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Hollis Research Trackman; Roni Music's Sweet 16

Atari Notes By Derek Johnson
Published August 1997

Derek Johnson reports on three covetable programs for sequencing and composition, and urges you to share the ware...

This month, I've discovered that two of my favourite sequencers have become rather more accessible. I still regularly use Hollis Research Trackman (reviewed by SOS back in December 1988, with a preview in November of that year), since it offers a pattern‑based approach to song creation that's fast, fun and immediate. Over the years, it's undergone improvements and additions, with the latest version being 2.5. If you want a copy, visit Hollis Research's web site (, and download it for nothing. You read that correctly: a 32‑track, 32‑MIDI‑channel sequencer with comprehensive event editing, mixing and synchronisation options for absolutely nothing. Considering that this software was released at £199, that's not a bad saving. The downside is that you can't really expect any support (but the software is very stable), and you don't get the full package, which included a manual, programmable footswitch (for the joystick port) and a second MIDI Out that plugged into the modem socket, for 32 independent MIDI channels (a suitable adaptor can be obtained from Hands On MIDI Software, 01705 783100, or Westec MIDI Market, 01621 788466). Almost everything is available from a keyboard shortcut, so moving around is very quick, and Trackman will work on any Atari, from a 520 up, although the more RAM you have, the more MIDI information you can record. All that author John Hollis asks is that you retrieve Trackman from his web site, and not distribute it in any other way, so that he can keep track of how many copies are being used. Fair enough, I think.

Sixteenth Sense

Of more recent vintage is Swedish software house Roni Music's Sweet 16, reviewed in February 1994's SOS. The software has just gone shareware, with registration costing just US$30 (about £18) if you like and use it. Sweet 16, when we reviewed it, offered a Creator‑like environment for under £50, so the much‑enhanced v2.72 is still great value. Again, Sweet 16 is essentially pattern‑based, with comprehensive editing facilities, including a piano‑roll note editor. One particularly nice feature is that each track within a pattern can have its own length: tracks simply loop until the track with the longest length is finished. You can have a four‑beat drum loop, a seven‑beat bass riff, and sundry other parts at varying lengths, and Sweet 16 will be happy to play them all back accurately. Used to its extreme this gives you what amounts to an algorithmic composition effect. Enhancements since our original review include a General MIDI mixer (with level faders, pan pots, effects sends and bank/patch select controls) and an improved keyboard editor. Like Trackman, Sweet 16 can also address 32 MIDI channels, providing you add a MIDI output expander to your modem port. The software is easy to use, with the pattern window living side by side with the song list.

Author Rolf Nilsson has ported Sweet 16 to the PC, and any improvements should be echoed in the ST version — not only does Rolf feel that the Atari's timing is better, but he has "a special feeling for the Atari version... That's where I got started in MIDI programming". The software should be available from the usual PD and shareware channels, and can be downloaded from Roni Music's web site (‑11396).

Serial Killer

Last month, we covered Floppyshop's six‑disk PD/shareware music and MIDI software pack. I've since been playing with several of the pack's programs, and one I particularly enjoy is Gareth Jones' Schoenberg, a shareware algorithmic serial composition emulator. Basically, you select a 12‑event tone row, and a composition is then built from repeated appearances of the row: forwards, backwards, upside down or backwards and upside down. The tone row may appear at any of the 12 pitches within an octave, giving a total of 48 variations, and chords may be formed from more than one note from each row. Similarly, the software allows you to create rows for note length and velocity, with similar transformations being undertaken. The result can play up to eight separate parts, each of which can be assigned a MIDI channel, program‑change number and octave transposition value (parts are played within a single‑octave range).

After defining your parameters, press the Compose button, then Play, to hear the finished composition. Instant Schoenberg! While the results are essentially random, producing a spooky emulation of serial music, it is possible to influence them — you don't have to be serial at all, if you don't want to. For example, inputting notes related in some way next to each other (such as the notes of a chord), gives you a better chance of producing something harmonious.

All the action takes place on one screen, so there's no getting lost. The software can also sync external equipment, although the tempo display is slightly eccentric. As it stands, you can save your work, but registering the software (see below), provides a more up‑ to‑date version that allows compositions to be saved as MIDI Files. The author continues to improve Schoenberg, and I'll share the new features with you once I've registered! Registration is a measly £5, if you use the software, so do comply. You'll feel good, I promise.

Schoenberg should be available from all good PD/shareware libraries; the Floppyshop pack is priced £8 plus postage (£1.25 UK, £2.25 Europe or £3 ROW). Contact them on 01224 312756 (or email