Archive for August, 2011

LASS Sordino Strings

LASS LS
$499.00
$250.00, LASS full product owners (limited time offer)
download only through audiobro.com

In 2009 was begat the sample library company Audiobro (www.audiobro.com), the child of LA composer Andrew Keresctes. Its fledgling release, LASS (LA scoring strings) quickly gained high praise for its warmth, clever integration of portamento, and the concept of recording three distinct groupings of each ensemble. This last feature- along with the first chair only recordings that are another essential component- lets the user blend grouping together in subtle ways. In short, LASS, which uses the free version of the Native Instruments Kontakt 4 player as its front end, sounds great and has some interesting aspects. There’s more to the feature set, but we’re not reviewing the original product here.

Some sordino (muted) presets were offered in the original library, but LASS Legato Strings provides the user with sordino groupings for all ensembles. Understand that this library is exactly what it says it is: a collection of legato samples with mutes on. You won’t find any tremelo patches, or pizzicato here, just the fundamental sordino patches that you’re most likely to call on in your writing.

As expected, these samples sound gorgeous; warm, expressive and extremely playable. A new interface is provided (the original library is about to get a massive facelift and I expect it will include some of the features LASS LS sports) and the intention of the developers seems clear: to take some of the power that the original library offered and make it easier to access. For example, blue buttons appear next to any feature that is midi-automatable. Velocity determines whether legato, portamento, or glissando samples are activated, and the MIDI ranges are listed on the interface, making it easy to adjust them to suit your playing style.

Another important advancement is the feature that lets the user dump any samples that aren’t needed. Most memory intensive libraries (LASS LS weighs in at just under 6 gigs) offer this feature. You can also select from three sample access modes (Direct From Disk, Speed Lite, and Speed), depending on the amount of memory your computer has available for LASS LS at any given moment.

A few minor irritants: the upper octave on all of the patches are colored yellow, and I assumed they were key switches, so I spent some time hunting around trying to figure out their purpose. Turns out, well, they have no function. I ran into a phasing problem when I tried to combine a viola section from the original library with a sordino patch from the new one. Sebastian Katz, a company flack (just kidding, Sebastian!) pointed out that all of the sections were recorded with the same players sitting in identical positions, so phasing can occur on occasion. The solution is simple: delay one or the other by a 10 milliseconds or so, or simply combine two different sections; A players unmuted, B or C players con sordino, for example. And I did notice a clunky sound on the B above middle C in the Violin B Leg LPG patch.

These slight problems aside, LASS LS sounds great. If you own the original library you’ll most certainly want to check out the demos that are on the audiobro site.

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Update: Studio In Progress

The LA studio build I’m following is near completion. According to integrator David Knauer from Audio Perception: “The wood floor is in and the wall treatments are about 70% down. We still have to build diffused wall treatments for the live room and we just received a 10 ft Argosy desk that will hold the C24. The desk has two rack expanders that hold The BAE and Radial mic pre’s and patchbays, Furman Headphone system, and other outboard gear. It also has a producer desk section that has a 20 in monitor on an arm down inside the desk the lets the monitor go from lying flat on the surface on the console to raised up into working position. we’ll also have a 27″ monitor on an arm on the back of the console. Next week we install the desk and begin to wire the studio for audio, video, computer, and ethernet.”

Here are two progression photo sets from studs to finish work numbered 1, 2, 3 in order of completion.
studio-1d.jpeg
studio-1e.jpeg
studio-1f.jpeg
studio-4d.jpeg
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studio-4f.jpeg

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Eric Persing

Eric Persing’s contributions to the universe of sampled sounds and the technology that girds it is well known. From the early days at Roland, where he helped the company give birth to the legendary D50 sample playback device that was a staple in every keyboard player’s arsenal, to the groundbreaking “Distorted Reality” libraries that helped define sound design in the 1990’s, to the software that his company Spectrasonics (www.spectrasonics.net) creates, Persing’s aural acuity is sharp, definite, and married to a profound understanding of the need to balance complex design and ease of use. He’s always been a future oriented guy, so I began our interview by asking him to gaze down the road a bit.

Gary Eskow: How much more powerful will personal computers be five years from now, and do you future plan for the time when musicians will have faster streaming and much larger drives available to them?

Eric Persing: “Sure. Since it takes a lot of time to create the kinds of instruments we make we’re always designing the next generation of instruments for what technology will be available in the future. As they say, never bet against bandwidth!”

GE: Is there a gap between the power of the software that musicians can purchase and the teaching tools — such as video tutorials — that might help them maximize their potential?

EP: “Yes, but I think the larger problem is that musicians have so many distractions now that even when those resources are available, most people rarely take full advantage of them.”

GE: What other companies, or products, do you admire?

EP: “Genelec, Moog Music and Access immediately come to mind as smaller companies that make great quality, highly original products. I’m a big believer in the idea that smaller companies are the ones that produce the really special and long lasting stuff. We’ve had offers to be bought out numerous times by large companies and have always declined. There aren’t many examples of this working well for the small company and plenty of examples where it’s failed badly.”

GE: With regard to huge sampled sounds, what’s the biggest cliche people fall into when using them, and what should they do to avoid the obvious?

EP: “We don’t really specialize in large sounds, although we certainly have created a few! I think we’re better known for creating original and unique sounds. For example, very little of our work is used to “temp” a production, our sounds and grooves nearly always make it through to the final product. Hopefully, that means we are doing good work!”

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A first look at Gobbler

Back up. Wait, that’s not a command, I’m simply referring to the least enjoyable aspect of production work. Hard to believe that a couple of decades ago a cassette or 1/4” safety served as the sole protection against a fire taking down the studio you labored so hard in to create your masterpiece.

Mozy, Carbonite, Aadrive; today there are multiple web services that help you achieve a measure of peace, secure in the knowledge that files residing on your hard drive also live up in the heavens somewhere. But as helpful as they can be, if you’ve used any of these products you know that to date no practical back up procedures have been developed that can satisfy the requirements of the working musician or studio owner. Gobbler (www.gobbler.com), the brain child of CEO Chris Kantrowitz and Mike Gitig aims to scratch that need.

Still in beta and not yet available for Windows machines, Gobbler is an application designed to work with all of the major digital audio workstations. Your sessions and files can be backed up, preserved, and shared with other users quickly- and speed is key if you’re a professional musician or studio owner.

Gobbler is not a thin client. The term refers to programs like Facebook that don’t require you to download an application’s software to your computer in order to access it. Engineers are currently working to implement this feature.

Currently, Gobbler has some very interesting elements. It takes a look at your hard drives, makes incremental back ups on a schedule you set, and uploads only the audio that has been created since your last back up. Gobbler can also make copies of your projects and all associated audio within a network. Tell it to create a local back up by taking a session from your root drive and copying it to another drive; that’s simple.

I’ve never had any problems with audio that’s been degraded by traveling down the yousendit.com pipeline, but Mike Gitig says that the .flac algorithm they use is extremely fast and lossless- I’ll report back to you when I’m able to demo the product on my Win 7 machine.

If Gobbler catches on I expect the product will integrate video and photo capability. But don’t get greedy- I know you’d like back up your Word docs and Quicken accounts, but the company says that Gobbler is and will remain a tool for musicians to put to work only in the creation of their art.

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Eric Nathan

They may not command the media coverage that benefits Beyonce, or rack up the royalties that help justify Justin Timberlake’s concert fees, but the world of “serious” music is peopled with performers of color and character, and composers who supply them with scores. Case in point: Eric Nathan.

“Walls Of Light,” a chamber piece Eric wrote several years ago, just won the League Of Composers award. It’s an interesting piece, which you can listen to on his website (www.ericnathanmusic.com). Currently living in Ithaca, NY, where he’s pursuing a doctorate degree in composition at Cornell University, the 27 year old Nathan spoke with me about his art, his use of technology, and his early background.

“I grew up in Larchmont, NY. My earliest musical memories are watching the Wynton Marsalis and the Empire Brass Quintet episodes on the ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ program. When I was three years old, I told my parents I wanted to hear the Empire Brass and they took me to Tanglewood to hear the quintet play. While in high school I attended Juilliard’s Pre-College Division for two years as a trumpet student and also studied composition there. My first piece was for trumpet and piano which I wrote to perform myself. I soon realized that I could write music all day. I went to Yale, majored in music, studied composition there, then went to Indiana University for a masters in composition, and am now working on a DMA at Cornell.

“I really didn’t listen to pop music as a kid- I leaned towards Copland, Mahler and Bernstein on the classical side, and anything else that featured the trumpet. I have always had an ear for jazz, and even though I don’t write jazz pieces, the jazz sensibility has definitely found its way into my work.”

“While it may be true that back in Mozart’s day there was a strong, clear link between popular and concert music- based largely on the dance forms that influenced both genres- I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the two worlds are divergent at this time. Look at what the now well established Bang On The Can festival in New York has done to bring together the classical, indie, and jazz worlds.

“Composers have always had a hard time. There are many roads… you can be a professional teacher, work for organizations, or follow the Charles Ives model and have another job and write music after hours. The important thing is to keep writing and sharing your music with others.”

“My teachers have been enormously influential. Claude Baker at Indiana University taught me how important it is to pay attention to details in marking up a score. In Beethoven and Mozart’s day composers were writing in a common style, so they didn’t need to add a dimuendo at the end of a phrase. These things were understood- it was in the performance practice at the time. Today, every composer is, in a sense, defining his or her own style, and as a result it’s critical that all of the details are clearly laid out for the player. Most performers don’t know what my style is, so I need to show it in the phrasing. Those markings are what make a piece come to life.”

“Technology definitely plays a role in my work. I wrote a piece while at Indiana University entitled ‘Cantus for Trumpet and Electronics,’ using Digital Performer as a sequencer. It was fascinating and liberating to experience the different way that time unfolds within the electronic medium. I work with Garage Band sometimes to test out ideas for my acoustic pieces. I also use my iPhone to record ideas I play on piano. I prepare my scores with Finale and use its play back feature while I’m composing. Listening to a score while I’m composing helps me test out the pacing and form of a piece.”

Eric Nathan… keep that name in mind, and do yourself a favor and visit his website when you have a few minutes.

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Thomas Dawson

When he’s not on the road serving as Musical Director and keyboardist for the Commodores you might find Thomas Dawson in Colorado Springs, where he holds the newly minted position of Entertainment Director at the Mining Exchange, a hotel that recently finished construction on a suite of recording and video studios. Close to his LA home, Dawson runs an after school music program for underprivileged kids in Long Beach. He also records and mixes film and record assignments out of the project studio he operates in his home.

Dawson was brought up in St. Francisville Lousiana, a small city about 25 miles north of Baton Rouge. He went to Southern University on a trumpet scholarship and was accepted into the school’s world famous marching band. “Dr. Isaac Greggs was the band director,” says Dawson, “and he was great- a Louis Armstrong clone!” Greggs had a wind sextet on the side that specialized in Dixieland material, and he asked Dawson to join the group. “What an experience. All of the other guys were band directors, great players, and Louisiana made us ambassadors for the state. They sent us around the world, and the experience really opened my eyes.”

In 1986 Dawson moved to LA. “I felt I’d done everything I could musically in Louisiana and was ready for a change. I had friends who were doing well there- one was in Marvin Gaye’s band, another was touring with Philip Bailey- and I thought I might be able to thrive in LA as well.”

Dawson auditioned for the keyboardist position in the Commodores in 1988 and has held that chair for over 20 years. “It was amazing. The Commodores were one of the first groups I saw live, and I imagined myself playing with them. Just a few years later and I’m in the band!” Two original members, drummer Walter Orange (who sang the lead vocal on “Brick House”) and William King, who plays trumpet and guitar and sings, remain with the group. “It’s a great gig,” says Dawson. “Everyone has families, so we don’t go on the road for more than two weeks at at time. Usually we fly out on a Friday, play a show on Saturday, and return home the next day.”

Dawson owned several studios in the 1990’s and had a bird’s eye view of the digital wave as it approached shore. “I sold my large frame consoles and tape machines as quickly as I could and moved into the digital world early on. I’m currently running ProTools 9 and Logic in tandem, with a Control 24 as my front end.”

Production clients include Beyonce and the Commodores, and most recently the film director David Venghaus, for whom he scored the feature “They Call Him Sasquatch.” Dawson says that the ability to wear multiple hats is key to being successful in the audio post world. “Producers almost expect you to be able to do it all- score the piece, record ADR, create sound effects, and execute the final mix. I’m comfortable wearing those hats.

“As far as plug-ins go, the UAD stuff is at the top of the heap for me. I absolutely love the Neve ® Classic Console Plug-In Bundle. It reminds me so much of the Neve boards I used to work on. Melodyne has been a game changer- that guy should be curing cancer! He’s on another planet as far as technology goes. I was editing dialog on a film not long ago, and the narrator had done a good job. But I decided to experiment and use Melodyne to snap him to specific pitches. The difference was subtle but very effective- the dialog became much more interesting. I’m also a huge fan of the Sonnox Oxford plug-ins- the Inflator is great. Nectar, from iZotope, is another favorite of mine.”

Fable Sounds Broadway Big Band is one of my favorite sampled instrument collections, and Dawson is a devotee as well. “I saw a clip from a NAMM show they did a few years ago and couldn’t believe the quality of the sounds. It took me about three years to track down Yuval (Shrem, the developer), but I finally ran into him at last year’s NAMM. I hadn’t been able to find anyone who owned the product and wasn’t comfortable purchasing it without getting my hands on it first. When I played it last year I was floored.

“It’s one thing to play a sampled instrument in a booth, or even your own studio, but taking it onstage where it has to compete with live instruments is a completely different test. The first time I brought BBB into a rehearsal and played it through the monitors the product stopped the entire band in its tracks. No one could believe how well it cut through the other instruments. Its presence in that environment was amazing.”

The early Commodores tracks were cut with only a single trumpet and alto sax, so creating a multi that effectively recreates that sound does not require a lot of keyswitching. “The first trumpet is amazing. Playing this product got me to go back and listen to all of the classic soul and R+B horn sections from the 70’s and 80’s to study the articulations. BBB covers all of them.”

Records, film work, performing with an established super group- things have worked out pretty well in LA for Thomas Dawson. But he maintains connected with Louisiana as well. “I go back home a couple of times a year. My brother is campaigning for a position in the state government, so I’ll be heading back there to perform at events for him. I love California but Louisiana will always be a big part of who I am.”

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New Avid Fast Track C400/C600?

I do a fair amount of surfing for audio tech and found this today. Looks like the cats out of the bag on new Fast Track interfaces c400.jpgfrom Avid. NovaMusik has the new Fast Track C400 and C600 on their site with hints at onboard effects and a monitor management system supporting multiple speaker sets (price TBA). Looks like the C400 has two preamps while the larger C600 has c600.jpgfour. And are those faders on a desktop unit? Looks like it to me which is very cool and gives the unit a look more like Avid’s MC Control.

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Studio In Progress

David Knauer of AudioPerception is a freelance engineer and audio integrator in scruffy1.jpgLos Angeles who helped me put the Esquire House studio together in 2010. This year he’s working on a build of a studio with JSX Audio’s Jerry Steckling who’s worked on the audio design for rooms at Pixar, Skywalker and more. The room is just beyond demolition stage and I’ll be posting more pictures as I get them. It’s being built for Josie Cotton, will be called Kitten Robot and David promises me it won’t be your average recording space.

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