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Topic: "Mockups"

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  1. #1

    "Mockups"

    I've been listening to some GPO music lately. In fact, I've been listening to a lot of it...

    I realize that "mockup" is an industry term for simulating a live orchestra, and that it's not going to go away. Nonetheless, given what I've been hearing, I've come to object to the term.

    We all know that nothing will replace real, live musicians performing as human beings. However,when we refer to a piece as a "mockup", what we're implicitly conveying is, "yeah, I know this sucks compared to the Real Thing, but it'll give you a crude idea...".

    Well, if you'll forgive me for bucking industry trends and common practices, I've just got to disagree with applying this term liberally to orchestrated recordings done with sample libraries and not "real" players. To me, what really matters is what the listener hears when they press Play. Could a live orchestra make it sound better in Version B? Who cares? I'm currently listening to Version A, and I'm either enjoying it or I'm not.

    I feel that what really matters is this - compared with nothing else, and judged strictly on the listening experience, is it good music? Does it entertain, inspire, provoke thought or emotionally move the listener? If it does, and does so in an effective manner, then I call it a good work of art. Not some lesser, perhaps embarrassing, "mockup".

    We tend to lose sight of the fact that the average listener couldn't possible care less what the recording technologies, microphones, multitrack equipment etc. are when they turn on the radio. They simply say, "Whoa, that's James Brown!" They don't care that the recording is ancient. They're listening to the Godfather of Soul. <Insert your example here.> It's the music that moves people, not the technology. The only people who care how it was created are those of us with way too much time for self criticism on our hands. While we're analyzing and comparing, average people are just listening and enjoying.

    So, although it will probably never go away, you're not going to hear me use the phrase "mockup" when referring to GPO generated or enhanced music. It sounds like good music to me, without any need for apologies. And I think most listeners will agree.

    Wanna pick a catchy phrase that indicates it's not a "real orchestra'? How about the time honored "arrangement"? The arranger chooses the palette. In our case, those colors simply include GPO. And it doesn't sound nearly as demeaning to the excellent music I'm hearing as the dreaded "mockup".

    Was this a rant? Oh, my, I guess it was. It's just my long winded way of saying that I'm hearing some really good stuff around here, and I intend to present it with the respect that it deserves.
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  2. #2
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    Re: "Mockups"

    Was just listening to the Switched on Bach boxed set today! These would definitely be the first synthesized versions of the classics. Don't think of these as mockups but as a new interpretation of Bach's pieces.

    Wendy Carlos is responsible for Switched on Bach. She was one of the first users of the Moog Synthesizers and worked closely with Bob Moog in the design of her modular Moog. She had one of the first velocity sensitive keyboards way back in the 60's.

    Wendy is a good friend of Gary Garritan!

  3. #3
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    Re: "Mockups"

    Walter (Wendy) Carlos’ “Switched on Bach” was the first album of its type and the most successful, both in terms of sales and in terms of its art. Isao Tomita may be an exception, particularly with his “Snow Flakes are Dancing” where he interpreted Debussy on the synthesizer. Neither of these were mock ups by any stretch of the imagination. You might call them electronic interpretations of these great pieces of music.

    Working with GPO may or may not be different, depending on the intent.

    When I played around with Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” I was creating my own interpretation of the music using the tools I had. I may not have succeeded as well as a group of musicians using wooden instruments (I won’t say “real” because to me GPO is a real instrument) but that doesn’t make it any less my interpretation.

    On the other hand, if I were to write something for acoustic instruments and wanted to hear how it would sound before I had a chance for anybody to play it, that would be a mock up.

    I guess a better way of putting it is if it is a complete product at its end state it is an interpretation while if it is a step on the way to an end product it is a mock up. The mock up may be of much higher quality than the interpretation – that doesn’t matter in its title, it’s the intent that counts.


    Just my 2 cents.
    Trent P. McDonald

  4. #4

    Re: "Mockups"

    When you said:

    "We tend to lose sight of the fact that the average listener couldn't possible care less what the recording technologies, microphones, multitrack equipment etc. are when they turn on the radio." YOU NAILED IT ON THE HEAD!!

    When I released "An Orchestral Christmas" (see: http://kevinselby.com/gpo/) I had fans ask me what instruments were used. I carefully described it as as "classical/orchestral arrangements of popular Christmas hymns". That satisfied most people and I certainly wasn't trying to be deceptive, it's just that even fans have some types of stereotypes when you tell them it was "generated on a computer" (which by the way, is probably even WORSE than saying "mockup"!). If they press me further, then I will say that someone sampled the sound of a REAL cellist playing various notes and I then "play" those notes with my controller keyboard and I ALWAYS tell them that the keyboardist must attempt to think like a string player (or oboe, or flute, etc.) and articulate the note or phrase the way a real player would. That satisfies every single fan I've had and it seems like a simple way to describe what we do.

    On another related note, I had an extremely HUGE awakening as to what fans really want when I attempted to play live at the local fair and I took all my keyboards, drum machines, and even an Atari ST 1040 computer (with monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc.!). Needless to say, the computer fell off the piano mid-way through with a huge crash and we barely got the thing booted again. Even with all things working on stage, the sound was still difficult to mix live and was a WHOLE lot of headache for no reasonable return. I finally learned to pre-record as much of the overall "sound" that we wanted to convey and leave a few instruments open to play live and play all the "trax" via CD through a stereo track on the mixer. The moral of the story: the audience could not care LESS how much technology is up there on the stage, they care about one thing and one thing only...the overall sound quality of what is coming out the speakers. Quite the fun way to learn that little lesson. The same general lesson applies here with GPO in my opinion.

    Anyway...my two cents.
    Kevin B. Selby
    http://kevinselby.com <-- Public site
    http://kevinselby.com/gpo <--My music catalog FREE to GPO users: username: gpo - pword: garritan

  5. #5

    Re: "Mockups"

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin B. Selby
    The moral of the story: the audience could not care LESS how much technology is up there on the stage, they care about one thing and one thing only...the overall sound quality of what is coming out the speakers. Quite the fun way to learn that little lesson. The same general lesson applies here with GPO in my opinion.
    Oy. I can relate. There was this incident at a gig one time involving an entire stack of amplifiers crashing down on stage due to a certain over enthusiastic musician doing the reverse moonwalk straight into them...

    Yeah, I think you're on the money. Artists want to analyze, critique and interpret. Audiences want to be entertained.
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  6. #6

    Re: "Mockups"

    Closer to what we do here with GPO and our other libraries, would be Wendy Carlos' "Digital Moonscapes" album from 1985.

    It is a terrific album considering it used additive synthesis and NOT sampling to produce the timbres. Carlos was after producing the most realistic orchestral simulation ( I prefer to use that term, rather than 'mockup') possible at that time, which mean't something other than sampling which was in it's infancy then and not capable of much expression. Carlos painstakingly constructed 'instuments' to make up the orchestra which she dubbed "LSI Philharmonic" (LSI for Large Scale Integration ie computer chips).

    Keyboard magazine did a great article on the album and process of synthesis way back then. You might find a back-issue.

    I remember being so dissapointed with the EMU V-2000 because it sounded exactly like the Digital Moonscapes album. I thought we should have progressed farther than that in 15 years!

    That existed until GPO. GPO is what we have been waiting for all this time...

  7. #7

    Re: "Mockups"

    On a slightly related note: I don't know how many of you remember "Wacky Dust" by Manhattan Transfer, BUUUT, that was one of the first few attempts at using analog synths to sound like a big band. The funny thing was, the way they "orchestrated" the tracks, even though most musicians could INSTANTLY tell that these were Moog's (or something similar), it was so outstandingly COOL how they did it that nobody cared. The track ROCKS (er...swings...) and if there ever IS a Big Band GPO, I will be first in line and one of the tunes I would LOVE to redo is none other than Wacky Dust.

    I've thrown a 30-second clip I glommed from Media Player's store and it's at:

    http://kevinselby.com/gpo/musicfiles/WackyDust.mp3

    Listen to the "bops" from the "horns". Fake but cool! And I would swear they are trying to either emulate saxes or even clarinets in some of the counterpart stuff they do against the vocal later in the clip.

    Anyway...loved that song!!
    Kevin B. Selby
    http://kevinselby.com <-- Public site
    http://kevinselby.com/gpo <--My music catalog FREE to GPO users: username: gpo - pword: garritan

  8. #8
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: "Mockups"

    Thanks Chris. This was way overdue.
    Styxx

  9. #9

    Re: "Mockups"

    Well, the thing is that I am in fact trying to emulate an orchestra. And from that standpoint I do hear where the attempt falls short. Carlos was trying to showcase the Moog as a legitimate instrument in its own right, not a substitute for anything, and succeeded beautifully. She (he at the time) chose Bach because it was essentially indestructable; i.e. the results would be great irrespective of the Moog's inability to do nuanced phrasing. They were very souped up organ arrangements in a sense. The Mellotron, heard today does not convince anyone that its the real sound of strings, yet its sound is distinct and pleasant. But how things have evelved since then. The tools provided by Mr. Garritan and others though come so (uncomfortably??) close to the thing they emulate that in my mind they become the equvilant of a female impersonator: The good ones can fool you in a dark room, the really good ones in a bright bar, but I'm trying to be the one that can fool you if you take me home... (OK, this reply developed an odd theme)

    OK, so there's my term. Orchestral Impersonator.

  10. #10

    Re: "Mockups"

    My favorite is "reasonable facsimile". That was a music professor's response in describing a work that Dr. Siu and I created years ago from a score by Barber.

    SteveMitchell

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