OK, it’s time to make good on at least one of my New Year’s resolutions, and that is to keep up with my Berkleemusic blog…
That said, I wanted to reflect a bit on some trends and developments from 2008, as a kind of year-end round up. I’ll be heading to the 2009 NAMM show next week and some of these thoughts will come into clearer focus. But, for the time being, here are some of the things that caught my eye in 2008.
New Software Instruments: Circle and Alchemy
I reviewed Circle in a bog entry last July, and I’ve been very impressed with both its sound and design. While there are lot’s of powerful instruments available, Circle has really set the bar for the next generation of intuitive softsynth interfaces.
Alchemy, from Camel Audio, came in just under the wire for 2008 with it’s official December 18 release. I’m a big fan of Camel Audio products Cameleon 5000, CamelPhat and CamelSpace. They all provide unique sound design opportunities. Alchemy combines and expands on all of these products, offering the additive synthesis capabilities that Cameleon 5000 is know for, as well as granular and spectral re-synthesis capabilities. What this means is that you can import any audio file into Alchemy, analyze it for its spectral content and manipulate the individual sine wave components, as well as apply sophisticated time stretching and pitch-shifting functions. Alchemy merits it’s own review which you can look for in a future blog post. For the time being, you can check out the excellent introduction and tutorial videos on the Camel Audio site.
Buzz of the year: iPhone Apps
The next big thing in music technology is mobile computing, and that can include anything from a cell phone to a laptop. The iPhone is really the first truly mobile device to provide a reliable platform for software development and distribution. Like the original Mac, developers are coming out of the woodwork with everything from card games to wedding planners. While I looked at some iPhone drum machines in an earlier blog post, there are a number of other powerful and useful apps available for the electronic musician. While the value of some are not immediately apparent, we’ve only just begun to think about how these will effect our lives as musicians.
Last October, I was in a dressing room, getting ready for a concert when I found that the battery in my tuner was dead. I prepared to head out in search of a battery an hour before the show when when one of my band mates pointed out that there was probably an iPhone app that I could use. A few minutes later I downloaded Power Tuner for about the cost of a Duracell at 7-Eleven and I was back in business.
On My iPhone:
Top Free Stuff
Native Instruments KORE Player which I reviewed earlier is still the best deal going. While the sounds included in the original player release are more general purpose, those included in the free KORE Soundpack Compilation offer a number of the more unique and interesting sounds NI is famous for. This is an absolutely must have addition for anyone producing music on a budget.
Surprise of the Year: Korg DS-10
Where did the Korg DS-10 come from? OK, game audio is a big buzz right now, but who would think of the ubiquitous Nintendo DS game device as a cutting-edge, live electronic instrument. Apparently someone at Korg Japan came up with the bright idea of developing a software version of the company’s legendary MS-10, adding a drum machine, a powerful step sequencer, and porting the whole thing to a Nintendo DS game cartridge, complete with cheat codes, BTW. Initially, this was going to be a niche item for the Japanese market, but once word of this got out, the demand became global.
The Korg DS-10 in action.
New Instrument: Yamaha Tenori-On
Yamaha’s Tenori-On is the coolest most revolutionary product they’ve come out with since the DX7. While that instrument introduced a completely new way to synthesize sound, the Tenori-On explores a new way for performers to interact with electronic instruments. Regardless of the myriad of possibilities posed in the early days of electronic instruments, the traditional keyboard is still the de-facto interface for playing a synthesizer. Designer Toshio Iwai wanted to create a completely new way for musicians, at all levels, to play electronic music. The result is a very sophisticated handheld system that features a 16 by 16 grid of LED buttons. These control the on-board sample-based synthesis engine as well as a 16-part step sequencer.
Jordan Rudess on the Tenori-On
That’s it for now. I look forward to any comments you may have. Is there anything I missed?