Synplant: synth in the time of sustainability – Q&A with Magnus Lidström

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As you probably remember, at the end of our last year’s interview with Magnus Lidström, he gave some hints about the “close” relationship between the environment and his upcoming product.
Well, now we know that that product was Synplant, and that… yes, its concept has a strong link with nature and environment.
Sonic Charge’s Synplant is a new form of software synthesizer. In his author’s words “Synplant lets you explore a world of organic sounds by planting seeds that grow into synth patches. The purpose of this product is to move focus away from the sometimes intricate and difficult process of sound synthesis and instead let you develop sounds by simply using your ears”.

We’ve followed Synplant’s development and now that it’s finally out we’re still excited like the first time we’ve seen it.
There’s a reason why developers like Magnus Lidström do not release a plug-in every three months like many do. His products are a work of art and craft, every feature, every pixel is really there for a reason (and usually it’s a good reason). Simply said, his plug-ins are a joy to use.

We suggest you to download and try Synplant, the demo can be used up to three weeks with full functionality, and Synplant only subtracts weeks from the trial time when you actually use it (how cool is that? Developers, take note…).

Lately we’ve been in touch with Magnus again, to talk about Synplant…

Today words like bio, eco, environment are omnipresent: did this somehow inspire you a sort of bio-technological vision for your new software?

Yes, when the concept of Synplant came up I had a campaign going on where I donated a part of Sonic Charge’s income to WWF (and no, I do not mean the World Wrestling Federation). The original plan was to introduce some kind of free or cheap plug-in tied to this campaign. Once I started working on it, I realized how cool the concept was and ultimately it kept growing for almost two years until it became what Synplant is today.
Regardless, I have always been fascinated and inspired by nature and biology, and not the least how it relates to technology. To a great extent, the human being has always stolen and refined concepts from nature and where our biology has limited us we have developed technology to compensate our short-comings (like the airplane for flying or the computer for remembering stuff and calculating). What I find most exciting is when technology goes beyond being merely a tool or an aid of some sort to becoming a contributor in a creative process. True magic for me is when the computer surprises me with a new sound or a random melody-line that inspires me to create a particular song. Now, am I really the only artist in this process?

Usually, the interface informs the way you approach an instrument, and the results you can get from it. What do you expect from Synplant’s users?

I think of Synplant as a concept synth, and not only in how you interact with it, but how it sounds too.
Synplant hosts something that can be described as a virtual analogue synthesizer engine inside, but it is an engine that has been designed from ground up to work well with the concepts of gradually morphing and randomizing parameters. Also, there is a certain amount of uncontrolled randomness going on inside the engine itself. I didn’t want this one to be as robotically stiff and scientifically exact as MicroTonic.
I hope that people will get inspired by the ease with which they can come up with entirely new sounds and let their inner control freak loose. The trance-gated unisoned sawtooth pad certainly serves its purpose, but we’ve heard it before.

Touch screen based-devices and softwares seem to be the next big thing in music production: what about a touch version of Synplant?

That would rock, yes. I got myself an iPod Touch to experiment. My first reaction was like “oh cool, this is way better than using the mouse”… but the second realization was like “oh, all these buttons are huge… have my fingers always been this fat?”.
When you think about it, touch screens have been around commercially even longer than the mouse, and still they have failed to break into the personal computer market in any big way. I like the possibility of using “gestures”, but I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t best suited on a track-pad device like on the new MacBooks.
But I do see potential for touch-screens when it comes to musical applications of course, and it would be cool to develop something for the iPhone / iPod Touch as well. It is simply the coolest gadget this far into the millennium. But sadly enough, I haven’t even had time to fire up the development kit to experiment.
But have faith, my son is almost four months old now, so in about 20 years from now I assume I will get enough free time over. :)

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