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Topic: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

  1. #1

    Mockup Challenge and Study!

    Hi everyone,

    I have what I think will be an interesting challenge for those in our community who have the time to flex their orchestration muscles... An Orchestration Challenge.

    Allow me to explain the idea and where it came from:

    Like many here at NS, I am very much interested in music for film, television, games and other media of that type. However, at the present time, I mainly use samples to compose mockups of music which I intend to be purely for the concert hall. Meaning once their creation with samples is complete, I hit up Finale and crank out the score and parts for a performance or a reading or whatever.

    Lately, I've been going back through demos of particular libraries and listening to mockups of what companies call the "Classics" -- that is, music from the classical repretoire, be it from the classical, romantic or contemporary period of said genre. It seems to me that, from what I have heard, many libraries, even those at the top of the chain with which we are all familiar, don't seemed to be well-equipped to replicate music of this type.

    In all fairness though, I realize that this reason may well be attributed to the artist doing the sampling, not the library itself. I seem to remember a superb version of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite featured at the VSL site was what convinced me to go ahead and grab their Opus 1 set...

    It would seem to me that, as modern day film music grew from roots of the late-romantic/early contemporary composers such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Wagner, Mahler, Sibelius, etc., a well-rounded sampler/composer will have heard such literature, if not studied it, and would be able to produce a convincing mockup. I also believe that to accurately recreate music from this genre would be a great test for Sample Library developers. So, here's my idea, for those of you who are interested and who have time:

    I have compiled excerpts from four pieces which are, at most, slightly more then a minute in length. These excerpts feature what are, in my humble opinion, certain aspects of the genre which would be a great test for the ultimate sample library.

    NB: This is not to take away from other genres which had a significant influence on music of the modern film: Jazz, Electronica, Hip-Hop, and so forth. Every genre has its worth! With this study, however, I aim to focus upon one facet of many.

    Here are my five excerpts:

    1. Mahler - Symphony No. 1, 1st movement (opening bars)

    Features: The classic airy opening with its unique atmosphere. Intimate phrases of wind coloring, slurs, dynamic shading, and orchestral doublings.

    2. Bartok - Concerto for Orchestra (5th movement excerpt)

    Features: Challenging sequence, with a cinematic character. Opens with a great line in the oboe with a string ostinato. Finishes with tough brass writing, which is hard enough to play, let alone sample. One of my favourite parts of one of my favorite pieces.

    3. Kodaly - Hary Janos Suite ("Viennese Musical Clock" excerpt)

    Features: A nice piece with a catchy theme. A nicely scored overall orchestral sound and mix, with challenging wind lines in the oboes/clarinets. Also features a tricky brass (trumpet) line.

    4. Stauss - Eine Alpensinfonie, Nacht (opening bars)

    Features: Doing a study of this piece, and it's become a favorite as well. I chose this excerpt for its atmospheric opening and for its menacing low brass at the end of the excerpt, (the color of which I find to be thrilling and unique to this piece).

    The challenge: Choose one of these excerpts (or more, if you like of course) and do the best mockup you can with whatever sample libraries you own. Post your file as a reply to this thread, and let's compare!

    The point of this challenge, for me at least, is to benefit from those of you who have been at this for a long time. To learn from the settings you use and the tips and tricks you employ. If you post a response, please include a list of libraries and articulations you used. Also, if you can bear to reveal them, share what other techniques you used that folks might not think of when they sample. That way, people can use this as a sort of Orchestation with Samples Study.

    My thanks and appreciation for all who choose to take part in this! I believe it will help to serve composers and developers alike.



    EDIT: The files have now been fixed and moved to a faster and more reliable server. Thanks to MDesigner for the help! Also, I realize clips like the Bartok are too complex to be done by ear. I have scores for the pieces and am looking at getting the excerpts made into PDFs. In the meantime, if you want to take the melody and create a similar surrounding for it, that would suffice. I think the trumpet melody is transcribable. If this exercise goes well, I'll continue it with other pieces. Thanks, all!
    Steven J. Kukla

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Cool idea. I think I'll give one or more a shot--

    I think you have the Kodaly linked to the Mahler excerpt, though....

    Damon Sink
    G5 Dual 2 GHz, P4 3.8GHz, Logic Pro 7, Digital Performer, EWQLSO Platinum Pro XP, VSL, Kontakt2, Finale

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Isn't that more of a Mockup Challenge... I mean, the pieces are already orchestrated...

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Psh... symantics...

    You're right, of course. Even still, so long as people take on the challenge, I don't care what we call it...

    Steven J. Kukla

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Works for me. I guess it's to be done by ear, right?? I'd definitely have fun trying the Mahler and the Strauss... all of them, really! The Bartok would be a bear to do though.

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Oh, excellent. I was hoping people would take to this idea. I'd love to hear what you come up with.

    The idea is, yes, to do it by ear, but as I have scores to all of the pieces except the Kodaly, I'm planning on making the excerpts into PDFs as I said. Hopefully this wont violate any sort of laws, as it's not being done for any sort of profit...

    In any case, I would rank the difficulty from easiest to hardest as follows:
    EDIT: I totally forgot the fanfare at the end of the Mahler when I originally typed this... Makes it considerable harder in my humble opinion, so:

    1. Strauss
    2. Mahler
    3. Kodaly
    4. Bartok

    Just to reiterate, I believe the Kodaly is possible to hear by ear for the most part. The Bartok... well... What I am mainly interested in here, from a sample library standpoint, is the brass section--most of which I think is discernable by ear. If one were to tackle the Bartok without the coming score, I think a similar accompaniment, that is, one that matches the character of the excerpt, would be fine...

    Steven J. Kukla

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    I'll definitely try out the Bartok, it's one of my favorites too. In fact, I even remixed that particular theme into a rock song!
    Wilbert Roget, II

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    I'm not too busy right now, maybe I'll take a shot at the Strauss. (I actually got to play viola in the Alpensymphonie a couple of years ago. An amazing piece, but also very exhausting to play, as I recall.)
    Dan Powers

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve_K
    I'm planning on making the excerpts into PDFs as I said. Hopefully this wont violate any sort of laws, as it's not being done for any sort of profit...
    You would be in very clear violation of copyright law.

    Call the publisher. They will tell you whether or not they'll grant permission. Once that permission has been granted, you are generally required to include the publisher's credit on the excerpt, with a "used by permission of publisher" clause.

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestration Challenge and Study!

    Figures. And it makes sense, really. So, I might be a bit longer on getting those scores. Curious, considering music educators make photocopies of these things all the time. I suppose there's an "understanding" between publisher and educater... And, of course, a classroom of students and a forum of hundreds of members are two different things...

    Anyhow, to stay on topic, so far we have the following tally:

    Stauss: 2 (?)
    Mahler: 1 (?)
    Kodaly: 0
    Bartok: 1

    ? = maybe

    Thanks for the interest so far! Hopefully we'll get even more people to jump in.
    Steven J. Kukla

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