Harnessing Digital Creative Power: Digital Composing

If there’s one breed of super-user that has truly benefited from the computer revolution, it’s the digital artist. Improvements in multicore CPU technology haven’t just spurred artistic creativity among digital content creators; they’ve unleashed their very souls.

Digital art files routinely reach over a gigabyte in size, putting tremendous pressure on CPUs and RAM. Today, netbooks with multicore technology serve as a readily available conduit to creativity, from capturing reverb in European cathedrals to recording crashing waves on California beaches. Ideas that might have been scribbled on a bar napkin can now be captured safely.

For digital musician Justin Lassen, the impact of technology boils down to three key assists for digital artists: speed, creativity and power.

Need for Speed

Lassen points to a subtle way that speed can help a digital artist. “Currently, even with a fast mechanical drive, when I load a project, I want to load up the 70-piece orchestra. Normally, that would take four to six minutes before I can start composing. That’s plenty of time to lose the idea completely,” says Lassen. “Or, say I wake up from a deep sleep and I want to get an idea down. So I go over to the computer and I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve got to wait till this thing loads.’ By that time, my inspiration has dulled or has been tainted. But with SSDs, they’ve cut the load time down to 45 seconds, max. It gives my idea a fighting chance to get recorded.

“The best stuff that I make is usually created on the spot. It’s about being able to instantly create without waiting. SSDs are taking us closer to that dream.”

Mobile Creation

The second empowering aspect of computational muscle is the idea that artists can capture creative moments without losing the spark. Sometimes, creativity is like a fire hose, and ideas just pour out. You don’t want to be tethered to your monster machine back in the office.

Lassen points to the ability to use netbooks when traveling. “Inspiration happens anywhere, and now I can chronicle that and then take it back and do post-work on it,” he says. “You want to be ready for that idea. Otherwise, when you drive back to the house, you won’t have the same idea.”

“I have a famous remix called “Faint.” I did it for Linkin Park, and it got millions of listens on YouTube. But, I did two remixes. One, I spent two-and-a-half weeks slaving away to make it awesome, and it was popular. But the one that actually got famous was the one that I spent five hours on. I was in that mode of creating, and I didn’t feel like I did a great job on it, but I was going with the flow, feeling that spark of inspiration. So it’s funny how that works out.”

Harness the Power

Better technology will always benefit power-hungry customers. But what, exactly, is the significance of that connection?

Lassen believes part of the magic is how software vendors continue to upgrade tools to take advantage of the newest processors. “Studio One Pro is optimized for multicore CPUs,” he notes. “For a while, SONAR was the only software truly optimized for multicore, but Studio One Pro now does it. And more products are starting to come around. They’re getting ready for the future.”

The Tools in the Toolbox

Meeting the computing needs of digital content creators requires a deep understanding of the complex interdependencies between the hardware components and software applications. PCAudioLabs and Cakewalk SONAR X1 Essentials are on the forefront for digital music creation.

PCAudioLabs has been addressing the needs of professional musicians and producers for 10 years, with clientele including the U.S. Air Force, the Grand Ole Opry, Stevie Wonder, DJ Shorty, Hollywood Undead and many other notable musicians, producers and enterprises. This diverse group places high demands and even higher expectations on their digital audio and music tools.

“We call our systems MCs — Music Computers — not PCs,” says Greg Butler, managing director of PCAudioLabs. “A general-purpose PC can handle a lot of tasks very well, such as running spreadsheets, using email or browsing the Internet. However, they’re not built from the ground up to handle the special needs of musicians and producers.”

The PCAudioLabs Custom Shop specializes in building MCs tailored and optimized for the needs of its more discerning clients. The RokBox line of MCs is a prebuilt turnkey solution that has been tuned to specific music and audio applications.

At the same time, Cakewalk is one of the leading providers of award-winning digital audio recording software. The company’s flagship product, SONAR Producer, is one of the most advanced 64-bit digital audio workstations (DAWs) available. SONAR Essentials builds on Producer’s professional feature set, making creating music faster and easier than ever.

“SONAR Essentials features the same redesigned user interface as SONAR Producer and gives users access to more audio tracks than DAWs costing twice as much,” says Michael Hoover, Cakewalk’s executive VP of products. “With its powerful collection of effects and instruments, SONAR Essentials has everything an enthusiast needs to start creating music with ease.”