Originally this started as a response to Ashif who got me thinking about the past, present and future. But this has diverted his thread off topic so I started another. I began reflecting over the past year and realized what a fantastic year it has been.
Much has happened in the past year and at times it seems like a blur. This is how I see the year we are leaving behind.
When Northern Sounds first started, the sample world consisted of primarily hardware samplers (Akais, Roland, Kurzweils, etc) and a new software product called Gigasampler was announced. Giga's new hard disk streaming offered a new world of possibilities. Being a new sample developer (and the first independent Giga developer along with Larry Sayers) the prospects were very exciting. Being able to sample anything with no limits - I felt like a kid in a candy store. And the people at Northern Sounds were just as excited. Giga grew quickly and during its peak, Giga's once enjoyed nearly a 100% market share in the software sampler market and in the early days Northern Sounds was primarily a Gigasampler forum. There was a flegling enthusiastic membership and only a handful of developers. Almost all of the orchestral libraries carried a triple-digit price tag and the genre of music centered mainly on Hollywood-style soundtracks.
This past year we saw the emergence of Kontakt as the dominant sampler. With cross-platform support, player versions of their sampler, a vast variety of products, plug-and-playability in a variety of hosts, Native Instruments seems to have seized the top position. Apple's promotion of GarageBand opened up software sampling to a whole new world of Mac users. And LinuxSampler promised open standards and soundware for the open source enthusiasts.
This past year we saw virtual instruments (first pioneered by Eric Persing and others) taking a prominent position as ell. No longer was there one platform or a limited way of sampling or playback, but quite an array of choices. This past year we heard of independent VIs such as the upcoming of Vienna Instruments, Yellow Tools Independence, rumors of an East West sampler, and others.
In the past year we have witnessed the rapid democratization of sampling. Orchestral libraries were no longer only for the elite musician who could afford them (or get beta copies). Following GPO there are now at least a dozen orchestral libraries that can be had for several hundred dollars. Kirk Hunter, Seidlezek, Miroslav, EMU and others made announcements of affordable orchestral libraries this year. Musicians from all walks of life, of all genres and persuasions, now have access to high-quality samples. This trend will continue.
This past year we saw a real integration of notation and sampling for the first time with GPO and Finale 2006, Sibelius 4.1 and with Overture 4. This opened up new possibilities for music education and the many academic institutions took an interest in sampling for the first time. And who would have believed you would be able to write and playback symphonies from notation programs on ultraportable laptops!
Sampling technology has progressed considerably. Instead of yesteryear's mere Mellotron-like playback of a sample from a keyboard, there are performance tools. MaestroTools first introduced performance tools such as legato mode, alternation and variability and VSL's amazing Performance tool took these concepts further. This past year we witnessed these MIDI tools being integrated directly into the samplers such as Giga 3 and Kontakt2.
There have been advances in convolution and impulse response technology. Wizooverb, new features of Altiverb and Pristine Space, Waves IR, and other convolution programs have appeared. No longer stand-alone programs they are now part of the sample engine as in Giga3 and Kontakt2. In addition to providing great acoustic venues, the past year has shown it was possible to model instrument body resonances. Giorgio has shown what can be done with the recently-released Stradivari violin using body impulse resonances and scripting and Michael Post has also show what can be done with the hybrid piano.
And in the past year, look at the amazing things Synful and Arturia are introducing with synthesis and modeling. Great shifts in technology are in the offing and there's even more amazing things coming.
Northern Sounds has grown too during the past year. Rather than remain a static one-sampler community it has expanded with new sections in recognition of the dynamic growth. Credit to PapaChalk and DeSound for their foresight and keeping steps ahead of the game. Northern Sounds has also attracted a more diverse membership and there are more pros who frequent here than ever before, many professors and educators, company executives as well as students and musicians from all musical walks of life. The Northern Sounds community has exploded in membership accordingly. The democratization of sampling has brought many more people into the world of sampling and Northern Sounds has remained on the forefront of this revolution.
Samples have also started to move away from the Hollywood-centric genre. Classical music, jazz and other forms of music are now a part of the ever growing palette of sounds. This year there was also the first orchestration competition bringing MIDI-mockups to a real orchestra.
The most important thing in 2005 was that great music is being made and many people are learning and benefiting. Music that otherwise would not have been is being created by people from all over the world.
This past year has been the most exciting year in music technology. There's probably a great deal more that wasn't mentioned above that happened in the past year.
What a year it has been and the best is still yet to come.
Wishing all of you a very wonderful, healthy and happy New Year.