Meeting: Making Music with MIDI

July 2006

Peter Richmond presented an evening of musical entertainment, showing what can be done with a computer and a collection of MIDI instruments. Starting with the basics, we learned about the components that make up a computer sound system and how to join them together, before moving on to sequencing software and the creation of complete pieces of music. Peter assured us that the techniques he was demonstrating are behind many a modern pop song – which may, or may not, be a good thing!

Report by Phillip Marsden

We are doing well with the in-house, member-presented elucidations of RISC OS-centric topics. This month we had Peter Richmond with a MIDI presentation. Before the meeting started we had a presentation of a different sort – charity money. Terry Rigg from the Wakefield Hospice was presented with a cheque of £594.58 by Chris Hughes, and for which he gave the Club a sincere thank you. Peter then took over the stage on what must have been the hottest club night for some time. Only fifteen brave souls had ventured out and so we were a little thin on the ground.

Peter launched into his routine, and what a routine! It was entertainment. We have had many evenings which have been informative, those which have been interesting, but not many which have been entertaining. Peter had set up a variety of equipment comprising two multi-slice RiscPCs, a ‘sound box’ which stored real pieces of musical notes for playing on demand, a mixer board, a drum panel and a MIDI guitar complete with foot-controlled sound box. There was a MIDI keyboard, but in the rush to get everything ready the PSU had been left behind.

With amusing quips being thrown out frequently, Peter kept everything interesting and showed us what the parts were, how they fitted together, and why you would want to fit them together. MIDI, it appears, is nothing to do with female fashion and skirt lengths (showing my age) but is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This allows suitably equipped musical instruments to communicate with each other and control each other. This does, it seems, allow a guitar to sound like a flute or other instrument. Quite why one would want to do this is beyond my imagination, but there you go.

There were moments of amusement where the sound suddenly disappeared and then came back without warning but, given the amount of equipment and interconnecting wires this is not surprising. Peter eventually sorted it out; whether by skill or good luck he was not letting on.

Peter went on to show how a tune could be built up from snatches of music from different instruments, without a musical notation in sight. Apparently this is how quite a few pop songs are written and lots of money made. The evening was finished off with a few tunes on the guitar. Despite the extremely high temperature of the room it was an enjoyable evening.