On first day of NAMM this year we had the nice surprise of a new synthesizer from Arturia, the Micro Freak. In the press release of the Micro Freak (which has since been changed...) it stated that:
We love to collaborate so we're excited to bring you this first collaboration between Arturia and acclaimed modular synth pioneers Mutable Instruments
In response to this claim of collaboration Mutable Instruments have released a statement via the Mutable Instruments forum which aims to clear up the misconception that this was a project that both companies had worked on together.
There is a lot of noise on the internet regarding the Arturia Microfreak.
Let me clarify a couple of things.
First of all, Plaits’ code is open-source, which means that anybody is free to use it, as long as they credit me somewhere (it can be in a product description page, or a footnote in a downloadable manual, or an “about” dialog). This is why you can find Mutable Instruments’ DSP code in the Korg Prologue, the Axoloti, the Organelle, VCV Rack, and plenty of other bits of software or hardware. This is not stealing. Plaits’ code is a summary of everything I’ve learnt about making rich and balanced sound sources controlled by a few parameters, it’s for everyone to enjoy.
Now, regarding the Microfreak.
Arturia had been in the process of developing a hybrid synth for a while, and contacted me about using some of Plaits’ code inside. I had no objection to that.
In May, they invited me to their headquarters for a product development meeting where they showed me mockups of the Microfreak. It was fairly clear at this point that it was their product. The feature set, UX, sound engine were all already set in stone. The product obviously followed Arturia’s design language and branding. My expected contribution to the project was none: Arturia’s engineers would do their own thing with my code, the tone character and sound design was their responsibility. It was pointless for me to suggest features and ideas, or spill the beans about ideas I wanted to keep for upcoming Mutable Instruments products, and this awkward event felt more like a focus group.
Arturia offered to mention something like “Oscillator code from Mutable Instruments” in the product description, which is my preferred form of citation. No monetary compensation has ever been discussed – which is fair, because I provided exactly 0 hour of work and 0 original line of code. No contract has been drafted or signed.
Arturia contacted me back last week with a photo of the finished product. I never had the opportunity to playtest it. I have not been asked to approve or veto any promotional material.
As you can see, my involvement was fairly limited.
I don’t feel wronged. It’s their product.
However, I feel uneasy when people got excited, seeing it described as a collaboration between Mutable Instruments and Arturia, because none of the technical and design choices involved in this product originate from me. I have been quite disconcerted by the private messages congratulating me for this release and achievement. I know some people have been waiting for a Mutable Instruments keyboard synth, or at least non-modular product, for a while. Well, this is not it. That’s what I wanted to say to the world. I don’t want people to associate any negative experience they could have with this product with Mutable Instruments. I don’t want people to think that I endorsed or at least authorized some aesthetic decisions regarding this product or the communication surrounding it.
With its focus on local production, open-source, deliberate lack of marketing and advertising, Mutable Instruments is an unusual company. It’s stimulating and fun, but somewhat dangerous too. Turning Arturia into an enemy – those talks of boycotts and those tweets demanding justice – is only adding fuel to the fire and increasing the risks of getting me attacked in ways I don’t expect and I am not protected against.
If you care about me, move on! I need a lot of strength and energy at the moment, and it should all be focused on finishing new products.
So please let Arturia enjoy their release party, it’s hard work to ship a product. Buy their product if you think you’ll have fun and make good music with it, don’t buy otherwise. Buy Mutable Instruments products (or the Softube clones) if you want to fund me, or build your own and give the money to charities.