When the first software based audio production tools became available the impulse among many electronic music makers was to replace their hardware based systems with these new improved virtual versions. The relatively slow processors available at the time severely limited the production value of these new tools, and the learning curve put a severe crimp into the style of many early adopters, but it always seemed worth the extra effort, to get ahead of the curve ready for when the good stuff started to show up. And just last week the first major update to what is fast becoming one of the coolest software based production tools currently available was released, version 1.5 of Ableton's powerful yet extremely easy to use Live.
Being the first OSX compatible application that I've had the chance to use it is becaming apparent that the new UNIX based operating system from Apple is custom made for music production. Not only is the interface nice to look at, with the ability to change skins to fit your mood, but the control surfaces just seem more fluent compared to what I'm used to within the previous Mac OS9, or even Windows, environments. And with drag and drop sample and effects capability I was soon setting up complex arrangements using the samples included with the installer as well as with those I imported from my own library all of which stayed in sync, and in pitch, in real time.
Live is being marketed as a tool for live applications, hence the name, but I've been putting together music in ways that I haven't been able to do since the good old multi-track days, when I'd lay a basic percussion or sequence track and just keep building to it, or taking from it, in a linear fashion until the piece was finished, adding effects to each track as I went. This is also possible to some extent with the other popular virtual audio tools currently available, but the way the components can be put together using Live seems so much more immediate. It's actually the closest to the way I used to work that I've experienced since going digital, and with every action capable of being recorded for later detailed manipulation I really think anyone who was afraid of moving away from the multitrack build-as-you-go method will be pleasantly surprised at how similar the Live process is.
Website: Ableton Live