Cognitone is a music technology software company based in Hamburg, Germany. I have come to love their first product Harmony Navigator. With Cognitone’s second release Music Prototyping System to be released in 2008 I thought it would be a good time to interview the founder and developer Andre Schnoor. Be sure to also check out the special wire to the ear screencast showing how to create a verse and chorus in Harmony Navigator and then bring it into Ableton Live.
Tell us about Cognitone and it’s employees. Tell us what your job is there?
Cognitone is my baby and my job is to teach it walking. I founded the company a while ago already, but spent the past years in the office developing the technology. Cognitone actually started just now after a longer period of under-the-radar operation. As of today, it’s still mainly me and supporting friends and family. I’m talking about “us” for two reasons: The people who invested time and money to help making Cognitone possible deserve some respect and I consider them part of the project. On the other hand, it’s also a promise. This is not the first company I started and startups tend to grow quickly. It is impossible to be successful in the long term without build a team. That said, I hope we will soon be able to offer interesting and challenging jobs to talented people.
Harmony Navigator is based around some advance music theories. Do you have classical music training?
I’ve always looked at theory only from the perspective of a creative person. If some scientific concept looked promising with respect to /making/ music, I swallowed it within days. For more than twenty years, I gathered my current knowledge by following this path. Classical music education however, seemed rather static and repetitive to me. I didn’t feel the desire to study music at an university. Although I have a master degree in computer science. Interestingly enough, most scientific approches in musicology originate from the background of the cognitive sciences (which are my specialty: artificial intelligence, perceptional psychology, neuroscience), rather than classical music theory.
Would you consider a version of Harmony Navigator as a VST or Audio-Units plug-in?
Yes, this is definitely on the agenda. Plug-ins however, can’t offer the comprehensiveness and comfort of a desktop application. The main challenge here is to get rid of the menu bar and all those in-depth “workstation” features of the program and shrink it to suit the plug-in philosophy. Hence, the Harmony Navigator plug-in will be more lean and compact than the current program.
Seems like a lot pro-audio software company come from Germany. Steinberg, Ableton, Native Instruments, Emagic, Celemony, Vielklang, for example. Do you think there is any reason for this? Do you have any relationships with any of these companies or people that work at them?
Well, this must be German Wahnsinn. I think a vital part of the German mentality, especially with engineers, is an incredible endurance and perfectionism. Music software is complex enough to require this. Us krauts probably love to sacrifice ourselves for the beauty of a technology. Me for instance. It took me many, many years of research and development to get a working model for the music prototyping technology. In the eyes of a reasonable businessman, this is economical suicide. Anyway, now it’s there and it lives.
The local software scene is truly open minded and friendly. Just like a family. Many of us know each other. An unsuspecting person will likely not notice any sense of competition at the surface, although (or perhaps because) the market for music software is tight and tough. Especially after broadband Internet promoted software piracy to a threatening extent.
Harmony Navigator has some similar features of PG Music’s Band in a Box. Have you looked at or used Band Continue reading Interview with Andre Schnoor of Cognitone Software.