I’ve really been looking forward to this review. When I saw Live for the first time back in 2001, it was clear Ableton had not only blown off the existing DAW paradigm, but created an entirely new paradigm. Ableton has been rewarded with a user base that ranges from DJs to those who want a DAW with a difference. It’s the only program I use for live performance—even with laptop-based guitar gigs, Live is the host for the amp sims. Why? It just won’t quit. As far as I can tell if you want Live to crash, your best option is to drop your laptop, or run over it with a truck. It’s also worth noting that over eight versions, Live has maintained an internal consistency that has made it easy for users to move along the upgrade path.
As Live has become more established as a mainstream program, sometimes its history gets a little murky. So it’s worth remembering that Live was invented by Bernt Roggendorf and Gerhard Behles of the group Monolake because no software did what they needed. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
I have two Ableton Live stories that encapsulate two elements that distinguish Live. At the 2004 Frankfurt Musikmesse just before Live 4 was introduced, Gerhard Behles pulled me aside, swore me to secrecy, and said that Live 4 was going to add MIDI. I protested—“But what I love about Live is it’s so streamlined. If you add MIDI, then you’ll have to add all these MIDI menus, and people will want a staff view, and . . . it’s going to bloat. You’re going to lose what makes Live so wonderful.” Gerhard could tell I was actually quite concerned, so he put his hand on my shoulder to calm me down, and said “Don’t worry, Craig. We do MIDI the Ableton way.”
And they did. Live was able to add MIDI not only without screwing up what they had, but enhancing it. Gerhard was right; it was done in the Ableton way.
Then there was the update to Live 7. Again at Musikmesse, I ran into Gerhard. “So how do you like Live 7?” he asked. I had to admit that I hadn’t really gotten into the new features, because the previous version already did more than I needed. I apologized for not taking full advantage of the program, but he thought it was perfectly fine Live was so versatile that different users could use subsets of the program and be totally happy.
And now it’s time for one last Ableton story.