BASIC vs Python

Jan Dries jan.dries at
Wed Dec 22 08:29:27 CET 2004

Andrew Dalke wrote:
> Jan Dries
>>If you just want to play notes, you could look at MIDI.
> 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.


> 				Andrew
> 				dalke at

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