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Topic: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

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  1. #1

    Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Dear friends,

    another music, this time with the new organ samples from GPO5.

    I do like this work by Francis Poulenc: very elegant, with traditional references and harmonies, but with full-blown 20th-century purposeful dissonances. Very elegant French elements too.

    I hope I could do this justice. Strings are just the standard KS section strings from GPO5. I could have tried some of the newer strings samples, but have only used from those the cello solo small group for a short part.

    Since this is aimed at being played in a church, I used the cathedral reverb, for organ and strings.

    Here is the MP3 file: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ohrqpzw3dv...60810.mp3?dl=0

  2. #2
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    I am still listening as I write this.
    How are you doing this?! Just yesterday I cleaned up my file I keep my work, listening and deciding to dump most of it. My excuse is that I use GPO 5, and not something better, that is why I can not make better music. You just killed this excuse, your strings sound excellent.
    Of course you are reproducing orchestration, and I am struggling to make my orchestration sound as good as the great ones produced, unsuccessfully. My admiration for your work is just on the increase every time I hear a new one you did.
    Congratulation,

    Ted

  3. #3

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    I am still listening as I write this.
    How are you doing this?! Just yesterday I cleaned up my file I keep my work, listening and deciding to dump most of it. My excuse is that I use GPO 5, and not something better, that is why I can not make better music. You just killed this excuse, your strings sound excellent.
    Of course you are reproducing orchestration, and I am struggling to make my orchestration sound as good as the great ones produced, unsuccessfully. My admiration for your work is just on the increase every time I hear a new one you did.
    Congratulation,

    Ted

    Hello Ted,
    thank you for your comment! I am glad that you think that my GPO5-string-orchestration is convincing.

    Here is what I did:
    First I recorded the organ. This was back in March 2016, I wanted to try out the new GPO5. Great organ sounds, but difficult to find the mapping between those combined GPO5 registers and the specific register information in the score (I had to find out what G.P.R. means, and Fonds 8-4 etc.). It would have been better if there would be separate organ registers in GPO5 which one could then combine into settings. Maybe I have not yet explored this to the fullest. But in the end I got the mapping ok.

    Then after a few months of rest I began the string orchestra instrumentation. Just using the standard GPO5 KS string sections, which were inherited from GPO4. They provide a nice range of attack. The newer KS section strings in the group 10 of the GPO5 strings are more difficult to use, because their attack range seems not as wide. So instead of controlling it with one sample one would have to switch between different samples.
    I recorded each voice in "live play". Due to my limited capabilities in playing precise 32nd notes I set the tempo to very slow, then played those runs on the keyboard. I tried hereby to play it "musically", that is using the proper attack for the staccato and legato parts. Then afterwards I did of course some editing. I switched in some instances from the long bow "C" sample to the fast short bow samples (which are not responding to #11 expression, but only to attack; they do have more volume than the long bow "C" sample). The "D" version has alternating up/down bow, ok for 2-beat and 4-beat runs. But the trioles could not be played with this sample - instead I used the "E" version, which has only downbow. Playing trioles with "D" would have given wrong emphasis on the third notes. As usual I started from bottom of the score: bass, celli, violes, v2, v1. Recording in live play without expression, then afterwards recording #11 expression over it in live play. This then could emulate the various bow pressure techniques, by shaping the loudness of long notes from the beginning to the end. I prefer to use controllers rather than switching samples. And I also make sure that the attack is properly used. I did not use much quantization, but left most of the "inaccuracies" in the rendition. Only some manual shifting of individual notes, to make sure that the different voices sounded at the same time.

    And that's it. The GPO strings samples are not that bad, can sound very nice. Probably also the strong reverb (cathedral, as this is to be played in a church) adds to smoothing the sound. Without reverb I often find the sound a bit too harsh. Of course one has to be careful not to muddy the sound too much with the reverb...

    If you are interested - here is what is considered the reference recording for this concerto:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF0e9CSQNXQ

    The tempi here are much slower than what I used in my rendition - sounds really very captivating. I do like the slow tempi, but playing slowly with samples would be more likely to bring out some problems in the samples. A bit faster feels more comfortable to me, and I feel that there is more drive with a more rapid tempo.

    Good discussion on the existing recordings is in this article from 2010:
    http://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/...ording-is-best


    I will do a final cleanup, then I will officially publish this my recording - with the required mechanical license.

  4. #4

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    New version - slightly revised.

    Under the impression of Durufle's reference recording from 1961 I did reduce some of the tempi slightly - is now 10 seconds longer than before. Also a few note attacks were reduced.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/awklxd5ot0...60811.mp3?dl=0

    And now it is in the queue for being published by Loudr.fm. I hope this will then soon be on Spotify.

  5. #5
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Thanks for you kind description of how you are working. It is fascinating, I printed it out for future reference. Thanks.
    I like this second version even more, while the changes are subtle, they are very effective.
    Thanks again

    Ted

  6. #6

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    ,I have always liked that piece, without really knowing what it was. I also never really listened to it all the way, until now. Now, I like it even more!

    This seems like a monumental effort, Reinhold. It is one of the best midi renditions of a complex orchestral piece I have heard. Well done, monsieur!

  7. #7

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    Thanks for you kind description of how you are working. It is fascinating, I printed it out for future reference. Thanks.
    I like this second version even more, while the changes are subtle, they are very effective.
    Thanks again

    Ted

    Thank you, Ted.

    I have some more things which actually take place before working on the renditions themselves, and that is the overall setup.

    One issue is the spatial placement of the orchestral instruments. For strings there are two main settings: (1) The one that is known as "American" arrangement (mostly popular in 20th century) which is from left to right (view from the audience / the conductor): violins 1, violins 2, violas, celli, basses. The other one is known as the "European" one (mostly popular before the 20th century) and is: violins 1 left, violins 2 right, violas centre. Then celli and basses in the back; often basses on the left, celli to the right.

    I personally prefer this option (2): it gives a well balanced v1 and v2 sound well over the sound space, and often the voices of v1 and v2 complement each other and create a nice spatial ping-pong back and forth.

    This means, however, that one needs to adjust the spatial balance: v1 is fine, because their stereo recording is already on the left. v2 have been sampled in the American version, which means one needs to shift the balance to the right. Also the other sections need to be shifted.

    In Sonar I do this: view the sound volume meters, set to horizontal (for largest possible resolution) and to peak display, then I observe the discrepancy between the left and right level indicator. Can also just use the ear, but this is sometimes not as reliable.


    The other issue is the level of each instrument track, set in Sonar individually for each track and being the MIDI controller #7. This level is important so that the resulting recording is loud enough but avoids clipping (=exceeding the maximum digitizable volume, so that as a result the numerical value representing the volume goes down to zero and starts from there). Clipping creates "scratchy" sound artefacts. Sometimes it is not audible ( a few of my recordings have it, indicated by the peak level meter with a red flag, but I could not hear it). Should still be avoided when possible. A good practise is to leave some "headroom" of 6dB, which means that the loudest sounds should not go higher than -6 dB. I usually go a bit higher and allow the occasional touch of the 0db limit.

    The problem now to set the level is that this needs to be done ahead of creating the expression curves. Otherwise, if one would have to adjust this value after some expression has already entered (#11 or #1 in GPO), then those would all have to be changed again.

    My method is this when setting up an instrumental ensemble: for each track I play manually notes across the whole range at the maximum loudness level: full expression, hardest attack. Also with reverb on, because this adds to the volume and needs to be considered. Then I observe the peak meters and make sure it stays below a certain value. For a single solo instrument I would set this to -6dB and adjust the #7 volume so that the peak loudness does not go higher. If there are more notes to be played simultaneously, then the level will be higher - and therefore the volume setting needs to be lowered. So I play a few notes simultaneously (as many as would there be in the music to be played simultaneously), then I observe again the level and make sure that it does not go beyond -6dB.

    If additional instruments are added, then this needs to be done for each of them to ensure that none of them (when playing solo) would exceed that loudness. But when the instruments are being played together, then the volume increases. Two instruments will double the loudness, which increases the level by +3dB. Therefore, when I know that two instruments will play simultaneously, I set the mas level to -9dB. When 4 instruments are there, I set each individual instruments to not more than -12 dB. 8 instruments: -15 dB. 16 instruments: -18 dB. And so on.

    This is of course only the maximum level. There is also the natural instrumental balance, which needs to be taken care of; for example to ensure that the max flute volume is much quieter than the max horn loudness.


    These settings need all to be done at the very beginning. Changes of the balance once I have begun the rendition of a music piece are painful, as many of the expression values would need to be changed then. Therefore I mostly use my fixed templates which I have made from years of practise, and which do have the proper settings of the controller # track volume.

    Here is something about the dB:
    http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-levelchange.htm
    I believe that the 3dB assumption for doubling the signal when doubling the instruments is correct. There still may be transients which could result in a higher level of +6dB, that is when for example the instruments start at the same time and have the same rising wave form being added up in the beginning, before phase and slight detuning will "average" the doubling down to +3 dB.


    --- I hope that was not too confusing what I wrote here...

  8. #8

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Quote Originally Posted by michael diemer View Post
    ,I have always liked that piece, without really knowing what it was. I also never really listened to it all the way, until now. Now, I like it even more!

    This seems like a monumental effort, Reinhold. It is one of the best midi renditions of a complex orchestral piece I have heard. Well done, monsieur!

    Thank you, Michael!
    I also like this music very much. It has many links to tradition and classical harmony and form, yet it also has those uncompromising sounds and (dis-)harmonies that go beyond this tradition.

    I also enjoy the mix between sacred and secular notions, and the French elegance just makes me smile everytime I hear this music.

    I am glad that you also enjoy it and that you like my MIDI rendition. It was actually not as much work as it sounds: the organ part was done within two weeks, and then there was only the string orchestra plus timpani, which also did not take me more than 2 weeks to record. There are still improvements possible, but I need now to move to some other works. There are are a few much more challenging pieces on my desk here, which will keep me busy for the foreseeable future...!

  9. #9

    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    This recording is now officially out - will be in iTunes, Amazon, Spotify. Therefore I took it off Dropbox, so as not to violate licensing rules. Since the music is still under copyright, I am only allowed to publish it with the proper mechanical license. Publishing it through LOUDR.fm is covering this required license.

  10. #10
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

    Thanks for the additional help on how you are working.
    Since you finished your concerto, maybe you can spare few more minutes of your time to clarify something for me;
    I am talking about volume on a track. Since you are on Sonar, and so am I, we have four places where we control volume:
    Aria track volume setting, Sonar track volume setting, and either C1 or C11 setting on a track, and gain setting on Sonar (which I never use). Of course, velocity on some of the instruments is an other control of volume.
    You have mentioned that you have a basic template, and so do I work the same way. Could you please give me an idea what the four settings are on your template? I understand that various instruments needs various settings, but say, as a starting point for me, what are these settings on Violin1 in you template? That is, before you start a new project? I tried different ways to set them, none was good enough to settle down on.
    You have spent time to help me, and now I am coming back with more request, so please forgive me, it is your generosity which is the cause of this question, and I promise not to bother you with it any more...
    Thanks again,
    Ted

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