Mac/Atari tutorial

Mac/Atari tutorial

This is a follow-up to my previous blog entry
Resurrecting my Atari Mega4 STE.
I finally figured out how and why to incorporate my old Atari computer in my musical workflow.
I have a few interesting applications (mainly in the algorithmic music department) that can be put to good use with my “modern” music gear.
I could consider the Atari as an external plug-in for my Mac.

Right now I am experimenting with
Realtime - The Intelligent Sequencer by Eric Ameres, that has plenty of algorithmic features.

This is a tutorial mainly for myself, to make sure I follow the right steps to make it work (in case I forget).

Let’s say I want to edit a MIDI track previously recorded with the Mac sequencer (in my case Logic Audio) with the tools available on the Atari.

The first thing to do is to synchronize the two machines together. The Mac acts as master sending out “MIDI clock”. The sequencer must be set to send “MIDI clock” to the port from which the Atari receives MIDI data and the Atari must be ready to receive the correct type of external clock.

Activating recording on the Atari, that being in slave mode will wait for data to be recorded, I send the track recorded on the Mac to the port from which the Atari receives MIDI data. When I press “start” on the Mac, data will be recorded on the Atari. Once the track is transferred to the Atari I can mute that track on the Mac. Now, when I press “start” on the Mac, I will hear anything I have on it plus the track transferred to the Atari (in sync). I can now start editing this track with the Atari’s tools. In the end I can again transfer it back to the Mac for further editing.

This all seems straightforward but it can be tricky. First of all my MIDI set up includes both a MIDI/USB interface and a MIDI patch bay (because I have more MIDI devices than inputs on the interface) so MIDI data go from the Mac to the interface where two of its eight ports are dedicated to connect it to the patch bay where the Atari is connected. So, I must be very careful selecting the correct path for the data.

This set up allows me also to play microtonally retuned tracks (for example by virtual synths on the Mac) from the Atari.

Another technique I find very interesting is to “paint” notes with the mouse on the Atari, playing virtual synths on the Mac retuned to any tuning systems I wish to use.

I have to say that I still consider the Atari a great machine. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s it was affordable and very powerful with lots of great applications and it remains the only computer ever created with built-in MIDI ports!

More to follow!