So rare is it these days for developers to get implementations of the Scala SCL/KBM format done the right way, I wanted to spotlight this excellent and thorough SoundBytes review of the UVI Falcon microtuning features from Warren Burt:
by Warren Burt, March 2016
“UVI’s new synth/sampler has very sophisticated microtonal implementation – which enables ANY sounds that you load into it to have ANY imaginable tuning, and easily too.”
As readers of the humble Xen-Arts blog will be aware, it is a personal pet-peeve of the most epic proportions to see the ever proliferating, seemingly Fibonacci-series growth of virtual instruments getting released that only implement the SCL portion of the Scala standard, which is, for serious xen-micro musicians and composers, akin to trying to run a marathon on one foot.
For what it may be worth, and personally speaking, leaving off the KBM part of the implementation always seems to embody a microtonal software development and design ethic with a seriously half-baked and tacked-on feel, that is akin to having one that only permits 12-note microtunings, or (shudder) the global hegemony of 12-locked, no-microtuning functionality at all (Ableton, are you listening?).
Pet-peeves run deep in the world of microtonal hardware and software though, where endless workaround torments are cooked up by those those developers who are happy to only provide users with 12-tones, or tuning every intonation system with its base-frequency on C.60. Sometimes one must wonder if with these categories of tools, it is workarounds we are engaged in, rather than microtonal and xenharmonic music composition. Of course, lots of users – perhaps naively – advocate for SCL without knowing why it is critical in every case imaginable to have the KBM part too.
Among the personal criteria for making me spontaneously whip out the credit-card for microtonal software impulse buys, is that the instruments MUST feature – no compromise – full keyboard microtuning, where users can freely microtune every MIDI Note to any desired intonation system, and with any number of tones required of the musical context at hand. Only a few developers seem to have got the SCL/KBM format paradigm right though: Modartt with their amazing Pianoteq, Paul Nasca with his ZynAddSubFX, and now UVI Falcon.
Some may want to point out the omission here of the family of virtual instrument tools created with the Plogue Aria engine, but I, and many others who have checked the intonation of these instruments were shocked to find that they do not render full keyboard microtunings accurately under all conditions, although they do use the SCL/KBM combination. For the time being, out of necessity, we’ll have to add them to the forget-it stack.
Thanks to Warren Burt for the very stimulating review of the UVI Falcon microtuning features, which confirms that some developers do actually find resonance with implementing one of the most important features required of this music: full keyboard microtuning. No matter how we achieve it, with MTS, TUN, KSP, or the correct and complete implementation of the SCL/KBM format, this is a prerequisite for any microtuning software that we might consider useful for serious xenharmonic and microtonal music composition.