Dear Music Diary,
Last night I decided to fix a glitch in the string quartet piece I wrote last February. It has been bugging me all these months. Turns out it was one discordant violin note that needed to be muted.
We are a 2-PC family here at the studio. The quartet was produced on my laptop using (among other things) the Kontakt sampler, version 2.0. I have since installed a later version of Kontakt (2.1) on my desktop PC and wanted to do the fix on that computer. All the instruments worked fine except the cello, which produced no sound.
Turns out that the cello was "improved" in version 2.1 so that you can play in different styles--sustained, plucked, etc. So I substituted the new cello for the old one, and tried all the styles to find the closest one to 2.0.
None matched. In fact, the sound was loud and awkward and didn't obey the volume parameters I'd set down for each instrument. The balance of the instruments was destroyed.
My options then were: (i) try to massage the new cello so that it fit with the other instruments, (ii) uninstall version 2.1 and use the backup version of 2.0 (making songs produced in 2.1 unplayable) or (iii) just make the fix in 2.0 on the laptop. I chose (iii).
But if I only had one PC and had upgraded to 2.1 I would have been f*ed out of several hours of my life. If I was a professional soundtrack composer this would be a serious annoyance.

This is not a complaint about Kontakt or Native Instruments per se. The issue applies to all commercial software. The capitalist business model requires (a) constantly rolling out "improvements" in product lines and (b) creating anxiety in customers that they need these improvements. The resulting tangle of compatibility issues assures that creative work (or any work) with digital tools is a chaotic mess.

The great thing about being a romantic starving-in-a-garret type artist (as opposed to a for-hire illustrator or composer) is at any point you can choose to jump off the treadmill. Or use the industry dysfunction proactively, as content. I work in a paint program that's about 15 years old now and I'm not feeling the urge to acquire any new music software. My beginner version of Cubase dates to early 2004 but I'm still learning new tricks with it, even though Steinberg has introduced a couple of versions since then. In my latest piece I used Kontakt 1.5, which I found pleasant, like driving around a stripped-down dune buggy and leaving the Hummer in the garage (if I had either of those vehicles).

- tom moody 11-20-2006 1:19 am

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