Interview: Geisha Music
Its good to see a cloud based music tech platform being showcased at MIDEM this year in the form of Geisha Music. I recently fired some questions over to the team involved in developing the solution and got some great answers back….
Q: What inspired you to develop Geisha Music?
A: We came up with the first drafts for Geisha Music in 2006. It occurred to us, that while it seemed challenging in a technical sense, the internet suddenly enabled completely new possibilities in terms of making music. Something that would not only make it easier to collaborate, but also offered completely new angles for approaching music creation. It was no longer necessary to think of just “songs”, “bands” or “radio” but instead blur these dusty concepts one way or another and possibly create new ones – so we’re talking of something similar to when sheet music became records.
The very first scetches of our music tool were based on the core idea of a song that didn’t necessarily need a specific ending and could continuously evolve to several different directions by multiple artists taking part simultaenously, in a manner of a family tree if you will. Well that was five years ago and today there’s a new, colorful spectrum of different music platforms, a lot of which are very impressive – so right now we’re in the process of determining our strenghts in this area. Learning to look outside the box as much as we possibly can.
The tree-branch logic is still being developed, but we also need to focus on making the foundation of Geisha Music rock-solid and test-run the composing enviroment before adding advanced features, which would serve us no good if the tool itself isn’t fun and intuitive to use. We are currently at a public beta stage.
Q: What do you feel Geisha Music offers that is different to other online music production platforms?
A: This can be a scary question during a time like this: there are amazing platforms popping out ’round every corner. We do have some nice tricks up our sleeves already though – our sampler being one such thing. While the interface is being developed as we speak, the sampler already features the ability to use multi-mapped samples for composing and playing. This means you can choose which sample each key on the keyboard is assigned to, select preferred pitches and loop-points for each of these samples – and even use your computer keyboard to play. This is handy when you’d want an acoustic guitar for example, that doesn’t sound unnatural when played too low or too high, but still uses audio samples instead of synthesis, which doesn’t sound as realistic.
In a wider sense, we are aiming for Geisha Music to sit nicely in between a “pro-like” sequencer, which are often very similar to traditional sequencers that are already widely used offline, and a more game-like experience that can be a lot of fun, but might not offer any real possibilities for composing music. We hope Geisha Music will be the go-to tool for filling this gap, providing an interface you can get accustomed to in an instant while having proper tools for executing complex musical ideas.
Q: Did you have any specific type of user in mind when developing the platform?
A: We are naturally hoping for the widest possible user base, Geisha Music is suitable for pros and hobbyists alike – on the other hand I think it would be safe to say that most users will be electronic music enthusiasts of some sort, young or old. The tools we are building for the Soundlab will be especially useful to those who enjoy things like synthesis and sampling, perhaps less interesting to those interested in “band-music” (in lack of a better term) based on traditionally recorded sequences. This is of course still one of the things we’re looking into, we are especially interested in getting feedback from our first users.
Q: Why did you choose Flash as your development platform and what advantages/disadvantages does this have?
A: Flash requires very little hassle and works in nearly every browser, while being powerful enough for this purpose. On the mobile side of things, it’s unfortunate that iPhone doesn’t support Flash but it was still the best solution for us – the mobile-realm is ever changing and prospects still look very good in that area at the moment: there are good options out there, such as Android. Another reason for the use of Flash is that we want to keep the application in the web browser, without requiring installation on the client computer.
This also enables cloud computing, the possibility to work on music anywhere, not just on your home computer. This was very important to the core idea of Geisha Music. Also as the sampler with multisample support is one of the important features of Geisha Music and the problems that had to do with audio pitching on-the-go were most easily solved with Flash, while still maintaining low-enough latencies.
Q: Any plans to implement MIDI/OSC?
A: Yes. We are also planning on creating a special interface for users wishing to develop their own MIDI-tools. MIDI/OSC provides a great foundation for this as well as cool prospects in terms of real-time collaboration and things like working with synced video or creating online jam sessions. Basically this all means that in the future, you can easily expand your Geisha Music projects to your existing tools, hardware or software, which support MIDI or OSC.
Q: What additional modules or instruments do you plan to add in the future?
A: The current beta Soundlab consists of four sections, the sampler, the fm synthesizer, the mixer and the sequencer. We are currently re-thinking these to enable easier use and more room for future implementations. So first off, we will still need to do some organizing with the existing platform, so that near-future growth will be taken into account in every sense. For one, the sequencer will be improved to handle longer, more complex songs and we will naturally add some special modules for handling the aforementioned MIDI-applications. Usability plays a key-role also, and is something we will need to improve on. Another strong focus will be on communal features, which are essential when considering the bigger picture.
Q: Any plans to further integrate the solution with social media platforms?
A: Yes, we’re planning on this and especially hope to get new ideas from MIDEM regarding this. It will be a golden opportunity for new ideas of collaboration and integration with other platforms.
Q: And finally, where can people find Geisha Music at MIDEM this year?
A: At the Music Export Finland booth, 23.1.-25.1. Welcome!
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