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Topic: virtual mock-up vs final score

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  1. #1

    virtual mock-up vs final score

    I would really welcome any input from those of you who have experience with this problem:

    For years, I used midi strictly as a sketch-pad prior to writing a real (classically-oriented) score for real (classical) players. Then I discovered higher-end orchestral samples, got tired of waiting for easy access to good (real) orchestras , and decided to put my heart into my virtual scores first.

    Although I often sketch my lines and parts out on paper beforehand, I now enter them via my midi keyboard. As a result, they now breathe better, and more often than not possess the magic that can happen in real performance (at least in the terms of time).

    But here's the problem (as I'm sure you've already anticipated): the magic often lies between the cracks of conventional/acceptable-to-read notation, and rendering the parts into user-friendly notation often destroys the sense and meaning of the more subtle midi performance (again, in terms of time).

    Here's an example: Over a four-part texture that was written in strict quarters, eighths and sixteenths, I played in two more parts, each moving outside of the meter and around the beats, to create a kind of harmonically moving, free-floating, two-note cluster. I was delighted with the over-all effect: it captured the very feeling I'd been looking for.

    When it came time to consider how it would look in a real score, I took a look at every note's Start Position, in terms of bars/beats/16ths/ticks (I use Cubase SX3). Of course, none of them lined up with the usual subdivisions of the beat, and none of them lined up with other bar- and beat-subdivisions (like quintuplets, septuplets, etc). I naively rounded everything off to the nearest main subdivision (16ths or 8th triplets), and the result was a complete disappointment. I then spent many hours experimenting with rounding everything off to finer subdivisions -- 32nd notes, and 16th-note triplets -- always trying to keep the proportional relations between the two parts (and their relation to the 'fixed' parts) close to the original. The final result was something that's still not easy to read, and that only hints at the original's magic.

    How do you approach this problem -- that is, the problem of translating the timing of a midi-keyboard 'performance' into the fixed and rigid requirements of a (classical) score, for classical musicians?

    Thanks, in advance, for sharing your perspectives on this!

  2. #2

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    The answer lies in having 2 versions.
    1 Sounds Good
    2 Looks good.

    Do the Sounds-Good one first, and then quantise it till it looks good.

    regards Joe

  3. #3

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by joaz
    The answer lies in having 2 versions.
    1 Sounds Good
    2 Looks good.

    Do the Sounds-Good one first, and then quantise it till it looks good.

    regards Joe
    Thanks for the feedback, Joe.
    If it were simply a case of creating a respectable-looking score that isn't going to be played, I'd have no problem! The problem is that the final score is to be performed, by real musicians, and that seems to mean that either it won't sound like the original, or, it will be impossible for flesh-and-blood musicians to read it. I'd love to hear your (and others') perspectives on dealing with thatproblem.

  4. #4

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by michael_maberly
    Thanks for the feedback, Joe.
    If it were simply a case of creating a respectable-looking score that isn't going to be played, I'd have no problem! The problem is that the final score is to be performed, by real musicians, and that seems to mean that either it won't sound like the original, or, it will be impossible for flesh-and-blood musicians to read it. I'd love to hear your (and others') perspectives on dealing with thatproblem.
    I came across this problem recently when writing a Flute Sonata.
    It was in a Brasillian Jazz style, and I attempted to notate the real rhytms that Jazz musicians actually play.
    I got it to a stage that it sounded right, but of course it was unreadable, because it is essentially impossible to notate Rubato.

    The only solution is to get it as close to what you want, while keeping it readable, and then trust your musicians.

    I have posted a couple of pieces with scores to view here.
    http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=44310

    I think this is one of those questions that does not have a perfect answer.
    Just different degrees of compromise.

    regards Joe

  5. #5

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by michael_maberly
    I would really welcome any input from those of you who have experience with this problem:

    For years, I used midi strictly as a sketch-pad prior to writing a real (classically-oriented) score for real (classical) players. Then I discovered higher-end orchestral samples, got tired of waiting for easy access to good (real) orchestras , and decided to put my heart into my virtual scores first.

    Although I often sketch my lines and parts out on paper beforehand, I now enter them via my midi keyboard. As a result, they now breathe better, and more often than not possess the magic that can happen in real performance (at least in the terms of time).

    But here's the problem (as I'm sure you've already anticipated): the magic often lies between the cracks of conventional/acceptable-to-read notation, and rendering the parts into user-friendly notation often destroys the sense and meaning of the more subtle midi performance (again, in terms of time).

    Here's an example: Over a four-part texture that was written in strict quarters, eighths and sixteenths, I played in two more parts, each moving outside of the meter and around the beats, to create a kind of harmonically moving, free-floating, two-note cluster. I was delighted with the over-all effect: it captured the very feeling I'd been looking for.

    When it came time to consider how it would look in a real score, I took a look at every note's Start Position, in terms of bars/beats/16ths/ticks (I use Cubase SX3). Of course, none of them lined up with the usual subdivisions of the beat, and none of them lined up with other bar- and beat-subdivisions (like quintuplets, septuplets, etc). I naively rounded everything off to the nearest main subdivision (16ths or 8th triplets), and the result was a complete disappointment. I then spent many hours experimenting with rounding everything off to finer subdivisions -- 32nd notes, and 16th-note triplets -- always trying to keep the proportional relations between the two parts (and their relation to the 'fixed' parts) close to the original. The final result was something that's still not easy to read, and that only hints at the original's magic.

    How do you approach this problem -- that is, the problem of translating the timing of a midi-keyboard 'performance' into the fixed and rigid requirements of a (classical) score, for classical musicians?

    Thanks, in advance, for sharing your perspectives on this!
    Michael, I am in your same boat, or close to it. Several possibilities. You didn't state which notation package you use, so I'll comment on the two I know and use regularly: Overture 4 and Finale 2006.

    One technique is to use the "retranscribe" function in either program. Without SEEING what you wrote, I can say with some confidence that "retranscribe" will make your music look like it's supposed to and play back as it's supposed to. Simply highlight a passage and do the retranscribe thing in either program, selecting the note value that makes most sense for the passage.

    Additionally, different sections of a piece may require different quantization settings. If you're not doing so already, you might enter a passage using one quant. setting, then stop the live entry session, change the quant settings, then enter the next section.

    Additionally, both programs have programmable swing percentages if that is a concern. Both also offer a degree of humanization--randomization of start time, stop time, and note length. I don't know if FinaleScript can operate at theat level or not.

    The consequence there is that I often enter the music in step-time, square, and let Overture provide the swing and humanization.

    Just some before-dinner thoughts...when I'm nourished after a day of brass quintet gigs, I'll add some more thoughts.

    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  6. #6

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by joaz
    I came across this problem recently when writing a Flute Sonata.
    It was in a Brasillian Jazz style, and I attempted to notate the real rhytms that Jazz musicians actually play.
    I got it to a stage that it sounded right, but of course it was unreadable, because it is essentially impossible to notate Rubato.

    The only solution is to get it as close to what you want, while keeping it readable, and then trust your musicians.

    I have posted a couple of pieces with scores to view here.
    http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=44310

    I think this is one of those questions that does not have a perfect answer.
    Just different degrees of compromise.

    regards Joe
    Thanks, both Joe and Jim -- I appreciate your input.
    Joe, I'm downloading your quintet mp3 & score as I write -- I'm on a slow dial-up, so it'll take about an hour and a half!

    I think - alas! - that you're probably right about different degrees of compromise. However, I also think the problems and solutions are different in classical and non-classical music: anyone who plays Brasilian music will know the rhythmic approaches it demands, and will most likely interpret the score accordingly. Swing or bop players will know to interpret eighths as swing eighths, unless otherwise directed, and blues guitarists will know when and how to bend notes, whether that's spelled out or not. But -- with the exception of their own customs, like vibrato, etc-- classical players (I think) try to avoid adding what isn't there. So the problem I see is to either make the reading so difficult that they'll either play it incorrectly (or, more likely, just not play the piece), or make it playable but incorrect.

    Jim, I can see how the re-transcribe function in Finale or Sibelius could save some time, but -- as you can probably see from the above -- my problem isn't in how to write what I've played (although it is time-consuming -- excuse the pun), but in getting any rational human being to put up with trying to play it . The question of what level of quantization to use seems to be the same, whether in a notation program or sequencer: the score will be much closer to the effect I've played if I use 64ths and all combinations of tuplets, but it'll drive the poor performers crazy, and either won't get played properly, or just won't get played!

    It's a real conundrum, especially when something sounds so good as played in!

  7. #7

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by joaz

    I have posted a couple of pieces with scores to view here.
    http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=44310
    Finally downloaded your quintet, Joe -- very nice!! I hope you'll be around on this forum for awhile yet: I'd like to take a close look at your piece when I get some time, and will probably have some questions for you!
    By the way, I only realized the PDF was a C score when I finally downloaded the MP3!

    All the best,
    Michael

  8. #8

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    There have been contemporary composers writing ridiculously complicated rhythms, hoping to get full control of every details of the piece. In reality, it's just not possible. Every human person has a different "feel" for interpretation. You can't really "force" your own interpretation onto your performer 100%. The best way to do it, IMO, is to leave some space for the performers to breathe in their own interpretation. A lot of performers hate reading a score cluttered with many annoying details.

    Solutions to your problem:
    I would probably keep the score as simple as possible, and give them the demo to listen to. Also, try to explain to them verbally what you require. And most importantly, don't try to control everything.

  9. #9
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    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Quote Originally Posted by Rach3
    There have been contemporary composers writing ridiculously complicated rhythms, hoping to get full control of every details of the piece. In reality, it's just not possible.
    I think that's very true. I remember listening to a quartet by Ferneyhough when I was a student and then we were asked to notate, by ear, what we heard. It was only a few seconds long but the amount going on was bewildering. Our professor then produced the score and it looked pretty different to what we had written. But, perhaps suprisingly, a lot of us had written it down more accurately than Ferneyhough. It didn't take a detective to work out that the performers weren't playing what was written....not by quite a margin and yet the composer had endorsed the recording on the sleeve notes as being a great performance.

    So did the composer have not a clue as to what he'd written?. Or was he trying to obtain a sense of chaos by purposely convoluted notation?. Was the precision of the performance not as important as the notation seemed to demand?. Could Ferneyhough have created the same results with a more
    aleatorically centered notation system?. If I think I am a cloud, will I start to float? (....sorry, wrong forum). It was a very revealing lesson.

    BTW, I'm with Joaz 100%. Trust your performers.....excellent advice.

  10. #10

    Re: virtual mock-up vs final score

    Thanks, Rach3 & JonP.

    Jon, I've witnessed similar things -- I recall being invited to look at the score an avante-garde string quartet had just performed, and being astonished at how different it was (rhythmically) from what was written -- and it wasn't an aleatoric composition! I have good friends who bemoan the inaccuracy of the few orchestral performances they get. And I'm aware of how aleatoric composition arose, in part, as one way of achieving certain textures without demanding the impossible of performers.

    I agree, Rach3, that one's more likely to get an expressive performance when the performer's attention isn't being completely absorbed by impossible minutae. In the particular passage I described (above), though, there is no room for any variance from what was originally played: I spent many hours re-recording the same passage from easier-to-read notations, only to find that none was able to recreate the original's magic. (And an aleatoric approach wouldn't have worked, either.) It wasn't a question of an expressive solo melody, but of clusters ornamenting a contrapuntal passage. I guess I must have accidentally stumbled on some micro-rhythms that created the magical effect -- micro-rhythms I still don't understand: how is it possible that a few quintuplets, septuplets and 64ths -- as opposed to 16th-note triplets and 32nds (quarter beat = 80) could make such an audible -- and powerfully emotive -- difference?! In the end - since there's no way human performers could accurately duplicate the passage as originally written - I have to settle for something that's really half-baked.

    I would think that the problem of mock-up vs final score would be only too-well known by sample/midi-composers, who probably have more experience with this type of problem -- and more need of solutions --than most. For most of us enter our notes via midi keyboard, and then -- if we want our work to be re-created by real performers - have to surrender our compositional and performance intricacies to the limitations imposed by notation.

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