Music Composers Unite!
From my first attempt to compose music in the early 90's using my 486, Finale, and my computer's internal sound card (mistake!), it has been my dream to have at my disposal a realistic virtual orchestra.
When the Garritan Personal Orchestra came out, I thought my dreams had come true. And for a while, it seemed that Gary Garritan had solved the world's most pressing problems and ushered in a new era of world peace, sending beauty pageant contestants on a desperate scramble to find a worthy cause to promote in their speeches (How about a reduction in breast implants? Wait a minute? Is that a good idea?).
After about a year-long honeymoon with GPO, I began to write music that this everyman's orchestra couldn't realistically emulate, so I decided to upgrade. After painstakingly comparing the Vienna Symphonic Library and East West Quantum Leap's Symphonic Orchestra, I chose to purchase EWQLSO Platinum Plus (mistake!) because I thought its online demos sounded better (sonically) than VSL's. Then I played its strings and disappointment set in. While EWQLSO P+ sounds great if you aspire to be the next John Williams, I am apparently the only wannabe composer who doesn't wannabe the next John Williams. Listening to EWQLSO's strings play anything but Hanz Zimmer and Post-Romantic Gagantuan-ese is like letting a sumo wrestler on Dancing With the Stars. The tutu doesn't even look good! In other words, EWQLSO P+ luxuriates in its own larger-than-life Hollywood sound, and for delicate restrained music, it's simply too overpowering.
So now I contemplate the final frontier for a classically-minded wannabe composer. Should I purchase the way overpriced Vienna Symphonic Library Cube and surrender to the Borg, or should I take a chance on maverick Chris Stone's DVZ Strings and unfortunately named Brillanti Philharmonic ("Yes, we know our product is brilliant. That's why we named it Brillanti. That's Italian for brilliant." What happened to DVZ? Divisi didn't get passed your spell checker?) (There's also Hollywood Strings, LA Scoring Strings, Cinematic Strings, Miroslav Vitous' String Ensembles, and a few others, which I've considered and rejected for various reasons mostly related to them not possessing the classical sound I wanted.)
Having narrowed the playing field to two contenders, I weigh the cost/benefits ratio of each. I could either spend $3,200 on a gracefully aging sample library from our less than generous friends in Wien, or I could spend $999 on DVZ Strings and allegedly another $999 on the upcoming Brass, Woodwind, and Percussion libraries, plus about $270 on Vienna Ensemble Pro and $300 on two Solid State Drives to run DVZ Strings, plus an additional $100 for other related software? What fun choices we have!
Here is what I know about VSL. It sounds more convincing than any other VST in classical repertoire, but it requires some serious programming and convolution reverb to sound good. Do I have to become a sound engineer just to compose? Borg: "Resistance is futile!"
Here's what I know about DVZ Strings? Every sample loads on initiation. Every parameter is
"controllable" in real time. Some moments of each demo on AI's site sound awesome; others sound like a flashback to my days using a 486 and its internal soundcard to compose for orchestra (mistake!).
Here's what I want. Since AI has partnered with Best Service to distribute its products in Europe, why not make use of www.try-sound.com to let us demo its product? If the good people at AI are willing to bring DVZ Strings to your studio if you live in the LA area, they should jump at the chance to bring it to your studio anywhere in the world, with a little latency (or a lot, depending on your internet connection), via www.try-sound.com. And if Try-Sound's server can't handle the system requirements of DVZ, then AI can donate one of their custom AiDAW's to the cause. Since not every user will have a dedicated controller for key switches, the good people at Try-Sound could preconfigure DVZ's most useful settings (one for lush legato, one for dramatic marcato, one for pizzicato, one for a smaller ensemble playing arco, one for a solo quintet).
Here's another thing I want. I want AI to upload demos of DVZ Strings playing classical music, so that I can evaluate its claim that its product sounds like a real string orchestra because it works like one. If that's true, don't hide behind clever advertising slogans, produce a demo that proves it. If Hollywood Strings posts a demo of its gargantuan post-apocalyptic string ensemble playing the Presto from Vivaldi's Summer in a performance that would scare the devil, why can't AI show us what a proper-sized "virtual" Baroque string orchestra can do with the same repertoire. If VSL can post a demo of Barber's Adagio for Strings that is as convincing sonically as any performed by real string orchestras, why can't AI? If VSL Strings, which don't even have true divisi capabilities, can in their demo of Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis produce convincing divisi, why can't AI show us what a true divisi library can do with the same piece?
I realize that VST producers sell most of their products to film composers and wannabe film composers, but even for such as these, listening to a little good music from time to time might put a musical idea in their head. Anything would be better than another Hanz Zimmer rip off? "True legato? All I care about is if it can play monster staccato, man!"
To all of you film composers and wannabe film composers, I love you, because your music inspires young people with the sounds of a symphony orchestra. I also hope that this year we can have world peace or its most convincing virtual equivalent. That would be truly brillanti! And if I could purchase a virtual orchestra with a realistic string orchestra that would allow me to produce classical music, I would be most grateful.