Besides me, there was only (not even) a handful of private individuals who owned a M.A.R.S. Usually only colleges and studios owned this instrument. The last (ISA Card) M.A.R.S. I met end of the nineties - I was involved in the installation of the M.A.R.S. in the Experimentalstudio of the Südwestfunk, Freiburg/D (formerly Strobel Foundation) - directed by André Richard.
M.A.R.S. sounded so good that even Karlheinz Stockhausen, during a visit to the Basel electronic studio, to which we had programmed Ring Modulators for an upcoming performance of "Mixtur" (with the MARS), said after listening, that they were "just as good as the old, analogue Ring Modulators at the WDR, just with less noise". Everyone who has an approximate idea of Karlheinz Stockhausen's relationship to his Ring Modulators knows what this rather means: M.A.R.S. was ennobled. The other Titan, Luciano Berio, also worked at the IRIS Studio in Paliano with M.A.R.S. on his own works. I had the incredible luck to be able to witness both.
A View to the Inside:
The bottom level of the software are the "Algorithms" (screenshot on the left). Here the implementation is programmed in the core. Everything has to be defined somehow. One of the basic problems had been that only "fixed point algorithms" were described in M.A.R.S. - no "floating point algorithms". Fixed point means only values between -1. and 1., everything else has to be generated with formulas that produce the desired curves via tables. The corresponding mathematical formulas are therefore indispensable. The head is spinning.
The Algorithms are bound in "Tones" and the Tones in "Orchestras". Thus, the Tones can be e.g. simply multiplied and provided with different addresses for the control. There are also different levels with tables (for LFO, parameter u.m.).
The "Orchestra" represents the integration of the Tones into the system bus. Even if it looks friendly and seems clear - the programming is to some extent "tricky" and no longer comparable with today's user interfaces.
The small, green "S" and red "D" in the Algorithm are Variables, the black "C" fix Values. Double-click opens "Definition-Windows".
In the left window is a futuristic ingredient of M.A.R.S.: Physical modeling. That was very crazy in the 90s - what had happened in the digital electronics! To test during programming, there are the small loudspeakers (1,2) - they can be set at any point for listening and are only active in the Algorithm level.
In the right window [Orchestra] the bus connection is depicted. From the 4 inputs (microphones with green lines) the signals are drawn into the provided Tones. Alternatively, the output signals (gray lines and loudspeakers) can also be routed into the Tones.
MARS. and ARES also offer every conceivable kind of tools, for monitoring, measuring, visualizing and checking all the resulting values.
Today, it seems normal, but in the early 1990s, this was an overwhelming package that replaced infinitely and expensive hardware, which was also not particularly accessible or widespread.
It was the beginning of "scientific coverage", which - from my view - unfortunately can now be regarded as quite problematic.
M.A.R.S. TEXT AND BROCHURES (OPEN AS PDF IN NEW WINDOW):
MARS - BROCHURE with specs (1995)
MARS ISA-CARD - BROCHURE with specs (1997)
New MARS Workstation (1997) - text with illustrations
My time with M.A.R.S.
The highlight for "electronic guerilla" - as I signified myself at that time - was, that the "Orchestra"-files could be dumped as a MIDI files. Thus the large and loud PCs had neither to be transported, nor "endured" (or taken into account). That was a huge liberation! The luggage shrank enormously and the set-up times were about 10 minutes. Also the M.A.R.S. was a record-breaking lightweight! The control was done with an Apple notebook (540c, Wallstreet, Pismo).
Live performances with M.A.R.S. were also fantastic because the setup was extremely easy and the concentration remained for the music! I had everything in a 5U softbag: M.A.R.S., Mackie mixer, microphones, laptop and MIDI fader. Everything pre-wired - only power and the PA had to be connected. Before, it was a Mac SE30 (cube), two 12U cases (extremely heavy!) And two (piano) keyboards - and the elaborate wiring took about 90 minutes! What a blessed progress!
Here is a picture of the Soundcheck at the VCF 1 Festival in Cologne (1997). Wolfgang Heiniger and I (the World Powerbook Orchestra) gave "Hosen aus Licht" ("pants made of light"). Two M.A.R.S. controlled via Max. On the screen a fictitious machine text could be seen, which only served to temporarily disturb the audience by (false) error messages. A reporter of the Cologne newspaper congratulated me on the appropriate title "Rosen aus Licht" (roses of light). I did not correct it.
After the festival we were branded as "THE outlook in the future of electronic music", in great agreement. Great times!
From 1995 until the end of the millennium, I was almost everywhere in the world and I lived my electronic guerrilla life - with M.A.R.S.. I had two mini-transmitters and -receivers (Sony Freedom Series) with good miniature-microphones and even went to concerts to sit in. This was a fantastic time - and the final stage, before (in my view) both, the concert-enterprise and the "artist stand" was (perhaps) finally destroyed by professionalism. Performances changed into presentations.
At the end of 1998 the studio IRIS suddenly "disappeared". It simply was closed without notice. No news, no legacy, no documents, no spare parts or technicians who could repair the M.A.R.S.. A shock! As well online: nothing! And there came the time of my separation from the studio in Basel. The 5 years with M.A.R.S. were a "game changer". Max and MARS had opened many new doors for me, I had been able to work with some of the great living composers, and the step from jazz piano to the "insecure world" of computers and digital electronics in New Music was made.
Moving to London forced me to use M.A.R.S. as a carry-on hand luggage to transport. And I got temporarily used to flying. That's how it went to the USA. Our base was a property in La Jolla (San Diego, California). We played in concert halls, on a roof, at Camp Pendleton (Marines Base), in the desert and even in the solar eclipse shadow.
Since the time in London (from 1998), the PC remained "on the continent" and since then I hadn't programmed any further, new configurations on M.A.R.S. - I only used my existing MARS patches (I just wanted to play). I had the existing configurations as MIDI sequences in the Apple Powerbook - in the respective GUI I could send the sequence as a MIDI dump to the M.A.R.S..
On the right is a photo from La Jolla, USA from 1999. Everything on the table was my plane hand luggage - at that time you still could take something more than today. As a contrast to the digital MARS, I added a Sherman Filterbank to the setup (as a "dirt spinner").
Peppino Di Giugno presenting the 4X/001 to IRCAM/Paris in 1984 and Pierre Boulez is privileged to open the package.