media & technology

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Sounding out the Net

Wannabe a composer? Koan's music software pushes all the right buttons. Words: Alastair Mabbott

Okay. I'll own tip. .\Iy sight-reading is abominable. My understanding of this strange thing called MIDI is probably worse. And I don't even own a keyboard. Yet. for the past few weeks. I‘ve been tnaking instrumentals on my computer that sound. to my cars at least. bloody great.

My secret is Koan. a iiiusic-composiiig tool I first read about in Brian lino's A Year With .S'ii-n/lr'ii fi‘t/l/lt’IM/HY'S' last year. It's clubbed 'generaliye music“. which basically means that each composition writes itscll‘ according to parameters the user sets. You can be as rigid or as loose in these rules as you like. and with all the elements interacting with each othci. a Koan piece never sounds exactly the same twice.

A trip to the SSIiYI) homepage is required to download the Koan plug-iii. I’roni that moment on. as well as being able to listen to tracks on the site made by Eno. Loop Guru and the little—known 'I‘im Didymus. you're able to hear the Koan music that increasing numbers of people are embedding on their own Web sites. One great advantage of Koan is that. as it actually takes up very little bandwidth. it's an ideal form of music for the Internet.

Koan X is the easiest to get to grips with: a basic

set-up which will have you impressing yourself

within minutes. The Koan I’ro demo is far more datmting. with a plethora of parameters to be set; bill. with the aid of templates and demonstrations. I

100 THE LIST 25 Jul - / fiat) lfiil/

“If we can develop software that delivers pleasure and excitement and a feeling of developing that creativity, then that's one of our goals.‘

Tim (Lofe, Koan music software

Koan do it: the software that helps you make beautiful music

managed to put together my first composition in a surprisingly short space of time. The drawbacks in the demo versions are that they need to be restarted

every live minutes and that you can't save any oI~

your pieces on them. But they should give you a I‘air idea it you want to spend {IN on the full Koan Pro 2.

"I‘here are a number ol‘ very interesting areas that we're heading towarcls.‘ says Tim (‘ole the physicist. amateur musician and business graduate who created Koan and set tip SSIiYO to manufacture it. ‘Firstly. when you're growing up. il’ someone says to you that you are or aren‘t musical. how is that delined‘.’ You go through me thinking I am or I'm not creative. But you might enjoy listening to music and have your own very clear tastes. If

there are ways that we can develop software that

can deliver pleasure and excitement and a feeling ol‘

developing that creativity. then that's one of our goals. The second thing is. in terms of environment. what actually is a piece ol‘ music'.’ Does it have to be lised‘.’ We're opening up the doors so that a piece of music can actually be an environment.‘

It‘s British. too. something which Cole is very pleased about. Musicians and sol‘tware designers. he points out. are becoming more interdependent. and if the tools are developed elsewhere. such as the USA. then. he says. ‘that‘s where the market‘s going to be driven from.

'I think music is something like 4‘}? ol' the (iDI’ in this country. Imagine if music becomes even more related to software. and we all know that Microsoft has something like 50“; iii the sol‘tware revenues in the world. you can see where the money will be


Download Koan products at http://www.sseyo.coml Thanks to Creative Labs ( for their help.

Lowdown Games 0 Web Sites 0 CD ROMS


You don't know lack (PC/Mac CD-ROM £29.99)

The publicity description of You Don’t Know Jack as an irreverent quiz show party game doesn’t bode well. Computers and humour have never been the best of buddies, and unfortunately this strange offering only reinforces the fact People may socialise over quiz games in pubs, but that's only because the machine is there. lt’s not the ammo they’re socialising in the first place You won’t be invrtino your mates around to play this because as neither funny, entertaining nor technically innovative. The questions aren't taxmg, and there isn’t enough reward for trawling through them anyway. Get down that boozer instead.

WEB SITE The Fringe 1997


Hosted by cjyber cafe Web 13 and sponsored by The Scotsman, this is the site to Visit for all the information you’ll need on this year's Frinoe. The database includes everything you’d expect on venues and performers, and you can also read other peoples' rewews Or submit your own. The presentation is basic and there are no technical fireworks, but then that’s not really the pornt. Fora site that is so temporary and yet so large, graphical pyrotechnics would be asking a little much. As it is, the Fringe Slle does its Job admirably, and you can purchase tickets online \‘Vllll ease.


Scottish Devolution (http://wwwscottish- devolutionorguk)

There are plenty of Web sites disc‘uSSIiio devolution, but this is the official line courtesy of the Scottish Office. The ciaim from Donald Dewar that the site has been set up to tell as many people as possible how the oovernmeiit is orogreSSinc; on the matter inioht liil‘;(‘ a tee. smiles, as, let's ‘ace it, most of us not Wind of I I Septembei through the usual sources of TV and tabloids The site Wlll, however, be publishing a copy oi the White Paper It also includes a brief history of the subject, a regular news update, and a prizivisional timetable You won't find any Sassenacfh bashing games or entertainn‘ient, but that's not what devolution is about Or is it?