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RE: Demise of MIDI?

Actually, I was one of the people who worked on zipi, so I'm very familiar
with it and reasons why it was developed. Zipi is dead, so don't expect it
anytime soon. There was a reasonable movement behind it a few years ago.

One of the key developers of zipi was CNMAT, or the Center for New Music
and Audio Technology at UC Berkeley. One of CNMAT's key areas of research
is in musical performance and control. They are still heavily involved in
this, and I beleive have developed a new musical description language, a
successor to the MDL used for zipi. There is information about this on
CNMATs web page.

The point behind these efforts is that midi is a very slow and inefficient
control network and communication protocol. It was developed in the early
80's just for the purpose of communicating between a simple keyboard and a
simple synth. It is terrible for handling just about any other application.
Rapid parameter updates, which are very useful on modern algorithmic synths
(physical modeling, resynthesis, etc), are impossible with midi. Accurate
synchronization, polyphony, etc. are all screwed up by midi, and it has
been well recognized for years that midi is the biggest impediment to
further advances in instrument technology. It is also the primary reason
why guitar synths always suck. When the controller and the synth/effect
have 100's of MIPs available, and they communicate over a 31kbs channel,
you have a big problem!

As we discovered with zipi, and as Greg just demonstrated for us, making
these changes from within the music industry is very hard. The industry is
very slow and not willing to take risks, and usually not very up to date on
current technology trends.

Fortunately, I guess, we have microsoft. Microsoft is dictating as part of
the PC '98 specification that all PC's from here on out have only USB and
Firewire (IEEE1394) interfaces. This means that you will not have midi
ports grafted on the joystick connector anymore, or hacked into a serial
port or whatever. Midi control data will be communicated over firewire or
USB. These peripheral networks will also be used for transmitting audio and
video, so all of these things can easily be lumped together in one wire.

What this means is that Mr Gates is turning the dodgy old midi physical
interface into the dinosaur it should have become some time ago, and the
music industry will evolve or die with it. You can expect to see
manufacturers replacing the relatively expensive midi connectors/uarts with
cheap firewire interfaces in the next few years. Networking these devices
together and connecting them to your pc will be a simple task. And with
bandwidth at 400MB/s, you will be able to send multiple audio channels
along with any performance control info.

Almost certainly there will be someone making firewire to midi convertors
so that the pc of the future can still talk to the synth of the past.
Obviously, that makes a midi only device much less attractive to the
average consumer.

The AES does indeed have working groups determining specifications for how
to communicate audio and midi over firewire. I don't know the state of
that, but I beleive reports have been published.

And when all you are left with is the terrible musical description language
of midi, and none of the slow hardware it was designed for, you have to
wonder what the point of keeping even that is. Changing it now really just
becomes a question of changing low level drivers in software. So the
opportunity for CNMAT or someone else to introduce a new description
language for modern network technologies is quite real. All they really
need to do is get Microsoft to like it, and the what the rest of the music
industry thinks is not very important.


At 12:17 PM -0400 10/22/97, Mark Kata wrote:
>I saw an article about ZIPI in Computer Music Journal a couple of years
>ago.  It was developed by Zeta Systems.  I don't remember anything about
>it either, but I remember being impressed by its capabilities.
>Hey you customer reps at Oberheim, Boomerang and Lexicon:  Do you know
>anything about the demise of MIDI or the introduction of ZIPI?
>Mark Kata
>From:  Matt McCabe[SMTP:mattm@bi-tech.com]
>Sent:  Wednesday, October 22, 1997 11:51 AM
>To:    Loopers-Delight@annihilist.com
>Subject:       Re: Demise of MIDI?
>> From: Mark Kataby way of Kim Flint <Mark@asisoftware.com>
>> I just read a very strange post in Digital Guitar Digest.  It mentioned
>> impending demise of MIDI.
>About 2 years ago, I read some discussions on this topic.  I believe the
>"replacement" is called ZIPI (or something like that).  It mainly corrects
>many of the shortcomings of MIDI....like speed.   I think it was designed
>by a manufacturer of guitar synths.
>Obviously I really don't remember that much about it.  Sorry.

Kim Flint                   | Looper's Delight
kflint@annihilist.com       | http://www.annihilist.com/loop/loop.html
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