Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 27 Nov 2008

Ableton Live Tr

Ableton Live 7 Tips and Tricks by Martin Delaney, from PC Publishing is one of those textbook-sized things with lots of black and white screenshots and extremely wide margins to contain their captions (and to make the book 150 pages rather than just 90). I've never read any of these before and have never really been sure at whom they're aimed: apparently the book "does not duplicate the Live user manual, it expands upon it and introduces creative concepts, workflow enhancements and workarounds for common objectives and problems".

Unfortunately, it's a pretty short book, so it's only going to be of much use to you if you're interested in the fairly narrow sample of 'creative concepts, workflow enhancements and workarounds' which Delaney has room to cover. This is most likely to apply if you are using Live to write some form of 'experimental' electronica (which to be fair does cover a lot of the user base), no matter how much he may preach the software's flexibility and range of applications. These expectations flavour the text a bit more than I would have liked ("this can get quite messed up - which is, yes, good") and there are rather too many 'Live is great for lots of different things!' paragraphs for a book ostensibly aimed at existing Live users, adding to the rather unfocused feel. What with the prose's tendency toward smirking jokes, it's all a bit like being stoned while someone shows you a random selection of techniques they've learned in Live.

I'm being slightly harsh - there are definitely worse books of this type out there - but this is far less well-written than the Live manual (which saves its jokes up and makes them count - the deadpan one in the section on sidechain compression is laugh out loud stuff), contains far less information, and doesn't come free with the software... so I struggle to see the point of it. And as far as offering 'workarounds for common problems' goes, it doesn't even mention what I consider to be the most annoying 'feature' of Live: the fact that a lot of clip automation envelopes will only let you modulate parameters downward from their current setting. Many is the time I've decided to add some clip envelopes for a filter cutoff halfway through a project, then realised I'll have to turn the main cutoff knob up to full in order to be able to use the whole range of values (which of course means going back and tediously adding envelopes to restore the desired value to all the previous clips), and ended up thinking: "if only there was some kind of workaround for this common problem". But this issue isn't even mentioned in the book's sections on clip automation.

However, the author obviously knows his subject very well and has some good advice to give, so as long as you can live with the writing style and accept that the scattershot approach may not cover what you'd really like to know, you won't be disappointed. icks (Stephen Hedley)

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Nicholas Fouquet

Charles Drazin, The Man Who Outshone the Sun King, Da Capo Press

When I was small I remember seeing a picture of a grand house set behind what looked like a moat. The stone was golden in the dusk light. Its grace and beauty captured me and I wondered 'Who lived there? Who created such a place?'. Thus began my long love affair with France.

The name of the place was Vaux-le-Vicomte, and the man who built it and guided such as Andre le Notre was Nicholas Fouquet, superintendent of finance under the Sun King, Louis XIV ... and this book is his story.

The story starts off with Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII. Richelieu was to make the mold for the golden shoes that Mazarin, and later the non-Cardinal Colbert wouldn't fit into. The author's understanding of Richelieu, that of a power-mad scruple-free non-religious Cardinal, doesn't coincide with modern thought on this subject, which holds his religious beliefs to have been quite genuine. Putting them under the heading of Baroque, they were deemed to be extremely positive and not at all like the neo-Jansenism that came to be practised in many places. Anyone who has come across Irish priests will know about Jansenism.

The point of this observation is that Mazarin, under whom Fouquet worked primarily, was not a continuation of the same. He was a rather smaller and meaner version. Richelieu, with his subtlety, ruthlessness and plain brain power remained the template - one it seems, that Fouquet aimed at himself.

Fouquet's story starts in a well-connected family and proceeds through the civil service with the speed that money, connections, and his own skills and daring would have suggested. And then he flew too high and the jealous king brought him down.

His undoing was the building of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the finest house in France, and then having an extraordinarily extravagant party to officially open it. This book spends quite some time on the building of the house and the people involved with it. This is against the somewhat claustrophobic background of Louis's incessant wars and Mazarin's paranoid whinings.

What also is apparent is that statements by the duc de Saint Simon in his memoirs about Louis XIV being petulant and nasty certainly are borne out here, even though after the Fronde he could perhaps be forgiven a little jumpiness.

Although the author does talk about Fouquet's spy network, I think more could have been made of this and in particular more could have been made of his friendship with the famous Madame de Sevigne - she paid a heavy price, being questioned and put out of favour at court but remaining a steadfast though necessarily distant friend.

This period of French history was plundered by Dumas for all sorts of exciting tales. This book is another window into that time. (Baron K)

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