Part 5: Renaissance (1993-c. 2000)

(Hm, this page duplicates some of the stuff on the “Part 4” page, sorry about that; I’ll try to organize and edit them at some point…)

Around late 1993 or early 1994, I basically was wasting my life (from a creative point of view). Yes, I had a job, a house, a wife, plenty of social activities, lots of books to read and records to listen to.

There was a guy in our social circle, who I’ll call “Al Nessim”. Al had a small electronics engineering and prototyping company, but was also into all kinds of creative stuff. His friends were more artists, dancers and musicians rather than all techy people.

Anyway, one day we were talking and I mentioned that I used to play various instruments, but got frustrated since I wanted to write music but had no way to do it by myself, and couldn’t see myself getting other people to do it. He took me into his rather remarkable studio, where he had a mass of audio equipment, a huge sampler and showed me what could be done with it. We continued our conversations over some months, and one day he made a present to me of a Roland Sound Canvas, Macintosh Plus and a copy of Master Tracks Pro.

“Not being clever”, it took me some hoop jumping and a lot of whiny calls to Al to get something (even that simple) working. But once it started to dawn on me what the possibilities were, it was the start of an entire new phase of my life.

Since those days in early 1994, I have released six full length CDs of my compositions, and not a day doesn’t go by that I’m not thinking, experimenting, writing, mixing, listening or otherwise obsessing about music.

In any case, back to the 1990s. At that time, the most advanced home computers I had access to were the Mac Plus and a PC with a 80386 in it. These had enough power to run MIDI sequencers but manipulating multichannel, high sample rate digital audio at home was not very practical at that time.

My first experiments in composition were pretty simple in terms of orchestration: I used the basic General MIDI sound set in the Sound Canvas. Considering that the whole idea was to be able to write and play polyphonic music all by myself, the limitations of that sound set was relatively minor. But the one thing that was too painful to listen to was the piano patches on that machine, so after some research I plumped for the “Proformance+” MIDI piano module made by a company called E-mu.

Through the 90s, I gradually upgraded all my MIDI gear. I kept going back to Roland equipment for several reasons: they kept introducing more advanced versions of the Sound Canvas (in my studio, the sequence of purchases went along the lines of SC-55 -> SC-88 -> SC-880); they were well-known amongst MIDI users, and the gear seemed reliable and relatively decently documented. I did add a pair or JV-880s which had better orchestra and piano sounds, as well as much more advanced sound programming capabilities, and an E-mu Morpheus, which, although bizarre and creative, never really cooperated with me.

Last edited 20090618


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