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Topic: Orchestral Performances

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  1. #1

    Orchestral Performances

    Lately I\'ve been working on the Brahms second piano concerto and have finished the first movement:
    http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/380/duncan_brinsmead.html
    post grandioso + dd solo strings ww + brass
    (also on the ddean site)

    I\'ve been trying to putting as much expression as I can manage into midi performances and I\'d like to know what people feel are the most significant points of a traditional performance. People on this site often focus on how convincing or believable mockups are, although ultimately I\'m interested in how effective the performances are, regardless of how true the sounds are to the original instruments. I\'d be interested in any impressions of where the above simulation falls short of a live performance by a decent orchestra. To my ears some of the critical problems seem to be high strings, fast runs and repeated notes(i.e violin trememlo). I\'ve tried alternating different samples on alternate notes, but the effect is still somewhat like a motor reving. It could be also that part of my problem is release times.. these should probably be much shorter for fast repeating notes and runs to avoid overlap. Then again, I wonder.. if a fast run sounds synthetic does that make it bad? Is part of the problem that our ears have expectations of a certain sound and are distressed by differences?

    Duncan

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Duncan-
    I\'m getting a \"file not found\" error message for that piece, although the first two pieces listed on the site are ok. Anybody else having problems with it?

    Carl

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Originally posted by carlmsmith:
    Duncan-
    I\'m getting a \"file not found\" error message for that piece, although the first two pieces listed on the site are ok. Anybody else having problems with it?

    Carl
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Yup. Same problem here.

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Duncan, I realised that I\'d already downloaded the file.

    First, as usual, I think you have pinpointed the only things \'wrong\' with the performance (nothing at all; really).

    As some people have already stated, the piano just sounds incredible, kudos to you and Michiel.

    To split things up (somewhat). The piano performance sounds just perfect to my (potato) ears. The great crashing chords are a delight, as are the delicate lines. Can\'t say enough good things about it.

    I think perhaps you\'re right about our expectations though; the piano leads me to unconsciously expect a \'certain\' sound from the rest of the \'orchestra\'. That sound is there some of the time - but certainly not all of the time. The woodwind sounds lovely, but a little too \'up front\' (that\'s not right; I\'ll explain what I really hear later).

    I think, perhaps, you\'re stretching Dan\'s wonderful solo strings way beyond their limits. I think you\'d be a lot more comfortable using GOS with Maestro tools (and using DDSS to add a little \'beef\' here and there).

    I think this recoding is one library away from being, by far, the best computer-generated orchestral performance I\'ve ever heard.

    As I listen now, it is so strange to hear the synthy strings (not always, incidentally) when everything else suggests a concert hall performance by an orchestra. (This isn\'t a criticism at all of DDSS - I love them, but they are not an orchestra.)

    The picture I get in my head when I listen to it, is a concert hall with a sweaty pianist giving it what for on a wonderful concert piano, but he\'s surrounded by slightly oversized woodwind and brass players (and you know how much of a pain even normal sized brass players can be).

    Sitting behind them is Rick Wakeman in a silly dress, surrounded by lots of \'synths\'. At the back of Rick there are a few skinny string players dotted about, but they can\'t see over Rick\'s equipment, and I can\'t hear them properly; I keep wishing Rick would shut up and let me hear the strings.

    Expressionwise: unfortunately, I don\'t think I can separate the \'sounds\' from the sound. It\'s all there. All it needs is a little air let out of the brass and woodwinders, and a great (non-solo) string library.

    By the way - I loved it, and I listened again to your chaconne; which still sends shivers down my spine (I hope Dan has also uploaded that file). For me, the Chaconne passes that \"performance, but not real\" test, while the Brahms doesn\'t.

    Looking forward to hearing more, of course. You are a very fine conductor!

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Finally succeeded in hearing it. I don\'t know which I enjoyed more- your excellent piece or Z6\'s insightful critique. Well done to both of you!

    Carl

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    I would have thought that was Wendy Carlos in the dress.. So are your problems then mostly with the timber and balance of the sounds? It is easy to push the ww+brass further back.. a little more reverb and perhaps a bit softer. Is that what you are after? Unfortunately this brings the strings more to center stage, but that\'s another issue.

    Duncan

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Duncan,

    Your renditions are truly amazing. I have been lurking in the background now for a couple weeks, and have downloaded the Mahler and look forward to the day when I have my GigaStudio working fully and playing my own music, and hopefully as well performed and manacured as you\'ve done your interpretations. I\'m thinking hard on getting the DDSS, so no wonder I like your stuff.

    But I must add, for traditional performance realism, I really think you must add in senior citizen caughs and candy wrapper openings. Not to mention cell phones and pagers blazing in Adagio sections.

    (sorry, couldn\'t resist)

    The woodwinds\'s sound (flute in particular, and generally all trebbles) entrance at 1:30 here in the Brahms, somehow brought me back to my University orchestra\'s recorded sound.

    I think what I am hearing is a too forward of a sound and lack of a sense of an acoustic presence in the room in which the music is being played. (Strange though, cause I can hear your reverb.) I think my University symphony hall at the time was way too dry, and because of that, the microphone does not forgive the woodwinds for being out of tune. The digitization of the flute work here almost makes me feel like it\'s out of tune. Naturally, the higher the pictch, the easier it is to get out of tune, etc. etc. (maybe not...or I\'m extra sensitive to it, etc. or nuts) Also around 2:50, it\'s rather jarring.

    I think if the ensemble is further back from the sound stage, it may sound *better* (that\'s hard to quality.) YET, recording engineers now MIX and mic everything, don\'t they?

    With really, really good speakers, which I have at home, I can detect also strange hall resonances and \"air\" sounds on some recordings. I have like 3 recordings of the Planets, for instance (from my teenage, hormonal years of first finding that piece), and an old 1986 Boston Pops version I have, has very much detectable background sound, at the introduction to the quiet movements. It was very early in the era of digital recording too. I\'m sure the recording engineers weren\'t expecting some bozo in the 21st century to pick that stuff up with his sensitive speakers. In contrast my beloved Adrian Boult/LPO version of the Planets/Enigma Variations was recorded in the \'60\'s I\'m sure...but has a better presence to it. Hard to describe, etc. but it could all have been a matter of the arena in which they were recorded.

    And no wonder you\'ve picked this concerto. The horn solo is gorgeous. Have you played it?

    So I think my salt and pepper additions are mainly sound stage related on the acoustic properties of a concert hall, versus each instrument being separtely miced, etc.

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Originally posted by Duncan Brinsmead:
    I would have thought that was Wendy Carlos in the dress.. So are your problems then mostly with the timber and balance of the sounds? It is easy to push the ww+brass further back.. a little more reverb and perhaps a bit softer. Is that what you are after? Unfortunately this brings the strings more to center stage, but that\'s another issue.

    Duncan
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Well (and bear in mind that I\'m comparing my \'idea\' of a totally convincing rendition of what IS already there - even though that sounds a bit strange), it\'s not that the WW and brass sound too loud (although now and again...), or even that they should be further back; they just sound like they exist in a different space. It\'s like the orchestral fabric has been sewn together with the same kind of stiches that Dr. Frankenstein used on the monster\'s neck (I have a tendency to overstate things to battle my inarticulacy, by the way). This may be what Hunter was touching on. It sounded artificial in the sense that it lacked what I\'d call \'sonic integrity\' (although I have no idea why I\'d call it that; it popped into my head and sounded cool).

    Unfortunately, I don\'t have the skills to \'fix\' it (call Bruce or Thomas, I think), but that\'s what (I think) I meant by the WW and brass sounding \'oversized\'. It\'s not really the sound I\'m talking about. When I listen to it, I get a picture of oversized people, with big, fat, sausage fingers, and cartoon heads playing it

    As for the strings, again, on their own I might have been able to listen to the interpretation but the juxtaposition kind of killed it (for me - and again, only in comparison to an imagined reworking of the interpretation as it stands).

    Interesting that you cite Walter.. Wendy...? I thought the Clockwork Orange score was a masterpiece (as was the film - for me). When the film was released in the UK, I saw guys that might have been more comfortable in suits with arrows on, perusing the classical sections of record stores. It had a huge cultural effect (much maligned and misinterpreted at the time - when Kubrick was \'forced\' - by his own hand - to withdraw the film).

    Anyway, I digress (as usual). Carlos\' work seemed complete within it\'s own context; nothing in it really sounded like it was \'trying\' to sound like anything other than itself. Your Brahms sounds somewhat \'grafted\'. If the piano and other instrumentation hadn\'t sounded so utterly convincing, the strings wouldn\'t have that that \'sore thumbiness\' to them.

    As I said, I think, strings-wise, the GOS would probably solve all (or at least most) of the \'problems\'. You could retain the same level of musicianship without any cheese.

    Again, this seems strange because the Mahler was convincing in exactly the context in which you made your query.

    Unfortunately, GOS costs a (well worth it) grand and significant others\' and landlords, etc., have been known judge such purchases as extravagant.

    I know Thomas has coaxed some very convincing performances out of AO and Kirk Hunter (correct me if I\'m wrong - but certainly not the newer spate of libraries) but the stuff he\'s done is his own compositions and he may, even unconcsiously, write for his own toolbox.

    I think if you\'re going to produce \'mock ups\' of such well-known works, it\'s really hard for the audience to somehow work with \'half a new paradigm\'. You know, it\'s either hip hop Brahms or techno Brahms or, hardest of all; Brahms.

    I think the changes you suggest would help but the results would be incremental, probably with diminishing returns. Even if you sort the WW + Brass, Rick is still standing there, rubber-lipped, pretending he\'s a proper musician (apologies to RW fans; just a little joke

    You\'ve obviously put a lot of work into it. It certainly has life. I think GOS would open up a lot of possibilities, and make the work a lot easier (although nothing could make what you\'re trying to accomplish \'easy\').

    Sorry that my \'suggestion\' costs a grand. But I think it\'s the difference between ho-hums and raves. It\'s all there, but we need to hear it.

    Again, I absolutely love your stuff and hope I haven\'t got on your nerves too much with my blabbering.

    I hope you keep posting this stuff. It is wonderful.

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    Duncan,
    This stuff is really wonderful. You\'re inspiring me to study scores more. The piano is amazing.
    Thanks for the work

    Sincerely

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestral Performances

    When I listen to it, I get a picture of oversized people, with big, fat, sausage fingers, and cartoon heads playing it
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Z6, I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I read that! (I want some of that stuff you are smoking) Now I need to try and figure out just what that means in terms of sound.

    I\'m definitely going to upgrade my string sounds at some point, although I promised my wife no new sound purchases for one year, so I will make do with what I have for now. At any rate there is so much happening right now in terms of new libraries I\'d like to wait and see what develops before purchasing.

    I think if you\'re going to produce \'mock ups\' of such well-known works, it\'s really hard for the audience to somehow work with \'half a new paradigm\'. You know, it\'s either hip hop Brahms or techno Brahms or, hardest of all; Brahms.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Yes, I agree. It is too bad in a way, because it seems to me that we should eventually be able to push what can be done in a live peformance one better. Once we can create a symphonic performance that is as good as any recording ( I suppose many doubt that this will ever happen ) then we could go one better because the computer is not encumbered by physical limitations of an orchestra. However if we use the computer to extend traditional performance many will not like it because it breaks their expectations.

    In many regards this seems similar to simulating reality with computer graphics. As long as computer characters are cartoony(i.e. Shrek) people accept the graphics with no problems. However the closer they get to reality(i.e. Final Fantasy,the movie) the more people find subtle differences disturbing. If an actor did not have any skin pores, for example, you would find it somewhat disturbing, as if this were a burn victim. This is despite the fact that skin pores have nothing to do with acting.

    One person said that this performance seemed robotic and devoid of humanity, as if it were played to a metronome. This surprised me, as I felt that I had taken quite a few liberties with tempo and such in places. Some live recordings I\'ve heard have less give and take in many spots and so I\'m wondering what the cause of this impression is. Do people think that the tempo is generally too rigid and the notes are too uniformly performed? I did initially enter in all the music to a metronome, and I used quantize quite a bit..in contrast to the Bach Chaconne, which was freely performed. However I edited the tempo track such that the tempo is constantly changing, even within beats. I could add further refinement to the tempo and increase the push and pull in places.

    Perhaps when doing something synthetic one needs to exaggerate even more than normal. In computer graphics people like to add artifacts, lens flares and dirt in much greater amounts than occur in real life when going for realism.

    Duncan

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