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Topic: Is it actually realism that's important?

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  1. #1

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    i whole heartedly agree that it\'s the music that matters, because it dosnt matter if your midi comp sound as real as the real players are but if it\'s not musically good, nobody\'s going to like it...and if you have some great composition which dosnt comes any close to realism due to samples you\'ve used it\'s still going to be great when played live...

  2. #2

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    I understand what you are saying, and mostly agree.

    The interest in realism is probably more acute in those of us who do work for hire. Unfortunately, the final judge and jury of our work is not the everyday \"listener.\" Final judgment comes from agency creative directors, TV/film producers, etc. They know what to listen for, and are quick to criticize if an orchestral-based composition sounds \"too synthy.\" They do want the sound of John William\'s orchestra for a few dollars.

    So when one reaches the point where they are competing against many equally talented, musically-driven composers, he with the most convincing samples has an edge for these projects.

    I used to consider myself very good at getting the most out of my old Proteus II. But it could never compete with the creative options and \"realism\" I have with EWQLSO, GOS, SAM, etc.

    Yo-Yo Ma could make a cheap, high school-level cello sound wonderful, but there is a reason why he gigs with a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  3. #3

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    Ouch,

    You\'re coming very close to the theme of a little mini-essay I\'ve been carrying in my head for some time.

    The theme of the essay is, \"Why do we still care about orchestras?\" -- meaning, why is it that even people from the MTV generation still find the orchestra saying something to them?

    The easy answer is that as long as we continue to find use for orchestras in movies and on TV, there\'ll always be a place for them in our sound world.

    But I like to think it also has to do with the fact that the orchestra creates a sonic landscape that\'s not only wide but also reaches all the way out to a distant horizon -- a landscape full of rich and various detail, near and far, like a Breughel painting. In a very real sense, \"more is more\" when it comes to an orchestra.

    Of course, you can still apply the \"less is more\" principle to orchestral writing, and as the late 19th-century romantics learned, it\'s quite possible to over-write and over-orchestrate and clog up the soundscape.

    But in my mind anyhow, the orchestra is the antithesis of the less-is-more, five-instruments-can-fill-up-the-Cow-Palace-with-a-wall-of-sound electronic aesthetic that came into being about the time that a lot of us forty-somethings were reaching maturity.

    So where am I going with this thought? Simply that I\'m not nearly so interested in absolute realism as I am in carrying forward some of the other qualities of the orchestra into the virtual sound world. Expressiveness, rich detail, sonic depth and width, background and foreground. The instruments themselves could all be hoked-up trombubas out of Dr. Seuss, as far as I\'m concerned -- although there\'s probably something to be said for having at least a few such hoked-up instruments in the ensemble that are capable of conveying a sense of dignity.

    I\'ve been carrying this thought around in my head for a long time now, but lately I\'ve noticed that the \"serious\" quasi-academic electronic-music guys are starting to catch up with me. Here\'s a little squib I stumbled across recently from a blog called BeepSnort, maintained by some of the heavies who dominate the rec.music.compose newsgroup. The title of the squib is \"Quantity of Detail in Realization as a Deterrent to Electronic Music Acceptance\":

    http://beepsnort.org/archives/000048.html

    Greg

  4. #4

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    The interest in realism is probably more acute in those of us who do work for hire. Unfortunately, the final judge and jury of our work is not the everyday \"listener.\" Final judgment comes from agency creative directors, TV/film producers, etc. They know what to listen for, and are quick to criticize if an orchestral-based composition sounds \"too synthy.\" They do want the sound of John William\'s orchestra for a few dollars.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Ah yes, but what defines \"synthy\"? OK, I understand that a major part of the definition is just to do with the pure sound quality - the middle of a note, played with no attack or shape, in VSL strings WILL sound more beautiful and more realistic than the string patch on a Roland module. But this is only part of the story. I think some of the other things that define \"synthyness\" are:

    -the same attack at the start of every note (or the hopelessly naive \"attackless\" strings to try and do away with it)

    -lack of natural decay at the end of notes (due to looped samples etc)

    -not enough differentiation of articulation. (Partly simply not enough patches, due to limited memory)

    -too predictable articulation, none of the variety and randomness in, say, a violinists up-down staccato bow strokes.

    -a general sense of not enough \"air\", created by long shapeless notes that don\'t taper into the silence around them

    Now what all of these things have in common is a lack of variety, shape and constant movement through time. What I\'m saying is that to SOME extent, if you introduce these factors to a sound, thoroughly enough right through the composition, it will come alive and sound less \"synthy\", not matter what the original sound source. And that this will be so regardless of whether you introduce these factors in exactly the right way for the instrument. For example, giving a synthy string patch a nice, tapering decay with some timbral change in it will make it sound more musical, regardless of whether the decay exactly matches that of a real violin. Dig?

    I must say I\'m not trying to suggest that we should all be happy with 1980s Roland and Emu module sounds. I did say that I was referring to where we are at NOW (ie, the \"95% there\") and the 5% of realism yet to go. I\'m well aware that some sounds just won\'t do the business, no matter what.

    I\'m also aware of the amount of work involved in making MIDI arrangements as shaped and musical as this!

    Maybe it would be nice to see some crossover between the current crop of ultra-realistic sample libraries and developments in physical modelling, taking them right over the top and doing things that are physically impossible, but still lively and musical.

  5. #5

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    Originally posted by Ouch that hurts:
    Ah yes, but what defines \"synthy\"?
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Suddenly it feels as if you\'ve been reading my mind. Another mini-essay I\'ve been carrying around in my head is, \"what makes \'synthy\' sounds sound synthy?\" I can make my classical guitar sound synthy to me just by laying my ear on its upper bout.

    I\'ve not tried to broach the subject on this forum because not only have I got almost zero credit here, but even if I did I don\'t have the time or the stamina to be at the center of a long thread.

    What I\'m saying is that to SOME extent, if you introduce these factors to a sound, thoroughly enough right through the composition, it will come alive and sound less \"synthy\", not matter what the original sound source.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Amen, amen, and amen again, brother.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying all the right things so rightly.

    Greg

  6. #6

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    Originally posted by Ouch that hurts:
    Maybe it would be nice to see some crossover between the current crop of ultra-realistic sample libraries and developments in physical modelling, taking them right over the top and doing things that are physically impossible, but still lively and musical.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Then you should keep your eyes and ears peeled for Gary\'s new solo string lib, according to his website , it will offer exactly what you just described...

  7. #7

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    Originally posted by Ouch that hurts:
    Ah yes, but what defines \"synthy\"?
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">For the specific constituency I referenced, \"doesn\'t sound like a real orchestra to them.\" In order to keep working, one needs to only define what a client thinks is synthy sounding when the assignment is to deliver music that sounds real.

    I\'m not disagreeing with anything said here, just trying to give one answer to the original question which was, \"Is it actually realism that\'s important?\" It is when you\'re hired to make acoustic music, derived from samples, sound real. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  8. #8

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    As well, let\'s not forget that when you hear an orchestra, you\'re also hearing a large group of players who have mastered their instrument, and can add their own sound (each has a different instrument, after all) and personal idiosyncracies (sp?). They all breathe (literally), add a little human noise (very subtle errors of pitch), variation of amplitude, etc, etc, etc. That makes for a very vibrant, rich and alive sound. Andy B did have to add a recording of humans sitting about to his Debussy, right?

  9. #9
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    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    I couldn\'t agree more, Lee.

    There\'s something about working with live players, both as performer and composer, that I find very special. Its an immediate and rewarding experience that is impossible to equal in isolation in a studio. Sure, there are the odd occaisions when a few performers can sour the experience, but that\'s very rare.

    This past week I\'ve had one of my string quartets performed and recorded by some exceptionally gifted players and there is NO way that I could recreate that experience sitting in the studio with my TFTs staring back at me.

  10. #10

    Re: Is it actually realism that\'s important?

    Originally posted by Lee Blaske:
    </font><blockquote><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><hr /><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">In reality, \"the real thing\" more often means under-rehearsed, under-motivated players who just might manage to get the notes right, but can do little more in the time budgeted for. In comparison, samples of the best players in the world, manipulated with love and care by a dedicated composer, just might be a whole lot MORE evolving, organic and musical.\"
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Wow, this really strikes me as sour grapes. There are a LOT of talented performers out there, and they can do wonders for a recording.</font><hr /></blockquote><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">OK, maybe I was being a little harsh. I certainly wouldn\'t deny there are great performers out there, just that it\'s damn hard to get access to them and one often ends up settling for less than great. And even with really good performers with the best intentions, there are often time/budget restraints that make achieving a sense of real musical purpose very difficult.

    I certainly see the value in samples, but I hate to see live musicians dismissed in this manner. If the goal is to emulate what real players do, samples still come up WAY short.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Like I said, I\'m not sure whether this is the best way of stating the goal. Maybe the goal is \"to give a musically satisfying experience\".

    And you can\'t make a blanket comparison like this without telling us WHICH players you\'re referring to. Sure, samples come way short of what great symphony orchestras can do with ample rehearsal. But I believe they can sometimes achieve better results (more musical, more inspiring, whatever) than a lot of players do in a lot of real circumstances.

    Also, one of the dangers I see for people who learn their orchestration using computers is that they really lose touch (or never had any touch) with the mechanics and physical aspects of performing on real instruments. In that sense, they might be writing music that sounds good in mock-up form, but is exceedingly difficult, awkward and clumsy to play on real instruments (and hence, will sound like crap when played by real people).

    I often get the feeling that some people on this forum have developed an allergy to any live playing (even going to great lengths to procure samples of things that anyone can easily play). It\'s good to move some air molecules from time to time.

    Lee Blaske
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Just to clarify - this is certainly not where I\'m coming from. I learnt piano and violin from the age of ten, played in tons of youth orchestras and ensembles, did a classical music degree in piano and composition, and worked as a pianist, conductor and purely \"pen-and-paper\" composer for about ten years before even starting to take notice of technology. You couldn\'t be further off the mark!

    My comments come from experience. You can call it sour grapes if you like, but I prefer to look at the other side of the equation. Sampling is just starting, now, to open up possibilities of hearing and playing to others really great performances of my scores. I\'ve been working on mostly jazz and pop stuff over the last few years and holding off with my classical compositions, while dipping the odd exploratory toe in the water. What I hear now makes me believe it is possible.

    I do have some live recordings of performances of my works that I am proud of and enjoy playing to people. But many of them are so bad it\'s just embarrassing. Most of my experience has been in classical concert music (and jazz) where there\'s little money. The situation might be very different for busy media composers.

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