Reviews Music Software Books Events Hardware Games Features Interviews Print Showcase Scene Start it Up People Recordings Manufacturers Newsgroups Mailing Lists Glossary Site Contact 1995-2002 electronicmusic.com
Computer Music - An Interactive Documentary
Interaction is the feature that comes to mind when I think of a CD-ROM, and Computer Music An Interactive Documentary from Digital Studios utilizes this feature to the full. From the bare basics to advanced computer music composition and technique, a student new to the world of digital music has all the tools available on one disc to become knowledgeable in many areas relatively quickly. And don't forget that computer music means electronic music, the single most underexposed genre of music which is gaining popularity at an astonishing rate.
The disk itself comes in Macintosh and Windows format (both on the same CD) and requires a mininum of 4 MB to 5 MB of RAM. After installation the main index, which takes the form of a jukebox style control panel called the VidBox (see below), gives you access to all the different areas and functions available.
The design of this interface is more important than I first realised. Having a knowledge of computer music and programming I recognized all the words used on the VidBox without difficulty, but a student with no knowledge of words like MIDI or Synthesis has the option of choosing a starting point such as "How Computers Make Music" or "Tech Tunes", which will in turn gradually lead them through to the more challenging aspects of computer music.
Ideally, it is suggested that the user start their journey by accessing the subjects on the left of the VidBox and working through to the right, but for those who don't like to do as they are told, such as most musicians and students, the option of being able to get their feet wet before beginning their journey in earnest is an invaluable option.
After loading the software and bringing up the "VidBox" I decided to check out the "Composition" department and was rewarded with an easy to follow journey into the wonders of electronic music composition in all its forms, complete with short movies showing people actually recording and manipulating sounds, through to fully functional interactive examples in the "MIDI", "Sound" and "Synthesis" departments.
I was especially pleased to see examples explaining the functions available on Digidesign's Turbosynth which has got to be one of the most versatile software based synthesis engines around.
Another fascinating department is the "Sound Lab" (see below) which allows the user to interact with the software and actually produce sounds from scratch, this allows experimentation with waveforms and sound effects and really makes you feel in control. If this doesn't actively encourage the user to investigate further into the art of sound manipulation then nothing will.
All in all Computer Music - an interactive documentary is a stimulating and essential addition to anyones CD-ROM library, and from an educational standpoint an absolute must have. There is even a department that deals with taking up a career in the computer music industry, which has to be one of the coolest career choices that anyone living in the 90's could possibly make.
To contact Digital Studios check out their entry in our Manufacturers department.