Tweak's Crystal Ball
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So, it was the slowness of hardware samplers to eschew SCSI and adopt new transfer protocols that led to their death. Oh if they only listened!Tweak's
Crystal Ball

A peek into the Future of the Virtual
 Studio and Cyberspace

 

Formally trained in philosophy and sociology, the Tweak is skilled at taking contemporary trends and predicting future events.  Here's my assessment.  Take it or leave it.  You will later discover I was right.  :)  Just to dispel your doubts over my predictive acumen, lets 1st review what I said in 1997, and see what came true.

The Tweak's Crystal ball

from "Things I'd like to see in a New Synth" (originally written Dec. 1997)"

notes in red written year 2001, 2008

1. Hi quality output electronics modes (improved a/d d/a is everywhere)
2. An analog filter at the output stage--not a digital variant. (happened with Waldorf machines, and of course the Andromeda)
3. Waveform tagging--ability to splice samples--or bits thereof--together. (happened with non destructive editing--still not in a synth)
4. Built in Zip or Jaz drive for adding new waveforms, saving sysex, midifiles. (happened on many machines)
5. Expandable dynamic RAM as an adjunct to static ram. There is no reason why we could not have an inexpensive 100 meg synth if a drive and SIMMs acted in tandem. Even today they would only add about 700 bucks to a synth if the manufacturer paid retail, which of course, they wouldn't. ( Emu samplers allow for 32 megs of static RAM with 128 megs of dynamic RAM.  So the Emulator Ultra pretty much achieved this)
6. MIDI Bank select expanded to include up to 255 waveforms with the 127 patches. Say each Bank was 8 meg, the equivalent of a modern RAM card. That's over 3000 samples on a 100 meg zip disk. I think many of us could endure the 10 minute load time for that kind of power. (happened with Roland, emu, yamaha expansion boards that made several midi banks with new samples instantly accessible. The synth manufactured found greater profit by doing RAM cards than by addressing dynamic RAM)
7. A 3-d touch sensitive matrix pad, like those tiny "mouse pads" on laptops, though with touch sensitivity--press and move your finger along height, length and depth, with assignable coordinates to as many parameters as you want to stack. (happened with Kurzweil, korg, and emu and many others)
8. USB port to connect to computers for data exchange (we are just about up to speed now)
9. The ability for additional outputs to be put into a surround sound mode.  (happened with emagic)

Not too shabby, overall.

I summed up 1997 in Synth-dom with
While the "orchestra in a box" idea is one that will probably never die, sample-playback of these timbres is wearing thin. Will there ever come a day when the latest box tries to emulate say, a Proteus? an M1? a K1R? Lets hope so! That will mean the manufacturers Finally had pushed through to a new dimension. And let's be clear on one point--it IS the manufacturers leading us into the future of music. The sound sculptors of today are already making the music of tomorrow in their imaginations. The entire retro movement in sounds is a cry from musicians not that they want to live in the past, but that past technology was better suited for modern cyberspaced emotions. We are writing a science fiction novel with beauty and passion, and we need the sounds that convey this vibe. I think one of the main realizations of the turn of the century will be that electronic music can be music of tremendous beauty and feeling. The composers are ready. The responsibility truly lies with instrument manufacturers to give us the sounds we need to make art. The ones that do will still be around in the year 2025.

Several trends are pointing the way. It seems the manufacturers are learning that we now want synthesizers to sound like synthesizers--i.e, analog, dynamically changing waveforms with filters. Is this what we really want? Its important to ask, because that is what they are now giving us.  Tell me friend, what orchestras do you hear in your head? Sample based synthesis is like an old friend who has stayed a bit too long. Controlling the sound is important. The touch sliders on the Korg Trinity and K2500 and the Quad Knobs on the Quadrasynth (and the sliders on the QS7/8) are a welcome change and are examples of real-time controllers that can be fed directly into your sequencer. I want more of these, and yes, they DO make a difference, especially when you start controlling FX and filters in you sequences. Another very cool feature is the touch-sensitive faders on the K2500, the Trinity, etc. You can actually tap your finger on a controller for really neat FX. The Orbit Module is another welcome departure with its Beats Mode. Not to far down the road we will be dealing with surround sound.  Get ready for the total aural experience. 

Written in 1999, pushing the concept of cyberspace

What's next?  That depends on the power of the processor on one hand, and on the metaphor we use on the other.  We are, rather blindly, following the metaphor of the recording studio.  Hence we have virtual mixers, synths, recorders, effects plugins, mastering tools and editors, CDR burners and internet publishing.  As processors improve all of these functions will be done better, faster, easier.  We are already in the Virtual World.  Its not tomorrow, it's NOW.  The real question for manufacturers is What lies beyond the metaphor of the Virtual Recording Studio?  We are not equipped to answer that one at this point.  But let me pull out the old crystal ball and see if i can get some hints.

The evolution of the virtual studio is linked, perhaps inextricably, to the development and formation of Cyberspace. They key question is What is Cyberspace?  Let's take a McLuhan like approach, really one of the few that make sense.  Right now we produce music for movies, radio, TV, music videos and CD's, all of which are part of the entertainment area of the world economy.  In a word we produce music for Media.  As the concept of cyberspace slowly dawns upon us, we may as well say we are making music for cyberspace. 

Let us consider cyberspace to be like a giant Mind, not our own mind, but a collective mind, filled with thoughts, experiences, information, music, TV shows, movies and all possible outgrowths of these.  Imagine a giant Library of Congress, where everything written, produced, created is marked and cataloged.  We are talking major data storage here.  We are soon to be fully networked human beings, not only subjectively, but objectively and physically networked  Our virtual studios will evolve to produce new musical media that cyberspace makes popular and sellable.  Net Video, Net Audio and yes, the development virtual reality and eventually, alternate realities.  Music's role in this is probably to increase its evocative, transpersonal, ie., shared, nature.  Music is the vehicle to alternate realities, and the virtual studio is to be the tool to get us there.  As technology moves outward and onward, music will be moving inward.  If Music indeed is what helps define who we are and what we feel our studios are bound to become simpler and more efficient means of manipulating and packaging audio.   

The TweakMeisters Crystal ball, 2001.

June 20, 2001

Indeed it is a brave new world for us.  Virtual synths and samplers are here.  Surround is in its infancy and the audio bandwidth is so high in consumer products the pro studios don't have much edge left.  The question of today is one of music distribution.  It may take many years to resolve this issue, but the record companies have a huge karmic kickback waiting for them after ripping off artists for the past 50 years. On the Macro, or large-scale level, It is the greed of a few people in this world that will determine how fast we progress.  We can say the same, on the micro level, about musical instrument manufacturers.  It is the very decisions to make formats proprietary or universal that will propel art and technology.  At this point, art is inextricably fused with technology and there is no looking back. 

Technologically speaking, as computers become 150x what they are now, there will be no need for any outboard gear except for convenience sake.  Everything in the studio will be on a LAN (local network) and it will all be communicating like one unified machine.  Pitch will be input by a finger waving in the air like a conductor's baton.  We will hum a bar or two into a mic and get a full symphony 3d surround output. There will be so many choices there will probably be "presets" that make major choices for you.  Instead of a preset being one key map, it will be 32 keymaps designed to work in harmony and style. Some boxes will not only have rhythms and loops defined like today, but entire arrangements as well.  Prefab music programs like ACID and Band N Box will be immensely powerful.  Yet the true artists will still be working in "open mode", where totally anything goes.  Rather than making nice pads and leads, synth programmers will be making and shaping 3 dimensional instruments.  New controller surfaces will arise that allow the shaping of sounds the way our hands shape clay. Our interest in analog filters will be replaced by this, as the inner germ of analog's desirability was a notion of formless fluidity, not the sound of an oscillator.  They will sound so real we will think we can touch them. As creative freedom and playfulness take hold our reality will mutate into a formless state. Creativity may for a while become a dirty word. There will be many sojourns back to nostalgia.  When it becomes more well-known that reality is little more than a mass construction, we will turn towards melody as a desire for rootedness, stability and limits. Yet as times and knowledge appreciates, music will be judged on its basis to transport and transform one's reality.  The realities that are shared and enjoyed the most will be the blockbusters of the next epoch. 

The last image of the crystal ball: If you want them to, your friends in distant countries will be able to tune into your studio, jam with you, talk to you as you both edit the same sequence on your screens.  We will be able to write music, with others, with full access to our studios as we ride the bus to work.  Good that we'll be riding and not driving, because only the body will be on the bus.  The mind will be in another state.  I can't wait to jam with my college buds in my living room, in full surround, though we may be thousands of miles away. Connectivity is the value of the next epoch.

 

What I'd like to see in a new "Synth" 2001 

Notes from 2008 in RED

1. Large scale graphical rendering of a soundwave, zoomable, on a 9 inch built in monitor, which alters mathematical parameters by touching the screen.  The extension of the Triton like interface, but bigger, better, with no latency.  The video output of this monitor can be sent to your main 25" plasma monitor when you want to look real close.

This one is pretty close, looking at the great graphical zoom on Macs, the developments of the M3 by Korg

2. Total blurring of the distinction between synth and sampler.  Storage unlimited by the drives in your main unit (computer). 

Done! The Motif XS Now can be loaded with with 1 GB of sample ram and you can use computer editors.

3.  Total integration of the software sequencer with the synth.  Digital transmission lines ported directly to audio tracks in the sequencer in real time, not rendered or fixed, but an open audio channel which can be effected and transmutated.

Done, again on the Motif XS, using Cat 5 network cable and Firewire, the Motif can be an extension of Cubase.  Others to follow we hope!

4.  A remote Strum Plate you can strum and fingerpick like a guitar.

Nowhere in sight, unless you count the Omni chord

5. A connected breath controller that not only makes realistic flutes and other classical winds, but also can control any controller by sucking, blowing, whispering and talking into it.

Hmm.  Nothing mainstream yet

6. Connectivity to software houses where you can instantly download and license any sound library on the planet.  Because all formats are universal, there is no more akai not loading into emu just right, or kurz not playing on Roland, etc.

We are getting there.  WAV and AIF are pretty universal now.

7. Total interchangeability of DSP functions.  Malleable, intelligent instruction sets that will allow, for example, the Electribe of the future to perform exactly like a TB303 on one day and an 808 on the next, depending on which DSP you uplink.

Still a dream

8. Real time encodable audio output over the internet. 

9. Remote operation over the internet.

10.  Merging 8 and 9 above, you can go to your friends studio, take an audio feed off the net, and remotely control your studio from your friend's console.   This one may take a while.  But it is already in the realm of possibility.

We're closer

11. The merging of audio feeds in an internet mixer. Add video, then we are really jammin'

Yeah

 

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