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Logic 10.5+ is ready for non-linear creativity. Are you?
Last post Sat, Sep 04 2021 by Macker, 7 replies.
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Posted on Thu, Sep 02 2021 11:21
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 382

When the Ableton Live DAW was first launched in 2001 it introduced the radically new possibility of using a 'non-linear' approach, not only for playing back music from a DAW in live performance, but also for creating music in a DAW. Recently, with their release of Logic Pro v10.5, Apple have at long last climbed aboard that same non-linear bandwagon. (Indeed Logic now embodies much of the ground-breaking non-linear functionality of not only Ableton Live, but also that of Bitwig - Ableton's closest rival up to now).

I believe now is a very good time for creative artists who make extensive use of virtual instrument sample libraries in composing original works of orchestral music, to consider the possibility of adding this non-linear technique into their panoply of creative approaches. Whilst Ableton broke the new ground, Logic now may well have paved the way for a new epoch in orchestral composition.

Before Ableton, users of DAWs (such as Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, DP, etc) were more or less solidly locked into the paradigm of working in a temporally and spatially 'linear' fashion, vis-à-vis the timeline of the DAW's MIDI/Audio playback sequencer. And following suit, typical creation and production workflows evolved that all presupposed a pretty straightforward 'linear' progression in time from earlier to later and left to right in the DAW's "arrangement-view" timeline, as well as in actual elapsed time. Ableton Live shifted that paradigm substantially with its revolutonary live "Session" view and functionality of playback. This Session approach offers the ability to pick and choose MIDI and /or audio clips instantly and easily from anywhere within a potentially huge grid of clips, and to launch these clips such that any desired relative temporal ordering of their real-time playback can be accomplished easily, quickly, and radically differently from the traditional 'linear' method of sequential ordering. This new Session capability of Ableton was not only unprecedented in digitally mechanised production of music, but also, arguably, it can potentially surpass the playing abilities of even highly adept musicians in sketching and writing.

But how might this be relevant to the fine art of composing? In listening to great compositions, how often do we hear temporally-associated patterns of melodic sequences and modulated themes, motifs, lietmotifs, etc., brilliantly and beautifully coordinated and coreographed with harmonic progressions which may themselves be shifting, modulating and dancing hither and thither? Surely the potential for combining these elements in different qualitative and temporal ways is virtually limitless. And yet are composers always able to quickly play or imagine hearing, more than a relatively small proportion of all the possibilities of rearranging the various elements at hand in any one place in their sketch or score thus far written? Could not this new temporally and qualitatively non-linear approach help them at least in auditioning or experimenting with several if not many more possibilities than they can at that moment readily play or imagine hearing? Also, in terms of the details, colours and nuances of possible orchestrations, could not use of this non-linear approach in a DAW often surpass the traditional benefits of playing piano reductions of various speculative arrangements? In these various respects, I believe it certainly could be of some valuable service to composers.

So now that Logic Pro, as one of the few DAWs that incorporate staff notation (and hence are more likely to be accepted by composers as at least 'musically respectable' platforms), offers the non-linear creative approach - previously found only in DAWs that focus on pop and electronica - I'd like to urge composers to take a closer look at this radical new capability of the latest Logic Pro.

Even for the most conservatively-minded composers, surely 20 years is long enough to have waited for one of the - let's say "mainstream" - DAWs to catch up with a truly ground-breaking idea that may prove to be of tremendous benefit and value in intensely creative moments of composition.

Posted on Thu, Sep 02 2021 22:46
by jsg
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 334

Does this post really belong in this sub-forum?  

Maybe you can repost it in the General/Hardware discussion?

Posted on Fri, Sep 03 2021 07:44
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 382

It's probably moot.

Also I take your comment as a "not interested", which is of course fine and welcome. I'm not here to profit.

The proportion of people in the whole VSL forum who really are creative artists - of the kind that can and should be called "composers" - is, I would submit, tiny. In my experience that's also typically the case in all the endeavours that have some connection with one or other of the fine arts. My post is addressed to those few. I think it will be found as having little if any relevance by the majority who simply enjoy participating in the various technical processes of crafting music of some kind. Indeed my main reason for posting in this sub-forum was that I wanted to distance my message from the usual cynical promotional clichés that seem to offer technical means of magically transforming craft into art. That's certainly not what my message is about.

If I'm right, if what I've spoken of might actually be a way of 'leveraging' (God I hate that word!) or at least assisting actual artistic creativity, then that would be wonderful and I'd be happy to have been simply a messenger. But where the gift of artistic creativity isn't there in the first place, I don't see this new approach being able to offer anything other than intensifying what we've heard from the vast majority of DAW users for many, many years - i.e., just more and more complicated craft. I'm ok with the possibility that this new way of working in Logic won't in actual reality ever make any difference at all to the fine art of composition. But who knows? And anyway, these days, I'd say composing needs all the help it can get.

[BTW I've deleted a small part of my post that spoke of a specific technical adjunct for this new capabilty of Logic Pro - because that was indeed only relevant in some other sub-forum.]

Posted on Fri, Sep 03 2021 10:29
by Kai
Joined on Sun, Dec 29 2002, Graz, Austria, Posts 166

Hello Macker, 

thanks for pointing out this new feature in Logic! This sounds very interesting and I agree that this could indeed be very beneficial for orchestral composition if it is implemented the right way. I was moving towards Dorico but this feature could definitely make me come back to Logic (didn't upgrade to 10.5 so far). For me the biggest advantage of this would not just be the realtime triggering of patterns but the non-linearity you mention, which would be great for arranging and experimenting. As you point out, historically basically all orchestral music is built from small themes that are varied, repeated, played by different instruments, ... to create a larger arrangement out of them - in contrast to the "tape machine" paradigm Logic had so far.

As far as I understand this should imply that there is a separate repository/resource window for sequences that do not have to be assigned the Arrange window so far? This is something I have always been missing in Logic. To get such a pattern based working style one had to have dummy tracks in the arrange that stored the sequences that one would then arrange ...

To make this really useful for orchestral music would ideally require the following:

- the individual musical building blocks should have the capability to include tempo information instead of a rigid time frame used in the context of electronic music - and if one uses sequences with different timing information one should be able to decide which one is used

- it should be easily possible to transpose these patterns (in particular in octaves to move them between instruments with different ranges)

- the possibility to combine sequences on different tracks (e.g. the sequences of an entire string section) into a combined object that one can move around or trigger (while still having the freedom to edit the individual components)

Since you already checked it out, can it do (some of) this?

Posted on Fri, Sep 03 2021 11:35
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 382

Hello Kai, many thanks for your reply.

(Well now I'm thinking maybe these detailed discussions would indeed be more appropriate in another sub-forum, but let's press on for now. Later, I might - or anyone can - start a new thread in the General forum just for more detailed discussions on this aspect of the new Logic Pro.)

Right now I'm still kind of recovering from the traumatic upheaval of doing a clean upgrade to Big Sur, lol, and haven't as yet had time to get really deep into Logic 10.6.3 (which I couldn't install before Big Sur). But I'll address your questions as far as I can.

1.  Yes the 'non-linear' resources are laid out in a special separate pane organised as a track/scene grid, and in which any number of them can be selected and launched at any time, or launched collectively as multiples grouped in a 'Scene'. In each single track (i.e. single horizontal line in the grid), only one clip can play at any one time; but any combination is possible in the vertical dimension. This new pane, when switched on, appears in the left side of the overall arrangement view. The traditional 'tape recorded' arranged stuff appears in the normal arrangement pane on the right, and the non-linear bits and pieces can be recorded into that linear arrangement pane, as the non-linear session evolves. Or, clips can be dragged or copied between these two panes if desired. None of the non-linear resources otherwise are automatically assigned to or appear in the traditional linear arrangement pane. These two panes (the non-linear and the linear) can be viewed side by side within Logic's overall Main window (which is a big bonus - also a feature of Bitwig but not Ableton).

2.   Each of the 'non-linear-resource' clips of MIDI or audio, as far as I've seen so far, need to be of a finite duration that is some mutliple or fraction of bar duration - adjustable for each clip, from a pretty wide choice of settings. Also the playback speed can be altered in each individual clip (though only as factors of 2, 4 or 8, faster or slower); and they each also respond normally to the traditional master tempo track, wherever the play-pointer happens to be in that track at any moment. Each clip has its own parameter panel in the Inspector pane, in which many kinds of adjustments can be made.

3.   MIDI notes can indeed be transposed in each individual MIDI clip, within the range of ±36 semitones; also it looks like pitch can be 'bent' and/or 'flexed' in each audio clip.

4.  Your point about merging or combining clips into one is indeed very interesting, but as yet I don't know if or how that might be possible. I suspect most of the non-linear arranging would be done most easily and conveniently in terms of 'Scenes', i.e. as strictly vertical selections of mutliple individual clips. But I certainly see your point about being able to identify and designate any particular grouping in the vertical dimension other than a Scene, such that this group can thereafter be handled as (or as if) a single item. Yes, that would have intriguing possibilities. [Update 17 Aug: I've found a menu item that lets the user copy all currently selected clips into one vertical Scene - which is a very convenient option.]

Posted on Fri, Sep 03 2021 17:32
by Kai
Joined on Sun, Dec 29 2002, Graz, Austria, Posts 166

Hello Macker, 

thanks so much for the detailed explanation!

This all looks very promising. After being hesitant to upgrade for some time (because certain hard- and software unfortunately does not work anymore afterwards), I am likewise moving to Big Sur and will give it a try ...

Posted on Sat, Sep 04 2021 14:21
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 382

Kai, let's hope it'll be worth the struggle of developing and learning radically new ways of working in Logic - not to mention the IT disruptions and hassles, and cost of new items of hardware and software, just to catch up with the latest macOS.

My gut feeling is it all will indeed eventually pay off handsomely, in terms of not only even better quality of creative output, but also more profoundly satisfying and productive engagement in the creative work itself.

And let's not forget the old saying: "Fortune favours the bold".

Best of luck with everything!

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