Why we do it – and what it takes.
By Richard Tretzel, CEO of WLA
Audio engineers always have to consider different opinions on the mixes that they create. Some people will be unhappy with the drums being too loud or too dry, others will find the singer’s voice a bit too clean or maybe want less reverb on it. The thing is: once you have reached a certain level of quality, it’s not so much about a mix being right or wrong, but mainly about the different tastes that each of us have or the different contexts that the music is used in.
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” -Sherlock Holmes.
A strong idea
That’s why we’ve been looking for a way to give extensive control to the listener. Good music usually consists of so many interesting layers and ideas, and when mixing the different elements of a recording, we come across so many beautiful details and microcosms that no one else will ever discover once a track is finished and published.
With our Adaptive Audio solutions like the soon-to-be-realeased TableTone we want to empower listeners to re-design their music. This doesn’t just mean handing over a bunch of stems to remix. It’s not about an arcade mixing tool. The idea is that we would "break up" our specifically pre-produced music into individual elements and layers, and then create a smart and interactive experience for the user who can then take control on a more abstract level by switching between the musical pieces at any time, changing parameters like mood, brightness or darkness, intensity, and so on.
All of this works with a simple interface on any computer or smart phone, and you definitely don’t need to be a musician or sound engineer to create your own music experience. Just follow your own taste, your own mood, your own emotions in that very moment.
We fell for the idea of Adaptive Audio a long time ago. Actually, I’ve always had a rather technical approach, not only to music, but to art and media in general. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in front of my Amstrad / Schneider CPC 464, an 8-Bit home computer that came out in 1984, and which is somehow similar to the "cult" videogame classic Commodore C64.
One thing about the CPC 464 was that there were fewer games for it, so I did other things like learning the programming languages BASIC and Assembler, writing trivial graphics and music programs or manipulating games so they would feature our school teachers as antagonists. Later, as a teenager, I got the much more multimedia-ready "Commodore Amiga" and started making music obsessively, sampling and manipulating audio etc. I even built a DIY sampler extension card, which I used permanently at the time.
I would always rather tinker around with machines than just use them, you know- take a screwdriver and see what’s inside. I again worked on my own simple music tool back then. So, maybe, after all these years of being a musician and an audio engineer, developing digital audio solutions is kind of like coming home for me.
This is where my love for music and technology join forces, and it’s just like that for everyone else on the WLA team. Some of us are musicians who also love tech- others are tech nerds who play music- but everyone has a deep interest and understanding in both worlds and this has turned out to be essential for the whole project.
For example, when composer Denovaire and other musicians started to create all of this great music for our TableTone App, they needed to understand exactly how the different elements need to be designed in order to be used in our adaptive audio engine. They’ve learned to think about their music in recombinable elements, to provide different levels of intensity, density, size, and so on.
They’ve become sheer masters in designing elements and patterns that will allow our engine to combine music from different genres without generating adhesive fractures. Maintaining seamless transitions between completely different musical pieces has been one of the most challenging aspects of all of our "adaptive" productions.
So, of course, our software developers are also audiophiles. Firstly, because if they want our Adaptive Audio engine to do its beautiful job, they need to be capable of understanding and analyzing the inherent musical – and not just technical – challenges of adaptive audio. Secondly, because it’s a natural thing that only real music lovers would be nuts enough to join our futuristic adventure. Can’t wait to see where all of this will take us.