While there are some brilliant orchestra sample libraries available, unless you are using pre–recorded loops, there is still the rather significant task of building convincing performances and arrangements that has to be completed if your ‘virtual’ orchestra is going to sound something like a the real thing. In Ensemblia, Cinematique Instruments are attempting — within the confines of a chamber orchestra — to give the user a helping hand with that second element. Yes, the library is a well–sampled collection of a sub–set of orchestral instruments (it requires around 700MB of disk space), but it is the rather wonderful Kontakt (the full version of v.4 or later is required) front–end that brings those instruments to life and can help even the novice orchestrator get some convincing performances from the sample base.
The sampled instruments include violin, viola, cello, French horn, baritone trombone, marimba, glockenspiel, upright piano and a small number of percussion instruments. These are then presented in various ways within two Kontakt patches, ‘Longs’ and ‘Shorts’. These are pretty much what you would expect, offering sustained sounds and short, staccato–style sounds. Within each patch you can activate a combination of up to seven sounds. This is where it starts to get clever, though: as you play a chord via MIDI, Ensemblia will automatically voice that chord across the different instruments. So, for example, you might set the violin to play the highest note in the chord while the cello plays the lowest. You have full control over these settings. Pick wisely — or use one of the excellent presets — and you get a very nicely balanced chamber orchestra arrangement.
The second clever bit is in the ‘Shorts’ patch. This includes a pattern–based sequencer where you can dictate which of your seven instruments will play, and their velocity, for each step of the pattern. As you trigger and hold a chord, the notes are then played for each instrument on the appropriate steps and, as you change chords, while the pitches will change accordingly, the pattern remains the same. Both ‘Longs’ and ‘Shorts’ also feature five ‘preset’ key switches; load patterns into these and you can switch presets — patterns included — on the fly.
With the ability to mix your various instruments, switch between different articulations for some instruments and to add delay and reverb effects also included, not to mention a preset system so you can save your own configurations, Ensemblia is a very intriguing virtual instrument. The pattern arranger in the ‘Shorts’ patch allows you to create all sorts of beautiful repeating patterns to create melodic elements, while the ‘Longs’ can provide you with a sustained/legato–style bed to sit underneath it.
I can imagine media composers having an absolute blast with this, but it’s equally suited to the novice. Providing you can justify the investment, Ensemblia brings the chamber orchestra within almost anyone’s grasp. Very interesting and highly recommended. John Walden