In the wake of so many graphics programs
and utilities, the sound and music capabilities of Atari computers seems
to have been ignored, but now Music Construction Set from Electronic
Arts has put that to rights.
The screen consists of two staves (the
Bass and Treble clefs) and a graphic menu. The menu contains a complete
set of notes and rests, a time signature indicator, a time counter and
nine symbolic pictures, or icons, representative of a certain command,
e.g. a disk for disk commands. The approach is very similar to Pinball
Construction Kit. The Hand icon is the most important as this controls
the entire workings of the MCS. The hand can be controlled from a choice
of controllers such as joystick and keyboard or the Atari Touch Tablet
or Koala Pad.
The hand is used to
control the speed, sound and volume, time signature and for manipulation
of the icons and even to change the key in which the music is played.
Most importantly, however, it is used to write music. By placing the
hand on a note, rest or other musical notation such as ties, octave
raisers etc., and pressing the trigger, the item can be picked up and
placed anywhere on the staves. The facility is ideal for music
development or copying from manuscripts.
In the middle of the
screen are five gauges which give complete control over speed, volume
and various instrument effects such as piano, drum, accordion and
vibrato. The editing facilities are also extremely efficient using the
'cut and paste' technique. Bars can be cut out and replaced anywhere in
the same piece of music or even another piece loaded from disk. It is
also possible to print the music on a dot-matrix printer giving a full
printout of the score.
There are drawbacks,
however, to what is otherwise an excellent program. In the disk command
mode, if load or save are not specified and the filename begins with F,
the program will format any disk in drive 1 without chance of
verification. Secondly, it can only take 70 bars of music from either
stave in memory at once which is a little short and might not allow a
full piece of music to be worked on at anyone time. Thirdly the controls
area little coarse and take practice
to operate correctly.
The MCS is set up to use
only three of the Atari's four voices in order to give better bass notes
but you can select four voices if required. It is not only the bass
notes that sound good however, the whole musical quality must be heard
to be believed.