This is a long standing internal battle for me. And depending on mood, I can see both sides of this.
To me musicality stands first (on even days .) Its important that the music sounds, well, musical. This battle is won by good technique coupled with solid sounds (although they weigh less heavily here.) Most important is expressivity and the lyricalness of a passage. Heavy use of expression/dynamic changes creates lively passages, and whether or not they are 'realistic' help to convey emotive ideas. There's some easy pitfalls to be avoided here, like liberal use of velocity changes and ample time with a midi editor. However, the necessity of this is outshadowed by the composition itself. And I've heard tremendous feats of orchestration accomplished by soundfont users. Provided the end result is expressive and dynamic, then I don't think it matters much what you use to create it. Great sounds are nice and I consider them to be icing on the cake of course, but what comes first to me is that they allow me to express my emotion in my work well. When I want ungodly forceful passages, well, by god, I should be able to add them. When I want quiet expressive weepy passages, well, the tool should allow me to add them. You use the tool the way its intended and compliment it with others as needed until your work is MUSICAL and most importantly THE WAY IT SOUNDS BEST TO YOU.
Reality (for odd days )... I can see this side of it, but will it ever truely be attainable? Is it really even required? I don't think so. Its a nice goal, sure, but truely, why limit yourself to this? We have the tools to expand on the drudgery of what is commonplace or attainable in our 3D existance, so why not use it. But when I hear something 'real' it makes it hard not to want these 'artifacts' and 'human effects' in my work. However, no matter what comes out, I don't see this as a realistic goal to have. Maybe that's why I've convinced myself to acheive the aforementioned musicality first instead. Should someone worry that the flute line is a little longer than is possible to be played by an apt player? I've heard music for videogames that has flute lines that never stop. Does it detract from the music? Not really. Would my wife notice it? Not a chance. Why wouldn't she? She's not listening for it, that's why. I'm over there with my head to the speaker. Did you hear those 12 staccato notes?! Its fake! There's no way you could play those notes like that! I say. She rolls her eyes. You see what I mean?
Or maybe its all perception? Maybe I've listened to samples and compared them to performances and they come up short. But in this day and age (provided its a musical performance) would the average listener spot it first time? I honestly don't think so. I can usually tell, based largely on the fact that the programming is bad. When the programming is well done, I can hear why it'd be hard for the average Joe to spot it. Impossible? No. But who is really listening for it besides us, the sample users.
I tend to think of GPO as almost a "new" instrument I guess. But still it does not detract me from trying to emulate reality. In many ways though sampling is a new instrument(almost akin to the pipe organ invention).
Like you said above, unrealistic parts can and are done and why not? If your aim is the average listener/non-musician then I see nothing wrong with this. Though I admit im not heavily into the multimedia stuff, I have nothing against some of the approaches that make some things unfeasable live. A good example is if you watch beetleguise, I remember a passage that was very quiet and subtle, however the horns were playing full out overblown and backed off in volume to fit the softer music. Was actually a neat effect. Though not my cup of tea, it worked well for the situation.
On the other hand, one of the fun aspects of working with this new "instrument" is trying to get it to sound like a performance or as close to as one can. However one chooses to use sampling basically boils down to personal taste. Some go for the multimedia and hence it is more about the mix(which im horrible at and am used to keeping things stricty in midi). Others go for reality and balance and try to create a performance feel.
Hmm, without making a book as opinions will differ on this subject, I like to think of it as both an emulator I guess and an instrument in it's own right. Shoulda just said that and left it!
I think you've combined two subjects: reality and playability. For instance, if one writes a ten minute long legato flute line to the played by a single player, the player will die before the final note. That's not playable. If you intend it to be notated and played live, it's bad. If it will never be played live, that's your artistic choice. (If the title is the "Giant, Endless Lung that Blew Away Miami" the long flute line may be the correct artistic choice. )
Keep in mind that by using two or more players, one can orchstrate long lines for any wind instrument.
Reality is altogether different. Let's say you orchestrate a short playable line for flute, and instruct the player to be off stage and play it through a Fuzz Face and an onstage Roland JC-120 amp with chorus set to eleven. This is playable, but won't sound like a real flute. But if that's the sound that you want, hey, it's your composition/orchestration. (We hope you enjoy "Crazy Joe's Distorted Flute Concerto".)
It all depends upon your goals, your premise and your higher aims.
NMB, maybe you're right. Which is why some people can't tell as they don't listen to much classical music. The more music I listen to, the more I feel that the realism goal is just unnattainable so I resign myself to instead aiming for performance and musicality. I just don't see how it will ever be possible to achieve absolute realism with samples so I'm kind of wondering why anyone fools themselves into believing its a worthy goal. Surely its a more worthy endevour to aim for creating the best representativew work that expresses fully your idea and is pleasing to the audiance you intend it for. And certainly if the day arrived where these things could be included in a product, wouldn't the end result still require a lot of up front work? But then, what's the point? For time is money and money time, you'd be better off just hiring an orchestra to perform it. Which starts a whole seperate topic. I'm still torn over which is really more important. Or maybe they go hand in hand and one is the direct result of the other. I'm just giving food for thought and spuring some chat. No reason anyone should be banned for posting in this thread provided they post their thoughts without descending to derrogatory remarks about anyone. I'm certainly no expert, nor have I ever claimed to be. I'm just wondering what is everyone elses feel on this. Is it your goal to create music or to create the image of realism and do you as a musician care if the end result would fool the listener? Right now, I err toward just creating music that moves, irregardless of whether its realistic or not.
Think small too. I am not just thinking of an orchestra, but chamber music and smaller groups...even a rock band.
You have multiple people with multiple creative personalities involved in the performance of LIVE music. As a composer, you gave up the ghost so others could live your musical creation when you put the last note down on paper. Thats something you can't create in MIDI, no matter what you try to do. You can't play one interpretation over an ensemble.
Thats why I love working with performers. I love checking my hat at the door and getting them involved in the creation process. I always work with answering the conductors and performers questions, and rarely interfere with that synergy by imposing my own interpretive will on their creation. I love the high paced interaction of them working. But I'm outside of that world at that point, and probably cant answer all the questions they have. I DONT always enjoy the performances...mainly because I have heard the piece about 1 million time writing it over and over again to really be an effective audience member. In the end, your role is rather small - you are no longer a composer, nor are you an audience member.
The best we can do IMHO, is mock up something that will give a general flavour of the piece...a guide, but NEVER a final product..unless you are writing disposable music as background to dialog and FX e.g. FS music, where no one cares, including the director.
Thats why I prefer to write small. Chamber, smaller orchestras etc. Get your music live. Live a life instead of fooling yourself that technology will get you closer to life experiences...
Hmmm... A very valid response. But I guess I'm speaking as someone living in the digital age, where computers supplement (for right or wrong) individuals. And I think that applies to a lot of individuals here. However, you only have to see a live performance to realize the fruitlessness of trying to get every nuance programmed in. Alas, if live performances were as commonplace... However if the end goal is a live performance what validity do samples have anyway. It would be more economical to stay with GM banks wouldn't it? I mean, is it necessary to have 10,000 dollars worth of samples if in the end it will be played by live players anyway? Or is it the direction of the industry to require a high quality example before said works are even considered for live performance? Interesting points all.
I think the samples are for me JB. I need them first, since I am the compozer, and I am paying for them to help keep me focused on creating. Sometimes, my musical memory isn't enuf...especially as I get older. Its nice to hear a rather close represenation of an erhu or even a bassoon or brass chord to remind and assure me it will work, so I don't waste time about silly notes and ranges and tessetura and stuff when I sit down with a player. They will also respect you a bit more by knowing what works and doesnt.
I live in a digital age too, you selfish thing. I just happen to be mature enough to know that technology is only a tool, and a dangerous one at that when it starts replacing the human experience.
I get where you're coming from but the times are moving to a point where emulated symphonic pieces will co-exist with played performances. Right or not, that's where it is right now. Some see an obvious benefit from samples, some laud them for what they're doing to the institution of music. I won't judge either way as I sit cleanly on the fence in all things.
And I can see your point about having a decent representation of the sound. I merely pass along food for thought to spur momentum in the thread.
Again, look beyond the big trucks of orchestras, and look also at the meep meep cars like chamber music duets....
I really don't understand orchestras anymore? I mean why do I need 3 flutes, 6-8 horns etc when I have a microphone 2 inches away from every performer in the orchestra? I'm not playing in Wembley. And quite frankly, that kind of music leaves me rather cold these days...whereas in my youth...well, maybe not...george crumb was exciting; peter Maxwell Davies Wow. BIG orchestra is all surface. Gets boring after the planets and Mahler...
Who are you fooling? The future of the digital age is smaller not larger. You guys are trying to recreate a ROMANTIC 19th century orchestra thinking its something advanced and "in the digital age"? BS. A 19th century orchestra is still a 19th century orchesta. The studio is new and digital age; hence smaller studio groups and chamber music + sweetener (although it never seems to blend well for me).