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Topic: Can we do this with samples?

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  1. #1

    Can we do this with samples?

    \"Whether it was the blazing speed and facility displayed in the \"Touche Bloquees\" Etude, the eerily translucent sounds he produced for \"Cordes Vides,\" or the discordant chorus of bells he unleashed in \"L\'Escalier du Diable,\" Mr. Aimard\'s performance was a revelation. This last etude ends in complete sonic pandemonium. (The score includes eight fortes and the instruction for the pianist to play with all his might.) After the colossal final chord, the sound hung heavily in the air, like thick smoke after an explosion.\"

    (Jeremy Eichler CRITIC\'S NOTEBOOK; The \'Other\' Tanglewood Churns With Electricity New York Times 7-30-2003)

  2. #2

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by Bruce A. Richardson:
    If the question is, \"Can a person make music with samples that will leave a listener stunned and inspired?\" that answer is yes.

    If you can decide to produce a specific piece of music with samples, and have that piece be as well performed and moving as if it were done with live players? That is a really different equation with too many variables to answer. Maybe, with an immense reserve of talent, tools, and patience.

    But the second application leaves me cold, personally, as an artist. My goals are to produce authentic art in whatever medium I\'m using, so I approach a sampler as a tool for manipulation of acoustic phenomena rather than for its documentary value. Beyond the simple \"gotcha\" of emulating other musical instruments, sampling does have a tradition and a set of artistic practices which are not all emulative in nature. In fact, I really like it when that line gets muddy, and when the question of acoustic authenticity becomes an expressive tool. I love what Tortoise does with sampling on larger structures. The TNT album is interesting in that regard. You are five minutes into the album before you realize it\'s actually an electronic piece, and it\'s very subtle when things begin to loop back around and slowly deconstruct. Up to that point, you are in a kind of post 80/81 Pat Metheny vibe with a very skipping kind of DeJohnette groove. I find that album very compelling.

    I don\'t think there is much life left in simple orchestral mockups, if we are talking about marketable music. You have a big game market right now that is interested in really steroid-pumped tutti orchestra grooves. But I think you are going to see much more diversity in A-list scoring concepts, and you can see that in the work of the boomers who are getting the work right now. There are not so many walls in terms of what influences and techniques to mix. Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer particularly, on films where they\'re left completely to their own devices, tend to crank out musique concrete elements, lots of synthesis, and interesting manipulations which are not stereotypical Hollywood or concert-playable scores. In those cases, actually, we cannot \"do this\" WITHOUT samples, so we\'re back to square one.

    To me, there\'s no reasonable cause to attempt mocking up a concerto, because the application makes no more sense than mocking up jazz. That is a genre whose value of expression is providing a vehicle for a player. Mocking up or emulating that level of performance is an interesting exercise, and in the case of a job where the budget dictates it, one of those options you may grudgingly pursue. I don\'t see it as a measure of the state of sampling as an artform. It\'s incongruent.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">I quoted everything Bruce said here because I agree with all the points and they are worth saying again.

    I used to make a living (I guess you could have called it that ;-) doing orchestral stuff with synths, and I can say it was not very satisfying when compared to using a real orchestra. It is probably nominally more satisfying now, but even the best stuff I\'ve with the new libraries (Thomas J\'s), the pieces would still be an order of magnitude more compelling with a live orchestra.

    Imho, synth orchestral mock-ups should only be used in productions because of budgetary constraints. To me, mocking up an orchestra is on a par with the silliness of mocking up a jazz ensemble. The strength in samples is what they can ADD that you cannot produce with humans on traditional instruments. A person who uses synths and live orchestras (and choirs) compellingly and to their individual strengths is John Adams, like in the September 11th memorial piece I saw performed last year in New York.

    John

  3. #3

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Marko,

    Maybe this is totally irrelevant, but your quote puts me in mind of two apparently contradictory thoughts (in the same interview!) expressed by one of my favorite guitarists, Ralph Towner:

    Thought #1:
    \"I notice that anytime I play a synthesizer solo in concert - which I rarely do - I could play something that would be structurally incredible, a great solo, and there wouldn\'t be a great response from the audience because, dynamically, it\'s not subtle and it doesn\'t have the overtones. Also, there\'s no association with physical effort with a synth. You can play a high note but there\'s no feeling that someone\'s busting their gut to play it. People don\'t relate to the sounds of synths as being the result of some physical feat.\"

    Thought #2:
    \"I don\'t even want people to realize that the guitar is a difficult instrument to play. A lot of guitar players will make sure you know that it is the hardest thing in the world to do. This draws attention away from the music, which, for me, is intended to transport a person, to take their mind off themselves.\"

    No disrespect intended towards Towner, whom I admire tremendously. I find myself brooding from time to time over these antithetical thoughts. The best I can come up with, by way of reconciling them, is the notion that somehow the music produced with the electronic tools at our disposal has got to find a way to put across a sensation of difficulty and inertia overcome. In other words, I naturally tilt a little towards position #1 and a little away from position #2. Maybe that\'s why I have a blind spot for Mozart, who is perhaps the most famous embodiment of apparently effortless effort.

    Greg

  4. #4

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Bruce,

    Why isn\'t it \"authentic art\" or a genuine artistic talent if one can produce the perfect emulation or imitation (the gotcha) that is indiscernible from an original piece? Imagine that you make an orchestral mock up from samples that tricks the discerning ears of the people who participate in this forum. That would certainly take a lot of talent. Don\'t we measure the value of many sound libraries in terms of how they enable us to create these illusions or illusory performances? (Perhaps \'illusion\' is not the right word.) It seems that our expressive ability would increase with the greater realism of the samples.


    You state:

    \"My goals are to produce authentic art in whatever medium I\'m using, so I approach a sampler as a tool for manipulation of acoustic phenomena rather than for its documentary value. Beyond the simple \"gotcha\" of emulating other musical instruments, sampling does have a tradition and a set of artistic practices which are not all emulative in nature. In fact, I really like it when that line gets muddy, and when the question of acoustic authenticity becomes an expressive tool. I love what Tortoise does with sampling on larger structures.\"

    I\'m not familiar with Tortoise recording. You say you like it when \"that line gets muddy,\" but what would happen if all of the acoustic emulations suddenly ceased? What would happen to the expressive properties of the piece minus all those acoustic samples which we measure against the original acoustic sounds of the instrument? We\'d be left with the synthetic sounds and no more fuzzy line. That muddy or fuzzy line is valued because some of the sounds retain their emulative aspect. The hybridization is enjoyed and valued because we can discern the original samples of acoustic instruments in the mix.


    spinach ravioli writes: The strength in samples is what they can ADD that you cannot produce with humans on traditional instruments.

    I don\'t agree with this. I think the strength of a lot of the samples with which people in this forum work reside in their capacity to enable us to imitate orchestras or ensembles.


    Marko

  5. #5

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by Marko:

    spinach ravioli writes: The strength in samples is what they can ADD that you cannot produce with humans on traditional instruments.

    I don\'t agree with this. I think the strength of a lot of the samples with which people in this forum work reside in their capacity to enable us to imitate orchestras or ensembles.

    Marko
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Orchestral samples, although they have come a long way, do not even remotely approach the power and energy created by 90 people sitting in a room and playing their guts out. As long as you are trying to *directly* imitate a real orchestra, your production will be inferior compared to the same piece played by a real (and really good) orchestra. If you disagree with that statement, then I\'d love for you to get a chance to do a \"taste test\" both ways with one of your own pieces. I think you would come around.

  6. #6

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by spinach ravioli:
    </font><blockquote><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><hr /><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Originally posted by Marko:

    spinach ravioli writes: The strength in samples is what they can ADD that you cannot produce with humans on traditional instruments.

    I don\'t agree with this. I think the strength of a lot of the samples with which people in this forum work reside in their capacity to enable us to imitate orchestras or ensembles.

    Marko
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Orchestral samples, although they have come a long way, do not even remotely approach the power and energy created by 90 people sitting in a room and playing their guts out. As long as you are trying to *directly* imitate a real orchestra, your production will be inferior compared to the same piece played by a real (and really good) orchestra. If you disagree with that statement, then I\'d love for you to get a chance to do a \"taste test\" both ways with one of your own pieces. I think you would come around. </font><hr /></blockquote><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">That used to be true simply across the board...there was no comparison. The line is completely blurred now by QLSO and Vienna, depending on the piece, the difference would not be a case of one being better than the other, just different. That\'s how good things are getting. The idea that one would hear the real orchestra and think \"Oh well, that just blows the samples away\" is just not realistic even now, at the end of 2003. That said, all this only goes for using the best samples (QLSO, for instance) and the best at using them. But this is true with real orchestras as well....not many of us have access to the folks playing on \"ALIENS\" and if I were to choose between doing my own mock up on QLSO and our local symphony, I\'d take QLSO

  7. #7

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    and if I were to choose between doing my own mock up on QLSO and our local symphony, I\'d take QLSO
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">But aren\'t you referring to convenience now?

  8. #8

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by Marty:
    </font><blockquote><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><hr /><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\"> and if I were to choose between doing my own mock up on QLSO and our local symphony, I\'d take QLSO

    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">But aren\'t you referring to convenience now? </font><hr /></blockquote><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">No, I am talking about the total effect of great sound and performance. All orchestras are certainly not created equally, and the players doing the film scores are the tops in the world.
    It\'s quite easy to imagine a piece done in QLSO sounding better than an average orchestra, which is all most of us would have access to, if our clients even had the budgets for that, which they don\'t....or at least mine don\'t

    One of the biggest things missing from sample libraries in the past has been a true sense of space. Hans Zimmer talked about it a few years back when he described doing orchestral mockups....he said it had gotten so good that there was really not a huge difference anymore....that the main thing the real orchestra added was a bit of \"air\" or \"space\" (I think those were his words)....now, at least judging from the first demos, it would seem like that has begun to be addressed. I\'m sure there will be even greater choices for us five years from now.

    I\'m equally sure nothing will ever replace the real deal entirely. But my original response was to the question of whether it was ALWAYS going to sound better using real folks than samples. I don\'t believe that\'s the case anymore. Different, yes....unquestionably better, no.

    JMHO.

  9. #9

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by tomhartman:
    </font><blockquote><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><hr /><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Originally posted by spinach ravioli:
    </font><blockquote><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><hr /><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Originally posted by Marko:

    spinach ravioli writes: The strength in samples is what they can ADD that you cannot produce with humans on traditional instruments.

    I don\'t agree with this. I think the strength of a lot of the samples with which people in this forum work reside in their capacity to enable us to imitate orchestras or ensembles.

    Marko
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Orchestral samples, although they have come a long way, do not even remotely approach the power and energy created by 90 people sitting in a room and playing their guts out. As long as you are trying to *directly* imitate a real orchestra, your production will be inferior compared to the same piece played by a real (and really good) orchestra. If you disagree with that statement, then I\'d love for you to get a chance to do a \"taste test\" both ways with one of your own pieces. I think you would come around. </font><hr /></blockquote><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">That used to be true simply across the board...there was no comparison. The line is completely blurred now by QLSO and Vienna, depending on the piece, the difference would not be a case of one being better than the other, just different. That\'s how good things are getting. The idea that one would hear the real orchestra and think \"Oh well, that just blows the samples away\" is just not realistic even now, at the end of 2003. That said, all this only goes for using the best samples (QLSO, for instance) and the best at using them. But this is true with real orchestras as well....not many of us have access to the folks playing on \"ALIENS\" and if I were to choose between doing my own mock up on QLSO and our local symphony, I\'d take QLSO </font><hr /></blockquote><font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Well, yes, the orchestra in just AnyTown, USA is not going to cut it, for instance. That\'s why I said a \"really good\" orchestra.

    My original statement stands, for an all-acoustic orchestral piece, the only reason why one should use a sample library mock-up instead of the LSO or the best studio orchestra in Los Angeles is budgetary constraints. If someone told me they were going to EWQLSO or VSL over one of those orchestras for a straight orchestral piece because they thought the end product would turn out better, well... I wouldn\'t even know what to say to them.

    John

  10. #10

    Re: Can we do this with samples?

    Originally posted by tomhartman:
    Hans Zimmer talked about it a few years back when he described doing orchestral mockups....he said it had gotten so good that there was really not a huge difference anymore....that the main thing the real orchestra added was a bit of \"air\" or \"space\" (I think those were his words)....
    JMHO.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">This may be true for Hans Zimmer\'s music. He writes pretty simple music. I\'m not saying it\'s bad, but it does not take advantage of everything an orchestra can do. Compare his music to these modern composers outside the film world: Witold Lutoslawski, Magnus Lindberg, Per Norgard, Kaija Saariaho. Sample libraries are not going to cut it for this stuff. But then again, neither will the AnyTown, USA orchestra. My point is, though, that samples have a LONG way to go, even given the AMAZING strides in quality of EWQLSO and VSL. (I wish I would have had those tools in the early \'90s!)

    John

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