MIDI (was - Re: BASIC vs Python)

Bob van der Poel bvdp at uniserve.com
Wed Dec 22 17:39:35 CET 2004

Jan Dries wrote:
> Andrew Dalke wrote:
>> Jan Dries
>>> If you just want to play notes, you could look at MIDI.
> [snip]
>> It's hard to compare that to the current era.  Sound
>> clips are much more common, it's easy to record audio,
>> keyboards and other specialized devices are cheap, and
>> there's plenty of mixer and recording software.  Were
>> I to have started now I would have taken a different
>> course and perhaps one of these newer things would have
>> interested me more.
> The funny thing is, for me, MIDI is dead old. One of my first computers, 
> back in 1986, was an Atari ST. It came equiped with a MIDI port. And the 
> MIDI file format was created in those days, on Atari. The Atari also had 
> a Yamaha YM2149 sound chip on it that one could mess with in the way you 
> describe, and I did play with that too. But the cool thing about MIDI 
> was that it came with additional stuff, such as multiple voices, and 
> different timbres for different instruments. And I didn't have to bother 
> with the attack-decay-sustain-release envelope in order to make my notes 
> sound like notes instead of beeps. Playing with the sound chip was like 
> assembler, while playing with MIDI was more like a higher level 
> language. At the time I was a teenager and couldn't afford my own 
> keyboard though, and the Atari didn't have a sufficiently sophisticated 
> audio system for playback of MIDI files.
> Back in 1995 my then girlfriend wrote a thesis on AI where she did an 
> analysis of Rachmaninov's Ampico rolls in an attemt to try to extract 
> characteristics from that that could be applied to any piece of music to 
> make it sound more "human" than when played by a computer.
> I helped her out by writing a "notes to MIDI" converter, to make the 
> results of her work audible.
> I seem to remember that even then we still had to rely on a keyboard or 
> so to do the playback.
> But nowadays even the cheapest PC comes with "multi-media" sound 
> hardware, and playback of MIDI files is easy. And the nice thing for me 
> to find out is that the good old file format from back in the days on 
> Atari is still out there, and well supported by programs like Windows 
> Media Player.
> Frankly I share your sentiment and "these newer things" like sound 
> clips, mixers, recording software and so have never managed to 
> interested me either. But MIDI is not among those, at least not for me. 
> Because of my particular background, MIDI has for about 20 years now 
> been the "serious" way to playing notes. And in fact, to the best of my 
> knowledge it is still the easiest way to get decent notes out of my PC. 
> A while ago I bought a few software packages that enable one to enter 
> notes and play them back. After trying out half a dozen of these, I 
> ended rolling my own solution in just 400 lines of Python, plus a Python 
> module to read/write MIDI files.
> Regards,
> Jan

Just as a side note, I remember reading somewhere that the Casio WK3000 
Keyboard uses Python. Not sure if that's internal or just for Casio's 
own development.

Bob van der Poel ** Wynndel, British Columbia, CANADA **
EMAIL: bvdp at uniserve.com
WWW:   http://mypage.uniserve.com/~bvdp

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