Traditional Balinese Gamelan – Morphed & Mutated for a New World
Sample Logic are a well known player in the virtual instrument industry, providing cutting edge compositional products which successfully marry the world of organic recording with the exciting and limitless possibilities of digital processing.
Based out of North Carolina, USA, SL heavily explores this concept, with a total of 24 product releases to date, delving into and catering for a variety of musical genres and categories. SL products offer a comprehensive playground for atmospheric synthesis and an unique opportunity to reevaluate traditional organic sounds to create a totally new sonic experience.
Today we look at their latest offering; Gamelan, A deep sampled traditional Indonesian (specifically Bali) instrument ensemble of predominantly unique toned percussive instruments. Let’s explore how SL take the iconic Indonesian musical art form and create a soundscape for contemporary composition.
- Multiple scalable and fully customisable sound-cores, giving the ability to independently build and customise sound-sources for complex sounds.
- 3D Mixer – an XY chart style graph that allows you to intelligently mix and automate movement between the four cores, creating endlessly dynamic patches.
- Adjustable ‘Randomiser’ Function – A novel way to generate new sounds with the capacity to preserve certain parts and evolve others.
- Four primary categories of sound-sources: Atmosphere, Loop, Instrumental and Percussive.
- New ‘Single Core’ view, providing a simplified user interface for no-hassle sound generation. Includes thousands of pre-made patches.
- This is a Kontakt library, and requires the free Kontakt 5 Player or the Full version of Kontakt (399 Euros) .
SL use the Continuata platform to retrieve and install the library components required to use Gamelan. It is a straight forward process, requiring you to download the app and use the unique serial code generated for you when you purchase to commence the download to your location of choice.
To choose the destination folder for your library, simply shift-click the ‘Download’ button to reveal a red install button, giving you the opportunity to select the location.
The cog at the top right reveals additional settings, including the preferred streaming setting and also whether you would like Continuata to erase or keep the .rar files at the end that it obtains to compile the library. The .rar files are not required to have a functioning library, but are merely fragments of the installer that become redundant once installed.
Gamelan is a full Kontakt Library. Accordingly, to access the library, it needs to be added to the library tab via the ‘Add Library’ Function and then activated in the Native Instruments Service Centre. Click the ‘Activate’ button at the top right of the library and add your product serial to the NI Service Centre. Once activated, your product will now be registered and ready for use.
Gamelan presents itself as a single Kontakt container patch, from within the Kontakt library section. The 4 cores are again contained within this .nki, along with all the presets and sound-sources.
Gamelan uses 4 categories to compile the source material; Atmosphere, Loop, Instrumental and Percussive. Each sound-source is usefully denoted by A, L, I and P respectively within each core, giving an easy reference to the user regarding which sound category is being utilised in a particular core. We can cross-match stylistic variations that intelligently communicate within the engine to make really interesting sound palettes.
Each core allows for you to search, save, load or randomise audio sources, with a useful bypass button for toggling on and off the various cores.
Additionally, the expanding arrows icon (furthest to the right in the above screenshot) opens up another core based configurable menu, complete with envelope controls, filters, pitch, saturation, a simple EQ and more.
The randomise function needs to be properly mentioned at this point. What seems like a simple idea is in fact possibly one of the most helpful features the library has. Sample Logic have provided us with the capacity to randomise in a scalable fashion, including Core specific, category specific, and even patch specific changes. Given that each Core has the possibility of hosting two individual sound-sources, you can imagine the level of complexity that can be created. This falls in line with the SL self-appointed mandate to provide truly evolvable sound-design tools and it gives us serious hands-on control over the source material.
Combined with this and SL’s proprietary 3D mixer, we suddenly have a complex and dynamic sound generator that can be adjusted on the fly to create adaptive sounds. The 3D mixer also includes a record and playback function for its movements, allowing you to trigger a particular motion in the mixer and influence the way the patch evolves.
Gamelan also comes with a comprehensive set of master controls for global manipulation, including equalisation, distortion, phasing, reverbs and my personal favourite, a stereo widener. This also gives us the ability to create and then largely mix our sounds all within the patch. This benefits resource consumption and is always welcome.
There is also a master control called XY, which provides us with the capacity to run a master 3D FX mixer in conjunction with FX on a core based level, chaining for example a faced paced, seated pattern against cores 2 and 3 whilst maintaining a slow revolving pattern for the entire mix. Remarkable!
The fun doesn’t end there however; we still have the Step Animator to look at. This tab allows us to generate multiple arpeggiated patterns with a plethora of customisable parameters, including stutter rate, duration, panning, arp type and many more.
A really useful and novel feature in the Step Animator is the Core: Link – Alt option. This essentially allows you to take an arpeggiated pattern, add new patches to additional cores and the choose which elements of the rhythmic pattern interact with the other patches. One possible result with this is a bespoke arpeggio pattern that blends and interacts with otherwise independent atmospheric pads.
There is only really one word to describe the sound of Gamelan: Awesome.
This is not only a unique sounding library, but the expert scripting and interface design means that literally anything is possible. The 3D mixer really brings the patches to a new level of interactivity, and the sound is constantly evolving and surprising. It is nice to play with a library and feel rewarded from the outset, without the design ultimately getting in the way of being creative. Nothing is left ‘locked up’; you can do what you want with the sounds you find, and the ability to preserve individual layers, patterns and interactions while you work is very beneficial.
Gamelan provides an otherworldly timbre to the soundscape, with natural overtones and harmonics from the samples giving us really interesting textural moods. It is both generative and inspiring in its design.
Gamelan retails at $399. As much fun as Gamelan is to play with and explore, I feel that this price point is on the expensive side. It’s hard to quantify the value of a library as it depends on the composer and their preference for library types and the genre that they work in, but for me the price is more akin to purchasing a workhorse library like the Albion series from Spitfire, that has farther reaching application across multiple genres, including contemporary production. Gamelan has huge scope to work as an atmospheric pad and pulse generator or ambient sound design tool in film, game or sound design scenarios, but with this price tag I wouldn’t be able to help myself from hesitating.
[EDIT: Gamelan is available for pre-order at $299 for two weeks before it goes up to the full price of $399]
Gamelan is fantastic. From installation to design to the initial performance is flawless. The flexibility of the sounds simply can’t be faulted, and the level of interactivity not just between effects and sound-sources, but between the modules and processors themselves is really appreciated.
The module is too expensive I feel, but it is a criticism that is leveraged based on my personal preference for this sort of library. It is absolutely worth checking out to see if it applies to your type of work, no doubt. I don’t feel like I am working hard to create with this library, and we all know that as composers, one of the most common barriers to creativity is clunky UIs and uninspiring design. Thankfully Gamelan embodies neither.