The Midi Creator is a great piece of kit we’ve used for years but is now sadly no longer made. It was originally designed by Phil Bates of the York Electronic Centre, the commercial arm of the Department of Electronics at the University of York.
It’s essentially a programmable switch to midi device, and can be controlled by either momentary switches (that is to say a switch which can be in two states, either off or on) or variable switches (ones which can give a smooth output from a minimum value to a maximum)
The front panel has 16 x 3.5mm jack sockets, with the top row of 8 sockets for momentary switches and 8 for the bottom row for variable switch inputs. Also on the front panel is a slot for a smart card which is where all the programmes are stored. When a smart card is inserted, the programme stored on the card is read and determine what all the 16 sockets do.
On the back of the Midi Creator are the Midi in/out ports; the power socket inputs and a socket labeled ‘Audio Out’. On this model this socket is blanked off as this is the cheaper unit and doesn’t make any sounds itself – it only generates Midi messages. The more expensive model has a circuit built into it which actually creates sounds, so a lead can be plugged into this socket and then to a loudspeaker, so the Creator becomes a really useful stand-alone, self-contained workshop device.
Here we see the Midi Creator with a standard so-called ‘jelly bean’ switch plugged into a top momentary switch input, as well as another variable switch known as a ‘Midi Sensor’, (or sometimes a proportional switch), plugged into a bottom variable switch socket.
By the way, the small black box stuck on the top is an Omnimusic development which acts as a small mixer. Without going into detail it means that the volume of the sounds produced by four switches can be independently controlled.
Three ‘Smart cards’, with the back of one showing the chip onto which the programme is written and stored.
On the front we usually write the configuration stored on the chip, or sometimes, if a card has been programmed up for a particular piece, the name of the piece. This is particularly useful in identifying which card to use between songs in a performance – anything to help a quick change-over!
The configuration sofware used to programme the cards is wonderfully simple and intuitive to use. It’ll certainly run on Windows XP but, being a bit long in the tooth, not on Windows 10. On opening up the programme one is presented with a view of the front of the Midi Creator:
Clicking on one of the front sockets will bring up a configuration window applicable to that type of socket – certain types of configuration are only possible with a particular switch. In the example shown it shows variable socket 2 being configured to play a C pentatonic scale.
The software is very powerful and enables a switch plugged into a particular socket to perform a wide range of jobs, from simple triggering of single notes playing a melodic riff, through to complex control of equipment using what are known as Midi Controller messages. Here’re a couple of screen shots of the configuration page showing the setting up of a variable switch to do the latter:
Here is a variable switch plugged into proportional socket 2 being set up to send out a Midi controller message number 53 on Midi channel 4.
All in all, a very useful piece of equipment, allowing disabled musicains to have control over simple musical notes through to complex melodies being played in real-time, through to having control over very nuanced aspects of a musical performance such as the volume or vibrato of an instrument.