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Interview with Dave Kerzner

Jun 23, 2005 - by Doug Edge
Dave Kerzner, of Sonic Reality and IK Multimedia, has been producing sample and sound design libraries for titles like Sonik Synth 2 and Sampletank 2 for quite some time.
Miroslav Philharmonik–Revamping A Classic
    You hear about it all the time, re-mastered albums and reissued projects for surround or a "Hi-Definition" auditory experience. Classics from Queen and the Eagles are just a couple albums that come to mind. Of course, the idea of bringing back an old sample library seems a little less likely in today's age of colossus size libraries and modern soft-sampler systems. Yet, this is exactly what IK Multimedia did. I had a chance to talk to Dave Kerzner of IK Multimedia about exactly what went into this process.
    Who Is Miroslav
                                     Understanding who Miroslav is leads to the direct answer why a company like IK Multimedia would decide to endure the challenge of "re-mastering" the library for today's DAW based studio. Miroslav Vitous was a born musician. He started playing the violin at age 6, followed by piano and then bass. He has played with artists like Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and Stan Getz. He was a founding member of Weather Report –a band that if you haven't heard, you should. In his later years he taught and also began composing for orchestras. One of the contributing factors to the success of the Miroslav library was his ability to instill a state of emotion in the performances rather than just "recording the notes" for his collection which was the first high end orchestral library ever.

      Who Is Dave Kerzner?
        Dave Kerzner, of Sonic Reality and IK Multimedia, has been producing sample and sound design libraries for titles like Sonik Synth 2 and Sampletank 2 for quite some time. He also has been producing sounds for other companies on both the hardware and software side. Even before this, Dave worked extensively with musicians like Madonna, Amie Mann, Crowded House, Kevin Gilbert and more either designing sounds and playing keys. He is also no beginner when it comes to orchestral sounds, having recorded for many standalone libraries as well as creations found in both SampleTank and Sonik Synth.

        So why not come up with his own dedicated orchestral library for IK Multimedia? Well, to be sure it is something Dave could handle. Yet beyond wearing the hat of sound designer and performer Dave is a bit of a historian of sounds and sound makers. He spent years acquiring gear from Recycler ads that he would either keep for his own collection or at the very least sample into his Akai. Dave's love for instruments spans from the ever-popular Minimoog to extremely esoteric devices like the Optigan and Chamberlin (which he sold to Tom Waits and Neil Finn). For Dave and IK Multimedia the impetus for bringing back the Miroslav library was partly one of preservation, and to remold it into a modern virtual instrument format so that everyone would have a chance to hear and play one of the most celebrated orchestral libraries of all time. Oh and at a new affordable price that is thousands less than the original.
        The Interview
          DE: What is your background as a programmer with orchestral libraries?

          DK: Years ago I worked on some libraries that East West did like conducting some of the string sessions for their "Ultimate Strings" and programming the Akai version of "Symphonic Adventures" and a little bit of work on "Scoring Tools". Then I decided to start Sonic Reality and produced "Interactive String Section" for Ilio which was one of the first string libraries to have extra performance elements in the sound such as layered separate arco attacks, double bowing and other "interactive" performance features. I've done a lot of orchestral sampling and programming since for various Reason Refills, sounds for SampleTank as well as sounds for many hardware and software sampler manufacturers.

          DE: When and where did you first hear the Miroslav library?

          DK: I heard about it when it first came out. It was the first sample library to sell for thousands of dollars. So many composers were getting it because relative to the cost of recording a real orchestra it was still quite affordable.

          DE: How did it come about that you were able to gain rights to the library? Was it something you heard about or did you actively pursue obtaining it?

          DK: Miroslav contacted me about it. He's been busy making music and hasn't had the time to continue with the difficult task of bringing his sample archives up to date. When he told me about the multiple gigs of material that he recorded that had never been released as well as the possibility of owning the rights to all of his released libraries I was intrigued. At first I was thinking that we could just continue to record our own orchestral material. But, then we can always do that anyway. What was unique about the library was the musical approach Miroslav took and the emotional sound that he captured. It's an audio snapshot of a beautiful collection of instrument performances and I knew that we would be able to do some amazing things with this material. Plus, it would be a shame not to. He wasn't going to do it so it was time to "pass the torch" so to speak. We'll take it from here!

          DE: In what state was the original Miroslav library in when IK and Sonic Reality took it over?

          DK: Well, we acquired all of the various format versions of the released libraries. These were already version 2 and from there we found there were many things that could be further tweaked, enhanced, improved etc. But, the large archives of unreleased material, additional notes and articulations, out-takes and phrases were on DVD-RAM discs and we had to hunt down a DVD-RAM machine to transfer them. That was still better than having to hunt down the original machine that some of these archives were recorded on, an esoteric high-end digital recorder.

          DE: What was the process of taking the original library and "reassembling" it for today's modern virtual studio?

          DK: There was quite an extensive range of tasks from archiving, sample editing, renaming, mapping, looping and customizing the sounds for the SampleTank engine. There was special care taken to bring out each sound's best qualities and to make them blend together in very musical ways. The programming work we've done makes this one of the best "instant orchestra" products around. Special Combi patches with layered instruments, ensembles and percussion give you the feeling of being a conductor when you play the keyboard. There's a lot behind each patch. But, to the user it seems transparent and natural as if you are playing the real orchestra off of a classical recording or soundtrack. I could go into details about special modulation routings and performance features but there are so many all over the library. In general though you could say that we've brought this popular orchestral collection up to date.

          DE: Are there certain aspects of the SampleTank engine that improve on the original library?

          DK: Yes. This was one of the exciting things we were looking forward to as programmers because SampleTank is such a Swiss Army knife of musically useful tools. In some cases we used the Stretch engine to allow instruments to have a version that extends far beyond its normal playing range. We also used it to allow for the most realistic and flexible glissando and pitch bending. We experimented with time stretching patches on tremolo instruments and ensembles to adjust the tempo of the tremolo and it also worked well on certain marcato and spiccato strings too!

          DE: You mentioned that there are some samples that were never included in the original release –what was left out, and will it be available in the new library from IK?

          DK: Well, we acquired the rights to the archives -which are quite extensive. I think some of it will be coming out in future products as well. But, for Miroslav Philharmonik we went over the top by not only including the FULL original orchestral and choir library material which originally sold for over $4,000 but we've also included several gigabytes of additional material which includes alternate versions with and/or without loops, extended ranges and additional samples across the keyboard, additional performance articulations and some new instruments and ensembles like Flugel Horns, Bass Flutes, Bass Clarinets, various strings and on top of that we added a Steinway Concert Grand, classical guitar and a few other instruments to round off the collection. It is perhaps the most complete orchestral collection for its price …which by the way is many times less than the original. Miroslav Philharmonik is just $499 MSRP (as opposed to four thousand), making it more accessible to anyone.

          DE: Have you had any personal interaction with Miroslav? What is his reaction to the re-release of his library?

          DK: Yes. In many ways he's been like a mentor. I've learned a lot from him. He's explained to me at length what his vision was and what he'd like to see happen with the material. I don't think that he himself would have ever released the material for the kind of mass appealing price that IK tends to offer. But, for that reason it was better that we took over and it isn't something he needs to be concerned with. Instead, I think he will be more proud of what we've done with it for musical purposes as well as the respect we give to him as an artist.

          DE: What are some of your favorite samples or performance features of the new library?

          DK: Well, there are so many. Having the choice of 11 or 23 violins is really nice. You actually don't get this option with too many of the high end more expensive orchestral products on the market today. But, the 23 violin sections are really lush and great for unison lines as well as mixing in combi layers with other beautiful ensembles such as the flute ensembles, rich French horns and deep bass and celli sections. In fact, I was playing some Combi layer patches at Musik Messe with these elements and timpani rolls underneath that became hits at higher velocity. I had each one set to come in with various midi controllers and it was like instant Dvorak New World Symphony or a John Williams score! So, probably my favorite performance feature is the instant orchestra combi presets because it is inspirational and easy to sound like a real orchestra quick. But, beyond that there are individual instruments that do really cool tricks. Stretch can even change the tempo of a player's REAL vibrato which is quite fascinating and unique. Even the most expensive orchestral products out there don't let you do such things. The best part is that you don't have to learn some complex technique to do it either! We just program it that way into the patch and you just turn up the modwheel or expression pedal or breath controller, aftertouch, midi CC knob… the possibilities of real-time control are huge.

          DE: Is there any other features or stories about bringing this library back to life that you want to share?

          DK: I've said a lot already but there's always a deeper story behind the sounds. The fact that the sounds were recorded in their original orchestral special positioning really helps the instruments just fit into the mix like a real orchestral recording. This combined with a very rare musical sound from the players makes it sound like a couple notes are taken out of a famous classical performance. That's hard to capture because you can imagine that the sampled musicians are usually bored playing just notes and scales which is what sample sessions are like. To get them to play with emotion requires someone who will be able to get that out of them and Miroslav knew how to do it. He's even told me some trade secrets that I'll be using in future sample sessions myself. We've got a lot more coming both with Miroslav material and new sounds from IK and Sonic Reality. Even with over 10,000 sounds between IK's sound workstation plug-in range of SampleTank 2, Sonik Synth 2 and now Miroslav Philharmonik, dare I say that this is just the beginning?
        About the author: Doug Edge
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