conTimbre is the worldwide largest orchestra of contemporary music. It comprises more than 87,000 sounds, more than 4,000 playing techniques, and more than 150 orchestral instruments. conTimbre is not only a sample database, but also includes comprehensive sample information, graphics and text.
All sounds were recorded at high resolution 96kHz/24bit. The recordings took place in professional studios and are extremely low-noise.
Each musical instrument has a huge range of complex timbres. Each time a sound is played, a timbre with particular nuance is produced. No limits exist for the inventiveness of musicians, who continuously create new timbres with traditional instruments. In addition to this, auxiliary tools can alter the sound of an instrument beyond recognition. Combined, these techniques lead again and again to new sound spaces.
Due to this, sampled sounds will always represent a specific choice from an ocean of instrumental timbre. Instead of focusing just on classical playing techniques, conTimbre examines the extraordinary and inventive techniques used in new music performance.
conTimbre supports four languages: English, german, french and spanish. All programs of conTimbre allow switching between languages during runtime, it can therefore function as a real-time dictionary of new music.
Depending on the musician or instrument, some playing techniques such as woodwind multiphonics can vary in sound quality. In these cases, conTimbre presents up to five variants of a sound.
The conTimbre database provides a powerful timbre-design tool for composers, musicians, and sound designers. Three different programs allow for specialised tasks: conTimbre learn, conTimbre ePlayer and conTimbre Orchestrator.
conTimbre learn is a lexicon of new music timbre. It presents normal and extraordinary instruments as well as normal and extraordinary playing techniques with their sound, text, and image. Short comments give details on specific sounds while photos provide extra information. A notation is proposed for each sound, including new music graphic elements. Last but not least, important acoustic parameters are presented as text and as graphic images. A search interface allows the user to search for sounds based on their acoustic properties.
The ePlayer is a specially developed sampler. With it, it is possible to play new music scores. Together with a MIDI keyboard, it may even be used in live concert situations. The ePlayer is polyphonic and multi-timbral. Program changes are supported, this allows for multiple timbres to be supported by one voice. Sounds played by the ePlayer are extremely realistic. Loudness relationships between instruments are as they would be in reality, allowing the ePlayer to produce extremely realistic sounding output. Thus, the composer gets a very reliable impression of his music scores. From simple ordinario to the most sophisticated timbre of new music, all playing techniques may be used simultaneously. Photos, notation and text comments describing sounds being played can be presented in real time. Within the special chord mode, chords may be interpreted. For example, as a partial series. In this mode, the ePlayer is able to find and play corresponding complex sounds like multiphonics in real time. The ePlayer is a VST or AU plugin and may be used in nearly all sequencers or score editors. The standalone version can interpret MIDI as well as OSC and may be used within a Max/MSP environment (cycling74).
The term "ePlayer" was suggested by the philosopher Harry Lehmann. See the chapter "ePlayer" in his book: Die digitale Revolution der Musik. Eine Musikphilosophie, Mainz: Schott, 2012, p. 22-28.
The conTimbre Orchestrator is an interface which arranges complex orchestrations, which reliably represent the timbre of the contemporary orchestra. This also means that the loudness relations between instruments and playing techniques are as the would be in reality. Thus, the composer gets a reliable impression of his music scores. Special techniques of new music resulting in detuned sounds are also interpreted realistically.
A special property of the conTimbre Orchestrator and ePlayer is their option to algorithmically create orchestrations and orchestra. The artificial intelligence programming language CommonLisp is used for this. Generated orchestrations may be heard using the conTimbre Orchestrator. In addition to this, the resulting notation graphics are outputted as high quality postscript files. With relatively simple methods, highly complex orchestras for the ePlayer may be generated. Even orchestras comprising the complete database are possible.