Ensoniq Corp., 155 Great Valley Pkwy., Malvern, PA 19355
The modern electronic keyboard instrument is asked to imitate all the familiar musical instruments. Virtually all rely on digital sampling. Compared to older synthesis techniques, sampling at first seemed to present startling realism. But the exact reproduction of a single recording of a single note does not fool the ear. Every musical instrument has a set of cues which, when absent, expose the imposter. This talk examines a number of techniques that are used to create more realistic simulations of acoustic instruments in Ensoniq's latest sampling keyboards. The problems addressed include temporal variations in loudness, pitch, and brightness; formants; legato connections between notes; sympathetic resonances, restrike of a vibrating string, and nonlinearities. Expressive nuance in performance poses additional questions. How can a performer, squeezed through the pipe of digital information, create expression in a sampled sound? The answer must include ergonomic physical controllers linked to perceptually important sound parameters. Since samples are inherently static, special tricks are needed to give the illusion of a dynamic process.