In an interview from the 80s with Keith Jarrett regarding electronic instruments he said “I just feel as though I’m in a room with a smoker”. That pretty well summed it up for me too. Didn’t like the sound of most sampled sounds or midi controlled sounds as they emerged.
Over years various sales people in music stores demonstrated the latest sampled piano sounds. Enthusiastically they would play them surely I would be floored but it didn’t happen that I was convinced until the 2000s. Plus the other sounds, the ones that aren’t trying to imitate an acoustic instrument were becoming wild and gorgeous.
The second or third television series I ever scored was Wildside on Nickelodeon produced by the peerless Dale Burshtein and I remember in early meetings playing her a variety of sounds in my growing library and she responded favourably to the midi instruments. This was great and also weird. Great because it meant I was free to use the horn sounds or string sounds since they worked for her ears and presumably everyone else. Weird because they weren’t believable to me – but that didn’t matter, Dale was in charge and liked it so I felt I had a green light to proceed. Almost at the same time my opinions changed about sampled sounds after I heard I’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen which is filled with midi instruments, ridiculous ones… and it’s perfect.
At the concert for that record at Massey Hall each musician had a keyboard in addition to their other instrument. It was funny. The oud player had a keyboard, the background singer had a keyboard and of course our hero played the midi horn solo from his own keyboard from centre stage in I’m You Man it was hilarious and glorious. I grew new parts thanks to his amazing album and Dale’s enthusiasm.