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electronic MUSICIAN


By Peter Drescher | June 1, 2001


The Vintage Synth Explorer ( contains detailedinformation on more than 450 classic and modern synthesizers.Created in 1996 by Matt Friedman, the site is well designed, fun tolook at, easy to navigate, and a valuable resource for any musicianworking with electronic instruments.

Synth connoisseurs will find bulletin boards, classified ads,lots of links, and plenty of eye candy. Interested in acquiring aMoog synthesizer? The Vintage Synth Explorer has pictures anddescriptions of 20 models, including the venerable Minimoog and itspredecessor, the Sonic 6. Besides technical information such asoscillator numbers, filter types, and manufacture dates, each synthdescription also includes links to feature-related instruments.Each instrument is given a rating of one to five stars based onvisitor feedback, and many synth pages include RealAudio clips ofthe instrument's signature sounds.

Supplying minutiae on old synths is not the site's only purpose,however. Say you want to buy an instrument for a project in aspecific genre. Use the SynthFinder feature to narrow your choicesby stepping through a series of pages that guide you to the synthcategory that best suits your needs. Do you have an old analogsynthesizer but aren't sure what those knobs are for? The VintageSynth Explorer contains a large number of manuals in online and PDFformats.

But wait, there's more! The Vintage Synth Explorer featurestutorials on interfacing your synth into your MIDI studio, FAQsabout gear repair, links to a huge number of music- andsynth-related sites, profiles on musicians such as Moby and FatboySlim, a community bulletin board, and a tips and techniques area.Be prepared to stay awhile when you visit this site.

DOTDOTDOT.COM ( is the official Web site of“Jazz from Lincoln Center,” a series of concerts andeducational programs from New York City's premiere nonprofitjazz-performance organization, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Hosted by EdBradley of CBS News, the programs feature commentary, interviews,classic jazz, and newly commissioned works performed by the LincolnCenter Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis.Currently, 35 one-hour programs are available on the Web asRealAudio streams. With titles such as “Gillespiana,”“Ellington's Strayhorn,” “Con Alma: theAfro-Cuban Big Bands,” and “Speak No Evil: the Music ofWayne Shorter,” really swings….HitSquad ( is an all-purpose musician'sWeb site out of Albion, Queensland, Australia. Among its manyfeatures is the Shareware Music Machine, a list of more than 3,300music and audio applications for almost every computer platform(see “Web Page” in the May 2000 issue). The Newssection contains stories of interest to musicians, includingsoftware release and update notices, articles about the latestNapster and MP3 controversies, and colorful rants by variousmusicians. References, tutorials, discussion forums, music books,sheet music, and links to related Web sites make HitSquad avaluable resource for the hobbyist and seasoned pro alike….Another place to get your hands on music and audio software isSonic Spot ( You will find not only beta,demo, and shareware versions of various MIDI sequencers,digital-audio editors, and effects processors but also links to MP3rippers, audio librarians, V.A.S.T. and DirectX plug-ins, patcheditors, DJ tools, CD labelers, and other utilities. Most linksinclude a feature list and screen shot. The search function letsyou find what you're looking for quickly. Digital-audio and MIDItutorials and a lively discussion forum are also available.


National Public Radio (NPR) maintains a well-deserved reputationfor exposing the American public to a wide range of music styles,genres, performers, and philosophies. As part of its millennialprogramming, NPR presented a series of segments highlighting the100 most important American music pieces from the 20th century.Broadcast throughout the year 2000 on All Things Considered,Morning Edition, and NPR's weekend news magazines, the NPR 100is now available on the Web in RealAudio format at

So just how do you decide which are the most important musicalpieces of the last century? NPR did it through a process ofelimination. First, it posted a master list on its Web site of morethan 300 works in a wide variety of styles — from AaronCopland's Appalachian Spring and Bob Dylan's Like aRolling Stone to Dizzy Gillespie's Night in Tunisiaand the Wizard of Oz film score. Then NPR invited itslisteners to log on and vote for their favorites. The list wasfurther narrowed by a panel consisting of Wynton Marsalis, KathyMattea, Michael Feinstein, Isaac Hayes, and Don Dixon.

The NPR 100 is a testament to American diversity and musicalgenius. Each song in the list is examined in depth, not only forits compositional and lyrical content but also for its socialsignificance. For instance, the segment on Samuel Barber'sAdagio for Strings presents interviews with film directorsOliver Stone and David Lynch about the use of the piece in theirmovies; it is also noted that the music came to the forefront ofthe nation's consciousness when it was played at President John F.Kennedy's funeral. Featuring the sonorous voices of Noah Adams andLinda Wertheimer, the NPR segments are interesting, informative,and educational.


The Tonos TC8 ($29.95; is an online 8-trackdigital-audio recorder for the PC that is designed to work with theTonos server, cleverly called the Collaboratory. The TC8lets musicians with Web access contribute tracks to online musicprojects. The application's simple design and easy-to-use interfacemake it a fun and interesting way to record over the Internet.

The minimum system requirements are not terribly rigorous: aPentium II/266 MHz running Windows 95, 98, or 2000; aDirectX-compatible full-duplex sound card; 64 MB of RAM; and anInternet connection. To get started, register as a Tonos communitymember by selecting a user ID and password and then filling in yourband name, the instrument you play, the styles you are interestedin, and other details.

Next, download and install the TC8 software and beginlaying down tracks. You can apply effects to the audio (reverb,pan, gate, compressor, distortion, EQ, and chorus) using a seriesof simple controls and create a rough mix for others to listen to.When you're finished, upload the audio tracks and the mixinformation to the Project in the Collaboratory. Uploading can takea long time if you have a slow connection, even though the 16-bit,44 kHz mono PCM audio files are compressed using the QDesignalgorithm.

As a Project Manager, you can let the community at large haveaccess to your project. That means that any registered Tonos userscan download your audio and add their own tracks. Or you can addsecurity codes to prevent users from collaborating without yourpermission. You can even post want ads on the Tonos site to findinstrumentalists to work with. As a Community member, you can lookthrough a list of available projects to see if anyone needs yourunique talents.

Although Tonos was founded by some big music-industry names(including Grammy winners David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager andproducer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds), the onlinemanual's recommendation to plug microphones and guitars directly into the back of your PC implies a mostly consumer-oriented marketfor the TC8. On the other hand, an early success storyrevolves around 15-year-old Kristin Collins, whose discoverythrough the system led to her recording a song for last year'sHow the Grinch Stole Christmas. In addition, Tonos createdthe “Road to Fame” contest on VH-1 for discovering andshowcasing new talent.


Domenico Sciajno is an Italian double-bass player and composerworking in an experimental new-music genre. His heavily sonifiedWeb site (, designed by BarbaraSansone, relies on Flash, QuickTime, and MP3 files to demonstratehis sonic skills and repertoire. In his online biography, Sciajnonotes that his interest in improvisation led him to explore thecreative possibilities inherent in the interaction among acousticinstrument performance, indeterminacy, and live sound processing byelectronic devices and computers.

The site's novel “scratching turntable” navigationsystem lets users explore Sciajno's music. Under Projects, he liststhe A.I.R.S Quartet, a group of European improvisers (guitaristsChristian Alati and Giuseppe Ielasi, percussionist Ruggero Radaele,and Sciajno) who have released a CD of their unpredictable musicallandscapes called I Am Surprised While It Is ActuallyHappening. Formed in 1996, the A.I.R.S Quartet has playedvarious new-music festivals and recorded the soundtrack for“The Mission,” a radio piece by Heiner Muller that wasbroadcast on Italy's RAI station.

Also listed is an audio-visual piece called Objectable,which combines live performance with a real-time processing andsound synthesis system written in Cycling '74's interactive MIDIand audio programming environments Max and MSP. AQuickTime movie of the resulting chaotic images, screams, pops,whistles, beeps, percussive growls, electronic clanks, and metallicbumpings can be downloaded, as can a PDF file of the score.

You can also listen to MP3s of Sciajno's other compositions.Each piece contains a description of the music and the date andplace it was recorded. For example, Walking Piano wasperformed in Turin in 1998 when Sciajno sampled a one-minuteimprovised acoustic bass solo into 36 zones on a keyboard and thenprocessed the sounds live using a computer system runningMax. The results are an astonishingly wide array ofsounds, all derived from the original source material.


Open Sound Control (OSC) is a new communications protocoldesigned to let synthesizers, computers, and other audio devicestalk to each other through modems, the Internet, and high-speednetworks such as FireWire, USB, and Ethernet. Although OSC can beused to transfer MIDI data, it's meant to be an open, efficientcross-platform solution to some of MIDI's inherent problems. Forexample, OSC's data transfer rate is about 300 times faster thanMIDI's.

OSC data is transferred in packets (aka datagrams): chunks ofinformation wrapped in a standardized manner for delivery over anetwork. Packets allow audio data to be processed statelessly (noassumptions are made about the device's current or previous state).OSC also provides for synchronicity, a Jungian term that impliesthe simultaneous occurrence of events, such as multiple MIDI notestransmitted in the same message or SMPTE-like locking of multimediagraphics to sound.

Each data packet consists of a symbolic address and messagename, followed by binary data of any length. The addresses bear astriking resemblance to a URL's backslash/word format. That letsdevices linked together by a Local Area Network (LAN) communicateeasily, and it also facilitates the downloading of data for aspecific device from an Internet site. The hierarchical structure'sopen-endedness also avoids the limitations of a system that relieson fixed-length data fields, such as MIDI and ZIPI.

Recent tests of the OSC protocol using SGI workstations and Macshave resulted in satisfying real-time performances. In some ways,OSC is like the Domain Name System that provides Internet surfersaccess to Web sites by typing in addresses instead of strings ofnumbers. OSC's protocol provides composers access to electronicdevices and instrument patches by name instead of channel andcontroller numbers, making creative networking easier.

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