some Charm in your Chaos
explores Electronic Cow's algorithmic application
Charming Chaos and a first impression of
Clarence Barlow's Autobusk
Danny McAleer formed a company called Electronic
Cow which produced many fine MIDI programs
for the Atari ST/030 computers. Recently,
he has decided to make them freeware so
the Atari MIDI community can continue to
we are going to be looking at a very interesting
application in the Electronic Cow collection
called Charming Chaos. Charming Chaos (or
CC for short) started life as a two track
algorithmic generator which has now grown
to a full blown four part generator capable
of exotic rhythms and patterns. The algorithms
are also editable in a module called the
DNA Seed Construction tool. CC can be used
as a desk accessory (ACC) so you can run
it at the same time as your favorite sequencer.
It also works well on the Falcon and TT030.
The high color modes can be used with it
as well and CC is very striking in full
color and a joy to use. However, ST High
resolution is fine and completely operable
at this resolution. ST Medium and Low are
neat factor about CC is you can change the
algorithms while it is playing with special
parameters for modulation change. This will
be explained in the tutorial. Also, you
can create MIDI files for exportation to
your sequencer of choice, which can be used
in a larger composition or a generated background
for live work.
Cow has also made the manual available,
which is well written. However, experimentation
is the key to using CC, so here is a tutorial
on getting started with your own explorations
of the program.
By Tim Conrardy
on CHAOS.PRG. Program opens up to a
- To get
some immediate action from CC select
the PLAY button in the transport area.
You should now hear the "chaos
" portion of CC as many of its
algorithms play against each other.
When you have had enough, select the
square Stop button.
let's make some "tonal" or
even pleasant music to generate. In
the main view, you will see four sections
or modules. Each is a separate generator,
but identical to each other. On the
far right of each module is a set of
increment buttons. This is to adjust
the algorithm used for the module. For
this experiment, adjust all 4 modules
to algorithm 9 (the end one).
ready, select the Play button on the
transport bar. You should hear a pleasant
sounding chaos this time around. However,
it is going a bit too fast. You can
adjust the tempo while it is playing
with the tempo increment buttons below
the transport. Slow down the tempo to
70 BPM. Much nicer!
let's have a bit of fun. You will see
some funny labelled LEDs with each module:
TM, AM, PM, CM. These are for the modulation
of the algorithm. You will notice CM
(Controller Modulation) is already selected.
You should also hear (if using a stereo
module) the output is panning back and
forth. This is caused by modulation
of controller 10 (panning).
select PM (Pitch Modulation) for each
module so it is highlighted. Play your
MIDI keyboard. Your playing will modulate
the notes to what you are playing on
your MIDI keyboard. This is an excellent
real-time element that is not present
on most algorithmic generators. This
feature alone makes this application
a blast to use. You can also change
keys using this function so CC is not
so monotonous. You have to experiment
and adapt your playing to create changes.
is another real-time element: try moving
your pitch bend wheel. You will see
it adjusts the tempo of CC while it
is playing! A bit tricky to work with
but can be very useful.
let's try changing an algorithm. On
the transport bar is an icon that looks
like DNA. Select this and you are brought
into the DNA Seed Construction module.
Here you can create your own algorithms.
- To the
far bottom left is the "Seed select"
section. This tells you what algorithm
you are editing. There is also a copy
function that lets you copy one algorithm's
parameters to another location. Let's
try this. The default algorithm to copy
to is 0. Change it to 9. Now change
the EDIT algorithm to 1. Select the
big button by the arrow. This copies
algorithm 9's parameters to algorithm
- At this
point, try changing some of the parameters,
such as the icons in the Velocity Mapper,
the Seed Mode (from mono to poly). Change
the "Beat template". Also
the note values (1/8 notes, 1/4 notes
and 1/16 notes), and the Depth
and Rate controls of the Key Mapper.
You could change the scale as well by
clicking into the keyboard graphic.
But for now, let's keep it the same.
When you are ready, select the check
are brought back to the main module.
At the present time, all the modules
are set for algorithm 9. On one of the
modules, decrease the algorithm to number
1, which is the one you just edited.
Now play it. You will hear some more
variations created by the other parameters
you have set in your edited version
of the algorithm.
trick to working with the DNA Seed Construction
module is to select what algorithm you
want to work on, have a module display
that algorithm, and then go into the
edit mode. Make sure the "Seed
Select" area is set to the correct
algorithm. Experimentation is the key
here. You can also save your algorithms
with the disc icon (within the DNA Seed
you feel you have created a good set
of algorithms, you can save the whole
thing by selecting the in-arrow disk
Icon, or "Save as" from the
- To record
the performance as a MIDI file, simply
select the red button on the transport
bar. A dialog comes up asking, "Record
MIDI file to disk?" Select Start.
The item selector appears. Put in a
good file name with the MIDI extension
and go OK. CC starts recording and saving
the generated piece as it is playing. You can also
tweak things while it is doing so, and
it will record your actions. When you
feel you are done, select Stop and rest
assured your performance was recorded
are also a lot of hot keys you can use
while it is generating. A good one is
[Control]+  through . These are
the mute/unmute hot keys for the four
modules. Also for each module, you can
change its patch and MIDI channel by
selecting the appropriate areas of the
module. There is also an area where
you can input controller messages, the
defaults being volume and panning. Refer
to the controller messages chart.
should get you started on your exploration
of Charming Chaos! There are probably
details not covered here, but refer
to the manual. Now let's go ahead and
make some Chaos that is very charming!
Here is a
list of controller messages that you can
use for use in CC's controller fields. You
can send two controller messages at once
and adjust them with the virtual knobs!
The default is volume and panning.
To put in
a new one, enter the number in the field,
then hit the "button" right below
it. This 'sets' it to send that controller
You can also
set controller messages as part of a DNA
seed in the DNA edit section.
Name Number Range
Modulation Wheel 1 0-127
Controller 2 0-127
Early DX7 Aftertouch
Foot Controller 4 0-127
Portamento Time 5 0-127
Main Volume 7 0-127
Pan 10 0-127
General Purpose #1 16 0-127
General Purpose #2 17 0-127
Purpose #3 18 0-127
#4 19 0-127
LSBs for #s 0-31 32-63 0-127
Sustain Pedal 64 0 or 127
67 0 or 127
Hold 2 69 0 or 127
and harmonic content 71-74 0-127
Purpose #5 80 0 or 127
#6 81 0 or 127
General Purpose #7 82
0 or 127
General Purpose #8 83 0 or
Tremolo Depth 92 0-127
Depth 93 0-127
Celeste Depth 94 0-127
Phase Depth 95 0-127
96 0 or 127
Data Increment 97 0 or 127
Non Reg. Parameter MSB 98 0-127
Reg. Parameter LSB 99 0-127
MSB 100 0-127
Reg. Parameter LSB 101
reset all controllers 121 127
Local Control On/Off 122 0 or 127
Notes Off 123 0
Omni Off 124 0
On 125 0
Mono On (0=omni off) 126 0-16
Poly On 127 0
Chaos is a unique application as well as
very modern looking. Danny has done a great
service in making this program available,
and has greatly enriched the Atari-MIDI
community with his other programs as well,
for which we are very thankful indeed.
Chaos file section at the Atari-MIDI Yahoo
site. Includes a text only version of the
at Electronic Cow
by Clarence Barlow
I have been trying a long time
to contact Clarence Barlow after I heard
about his program called Autobusk. It appears
he beat me to it, and now you can download
it and even gives instructions for use in
STeem (the Atari STE emulator for PC). Well
worth checking out! See the links section.
is a program for the real-time probabilistic
generation of MIDI signals, primarily note
on and off (mappable to other command types),
in up to three parallel note streams (more
than one computer used in parallel offers
multiples of three streams). Pitch sets
(scales, major or minor) and pulse sets
(metres, 6/8 or 4/4) serve as the main input
material. A set of 12 variable parameters,
externally storable in time-tagged score
form, can form MIDI and/or filed output;
re-inputting the latter also sends MIDI
events along two given routes. 14 attendant
programs (with, like Autobusk, the extension
.PRG) serve to enter and compile the material
and to process "meta-scores".
Autobusk itself took 272 days to write,
spread between 18 August 1986 and 30 October
Copied the disk to my Falcon's
hard drive and ran AUTOBUSK.PRG. Came up
no problems, seems to be lots of set-up
files happening in the background.
screen looks fascinating. Looks like it
auto-loads a file called INVENTIO. Instructions
in the bottom say to hit [Return] to start
and [Esc] to stop. Once you do that, you
hear an interesting piece coming out. Hitting
[Esc] stops it. Then when you hit [Return]
again, it says PRMS (parameters) are alterable.
Then you can go around with the mouse, and
first going into the box(es) where it says
OSTINATO: and clicking it, you can then
move around the mouse to the parameter screen
above it and change stuff. You will also
notice that by positioning the "cursor"
over a parameter, there is another field
which reveals its hot key! I have found
if it says, [Kk] selecting k (small) will
bring the number down, while [Shift] + [K] will bring
up the number. Neat method. You can also
use the hot keys while it is playing for
real-time control of the parameters.
change are (for example ) Pitch center,
tonic pitch, melody scope, event length,
dynamics, attenuation, sound/controller/MIDI
channel, eventfulness and others
change stuff, hit [Return] and it generates
MIDI music based on what you have input.
That is all
I have figured out for now. I am waiting
on the manual, but this system looks fascinating
and I am glad it is now available.
site with download