As I discussed in an earlier posting, the publisher SoundIron has been releasing a series of sound sample libraries featuring instruments I’ve built. This has been a new thing for me: Prior to this I hadn’t been active as either a producer or user of such libraries. I’m still not, for that matter. I’m just the person who builds the instruments that make the sounds, while the people at SoundIron bring the expertise and do the work necessary to create the libraries.

In that earlier posting I gave my beginner’s impressions of this business. Several libraries featuring my instruments have since been released, and I’m back now with more impressions.

I just said “several”; the actual total of releases we’ve done so far is five. Mike Peaslee and his colleagues at Soundiron decided that lamellaphones would be a good place to start, so the libraries released so far have all been lamellaphones of one sort or another that I’ve made. Typically each library contains several related instruments (with one exception — one of the libraries contains just one instrument.) The releases have included the instruments called Tines and Echoes and Piezo Tongues, various rattled tine instruments, a couple of rumba boxes, some wooden tine instruments, and a few more. You can find these libraries on the SoundIron web site, or scroll through our own catalog pages for access. There are one or two more lamellaphone collections yet to be released, and then, Mike tells me, we’ll move on to string instruments.

If I were the one choosing of which instruments to release and in what order, the ones that SoundIron put forward first are not the ones I would have chosen. I would have gone for more variety from the start rather than sticking with one type through several releases; also I would have highlighted some of the really interesting and exotic ones near the start, just to get people’s interest. But I’m not steeped in the business as the SoundIron people are, and I’m pretty sure their judgments about such things are better than mine would be.

Each release provides not only the sampled sounds themselves, but also a fantastically impressive array of tools for the manipulation of the sounds, organized into a dedicated user interface. The tools are not the same for all libraries; they’re chosen, and often even specially designed, to suit the instruments in the specific library. I’ve learned that for a lot of the people who are into sample libraries, this is where the fun lies: messing around with the original sounds digitally, altering them in diverse ways to see what unexpectedly cool things they can come up with. There must also be people who are are interested in using the original unadulterated acoustic sounds– I certainly hope so, since I put a lot of work into making the instruments to make those sounds — but I do also get a kick out of the kinds of manipulations people do. To see this in action, you can check out the introductory videos on the SoundIron web site, for instance this one or this one. They make one of these videos for each new library released. One of the SoundIron engineers, Craig Peters, hosts the videos, and he does an excellent job of demonstrating and talking you through the potentials of the library at hand.

To further demonstrate the sounds, SoundIron commissions composers to create sample tracks using the sounds in each new library. For the person that built the instruments, listening to these is kind of a trip: I often hear my sounds being used in ways that I never would have foreseen. Sometimes I like and greatly enjoy what I hear; other examples admittedly are less to my liking. But often the experience is stranger than that: I discover that the sounds have been processed to such a degree that I can scarcely even recognize them as my instruments. I used to joke to myself that I look forward to the day when I’m sitting in a movie theater and hear my instruments being used, courtesy of sampling technology, on the soundtrack. I now think it’s more likely that if this day ever comes I won’t even notice, as I won’t recognize what I’m hearing as the sounds my instruments.

Truth is, I’ll probably never know how these sounds are being used. After an end-user has bought the library, they’re licensed to use them however they wish and there’s no mechanism by which word of how they were used would come back to me. All I can say to people who now have the libraries is: whoever you are out there, I hope you’re having as much fun messing around with the sounds as I’ve had building the instruments.   

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