Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's a nice little present for would be electronic music makers, or those who want an extra tool in their arsenal. You can now download Propellerhead's Rebirth for free at the Rebirth Museum. It seems they've decided to stop offering the program new commercially but will give it away free to anyone who wants it. You'll need to register at the site to download Rebirth, and you'll need to be able to burn the resulting disc image file to a CD ROM. Of course this is bad news for anyone who bought the program in recent memory, or any stores that still may have copies sitting on their shelves.

Rebirth was one of the first commercially successful software emulations of real world hardware devices. The latest version comprises software emulations of Roland's TB303 Bass Line synth(two actually), TR808 drum machine, and TR909 drum machine. It duplicates both their sounds and their methods of imputing musical data, and includes a master sequencer that controls all 4 devices at once, along with effects and the ability to mix the levels of each. Although the TB303s are monophonic, that is they only play one note at a time, you can do a lot of music making with this setup, especially if you download some of the user created "mods" found on the Rebirth Museum site.

The TB303 can be called a successful flop. It, and its companion TR606 Drumatix drum machine, were introduced in 1982. Presumably they were intended to be used by home recording hobbyists who didn't play drums or bass to add those sounds to their music, and for people who wanted to make live music without needing a drummer or bassist onstage with them, such as lounge performers. Whatever their intended market the machines did not sell well and were discontinued after 18 months or so, although 20,000 TB303s may have been made. Possibly the appearance of MIDI in 1983 contributed to their demise, as neither instrument was compatible with the new interface. They were also probably too complicated to use for many hobbyists and non electronic oriented performers, while not being sophisticated enough for the pros. (Although Greg Hawkes of the Cars used them on his early '80s solo album.) But in the late '80s the TB303 found its calling when the electronic dance scene slowly began to catch on to them. The fact that the 303 didn't sound like a bass guitar or upright bass was no problem for these musicians, and the distinctive noises they made soon proved very popular. The 303 eventually became de riguer for many electronic pop styles, and instruments that in the mid '80s were all but impossible to sell suddenly came into high demand, boosting prices and encouraging the development of both software and hardware clones, although the hardware versions didn't copy the original TB303 sequencer, which many feel is central to the sound and feel of the instrument.

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