Gary Garritan: A Personal Orchestra for Everyone
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You're also a harpist [Garritan owns Harps.com]. Describe the most unusual harp in your collection.

That would be the MIDI Harp, which I invented in the early '90s. It's a head-turner when you trigger a tuba or violin or any other sound with a harp! I was sampling some of my real harps to use with the MIDI Harp and that's what got me into sampling technology in the first place. That experience led to my GigaHarp library in 1999, which was one of the very first libraries released for the GigaSampler platform.

Do you encounter much resistance from orchestral purists who don't think much of computer music tools?

Sometimes, but not so frequently anymore. This usually arises from musicians who feel threatened by new technologies. I try to make it clear that our virtual instruments and libraries are designed to inspire musicians, not replace them. Musicians are not being replaced, but the instruments they play are evolving into digital realms. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Stravinsky: All the great composers embraced new music technologies as they became available. Tchaikovsky was on the leading edge of technology when he used a new instrument called the celeste on the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy."

Music academies, orchestral composers, and film soundtrack creators are your main customers, but it's obvious from the extensive tutorials on your site that you also care about helping hobbyist musicians improve musically and cope with technology. What inspires you to put so much effort into the educational aspects of your company?

I believe in musical community, musicians helping other musicians. We want to lead the musicians to a path of acquiring skills and knowledge to be better musicians. That's why we have all the tutorials on our site, all provided by our users--there are over 70 tutorials so far. Everything from orchestration styles to using GPO with specific notation programs and DAWs to actual instrument performance techniques.

We'll soon have an interactive version of Principles of Orchestration, the classic Rimsky-Korsakov education text. There are GPO user podcasts and the Composer Channel Web radio station, which broadcasts works of GPO artists. We also staged our first GPO Orchestration Competition this year. [The winners had their GPO-created scores performed by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic.] And we're now working to organize a performance at Carnegie Hall for next year's winners.

GPO Contest Winners of the GPO contest had their MIDI compositions recorded by a live European orchestra.

Can you measure your educational efforts in terms of increased market share and sales?

The education market is very important--Apple is a great example of a company that is successful with education. The logic is simple: The students of today are the professional users of tomorrow.

Where do you see the future of soft synths leading?

Again, I think the trend will continue towards doing more with less. I think that future digital instruments will no longer even use sample playback technology as we know it today. Advances in physical modeling, additive synthesis, and recreating instrument body resonances via programming will provide a new paradigm in the way virtual instruments are created and used. You'll be able to perfectly model an instrument and have it reproduced from scratch with programming, or even model the performances and styles of great virtuosos and recreate all the acoustical properties of an instrument using modeled impulses and place it in any modeled concert hall of your choosing. I think we'll begin to see new forms of hybrid instruments entering the mainstream of music composition.

What are the best and worst effects of technology on musical creativity?

The negative is that we're losing humanity. Being perfect and using things like Auto-Tune to "correct" human error . . . well, you sort of lose humanity that way. It's the same thing with sampling: Every note is in absolutely perfect tune and every instrument intonates perfectly. That never happens in real life. The more perfect it is, the less human it is and therefore not realistic. I want to get people back more in touch with the humanity of music and to not lose sight of that again just because we can do so much with technology.

The upside to technology is still truly a case of "if you can imagine it, you can create it." Back when I was composing music in college it was virtually impossible to get a composition performed by a live orchestra. Today we're sitting here in a diner with a modest [Dell Inspiron] laptop playing a complete Beethoven symphony that we can alter, re-orchestrate, or rewrite in real time during our lunch.

But there's a laptop within inches of your elbow and you're using a napkin to illustrate your technology points. So we're not completely losing touch with the tactile nature of being musicians, are we?

Just like playing a real harp or guitar, this is our direct connection to the napkin! [Laughs.] We'd lose that touch if all we did was use an electronic tablet or a folding keyboard and a mouse. That's why I reached for the napkin. There's instantaneous feedback and tactile response--it's real. Technology is a tool, not a replacement, for making us better at what we do as musicians.

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