made graphically, making it easy to experiment with new ideas once a user is familiar with the program. You don't even need a MIDI synth in order to be able to use M on the Amiga — sequences can be created with the pattern editor, and used with M's IFF internal sound options.

Basically, you record sequences (notes and/or chords) and, under your guidance, M is able to transform them. Tempo, key, velocity, duration, and note accents can all be changed, and melody lines can be scrambled or reversed in ways which you determine.

To record your basic sequences, four 'players' are available, which you can regard as individual sequencer tracks. You might, for example, start by playing a chord line for player 1, then add a melody for player 2, a bass line for player 3, and so on. M then quantises both the notes and durations of whatever you've played.

Having heard the results, you might try scrambling the melody or the bass line, or ask M to add cyclic or even totally random variations to the theme. You can vary the degree to which M does this, so you can get results as near to, or as far away from, your original riff as you choose. There are a whole range of editing functions to choose from, so it is not just the obvious characteristics of a sequence that can be altered. For example, the 'note density' function makes choices about which notes should sound, and this can dramatically alter the feel of the material originally recorded. As you continue working, you will find that M, though guided by your choice of settings, will add its own ideas to your original efforts. Naturally, as with all such composition aids, the changes may not always be to your liking!

To be honest, when you hear the initial results, M may sound like little more than a sophisticated arpeggiator, but a bit of experi‑mentation soon shows it to be much more than this. You really do have to spend time getting to know this program in order to appreciate its true potential. As always, the Dr T documentation is excellent, and includes a tutorial to help set newcomers on the right track.

So — should you buy it? Personally, I'm very attracted to this program, but I know plenty of people that take exactly the opposite viewpoint. On other platforms, this program has proved to be one that you either love or hate, and I suspect that it will have the same sort of 'polarised acceptance' amongst Amiga users. To my mind, the package, though new to the Amiga, is still a little long in the tooth in terms of underlying ideas.

Having said that, it's nice to see that Dr T's are not forgetting the Amiga, and for that reason, I hope the program does well! M costs £79.95, and is available from Millenium Music, who can be contacted on 0115 924 1924.

In Your Own Time, Lads...

Evidence has surfaced within the last few days that things are at last starting to move with regard to the sale of Commodore. Various messages that have appeared on the Internet have given rise to a whole new set of rumours concerning the proposed MBO (Management Buy‑Out) bid. It appears that one of the bidders, the German PC clone manufacturer and distributor Escom, has been able to purchase certain German trademarks (notably the Commodore logo), and have agreed with the Bahamian liquidators to sell these trademarks to any successful bidder when Commodore is sold.

One suggestion was that Escom wanted the logo for their Commodore PC machines, but it now seems likely that much more is at stake, and that Escom and the UK Commodore management team may be the two contenders battling it out for ownership of all the Amiga‑related copyrights and hardware. In other words, the sale of Commodore has reached the final 'auction' stage, where bids currently on the table can be formally challenged in the courts by any interested parties. This process, which is done primarily to ensure that the creditors get the best deal they can, is essentially the last stage in what has been an extremely complicated exercise by the liquidators.

Bids of around six million dollars have now been unofficially mentioned (far lower than the figures previously circulating), but the important thing is that buyers will be effectively forced to publicly announce their interest in the auctioning process. Hopefully, the net result should be that negotiations start to move very quickly towards completion.

Octamed Pro v.6

This new version of OctaMED Pro, probably the last before the OctaMED Pro Sound Studio appears later this year, is scheduled for release in late April, so it should be just about available by the time you read this. I've already seen and used some of the beta‑test versions and there are quite a few extra facilities. To my mind, however, one of the biggest attractions will be the further‑improved user interface. All the functions now use the modern 'gadtools‑oriented' windows with 3D‑look gadgets, which are now the order of the day for all serious Amiga software. The various editors (synthetic sound editor, sample editor and so on), along with a number of the main functions, now open in separately rearrangeable and re‑sizable windows, so users can tailor their OctaMED screen displays to suit their individual ways of working.

On‑line help, using the Workbench 3 Amiga guide facilities, is standard in OctaMED 6, and for the benefit of Release 2 users, the Amiga guide library will be included on the release disk. It's worth pointing out that although OctaMED itself now requires Workbench 2.04 or greater to run, the player program OctaMEDPlayer still only requires Kickstart/ Workbench 1.2. This means that Amiga users with older machines will still be able to play song modules created with the newer versions of the package.

In the UK, OctaMED Pro v.6 will cost £34.99 (including postage and a 'Get You Started' manual). Registered OctaMED v.5 users pay £25, and should return their original version 5 disks when ordering. There are various other price arrangements available for MUG (MED Users Group) members, European sales and so on — details are available from RBF Software, 169 Dale Valley Road, HollyBrook, Southampton SO16 6QX (vox/fax: 01703 785680).

By the way, the development of OctaMED Pro Sound Studio is coming along nicely. Features I've had definite news about include full separate screen stave editing, enhanced sound support, full load and save MIDI file support, and more compatibility with popular sampling hardware (Aura, Toccata and so on)...

Amiga News In Brief

    HiSoft have just released a fully‑working SCSI2 interface on a slot‑in PCMCIA card called the Squirrel. The connector allows up to six external SCSI devices to be chained together, so you can now add CD‑ROM drives, hard drives, and tape streamers to an A1200 with no interfacing problems. The Squirrel will also allow A600 users (at last) to add CD‑ROM or hard drives to their machines. The price of the interface and the associated software is £69.99. For further details, contact HiSoft on 01525 718181.
    Almathera have released an upgrade to their 24‑bit image manipulation package Photogenics. The upgrade (to version 1.1a) adds any‑angle rotation, new blur types, median and defocus filters, and enhanced line art, along with a variety of other new effects. Registered users wishing to upgrade should send a disk and stamped addressed disk mailer, quoting their registration number, to: Almathera, Boundary Business Court, 92‑94 Church Road Mitcham CR4 3TD. (Tel: 0181 687 0040).
    An Amiga version of Prolog, the logic‑based programming language used for Artificial Intelligence research, is about to be released by Grange Technology. GT‑Prolog features an easy‑to‑use front end called Probench, and the compiler itself is based on the now de facto standard 'Edinburgh Prolog' syntax. The price will be £89.95. More details are available from Grange Technology on 01235 851818.