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Composition System by Dr. Guerino Mazzola

 Presto main screen


Composition System version 2.02
By Dr Guerino Mazzola
Released as SHAREWARE August 2001

In my web searches, I came across Paul Timmermans excellent web site called P-ART in which he describes many unusual Atari programs. Amoung this collection was a program called PRESTO which interested me greatly. After doing a web search for it, I found Dr Guerino Mazzola's web site and I was able to contact him. Eventually, he agreed to a SHAREWARE release of his excellent composition system called PRESTO.


The shareware fee is only $10.00 american money, sent in an envelope to this address:

Prof. Dr. Guerino Mazzola
42 Bettlistrasse

SUPPORT ATARI PROGRAMMERS !! This is not much to pay for such an excellent program

What is PRESTO? Dr Mazzola responds:

A graphical composition software including

- geometric and score (auxiliary) representation of note events in onset, pitch, loudness, duration (4 dimensions)
- mouse-based graphically-interactive editing
- Boolean operations of sets of note events
- recording and storing in MIDI
- alle affine transformations of sets of note events (128 Billions)
- deformation (multidimensional alterations, including:
quantizations, tonal alterations, etc.) of note event sets according to force fields defined by steering note event sets (e.g. deformation of a Bach piece by the force field of a Michael Jackson piece...)
- tempo curve hierarchies
- coloring by instrumental colors (MIDI-program change numbers)

Paul Timmerman (of P-ART) has this to say about PRESTO:

The graphic composer program of Prof. G.Mazzola (CH) is the second generation version of the innovative music computer software PRESTO 2.02 (for Atari). This program is much more than an alternate SMF- sequenzer.

With PRESTO you can screen the graphic representation of all SMF - compositions; you can cut and paste from and within the graphic score; you can make alterations and powerful transformations from recorded MIDI pieces in the local score, you can influence all musical parameters graphically, including ethnical tuning scales and dynamic tempo curves

Prestos composing screen

Presto is a new type of musical composition software for your Atari Computer. With presto, it is the first time that the uncodified universe of sounds is in front of your eyes. Competence in score reading or instrumental skill are no longer indispensable conditions for a creative interplay with music, be it in composition, in arrangement or in analysis of music pieces.

What you are so easily controlling with your mouse is indeed the first, exclusive and user oriented application of geometric music theory which was initiated in 1979 at the University of Zrich. If there is interest in getting deeper into this theory, one may consult the book "Geometrie der T”ne" by Guerino Mazzola (published by Birkh„user, Basel 1990).

Apart the possibility to create your music, you may as well load a MIDI file with preferred pieces and analyze, rearrange and shape them at will. How about Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" in gipsy major tonality, or Mozart's "Kleine Nachtmusik" in pentatonic tonality, with steel cans, marimba and flutes in c major, or Jimmy Hendrix' Purple Haze with strings and in a Messiaen tonality? No problem with presto!

Or else you may be a cellist in a string quartett, and you would like to learn your part. But you are having difficulties with the tempo for certain hard runs. Just take a MIDI file with your string quartett (such pieces are more and more available on the market), hide your own voice and set the tempo curve as you whish: Insert rallentandos and accelerandos as you like: presto will follow your most extravagant ideas. It will be the infinitely patient correpetitor.

Suppose that you want to have support for composing musical configurations like rhythms, arpeggios, dodecaphonic or even serial structures. Then, presto will allow for unlimited access to these instances without making you worry about theoretical foundations or even mathematical theorems. A practically infinite variety of musical transformations is at your disposal. And if it happens (it should should really do so!) that you are tired of well-structured processes: Just start drawing your chaotic and creative sound pictures with the mouse. If this seems to be too chaotic, you may still correct it by means of a freely set percentage of tonal, rhythmic or even two-dimensional alteration. In this way you control random instead of being a slave of it.

And - last but not least - presto is a sequenzer, i.e. a digital tape allowing for recording your pieces from a MIDI instrument or - simultaneously - from the movement of the mouse. You may record with or without any metronome, reject it, save it, record together with existing material, look at the result, correct the mistakes by tonal, dynamic, durational and rhytmic quantizing, and so on! And if you like it, take the recording to another sequenzer program by means of standard MIDI files, etc.

But as far as you are concerned with creative composition or (re)arrangement, the best is to stick to presto - there is no alternative!

ABOUT Dr Guerino Mazzola

Guerino Mazzola, Dr. habil., is university lecturer in mathematics, jazz pianist and research director of the ongoing SNFS Project RUBATO at the computer department of Zuerich University. He has published several Lps and Cds, over 40 papers and several books on mathematics, mathematical music theory, brain research and computer aided analysis in the humanities.


Download PRESTO by Dr Guerino Mazzola 239 KB

Presto DOCS in English. TXT format. Also includes an english version of Pristino, a slide show tutorial on Presto. 241 KB

he Presto Docs in WordPlus format. German language. 154 KB

Paul Timmermans web site:


Dr Guerino Mazzola's web site