Update on the “swirly shit” mystery track conundrum: A Yamaha tech support professional explained to me that there are actually two different Motif XS editors for Windows 7. One is stand-alone and the other is a VST plug-in. (In fact, there are two versions of the latter, one for a 32-bit OS and the other for 64-bit, making three editors in all.)
When I download and install the stand-alone editor, I can load my two-year-old song files and see all of the correct sound programs in Sound Manager, which is a utility shell that forms a hub between Cubase, the XS Editor, and the XS hardware unit. (If all this sounds convoluted, that’s because it is convoluted.) The swirly shit is Preset Bank 7, program 93, “Clearing.”
I still can’t use the Motif XS with this setup. I’ll have to wait until the PCI Firewire card I ordered arrives, because I get dropouts with the built-in Firewire in the HP computer. But even if the card never arrives, I’m not up a creek, because now I can create the correct multi-timbral templates in the Motif by hand and then send MIDI data to the Motif through a different interface. (If all this sounds convoluted, that’s because it is convoluted. And yes, I meant to repeat that sentence.)
I’m still missing a couple of plug-in synths that were on the old system, but I’m much closer now to being able to replicate the arrangements of various tunes. That’s the point of the exercise: After two years away from these mixes, I can hear many, many things that need editing. Add an extra bar before the chorus, need more variety in the drum part, that string pad is starting to annoy me. Little things and big things. I’m not actually a bad arranger, especially when I can pilfer a little inspiration from the Motif’s arpeggiator patterns, but I’m kind of spotty. I don’t always make quite the right decisions every time.
Having access to the right tools is only half the battle. You also have to make the right decisions. And then you also have to keep your system functional for an extended period of time (years), in case you want to make new decisions about older pieces. This is not easy at all.