= strata = is a sample layering instrument can be used as a multitimbral sampler, a generator of ambient soundscapes, or a synthesis engine in its own right. Included is a sample map and three presets to get you started. It is built in Native Instruments Reaktor and requires the full version of NI Reaktor to run.
However the instrument itself is completely free and licensed under Creative Commons. Registered users can download it from the Reaktor Library. Read on for details.
Rationale And Usage
For some time I have been working on sample-based instruments that allow multiple samples per note, layering them according to various criteria. This summer I was hacking RedDrum into a similar shape. Around the same time I was made aware of Twisted Tools' S-Layer (a commercial product). A few weeks later Tino Müller posted his own similar work on the NI forum, under the name "Bytechop Layersampler". These happy coincidences prompted me to complete my work in a form worth sharing.
At first I liked the Layersampler architecture better than what I had derived from the drum machine. The use of polyphony to feed a single sample map with four streams should keep the CPU use low. But once I had finished integrating my ideas, not so much of Tino's instrument remained. (The interface is similar since we share a certain aesthetic.) The many extra features I've added means that my instrument is a lot hungrier. C'est la vie.
It is named =strata= to emphasise the geological layering of sounds. This has several creative possibilities. First, it can be used as a multitimbral sampler by assigning different velocity ranges for each of the four layers. This means that the sound will change depending on the force of the key strike. This technique is especially common in drum samplers. Check out the first snapshot, a snare hit.
The second usage involves loading in longer samples. =strata= then becomes an instrument for creating changing pads or even complete ambient soundscapes. The second snapshot hints towards this use, by mixing several Oki Computer samples together. But really you need something much longer, even entire song parts. (I didn't do that to keep the upload to a reasonable size.)
The third usage treats = strata = as a synthesis engine. Witness the "violin resynthesis" snapshot. Though I must say that this really needs some modulation to come alive. (Modulation control per layer? Maybe next time.)
A Word About The Interface
I like simple controls and prefer faders over knobs when it comes to mouse control and screen real estate. For precise control, the ability to type directly into the corresponding data entry field is vital. (I don't like interfaces that hide these.)
I could certainly have made the look'n'feel snazzier, but avoided using fancy interface tricks. This is because I want to make it easy for you to hack this into your own creature. The only customisation involves my fader skins, which you can readily apply to your own controls, or remove entirely. I find them appealing and easy to read. Not to mention they add support for bipolar faders, something Reaktor inexplicably lacks.
To make changes easier, all of the panel controls are in their own macro. Of course there are an awful lot of these controls, so mass changes are a pain no matter what you do. That's Reaktor for you.
A reduced interface is available on the B panel with performance in mind. Parameters that would likely be "set and forget" have been hidden. I expect you will want to map your favourite controller to various screen elements using MIDI or OSC.
The randomise function allows you to come up with unexpected sound combinations. Set the amount fader high for large variations. Or, organise your sample map carefully and use small variations to access neighbouring samples.
Of course if you really want to go wild, use the Reaktor randomise function to scramble all the parameters in one fell swoop! (Ah, poor Macduff.)
I recommend hooking up your favourite modulated sequencer and using this to drive = strata =. Then you basically have S-Layer. ;-)
Please let me know if this gets used in your piece or performance. That would be cool! Your thanks can be expressed through the PayPal donation button in the sidebar.
Special thanks to Tino Müller for the "Bytechop Layersampler".
Thanks to all at NI and whoever wrote the Filter and Saturator I am using.
Thanks to Adventure Kid (Kristoffer Ekstrand) for the violin waveforms.
Thanks to Tim Lamb for Oki Computer.
= strata = is © 2012 Robin Parmar. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License.
P.S. I am robin746 on the NI forums. I'll be the one asking stupid questions.