Ardour has supported displaying MIDI patch names loaded from a MIDINameDocument (or "midnam" file) for a while, though only patches, and even that was pretty flaky. Since this has become an itch for me and it's time for Ardour MIDI to reach release quality, I took some time to give it a serious overhaul. In this case, a picture or two is indeed worth a thousand words:
The note names are mainly useful for doing percussion. Several of the bundled midnam files have note names defined, and I have added one for General MIDI drums, which more or less corresponds to a lot of instruments, including Hydrogen.
Controller names, to my surprise, were not present in any of the existing midnam files at all. I wanted to sequence a hardware synth (the Moog Minitaur) without constantly referring to the manual and trying to remember which CC is which, so I wrote a new midnam file for the device and implemented support in Ardour. I am very disappointed to learn that there is no ability to group controllers, which really is the best way to do things, so I may embrace and extend (in a completely backwards compatible way) the format in the future to provide a better interface.
The quality of midnam files scattered around the 'net is atrocious. The MMA actually hosts a DTD for it, but most files use the wrong DOCTYPE (usually with a broken link), among other problems. I fixed and cleaned up all the bundled ones in Ardour, validated them against the DTD, and left a README in that directory about how to do so. Hopefully this, along with incentive added by these features, encourages the community to grow a nice set of quality midnam files.
So, MIDI name support in Ardour is now in pretty good shape. Now we just need to add the corresponding LV2 support...