Super 8



The Triadex Muse...

Review from Studio Sound September 1972

The Muse, says the manufacturers blurb, is a computer. It composes and plays music, instantly. Limitlessly. The Muse is the invention of two MIT professors that harness the most advanced computer technology for the purpose of putting notes together in interesting ways. In other words, of creating musical compositions. There are more than 14 trillion potential note combinations inside the Muse. That's what makes it so intriguing. It's almost impossible to exhaust its potential. Unquote.

Unlike the electronic music synthesisers previously discussed in these pages, the Muse can be switched on and played without any initial study of the working principles. Try that on a VC synthesiser and the ensuing silence refers you back to the instruction book.

This unit synthesises music as distinct from sound. The output is a rectangular wave, variable in pitch and rate of pitch step but fixed in tone. It composes a melody line which is governed  in complexity by the settings of eight 40-position switches and simultaneously presents it at a volume, tempo and basic pitch governed by four linear slide controls. No musical knowledge is required of the operator: the Muse justifies its existance in allowing totally non-musical people to compose concordant and original tunes.

Occupying the table space of a small typewriter, the Muse presents a sloping fascia, silver-finished with blue and grey calibrations and black controls. An internal loudspeaker is mounted to the top left. Below this is a power on/off and 'start' control. At any stage  in one's musings, pressing 'start' reverts a performance to its beginning. Right of this switch are the volume, tempo, pitch and fine pitch sliders, plus a second three position switch labeled 'auto/hold/step'. In the 'auto' state a composition proceeds at a rate dependant on the tempo setting. At 'hold' the performance is frozen on whichever note has been reached. Pressing 'step' produces one pulse - one more step along the melody line - followed by another pulse when the control is returned to its rest position at 'hold'.

Picture of 'Interval' and 'Theme' section Picture of 'Volume' and Tempo' section
The eight switches governing the initial structure and proceeding development of the Muse compositions can be seen in the photo. To the right are the two strips of light emitting diodes, one above the other. Eight LEDs occupy the the column from calibration 'on' down to C6. These show the through blue Perspex. Below these, adjacent to B1...31 are a further 31 LEDs behind green. The visible size of each LED is about 5 wide x 4mm with 11/2mm vertical spacing.

The eight switches are grouped into four 'interval' and four 'theme' controls, the former governing pitch and the latter basically controlling the the duration of each note. With all eight controls at 'off' the Muse will produce a constant tone, for our purposes the doh. All eight are in an off plane in that none is in the 'on' plane of an illuminated diode. With the 'auto/hold/step' control at 'hold' and the 'off/on'/start' pressed to 'start', only two diodes are illuminated - those against calibration 'on' and 'C1/2'. And we're getting very tired of this doh.  So we push the farthest left interval switch one step downward to 'on'. Immediately the doh rises a second to re. Push it a further step down and, at C1/2 (nothing to do with a musical C) it remains at re. Switching from 'hold' to 'auto', the C1/2 diode now flashes on and of at a speed determined by the tempo slider. The switch at C1/2 is thus oscillating from on to off state producing a continuous doh re cycle.

Triadex have chosen to label the four Interval switches A B, C, and D from left to right respectively - again nothing to do with alphabetical musical notation. Switch A gave us re. Switch B standing alone in an 'on' plane produces a third above doh. In the plane of a flashing diode, therefore, we obtain a doh mi cycle. Switch C given the same treatment produces a fifth interval, doh, so, while switch D produces a full octave rise: doh, doh1. The base doh can be silenced by pushing a separate switch (bottom right) from 'normal' to 'rest'. Instead of , for example, doh so doh so, we would have rest so rest so.