New! 2011 August 25
Click here for Sound on Sound February 1988 Review (thanks to SoS and Bill
Click here for Music Technology March 1988 Review (thanks to Bill
Zyklus MPS Manual
Hi. Zyklus MPS rules. I'd like to try one, it'd be very nice.
These pictures are grabbed (and cropped) from the Dale
Harris blog where he sold a Zyklus.
Image taken from: here
The Zyklus' MIDI Performance System allows you to record sequences: 99 polyphonic single-channel sequences, to be exact. These can be organised into groups of 12 sequences which are known as Configurations, of which the MPS allows you to store 24 in
its internal memory. Once you've recorded a few sequences and organised them into a Configuration, you can "play" them from a MIDI keyboard and from dedicated front-panel Control buttons. These actions can in turn be recorded into one of 12
Performances. The important point to bear in mind is that the MPS's sequences are totally independent of one another. You can treat the MPS as a 12-track sequencer, but that's only one of countless options available to you, and it's really missing
Zyklus Midi Performance System Manual in PDF Format - from the internets
Mirrored from LeinerMedia
ANIMATION . superimpose rhythmic/harmonic patterns on live playing or vice-versa.
AUTOMATION . comprehensive management of MIDI synthesizers and outboard equipment.
IMPROVISATION . spectacular real-time control from MIDI keyboard or other source.
HARMONISATION . simultaneous multiple transpositions of recorded MIDI data.
EXPERIMENTATION . combine and manipulate rhythms, chords, phrases, ideas to explore all musical possibilities.
1x Midi Input
4x Midi Outputs
1x SYNC Input
1x SYNC Output
3x Footswitch (or Gate) input for remote control
1x TRIGGER Input
1x METRONOME Output
1x DATA CARTRIDGE
99 sequences, 24 Configurations, 12 Performances
Basik event capacity : 9000
Effective event capacity : 60000
The Zyklus MIDI PERFORMANCE SYSTEM is a MIDI equipment controller designed
to provide an unprecedented level of musical control. It achieves this by
allowing the musician to interact with previously recorded MIDI data such
as sequences so that complex music can be build up in real time. In a
typical setup, the MIDI PERFORMANCE SYSTEM would be used in conjunction
with a MIDI master keyboard or keyboard synthesizer, plus up to 64 slave
MIDI devices - synthesizers, expanders, drum machines, MIDI-equiped signal
The MIDI PERFORMANCE SYSTEM can be thought of a collection of sequencers,
MIDI control boxes and MIDI effects units integrated into a single system.
This system is designed so that it can be "played" like a musical
instrument in its own right. At its most basic level it is rather like 12
polyphonic sequencers, each of which can be run at any transposition or
set of simultaneous transpositions independently of the others, simply by
pressing a note or chord on the MIDI control keyboard. 99 different
sequences can be stored in each memory bank, of which any 12 can be
assigned to the front panel for immediate access together with related
control information. These sequences need not consist of repeating musical
phrases. They could be single chords, short fast runs which end on held
chords, segments of control data such as MIDI program changes, the
synthesisers/drum part for an entire song, etc.
In addition to keyboard triggering, sequences can be triggered from a
footswitch, an external trigger source or directly from the front panel.
The panel controls consist of 40 keys mostly with LED indicator, plus a
encoder wheel used for tempo control, editing functions, menu selection,
etc. User information is provided by a 40 x 2 backlit LCD with externally
adjustable brightness and contrast.
SOUND ON SOUND FEBRUARY 1988
What the hell's a MIDI Performance System? DAVID MELLOR does his best to explain.
I feel like the characters in that old sci-fi film This Island Earth must have felt when they received a complicated piece of machinery from another
planet and didn't quite know what to do with it. The Zyklus MIDI Performance System is certainly out of this world in that respect, because there has been
nothing like it known to man until now. To review equipment which has no parallel is impossible, to fully evaluate a machine like this is only slightly less
daunting. Hopefully, I will be able to present the facts and let your imagination do the rest. Close the hatches and stand by for lift off...
WHAT IS IT?
You may have gathered from Zyklus' advertising and promotional literature that the MIDI Performance System is a kind of sequencer. It is - but not what we have
come to expect a MIDI sequencer to be.
In days of old, before MIDI, there were still such things as sequencers, but where we now look upon a sequencer
primarily as a performance recorder, it used to be used just for stringing notes together. Nowadays we play the keyboard and the sequencer remembers
what we play. Then, a 'sequence' was just a sequence of notes. Some synthesizers had their own internal sequencers which could remember just eight or so notes
and play them back over and over. More advanced machines could store 100 notes or so - but without variation in note length and without polyphony. It may sound
pretty primitive, but when that's all you have, then you use it to make music. Take a listen to some of those old Tangerine Dream records to find out what the
result was like. It may sound old hat now, but at the time it was considered innovative.
Another sequencer freak (note early '70s vernacular!) is the high
earning Jean-Michel Jarre. If he made 50p every time Oxygene was played as background music on TV, he would be a millionaire. Actually, he does and he
is! Jarre's repeating sequences are often of the old, pre-MIDI, type. By setting them going and playing against them he manages to build up a wash of sound
that many people find very attractive.
What this is leading me to is the nature of the Zyklus MIDI Performance System. If you think of it as old-time
sequencing brought up to date, then you are very close to appreciating the machine and its possibilities. When I say 'old-time', by the way, I do not intend
any negative sense. We had a valuable musical tool in the '70s which got a bit rusty when MIDI came along. Zyklus have polished up this old workpiece and
extended its capabilities a thousandfold with new technology and concepts. This is the essence of the MIDI Performance System. Now I can move on to
A few years ago I had the chance to act as sound engineer on a two-week course for composers, directed by John Cage. (He's the guy who wrote a piece called
'Four minutes and thirty-three seconds' - which consists of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of total silence.) On the course were eight
professional and semi-professional composers and a dozen or so musicians who thought they would benefit from the experience. I had the impression that the
composers thought they would get a platform for their pieces in front of an appreciative audience. Little did they know!
Cage is famous for his use of
random procedures. In fact, if anything intentional crept into one of his works then he would probably throw it out. At the end of the first day of the
course, when each composer had finished a two-minute piece, instead of performing them one after the other - in the conventional way, you know, they had to
perform them simultaneously, then in various combinations. You should have seen the looks on their faces! They were all pretty naffed off about this
because they didn't get to show off their new pieces properly.
I could stand back, however, and appreciate what was going on. Cage wanted the composers to hear the chance events thrown up by the random combinations of
sounds and hopefully gain new ideas from the experience. I certainly learned a lot, and I always leave space in my compositions for random variation.
The MIDI Performance System is an ideal source of random variation. It enables control of 99 sequences from a MIDI keyboard and from its front panel. It is not
simply a gadget for recording notes and playing them back. It is a machine for experimenting with musical ideas, putting them together in different
order and different combination and seeing what comes out - improvising at the keyboard, but instead of single notes coming from each key press, each key press
triggers a sequence. Didn't I say that you would have to use your imagination? Try this...
You hit Middle C on your keyboard and a drum pattern starts. Press two buttons on the Zyklus, hit low C and a bass line pulsates. Two more buttons, hit high C
and a flowing pattern of notes emerges. Play other notes and this pattern changes key, harmonises with itself, and plays louder or softer as you touch the
keyboard. Other buttons on the Zyklus bring in other patterns, separately or in combination. Get the idea?
There are three principla modes of operation: recording, playback and performance. In the normal course of events, recording would be the obvious choice for
starters. With the MIDI Performance System, it's better to imagine that you have several short sequences already recorded, which may be notes, runs, chords -
in fact, musical elements which could be put together to form a whole piece. Twelve totally independent sequences can be performed separately or together in
any combination. They may be triggered by buttons on the machine itself, by a footswitch, or via a MIDI keyboard. The keyboard method allows instant
transposition of sequences and a rich texture can be built up very easily in this way.
There are 12 control buttons positioned below the display window. Each of these can have a sequence (any of the possible 99) assigned to it. In playback mode,
the MIDI destination of each control button can be set and displayed. There are four MIDI Out sockets so the MIDI channels are identified as A1, B16, C3, D10,
etc. The possibility of having 64 separate MIDI channels is nticing, although the expense of the synths and expanders is daunting - not to mention the size of
the mixing console!
When you wish to assign a previously recorded sequence to a control button, the display takes you through a number of options. The first is the Sequence
number, where you choose which of the 99 sequences you want to call up with this particular button. As each sequence can have a name as well as a number, this
should be straightforward. The length of the sequence is also displayed.
After this the Repeat mode is set, which is either Repeat, Single-Shot or Hold-At-End. Obviously, Repeat means over and over; Single-Shot causes the sequence
to be played once; Hold-At-End is the same but with the last note or chord sustaining until switched off.
Velocity Ratio specifies the way the original velocities of the recorded sequence will be played back. For instance, if you trigger a sequence from a MIDI
keyboard, you might want the sequence to be replayed at its original note velocities regardless of the velocity of the key you subsequently press to trigger
the sequence. On the other hand, you might want a certain amount of say in how loud a sequence will be played. There is a range of five ratios available.
Assign Destination, which I briefly described above, is used to describe which MIDI Out will be used for the particular control key and which MIDI channel.
There is a wide range of possibilities here:
- MIDI PROG; a Midi Program Change command can be sent the first time a particular sequence is activated.
- MIDI MODE; a MIDI Mode message (1, 2, 3 or 4) can be sent to the assigned destination when a sequence is first activated.
- LOCAL; this allows a Local On or Local Off message to be sent to the assigned destination when a sequence is first activated.
- EFFECTS PROGRAM; this allows programs to be changed before a sequence is played.
- TOTAL RESTART; when no sequence is running, this facility can transmit all program change messages and all effects program changes, which have already been
set. All sequences are restarted and a MIDI Start command sent.
- TUNE KEY; this will sustain each note played on the MIDI keyboard until another is pressed.
After going through the above procedure...Actually, I'm making it sound more complicated than it is. If you want to get something up and running quickly, then
you don't have to go through all that every time. These facilities are there if you want them, perhaps not for everyday use but they are there, and they are
invisible until you conjure them up.
More important for getting the best out of the MIDI Performance System are the Trigger Profile buttons. I wish Zyklus had thought of a better name than that
because it makes the available musical options sound technically obscure.
The Trigger Profile buttons - there are 12 of them - determine how the MIDI Performance System responds to the MIDI keyboard during actual performance. The
simplest option is to have the keyboard switched off and to trigger sequences directly from the Zyklus' control buttons. Enabling the keyboard brings in extra
options: the control buttons now place sequences in a state of readiness to be activated in key presses. Each sequence can be transposed according to which key
you press. Middle C plays the sequence at its original pitch. Any key above transposes up, any lower key transposes down.
An interesting feature is when new sequences are 'readied' by pressing their control button, the old sequences which are already running have their pitch
locked so that the performer has a running backing over which he can improvise new sequences, at different pitches.
The Build button makes it possible to allow sequences to build up at different pitches, even though the notes on the keyboard are not sustained. Cycle allows
sequences which are ready to play to be triggered one by one from the keyboard.
I could go on to describe all 12 of these Trigger Profile buttons, but since there is no other sequence to compare with this machine, it becomes difficult to
describe what any of the effects can sound like. There are many possible combinations here. I'm sure no-one, not even the designer, has tried them all yet.
Let's move on to more understandable matters.
I don't know how many possible combinations of sequences and assignments there must be - probably zillions, if not squillions, when other options are taken
When you have set up the MIDI Performance System to something that you like and want to keep, it is possible to call this a 'configuration', name it and store
it. There are 24 memories set aside for these. As in the case of the assignment options, there are 'hidden' options here too. For instance, you may want to set
a configuration so that any sequence currently running will be stopped when the configuration is changed. Perhaps you would like certain sequences to be exempt
from transposition - drum patterns, for instance. I'll give the other seven options a miss so that you'll have fun finding out about them when you buy the
machine. That's my excuse for finding them hard to explain without knocking on your door with a MIDI Performance System under my arm to
Now that I have outlined - and it is only an outline - the playback mode, I can backtrack to the record mode.
Recording is pretty much the same as on a conventional MIDI sequencer, except that the operation is tailored to suit the playback-oriented nature of this
machine. On a conventional sequencer, playback consists of hitting one button and that's it.
Recording options to be set include:
- NOTE LENGTH; this is expressed as a percentage of the currently selected step size, in step-time recording.
- METRONOME; allows the internal metronome to be switched on or off. The externally available metronome is permanently on.
- CLOCK; internal, MIDI, or external (24, 48 or 96 pulses per quarter note) are the options.
- INPUT OPTIONS; allows the incoming MIDI channel to be selected to OMNI or from 1 to 16. Also, types of data - pitch bend, aftertouch, etc - can be accepted
or filtered out.
Sequence options include:
- TIME SIGNATURE; between 1/2 and 32/8.
- KEYNOTE; sets the base note for transpositions. For example, if the keynote is set to middle C, then the sequence will play back at its original pitch when
middle C is pressed.
- QUANTISE; quarter-note to 1/96th note resolution.
- NAME; up to six characters.
Editing options include:
- SLIDE; this permits the insertion or removal of blank space in a sequence to make it longer or shorter.
- MOVE; this shifts the start points of notes without altering the overall timing of a sequence.
- LENGTH; adjusts the duration of individual notes.
- VALUE; alters the numerical value of events. This would be velocity for note-on events.
Record/edit commands include:
- PUNCH; punch-in and punch-out points can be set so that the drop-in operation is performed automatically. This can also be done manually if required.
- DELETE; it is convenient to delete whole sections by moving the start and end pointers for this function.
Note: Both the punch and delete points can be set at any point in the sequence, not just on the bar line, as with some sequencers.
So far, I have explained the recording of sequences, and how they can be played back in various ways and combinations. What we need now is a sort of super
sequence which can 'sequence' the playback of sequences. Thankfully, Zyklus have thought of that one already. A performance is just that - a sequence of
To record a performance is the work of a couple of button presses. Whatever you do next as part of your performance is logged. All MIDI key presses, all
control button presses, all trigger profile buttons. In other words, whatever you do to get a nice noise out of the system is recorded. Punch-in can be
performed and so can editing. As the manual says, "When performances are edited, it is sometimes necessary to keep a clear head." (!)
Obviously, MIDI note-on messages are shown clear enough on the edit display, but there are other types of data. Zyklus have invented symbols to display what is
what. For instance, a figure '8' with an up arrow means that a control button has been switched on. A down arrow means it is off. A '+' with a
't' below indicates a tempo increase... There's a lot to handle here, but handled it can be.
The more I write, the more I get the feeling that I am only scratching the surface. I haven't yet mentioned the use of the MIDI Performance System as a MIDI
control station. Any control button, as an alternative to having a sequence assigned to it, can act as a MIDI Thru with keyboard zoning and octave
transpositions. Using this, a live performance can be integrated with a performance of recorded sequences -- all from the same keyboard and having access to up
to 64 synthesizers.
It remains to be seen who the users of a system like this will be. [Editor's note: apparently Vangelis has one and improvised with it during a concert held
last year in Athens, Greece.] It's definitely a professional tool, the £1995 price tag tells us that. In a professional working situation, my guess is that it
will be a two-person job to operate. One person being the musician or composer, the other being the 'Zyklus expert'. The MIDI Performance System is full of
musical possibilities and is inevitably complex. I doubt whether one musician could operate it to the full and still have brain power left for the business of
Another point is whether the MIDI Performance System could do double duty as a conventional MIDI sequencer. To be perfectly honest, I just don't have enough
experience with the machine to make a valid judgement. Put it this way, don't expect to buy one and be using it as a conventional MIDI sequencer in a few
minutes - you won't. It doesn't work in the same way and a whole new set of reflexes would need to be developed to contemplate this.
The potential purchaser of this system is not going to be the person with a problem looking for a solution, rather the adventurous type who sees this as a
potential for musical exploration. Do you measure up?
The Zyklus MIDI Performance System is intended for professional use and is therefore built to a high standard using a folded steel case. Heavy-duty DIN sockets
are fitted, of a type found to be extremely reliable in the past. All rear panel connectors are cnonected via a wire loom, rather than PCB-mounted
The front panel switches have a precise, positive action. Many have LED indicators to show their status. The display is an illuminated liquid
crystal type with a maximum of 80 characters.
FRONT PANEL LAYOUT:
The three red mode buttons select sequence record and playback of performance record and playback. The 12 control buttons are used for selecting and triggering
sequences in real time. They also select step size during step-time recording.
The 12 trigger profile buttons allow the selection of "several hundred"
sequence triggering modes.
The alpha-dial controls (five buttons and rotary control) are used for scrolling through sequences during editing, changing tempo
or configuration in real time, and for selection of function key options.
ZYKLUS MPS SPECIFICATION
- 1 x MIDI In, 4 x MIDI Out. 1 x Sync input: 24/48/96 ppqn. 1 x Sync output: 24/48/96 ppqn. 3 x Footswitch (or gate) inputs for remote control of Run/Stop,
Enter or sequence control. 1 x Trigger input. 1 x Gate output (programmable). 1 x Metronome output. 1 x Data cartridge connector:
Maximum internal storage: 99 sequences, 24 configurations, 12 performances, Basic event capacity; 9,000, Effective event capacity (typical performance/sequence
ratio) >60,000 (NB. Internal memory is double battery-backed)
FUNCTION KEY OPTIONS - PLAY MODE:
Copy, Append, Dump, Load, Format
Internal/Cartridge, Write protect, Clock, Input options
Control key start-up, Control pitch trigger, Trigger profile off/on, Tempo off/on, Relative quantisation, Range 1 (2/3/4) start note, Range 4 top note, Range 1
(2/3/4) octave offset, Configuration name
Single/12 free, Select control key, Select sequence number, Repeat mode, Velocity ratio
Select control key, Select destination, Program change off/on, MIDI mode off/on, Local off/on, Effect program off/on.
FUNCTION KEY OPTIONS - RECORD MODE:
Punch in, Punch out, Cancel punch, Set start section, Set end section, Cancel section, Delete section
Note length, Metronome, Clock, Input options
Time signature, Keynote, Quantisation, Sequence/performance name
Price £1995 inc VAT. Contact: Zyklus Ltd, 88 Golden Lane, London EC1
Sound on Sound Zyklus Midi Performance System Review February 1988 - thank you Bill Blackledge for the scan!!
on sound february 1988 index
MUSIC TECHNOLOGY MARCH 1988
Already tired of software taperecorders? In need of something more adventurous? Zyklus' MIDI
Performance System could be just what you're looking for.
Review by Simon Trask.
WHILE TODAY'S GENERATION of MIDI sequencers provide tremendous organisational flexibility,
typically they still adopt the tape-recorder model of parallel track-style operation. Zyklus'
MIDI Performance System throws all that out of the proverbial window.
The MPS allows you to record sequences: 99 polyphonic single-channel sequences, to be exact.
These can be organised into groups of 12 sequences which are known as Configuration, of which
the MPS allows you to store 24 in its internal memory. Once you've recorded a few sequences
and organised them into a Configuration, you can "play" them from a MIDI keyboard and from
dedicated front-panel Control buttons. These actions can in turn be recorded into one of 12
The important point to bear in mind is that teh MPS's sequences are totally independent of one
another. You can treat the MPS as a 12-track sequencer, but that's only one of countless
options available to you, and it's really missing the point. If all you want is a multitrack
sequencer you'd be better off investing in the "real thing" - and saving a considerable amount
of money in the process.
THE MPS'S FRONT panel divides into three sections. On the left side are the "master" controls
such as the Run/Stop button, the Configuration and Tempo buttons, and the alpha dial (used for
editing). The large central section consists of the main display LCD (2X40-character backlit),
dedicated Control buttons, Play/Rec-Edit/Performance select buttons and edit buttons, while
the right section sports 2 Trigger Profile buttons.
The rear panel sports one MIDI In and four individually-addressable MIDI Outs (making a total
of 64 MIDI output channels), sync input and output, trigger input, programmable gate output,
metronome output and three footswitch inputs (Run/Stop, Enter and sequence Control).
Additionally a cartridge port allows you to double the storage capacity of the MPS, with all
data readable directly off cartridge.
The MPS can transfer its data in either direction over MIDI (from/to the internal and
cartridge memories), but rather unusually Zyklus have used the MIDI sample dump standard. MIDI
File transfer is planned as soon as the format has been ironed out.
The MPS has a 9000-note internal memory capacity, but because of the way the unit is intended
to be used, Zyklus estimate an effective capacity (based on a typical performance: sequence
ratio) of more than 60,000 notes.
The MPS allows you to record in real and step time. Each sequence can be given its own time
signature (1-32/2, 1-32/4 or 1-32/8) and keynote (the note which will retrigger the sequence
at its original pitch). Sequence-specific quantising is applied during playback and is
non-destructive (the MPS can record to a resolution of 96ppqn). The MPS allows you to monitor
the other 11 sequences while recording in either real or step time. You can specify a range of
MIDI input filter options: all channels (omni) or individual channels, together with on/off
settings for note data, patch changes, poly aftertouch, pitch-bend and other data
(controllers, more messages and so on).
Punch in/out can either be manual (playing automatically starts punch-in) or automatic (using
preset markers), and you get the option to recover pre-punch data. You can also delete any
section of a sequence.
Less dramatic editing features include Delete, Slide, Move, Length and Value. Slide is used to
add to or delete time from a sequence, while Move is used to adjust the position of individual
notes or events, Length is used to adjust the length of individual events, and Value is usde
to view the value of individual events (such as velocity for notes).
AS DESCRIBED EARLIER, each Configuration calls up 12 sequences onto the 12 Control buttons.
Each sequence within a Configuration can be assigned a MIDI destination (one of channels
A1-D16) and associated patch number, together with a second "effect" patch (again on one of
channels A1-D16), a Repeat mode (Endless Loop, Single-shot or Hold-at-end - the latter holding
the last note or chord in the sequence until it's turned off) and a velocity ratio (which
gives you "live" control over the dynamics of the sequences you're triggering from the
Start-up status defines how each sequence will behave when a new Configuration is selected:
"on" will stop any previously-running sequence and start the new sequence, "off" will stop the
previously-running sequence but not start the new one, while "blank" will allow the
previously-running sequence to continue running. This last option is particularly useful, as
it allows any combination of sequences to play through any number of Configuration changes.
For instance, you could have a drum-and-bass backing loop while you switch to and fro between
two Configurations for whatever you're putting on top.
The main display indicates both the current and the next Configuration, allowing you to use
the alpha dial to select any of the other 23 Configurations in advance. Pressing the Enter
button (or the equivalent footswitch) will step you to the next Configuration. By pressing the
Tempo button instead of the Config button you can use the alpha dial to select a new tempo;
pressing Enter will call it up. Alternatively you can hold down the Tempo button and spin the
alpha dial to introduce gradual tempo changes.
It's also possible to give each Configuration its own tempo (39-255bpm), while other
Configuration features include pitch trigger on/off (which determines whether each sequence
will be "immune" to pitch changes triggered from a MIDI keyboard), Trigger Profile on/off
(which allows you to call up default Profile settings with each Configuration), and keyboard
zone and octave (for use with the Profile Group option - see below).
But you don't have to assign a sequence to each of the 12 Control buttons. Selecting T
(sequence zero, or Thru) allows incoming MIDI data to be sent straight out to the assigned
MIDI destination. In fact you can select up to 12 T sequences, with each one sending out
incoming MIDI data to its own destinations - spontaneous MIDI layering, across all four output
ports if required. Alternatively you can use the T sequence(s) to play slave MIDI instruments
"live" over pre-recorded sequences.
All these features combine to make the MPS a sophisticated MIDI control station even without
the sequence triggering options which are the unit's ultimate raison d'étre.
THE TRIGGER PROFILE section is the nerve centre of the MPS. It's here that all the really
clever stuff goes on, with an array of buttons providing options for manipulating the
The first button to get to grips with is Ext Trig (EXTernal TRIGger, if you prefer). With this
switched out, the 12 current sequences can be controlled from their front-panel buttons.
However, when you switch the Ext Trig all subsequently-selected sequences will be "pended"
(the relevant sequence(s) blink at you) until a note is received from an external MIDI source.
If that note is the sequence key-note, the sequence will play at its original pitch; if not,
the sequence will be transposed by the relevant interval.
Playing a new note will cut short the sequence at its current pitch and start playing it at
the new pitch. In this way you can play sequences rather than individual notes; in fact for
more purposes it's best to set your master keyboard to local off, if possible, so that the
keyboard notes won't become part of the performance.
By holding down several notes at once you can play back the current sequence(s) as a
though with New Pitch Trigger selected, sequence(s) will be retriggered even if other notes
are being held on the keyboard - perhaps useful if you don't want to risk playing a "chord" by
Switching in Build allows you to build up a maximum of eight versions of a single sequence
(actually, of as many sequences as are pending) at different transpositions and different
Usefully, replaying a note cuts short the sequence(s) on that note - so you can play
individual occurrences of the sequence(s) in rhtyhm against other occurrences of the
With transposition switched in, all running sequences will be transposed in real-time when you
play on the keyboard. This is a "monophonic" transposition, so if you play a chord the MPS
will take the first-played note (apparently Zyklus are thinking of changing this to
lowest-note priority). If you don't want certain sequences to be transposed at all (for
instance, drum machine patterns), the best option is to set "pitch trigger off" for the
relevant sequence(s) under Configuration Options (see above).
One of the most useful buttons rhythmically is Mom (Momentary). With this switched in, any
newly-triggered sequences will only play for as long as the notes on the keyboard (or the
Control button(s) if Ext. Trig is off) are held down. This is a marvellously spontaneous way
of varying the length of a sequence.
Pressing Mom will cause all currently-running sequences to become "pitch-locked". If you then
want to transpose any of these sequences, switch in the Override button, hold down a new note
on the keyboard, and press the appropriate Control button(s).
Exclusive allows only one sequence to play at a time. With this switched in, triggering a new
sequence will cause all currently-running sequences to come to an abrupt halt - a good way of
returning to a simple texture after building up a dense one.
Cycle allows pending sequences to be triggered sequentially (and subsequently to be
deactivated sequentially if Build is switched in), while with Step switched in the current
sequence(s) will advance step-by-step - their rhythm being determined by the rhythm you play
on the keyboard or Control key(s).
Group is a particularly useful option, as it allows other Trigger Profile features to be
applied selectively. With Group switched in, the keyboard will be divided into four
non-overlapping zones (these being defined as part of a Configuration). Notes played within
each zone will only affect the corresponding group of sequences (4X3). So for instance, you
can transpose sequences 10-12 while leaving the other sequences untouched, or use Exclusive to
"chop" sequences 11 and 12 while leaving other active sequences running. You can adjust the
pitch range of each zone +/- five octaves, so a note in the uppermost zone might trigger a
transposition several octaves lower.
When Restart is switched in, all currently-running sequences will start from the beginning
each time a sequence is triggered or retriggered: clearly when Restart is switched out,
triggering or retriggering a sequence won't affect other sequences. Relative Quantisation can
be used to "tighten up" a performance, as it will cause the entry of newly-triggered
sequence(s) to be quantised relative to those sequences already running.
With Align switched in, the MPS becomes a standard 12-track sequencer - the 12 sequences all
run in parallel. Switching sequences in/out from the dedicated Control buttons becomes
standard track muting/demuting. Any number of sequences can be switched in/out at the same
time (it all depends how many fingers you have spare). You can record these settings in
Performance mode (see below), while sequences can also be muted/demuted whenever a
Configuration is selected (by setting the start-up state of each sequence appropriately). And
as mentioned earlier, each sequence will loop according to its own length.
WHEREAS A STANDARD multitrack sequencer's tracks are the finished product, the MPS's sequences
are only the raw material. How you combine and manipulate them constitutes the real
performance and the end result. Consequently, Zyklus have built in a second-level recording
option: the Performance. Up to 12 of these can be stored in the MPS's internal memory (with
another 12 on cartridge).
Performances are real-time recordings of Trigger Profile and Control button on/off settings,
incoming MIDI notes and velocity, Configuration and tempo changes and Control footswitch
on/off settings. Tempo changes can be sudden or gradual. As a bonus, when you sit back and
listen to a Performance you get the benefit of a light-show as the Trigger Profile and Control
buttons switch in and out. Very satisfying.
Performances can be edited in real time (punch in/out) or step time. Zyklus have devised a
range of easily-understandable symbols for step-time editing purposes; where relevant,
pressing the Val edit button reveals the parameter value. As with sequence editing you can
Insert, Delete, Alter, Slide and Move events.
Selecting a T sequence during Performance recording allows you to record a "proper" musical
part (complete with non-note MIDI events such as patch changes) along with all the sequence
triggering. You can layer this "live" playing by selecting more than one T sequence - so, for
instance, with two such sequences selected the MPS will double the incoming data, sending it
out to the relevant MIDI channels. Given this ability to "solo" over triggered sequences, it's
a pity you can't overdub a solo onto a previously-recorded backing Performance.
MIDI Song Position Pointers and the usual MIDI sync commands are transmitted in all modes; you
can also be selective about which Outs you want sync data to be transmitted from. MIDI sync
data will be received at all times (providing MIDI sync is selected, of course), but Song
Position Pointers are only received during Performance playback. A further option is Ext/Sync,
which allows the MPS to be driven from its sync input socket on the rear panel (with a sync
rate of 24, 48 or 96ppqn). Zyklus' unit can also send 24, 48 or 96ppqn sync data to an
external non-MIDI instrument.
Finally, it's worth pointing out that Zyklus have designed the MPS to be roadworthy in the
extreme. Not only does it come in a rugged casing, but the memory is double battery-backed,
mains filter and PCB transient suppressors are built-in, and all inputs and outputs are
diode-clamped against excess voltage.
THERE'S NOTHING ELSE quite like Zyklus' MIDI Performance System. Only Dr. T's KCS sequencer
and Opcode's Sequencer 2.5 offer facilities remotely similar, but Zyklus' device really scores
through being optimised for the task of manipulating musical information.
While the MPS can be (under)used quite effectively as a 12-track sequencer, it's no substitute
for a full-blown multitrack. To be fair, Zyklus don't claim otherwise - but it's worth bearing
in mind nonetheless.
At just under £2000, Zyklus' device represents a hefty investment. I can see it selling to
adventurous pro musicians, composers and producers; but whoever buys it should be prepared to
invest time and effort in becoming fully conversant with it.
One thing is clear: the raw material which makes up each sequence can be whatever you want it
to be, and for this reason I can see the MPS fitting into a variety of musical styles. In a
sense the description "sequence" is misleading; the MPS provides a means of manipulating
sound. A "sequence" could be a Tangerine Dream-style synth riff or a sampled James Brown beat,
a 16-bar bassline or a sampled brass stab.
Not only will different raw material yield different results from the same manipulative
process, but the same raw material will probably turn out very differently in the hands of
different musicians. Now that is interesting.
For those musicians who are adventurous enough, the MIDI Performance System offers a wealth of
new possibilities. Go for it.
Prices MPS £1995 (including one RAM cartridge, four MIDI leads and a footswitch): RAM
cartridge £99.95: both prices include VAT
More from Zyklus Ltd. 88 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0UA
Tel. 01-675 1816
p.s. Bronswerk is rebuilding the Zyklus via MaxMSP. http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/zyklusimprovisor/