The music of today has much to thank technology for. Regardless of genre, machine-aided composition is ubiquitous, thanks to the continually developing tools on offer. To pay homage to computer music and the continually evolving technology that enables it, Boiler Room are clubbing together with leading music tech provider Native Instruments to explore every corner of the realm they play a significant role in.
Any history on the evolution of digital sound is bootless without giving due praise to Reaktor – the revolutionary software studio first developed by Native Instruments in the late 1990s. At the time, pioneering technology creatives in Europe were growing tired of the creative limitations of synthesisers available to adventurous music-makers. NI’s co-founder Stephan Schmitt and a self-taught programmer Volker Hinz saw the potential in computers to become powerful enough to synthesise real-time audio –– to become instruments in of themselves. They developed two modular synth programs for PC (Generator and Transformator) which were soon re-packaged as Reaktor. It’s the very bedrock on which NI is grounded as a company today.
“I became fascinated [with] how people could continuously make new instruments,” explained NI co-founder Stephan Schmitt, recalling Reaktor’s developmental stages. “With that shared sentiment, we grew along with the internet.” And as the webspace grew, Reaktor completely recast the creative boundaries for any musician with a computer. All of a sudden, you were not limited by anyone else’s design decisions –– you could create the instruments and sounds yourself. The possibilities became infinite.
Musicians from across the world began developing their own uniquely synthesised sounds, storing and sharing them with others thanks to the development of communal user libraries. The user library now has 4,000+ instruments from sophisticated sound designers from all corners of the world. Influential sound designer Richard Devine recently insisted that “I don’t know any other community that shares as much information. You can get an entirely new set of tools… every week.” For ambitious sound designers, Reaktor’s ready-made synths, samplers, effect units and grooveboxes remain some of the most powerful and thrilling tools at their disposal. Whether it’s sound design, music creation, or sophisticated sound processing, its applications are endless. “It’s like a Swiss army knife that you can mould to be whatever you want,” Devine explained at ADE last year, while hinting that his latest Reaktor project involved designing the sounds for an electric car engine.
Ten years since its conception and now into its sixth generation, Native Instruments’ Reaktor continues to democratise music production globally. Reaktor 6 – NI’s last software upgrade – introduced a major development in Blocks: a new rack-style modular framework in Reaktor that allows users to explore the speedy patching and flexibility of modular hardware, with all the benefits of digital. In essence, Blocks allows you to build a modular synth inside your laptop for a fragment of the price of a full Eurorack system. As every individual module and component is represented graphically, its ease of use is more welcoming than ever for newcomers looking to grip the software for the first time.
Praised for its boundless versatility, Reaktor stands proudly as the modern torchbearer for experimental sound processing. From Radiohead to Squarepusher, and Merzbow to The Flaming Lips, read on to uncover artists’ testimonials of ten big musical works to which Reaktor formed the creative backbone.
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