Music for the Apple II

Book review by Gene Stephan (Review reprinted from Australian Apple Review - Vol 3 No 4 April 1986)

Author: Thomas Rudolph Publisher: Unsinn (through Dorian Music, Qld) Size: 21cm by 28cm by about 175 pages Cost: $29.00

DAC Board Advantages - A DAC board in conjunction with a speaker produces better sound quality than the Apple speaker.

  • - Intonation is more accurate with the DAC board.
  • - Multiple voices can be produced.
  • - DAC boards may be easily adapted for headphones.
  • - Overall sound quality is superior to anything produced by the Apple 11 speaker alone.

DAC Board Disadvantages

  • - Software is not compatible among various brand of DAC boards.
  • - DAC boards do not all have the same number of voices.
  • - The cost of the DAC board does not include the price of the external speaker.
  • - DAC boards may also require an amplifier.
  • - Equipping each microcomputer with a DAC board is costly.

The following are ways to utilize a DAC board:

  • - To produce multiple voices for music theory drill and practice.
  • - As a multi-voice composer.
  • - To produce multi-track recordings andlive sounds.
As an ex-editor of this illustrious publication, I have felt the pangs of horror over the last few months when seeing the number of words devoted to of all things, music on the Apple. To certain people, the rhythm of the dot mat is as near to Beethoven as they would care to go, and the sound of a head seek as delicate as a scale. In other words, if people want to waste time with music, they should get a stereo and not an Apple.

I daresay many would disagree with this viewpoint and draw my attention to the number of chips getting warm in recording studios. And point to the number of Apples in education. If you are one of those people, and particularly if involved in education, then here is a book for you.

Music for the Apple 11 was written by a music teacher in a little US town by the name of Haverfor, who found his courses scrapped due to lack of student interest. Probably because of an aversion to hunger, he decided to introduce a course in music theory using a micro. The ending is predictable - his enrolments increased and he wrote this book.

Bearing the background in mind, the book is excellent as it provides a teacher with a comprehensive sourcebook of tested ideas and references on how to use an Apple for music.

Unfortunately, Chapter 1 - Microcomputer Basics, contains material most readers would have probably seen elsewhere. The chapter explains what K are and why they are important, and why there is a disk drive and not a trumpet attached to the Apple. However, from here on the content becomes much more useful.

Chapter 2 - Apple II Sound Production, deals with the Apple speaker and digital (from the Apple) to analog (to the amplifier) conversion (DAC). It was at this point in my reading of the book that I changed my mind and decided it was good and not a waste of time. Throughout, the author qualifies what is said with lists usually of advantages AND disadvantages . This gives a rank beginner direction in what to look for in hardware/software or when actually teaching. Figure 1. from this chapter is an example.

The book has a further eight chapters which deal with: Chapter 3 - Music Education, Chapter 4 - Music Learning Applications, Chapter S - Music Systems, Chapter 6 - MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), Chapter 7 Developing a Course of Study, Chapter 8 - Administrative Applications, Chapter 9 - Interfacing and Telecommunications, Chapter 10 - Programming, General Care & Proposal Writing, and ending with 21, appendices which source hardware from interface boards to video disks, and software from wordprocessing to marching bank programs.

So overall, the book would rate at the top of a "useful" category for someone interested in, or teaching music (particularly if the class is shrinking and the job is threatened). The main shortcomings of the work as I saw them, were that the book is beginning to be dated (published 1984) and references are to US companies. However, looking at Ric Richardson's articles, I take it the MlDI is still around, and the teaching ideas certainly will not suffer with time.

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