Great post. Emotional realism - exactly what I am also always striving for!Please don't retire your Bohemian! I have the Bohemian cello, and I really do love it also . But it's not just that they're good at different things, it's more like there in nothing that one can do well that the other can do even passably.
Because that languorous continuously evolving smoother-than-smooth style of arcs of the Bohemian - totally impossibly with Spitfire (at least until they integration the progressive vibrato samples into the cello).
But honestly, once the euphoria of the instant gratification of the Bohemian wore off it became a major source of angst for me. You can't craft the arcs, you can only select from a menu of 5 beautiful, languorous arcs and then when its done (as much as 13s later) then you get to choose another. It's feels like trying to play tennis in waist high mud. Sure it "just plays" but it doesn't generally doesn't play anything remotely related to the composition I'm working on ...
... which is not at all a criticism of the Bohemian, but rather that I bought it profoundly naive not so much of what the instrument was capable of, but of what writing for cello is all about in general, and without really understanding what kind of cello lines I actually wanted to write myself. Since buying the Spitfire strings, I've actually gone back to the Bohemian, and no longer needing to make it sound like the what the Spitfire cello can do, I'm really starting to love it again. I also picked up the Tina Guo on sale, even though I previous dismissed it a far too narrow in its expressive range. Because having the Bohemian and the Spitfire and the Balkus, I find that there are still times when what I really want is precisely that tiny little fragment of real estate in the universe of all possible cello lines that Guo covers, and covers wonderfully.
I like that phrase "fourth aural wall" - it's exactly the concept I was going for. But let me see if I can refine it a bit.
First, please remember that this above noodle was explicitly to demonstrate the limitations of the instrument, and there's no reverb and only a bit of tree on it precisely to prevent it soothing out the bumpiness for the purposed of the demo. And I resisted the urge to clean up the arcs, again precisely because the goal was to show the limitations more than the strengths. Sculpting the cc1 curve a little more, avoiding tempos beyond the scope of the existing legato and adding more reverb would all help.
But it's also very clear to me that different people perceive this kind of thing very, very differently. Far better musicians than myself swear by the SWAM instruments - which, while intellectually, I can admire the SWAM's ability to model the expressive dimensions of solo strings, I find extremely unpleasant to listen to. Emotional and Chris Hein, while much better - also suffer in this regard to my ear.
There's also the effect of the Bohemian's phrasing, which even in some of the demos really struggles to integrate coherency with the surrounding context. It really took me a while to learn what was bothering me so much. But it's when the phrasing is somehow off, even before I had enough understanding of string phrasing to even recognize consciously what the problem was, its like there's an uncanniness that leaves me sometimes leaves me simply not wanting to listen to it as music (the litmus test of vis isn't whether we can 'fool' people consciously, but whether they want to listen to the results as music). At least with the 'synth-ness' effect I recognize this uncanniness. Phrasing issues are more subtle, but somehow more pernicious in their de-musicifying effects. (Or anti-musicality effects?)
And what I was saying above is absolutely not that I can't intellectually identify a 'lack of realism' - they choppiness is clearly there. But again, to my ear, the phrasing is more or less right. There's a passion in the performance, the performance is beautiful, it's a style that - again not something you use to score a film and 12 year olds being chased by dinosaurs, but that I happen to really like also (in addition to that more prevalent dinosaur-appropriate style).
So its like there's an intellectual 'four aural wall', and an emotional 'fourth aural wall'. And it's the 'emotional realism' of the latter that I ultimately care about.
In any event, ostensibly to help get my head around the instrument a bit more (but also to block out ambient noise in the cafe where I was working), I put that above noodle on repeat for about an hour this morning, and - the terribleness of the actual composition aside - I didn't find that it fatigued my ear at all. In fact I just really love the sonority of even this otherwise pretty terrible noodle. I just don't know if there's many of the Bohemian demos I could say the same for.
So I think the perceptive dimensions here are very interesting. So when you say:
"Even in the first few seconds I hear multiple breaking the aural fourth wall, and it does feel like some of my early fumbling. Not synthy, but it sounds very choppy almost like a mic cable is frayed. "
I'm absolutely not saying your wrong (about your own perception, obviously), but I'm curious how literally you mean that? Because while I hear bumpiness sure, I just don't hear anything this extreme at all.
And if it isn't hyperbole, I'm curious if your think perception might be textured by one or more of :
a) being a cello player and just knowing extremely intimately how a cello is supposed to sound?
b) being an extremely classically trained cellist from a school in which smoothness of performance is a non-negotiable sin quo non inherent the musicality of the cello?
c) coming to the instrument having been deeply immersed in the smoother-than-smooth musicality of the Bohemian instruments.
d) Just really liking that immensely smooth style of playing.
... or any number of other things, because it would obviously be absurd to suggest that I could even have much what shapes your perceptions.
I'm not a cellist, so I'm certain not saying my own perceptions are anything anyone else should be concerned with. Maybe I have the benefit of ignorance.
But - just thinking out loud here - when I think of the style of cello music that I really like to listen to, there's often a bit of ... choppiness would be too strong a word, but a kind of roughness or physical intensity, though not bombast to it ... it's not the silky smooth Mozart concerto, or even Yo Yo Ma. And it's an entire expressive dimension that just doesn't exist within the scope of the Bohemian cello. You can't even play it this style badly, it just doesn't exist within the universe of the Bohemian Cello.
So it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Spitfire cello is anywhere near as good as, say, Caroline Dale really tearing into an exquisitely beautiful (though not necessarily pristinely smooth) cello line. But at the same time, maybe my ability to integration the choppiness without breaking the fourth wall is somehow textured but just wanting to get out of the expressing straight jacket of the Bohemian's 5 beautiful, langorous arcs?
Just a thought.
In any event the Spitfire instrument do not "just play" - unless you count sounding like a dead cat playing. Which is what happens if you just plonk in notes like you can get away with (at first) on a Bohemian instrument.
But with a bit practice, and an understanding of how to craft the arcs, they do let you play they instruments, and draw performances out of them. And its not all that hard once you get the hang of it.
Just to be clear - I've been using the Bohemian as bit of a foil here, but I really do love it. And I've been going back to it lately with what I've learn about crafting arcs from the Spitfire instruments. And while I'm less convinced that ever but this whole "virtual perform" concept, I am really finding that theres amazing things to be done with it that you just couldn't do with anything else - though its still all about the arcs. The conceit that it "just plays" strikes me as a seductive promise of instant gratification, but one that obscures the actual depths of the instrument.
I do tend to disagree about your comment that you cannot 'just play' SSoS. I posted a snippet of (singer/songwriter-like) music that was me 'just playing' shorts and progressive vib articulations, just using the modwheel while playing. Hoping (and thinking) it did not sound like a dead cat... I do understand much more is possible with this lib, and you can really tailor the sounds to your needs.
I also have the JB violin, which is a remarkable instrument indeed, but just like ism had with bohemian, I am having a hard time to make it fit my tunes. With SSoS, I really have a sense I can make the strings sound how I want them to sound. There's an inherent musicality (or indeed 'sonority') to these samples that makes me want to play with them, make music (I guess it IS a drug, jbuhler...).
In case it wasn't obvious already: I love SSoS, for me best vi-purchase of the year.