What's next for music on the Mac?

The latest Mac apps could change the way music is made

A new generation of extraordinarily advanced music software programs is about to hit the streets. These include Prosoniq's sonicWORX Pro, a revolutionary Mac-only program that allows the user to 'reverse engineer' music audio files and extract individual components.

Its main users are likely to be Mac-equipped music studios that want to create instant hit remixes out of existing material.

sonicWORKS pro

sonicWORX Pro certainly takes audio-editing to the next level. It generates massive audio analysis files that show more details than ever before, and the extracted results are undeniably impressive.

Another new launch will be Celemony's Melodyne Editor, unveiling their DNA (Direct Note Access) technology that, for the first time, will allow users to edit notes within chords in audio recordings.

It should be ideal for editing individual notes in, for example, a complete acoustic guitar or piano piece. It would also make it possible for the user to rearrange the notes in a complete Mozart piano sonata recording while keeping the virtuosity of the performance intact.

Programs like sonicWORX Pro and Melodyne Editor clearly have extraordinary creative potential but they also raise a number of interesting legal questions.

How much credit should a remixer get for a new version of another musician's song and how much should the original artist get? What would happen if the original artist didn't want their material used in such a way? And what would happen if their material was used anyway, without their knowledge or permission?

The Performing Rights Society wasn't available to comment in time for our publication, but it would be tricky to police the abuse of audio manipulation software.

Other exciting new launches include U&I Software's MetaSynth 5, the latest and first Leopard compatible version of their sound environment program. It boasts a significant number of sophisticated new features and the audio demos we have heard are extraordinary.

Here today

Other state-of-the-art programs are already here. EastWest Symphonic Choirs is a virtual choir engine with a difference – you can play the male, female and boy choirs as normal with your keyboard, but you can also type English or Latin phrases into the program's Word Builder and get the choirs to sing them with authenticity.

Choirs

The generative music concept pioneered by Koan in the 1990s has been taken further with Noatikl and Nodal. Noatikl boasts a simpler and more powerful interface, while Nodal has a unique graphical interface developed by Monash University.

New versions of popular music notation programs, Sibelius and Finale, have appeared with more advanced features. Sibelius 6 claims to be able to create perfect scores as you write them.

Groove machines have also become more sophisticated. Stylus RMX, for example, can play 24bit drum loops, change their tuning, modify their rhythmic structure and even convert them into different time signatures in sync with your software sequencer.

Musical apps have also reached the iPhone. These include: Beatmaker, a digital audio workstation for creating music; Band, a collection of virtual instruments; Guitar Toolkit, a set of useful tools (tuner, chord finder and metronome) for a guitarist; Shazam, which recognises any song you play it; and Bloom, a generative music application from Brian Eno.

Meanwhile, Apple's flagship music app, Logic Pro has just reached Version 9, and GarageBand '09 is bigger and better than ever, offering beginners and consumers the chance to take their musical adventures to the next level.

Looking to the future

By the end of the year we'll have programs for analysing and editing audio files in ways that were previously impossible. We will also have access to new and improved applications that allow us to make music in more creative ways.

There will be something for everyone from hit-makers to home hobbyists. There's never been a better time for making music than now and the future looks even better with all the exciting new apps that are becoming available for you at home, in the studio, or even on the bus!

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First published in MacFormat Issue 213

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