:: 2003-06-16 ::
Background:Few months ago our content dept. techies
happen to come across http://www.swarsystems.com/
and as always curios bunch downloaded the demo of SwarShala
3.0 (SS3) to see what it was about. Lo, and behold, SS3 turned
out to be an Indian Classical Music Library, Practice Room,
and Studio all combined in one.
Overview:SS3 is a very amazing piece of software
because it is created for a very unconventional purpose and in
a very unconventional way. After installing the program and
getting past the heavy duty security barriers, we open the
program. It start with a screen divided into three panes.
First is the 'Learn', second is 'Practice', and the third is
'Compose' from left to right.
FeaturesLearn - This pane is for a
total beginner to the Indian Music such as ourselves. It
briefs the reader on what the Indian Music system consists and
goes into details with Raga (Music Scales) and Tala
(Percussion System). It is quite remarkable even aside from
the technical IT field of view.
Practice - This pane was mostly for guys
and girls here because it was just too much fun. In the
practice arena, we were able to easily dabble with the kind of
instruments we would like played and what beats we like to
hear. Absolutely and ideal tool for any vocalist or an
Composition - This was the area that
needed a lot of attention since it wasn't a very intuitive
tool to use to say the least. But all in all, it seems that if
one had any grasp of this composition tool, there would be no
stopping a musician.
By the Maker:As we got in contact with Mariano, the
creator of SwarShala 3.0, we were briefed on what was
involved. Following is what was relayed to us:
"SwarShala 3 is indeed a very interesting combination of
technologies. The core system is in Visual C++, the user
interface is Java Swing. The links between both parts have
been made using JNI calls on both directions. The Learn pane,
hosts a Flash 5 animation, while sound in other panes is
processed using DirectMusic (DirectX) components with custom
instruments bundled as DLS (Down-Loadable Sounds) collections.
Export to Wave file has been implemented using a DMO
(DirectMedia Object) that captures the audio flow generated by
the Microsoft Software Synthesizer and stores it in a .wav
file. And we have also used JavaHelp to display our help files
(generated with AuthorIT).
Historically, SwarShala 2 was a plain MFC/C++ app, using
DirectSound technology. Rewriting the user interface as Java
Swing had various advantages:
a) We could make a significant move to
porting the application to the Mac, which is required by many
people. In fact, we could easily reuse this interface for a
new product called Swar Librarian, which now perfectly runs on
Mac OS X. Full SwarShala on Mac is the next step.
b) We could easily split development. Some
people worked on the user interface, some on the core system,
and then we joined both things together with JNI.
The original idea was also to integrate the Flash animation
directly in the GUI. Unfortunately Macromedia have only
released Java classes for their Flash 2 version, which was
clearly not sufficient for the presentation we wanted to have.
We are therefore calling it as an external program, until
these classes are released.
On the sound side, DirectMusic proved to be an ideal
technology for playing our sequences (processed as MIDI
events) with our custom sampled instruments. We could not only
implement the playback within Practice and Compose pane (with
feedback on the cell being played), but also the export to
wave file (as mentioned above) and a separate sampler (Swar
Sampler) that reads the MIDI flow from a MIDI port."
This is a brief explanation of the technologies we have
used and the reasons we chose them."
Customer Service:When we first contacted the company
and explained that we were interested in doing a product
review for SwarShala 3.0, we were helped and welcomed like
none other would. Mariano was the person handling TW's
requests and it turns out that this same person is also the
creator of this wonderful tool. Mariano was very supportive in
all our requests and needs.
Purpose of this Tool:In our view, there are very few
people that understand Indian Classical Music. Even in the
Indian community itself. But as many know that Tabla and Sitar
are both making their way into the Hip-Hop, Rock, Reggea, and
other genres of music in today's MTV based music industry.
There is certainly a need to implement Indian Style Music into
western based music system. And here is the tool that can make
Technical Aspect:At TW we believe that if a tool does
what it is made for, it is made correctly. But at the same
time, it is a basic expectation that a tool not only do its
job but that it should be a long lasting tool. Here is where
SwarShala boyz and girliez goofed up a bit. We noted a medium
sized discrepancy that SwarShala 3.0 kept coming up with when
run in Windows XP environment. It seems that the program is
habituated to freezing and slowing system down if SwarShala
3.0 kept running for a substantial amount of time, say 50
minutes or so.
On the upside, we haven't seen a better copy protection
anywhere else than with SwarShala 3.0. The system only works
when you email the company with a certain number that the
program pops up. They in return will email back the key to run
the program in a normal full version mode. Now the reason this
software will do well in it's copy right protection is because
the software is in itself so unheard of that no one has come
up with a crack program for it. Trust Me, We Know! We Looked
911 Help:The help files are very thorough and explain
things very well. This to some may actually be a downside due
to enormous amounts of reading. But we would personally read
more and get good results then to lack any documentaion.
Target Audience:In our view, SwarShala 3.0's largest
audience will no doubt be Techo, Dance, and Fusion composers.
And secondary to that would come those groups that are hard
core Indian Classical.
What's Left Out:What we covered in this article is
very brief since we tried to keep the subject matter down to
SwarShala's technicalities. But if you would like to get to
know SwarShala 3.0 from a musician's point of view, feel free
to check out: http://www.swarsystems.com/
We would like to thank Mariano Etchepareborda and Swar
Systems for letting us check out their latest software.
Forum - If you have any questions, answers, querries,
or comments about this article, please visit the articles
forum. - Thank You