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The Evolution of Orchestral Sound
Last post Thu, Feb 07 2008 by PaulR, 68 replies.
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Posted on Mon, Dec 31 2007 02:20
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

I am writing this partly as a result of reading a very interesting biography of Glenn Gould, who believed that recording was superior to live performance and could actually allow a musician to more authentically present musical ideas.   I admire him greatly, and agree with that statement, and think that a composer using a sample library may now represent - with VSL's quality of sampling - an advance over all of the past of orchestral performance in relation to composition. Because what we now have is a tremendously powerful arsenal of orchestral sound, all controllable by one person.  This is what Gould talked about achieving with the piano, known as the "loneliest of instruments" because of the fact that a performer can completely control every nuance and is isolated as a result.  He was excited by new technology (at the time) such as the "Switched on Bach" stuff, and I believe he would have gone APE over samples like VSL.  Because what we can do now, is total expression of musical ideas without compromise, involving all of the sound of the greatest of all instruments, the symphony orchestra.  This is unprecedented in music history, and we are now witnessing and benefitting from this revolution for the composer.  I feel this so strongly partly because I have heard pieces of my own, abandoned after years of neglect by live orchestras, now given new life by this fantastic new instrument.  It is something that no one has had - until now.  I felt it important to note this, as what VSL is doing is not just more technological tinkering and playing around, but is something of crucial importance to music and composers seeking a new form of self-expression.

Is this truly the next step in the evolution of musical expression? I feel that it may be. It is beyond what is going on now in the concert hall, what is going on in any live recordings.  It is a new art form that gives a huge potential to an individual artist for expressing ideas without compromise.

Posted on Mon, Dec 31 2007 11:17
by PolarBear
Joined on Sun, Jul 20 2003, Germany, Posts 1206

While I agree, that the samples are a possibility to create or recreate a recording in a very controllable environment, down to precise volume and expression control, I don't feel we are already there. We can emulate most of the standard and common things, but the musicality coming from live expression and interaction between instruments is still missing a great deal to me. If we ever get to the point, where the single, soloed part of an instrument or instrument section is really hardly distiguishable from the original, then we finally made the step to a new tool being able to realize a recording better than a live session could be. But we are also limiting ourselves with this approach in terms of real life possibilities. While there may be new ways to record (reversing, mangling, ... samples) we would never explore other before not having sampled them (rubber plucked strings, bowed e-guitars to name a view in a desperate try to be original). Also instrument development by the core of music, the composers would be forced les. Though I don't believe less people would play real instruments because of samples.

Just my 2 cents,

PolarBear 

A zero can decuple an existing problem.
Posted on Thu, Jan 03 2008 05:14
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Those are interesting responses. I do not agree completely with polarbear, in that there are some things that sound completely real with samples now.  For example that Beethoven string quartet by Bacal fooling a violin teacher or as another example a piece for organ or certain combinations of winds or percussion. We can easily fool people.  But I am not interested in the "fooling" - it is more the use of these sounds purely as tools to create expressive performances, no matter what the original is.

I agree on vibrato's point about using the samples in non-traditional ways.  I often think that Ligetti was trying to use samples before samples existed.  His orchestral pieces, even some of the vocal pieces, use sustained or extreme range sounds that are very difficult and non-characteristic playing for a live orchestra, but are perfect for samples especially in how they emphasize timbre.  If you write 50 bars of a sustained low e for live basses they will get very angry with you, but if you do it in your sequencer  and sampler it is a piece of cake.  Or a series of pedal tones in a bass trombone, etc. etc. 

I do think that the sampling of more and more special or even completely new playing styles should be a priority for the most advanced sample library.  In other words, to provide more and more expressive range to the sound that is available and to create new avenues of sound that may not even exist in avant garde music. 

Posted on Thu, Jan 03 2008 19:53
by PolarBear
Joined on Sun, Jul 20 2003, Germany, Posts 1206

There is orchestral sound and there is performing orchestra to me. We might agree that a good live orchestra in a concert hall performing is always superior to any recording, because the of technical limitations we still encounter with recording techniques, loudspeakers, different listening situations. But we should compare the comparable I think, too. There's always this catch with "fooling" someone... was he aware it could be samples? Even if not, would his opinion still hold true, if he had multiple chances to listen to it and really being able to absorb everything going on in there? Were the listening conditions adequate?

Would the opinion also hold true in an A/B comparison in the same listening situation? Probably some might disagree that this would be necessary... yet the sky is the limit for me: If we listen through a typical monitoring system we might not miss anything until we heard a superior one that has more low end or higher definition, anything else, you name it. The same way we might not miss anything in the mockup (and being fooled therefore) we would hear in a live recording. Isn't that a step backward then?

Besides, we are still limitied to a certain arsenal and combinations of sounds, those that have been recorded in samples. We could not create or recreate anything that has not been recorded yet. We're still at the early stages of rebuilding the instrument interactions (body resonances for pianos, violins, interaction between instrument sections (ringing overtones on drums or the like) and basic expressive representations (different kinds of vibrato's, convincing slurs, emotive intonation etc.) as well as compositional challenges (runs, divisi play, random note stuff). You also need quite some knowledge about samples to pull off a good mockup, simply composing a piece via pen and paper isn't getting you anywhere near a good recording of that... Yes, going forward and being creative with what we already got is a way. But we should not be fooled into thinking the development on the real side would be able to stop because of this.

Best,

PolarBear 

A zero can decuple an existing problem.
Posted on Fri, Jan 04 2008 11:02
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
Let's get one thing clear about fooling people. - There are lay people - in other words, people who have no concept of what a real orchestra or a real anything sounds like throughout the whole of their torrid existences - these people don't know anything about art in general, and they don't want to know. So you can't fool them in the first place - how exactly would you be fooling them? You may as well try and educate pork.--------Then there are the hardened and highly trained Royal College of Music types - I'm talking about the old school here - pre 1970's - quite a considerable number of them have no idea or interest in samples, simply because they don't know or are more interested in actually playing their instruments for commercial or intellectual reasons. - If you really thing about that - this type of person is very easy to fool when it comes to samples - they are not listening for it in the first place - merely listening to the music - WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT!!!! -- If any British people here don't believe me - just listen to Desert Island Discs this Saturday - and get a load of that rubbish. That's what most people are like when it comes to music and art. Peasants. Where is Brain Sewell when you need him?
Posted on Sun, Jan 06 2008 02:32
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Well I agree with both youse guys to an extent. 

But it is not true that we are "limited" to what has been recorded, because that assumes conventional useage of samples.  I do not do conventional useage (at least necessarily all the time).  Sometimes, sure.  To make some money.  But as Ligetti showed and I was trying to suggest with that allusion to his works, conventional orchestral sounds can create completely new timbres when used in a bizarre way.  Which is almost infinitely possible with VSL, due to the nature of their detailed recording process.  Of course we need to get Herb to  approve more recordings of weirdass playing techniques to increase these possibilities.  However polarbear knows what he is talking about and I do NOT mean to contradict him casually.

I must agree wholeheartedly with Paul on the "peasants" rant.  Quite so old boy.  Load o' rubbish if you ask me. Got to keep those blokes in line. Cheerio and all that rot.

Posted on Sun, Jan 06 2008 10:17
by lgrohn
Joined on Sat, Feb 05 2005, Nauvo, Finland, Posts 198
William wrote:

But as Ligetti showed and I was trying to suggest with that allusion to his works, conventional orchestral sounds can create completely new timbres when used in a bizarre way.  Which is almost infinitely possible with VSL, due to the nature of their detailed recording process. 

Can I find somewhere more about those new VSL timbres? What feature of VSL makes it possible?

PS. The name is Ligeti, not Ligetti... 

metacomposer Lauri Gröhn
http://www.synestesia.fi
Posted on Sun, Jan 06 2008 21:38
by Angelo Clematide
Joined on Thu, Sep 08 2005, Posts 1139

lgrohn wrote:
William wrote:

But as Ligetti showed and I was trying to suggest with that allusion to his works, conventional orchestral sounds can create completely new timbres when used in a bizarre way.  Which is almost infinitely possible with VSL, due to the nature of their detailed recording process. 



Can I find somewhere more about those new VSL timbres? What feature of VSL makes it possible?

PS. The name is Ligeti, not Ligetti... 



When György Ligeti would be alive and using samples for whatever reason, he may would use them in Csound, Max/MSP, SuperCollider or program them with C++ or some other audio programming language -- certainly would invent something new which is inexistent and we can't imagine in advance, and he rather would create his own samples. 


Using samples is a old as musique concrete or older, I don't see anything new in using samples, or "the next step in the evolution of musical expression " as William suggests.


By the way, the composer Pierre Henry is in the charts with his own remix of his "Dixième symphonie de Beethoven" (hommage à Beethoven) from 1979, and Pierre always made his own samples.


.
Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 00:35
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

"Using samples is a old as musique concrete or older, I don't see anything new in using samples, or "the next step in the evolution of musical expression " as William suggests".- Angelo Clematide

If you don't see anything new I suggest you  put on some eyeglasses.  

Edgar Varese was using a TAPE RECORDER AND SCISSORS to do musique concrete, specifically on Poeme Electronique. 

Somehow I think Vienna Ensemble is not quite the same old thing...  

Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 01:30
by PolarBear
Joined on Sun, Jul 20 2003, Germany, Posts 1206

You're right Williams about not being limited, wasn't so well put by me in the first place. It's what I meant with creating and recreating stuff - being creative and going on from sampled snippets is of course possible and therefore no limitation to the creative mind. Yet while recreating or being creative with things that could be played in the real world is not so well possible to the point until somebody was able to sample it. I'm talkign about stuff guys like this one do here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=i3un22sg94M - you can't pull this off a sample library with the basic reocrdings of a windchime. You can't pull off other things for strings with the merely "basic" set of samples we have (yet I'm talking about multiple 100GB worth of samples here) - you can't be creative in that way, so therefore samples are a limitation in this direction.

And surely there are unthought things like doing a brass legato phrase with the wind transition samples for the in between notes. Or having a piano release sample triggered for a timpani note. Time to free your mind ;) These couldn't be performed in a live situation or recorded in one go and would be a rather unusual, unavantgarde way of making music.

PolarBear

PS: Ever saw a trombone kazoo? http://youtube.com/watch?v=gDH_nXP6cww :D 

A zero can decuple an existing problem.
Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 02:33
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Yeah, I agree with that.  An example of someone doing things with instruments impossible to do with samples is Harry Partch creating all those odd instruments.  I am interested in using tam-tams in many ways in a new piece that would be useless to sample because you might as well just use a real one.  So this reveals a principle maybe - that with samples, we are talking about the "instrument" known as the symphony orchestra, as opposed to any individual one that is part of it.

Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 08:16
by lgrohn
Joined on Sat, Feb 05 2005, Nauvo, Finland, Posts 198

When the "almost infinite number of new timbres using VSL" was mentioned, my first thought was that VSL has developed some new way of modifying the over tones (number, intensity) for VSL, because that's the only way to get really new timbres electronically. But it is not the case here. Now I understand what was meant. VSL just gives the possibility to combine different instruments easily.

metacomposer Lauri Gröhn
http://www.synestesia.fi
Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 15:59
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

For all you budding film composers - here's a suggestion. Get the January 2008 edition of Future Music and watch the quite lengthy DVD that comes with it on The Making of Stardust soundtrack. Steve McLaughlin is the sound man who works with Ilan Eshkeri and McLaughlin knows a bit about the 'sound' of an orchestra. So----if you're into the writing process and also the mics used at Abbey etc - this will keep you interested for a few hours.
Posted on Mon, Jan 07 2008 19:04
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Hey Paul, do you have anything for composers who are no longer budding but have gone to seed?

Posted on Tue, Jan 08 2008 02:27
by PolarBear
Joined on Sun, Jul 20 2003, Germany, Posts 1206

Trying to cut the "composing for samples" mentality with a budding knife, buddy? ;)

A zero can decuple an existing problem.
Posted on Tue, Jan 08 2008 10:43
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
William wrote:

Hey Paul, do you have anything for composers who are no longer budding but have gone to seed?



Hey Bill - I just watched Moonrise and Build my Gallows High - what the hell do think I'm gonna say? I went to seed years ago - but (in a Brooklyn accent) - I still got taste! - I don't mind going to seed - just so long as I'm the last one that goes! WTF am I talking about? :))) - You all should watch that article on the dvd - I guarantee it will cause an immediate an entertaining debate.
Posted on Fri, Jan 11 2008 17:48
by Hannes_F
Joined on Thu, Dec 14 2006, Posts 18

Paul,

do you mean this?

http://futuremusicmag.com/oncd.html

Hannes

May be joking without the use of smilies :)
http://www.strings-on-demand.com
Posted on Sat, Jan 12 2008 10:02
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
Come on now Hannes - I said January 2008 didn't I! :))))) - If you're interested in microphones, mixing, real orchestras, good soundmen, thoughts about sample libraries, etc etc - this is one of their good issues and a lot of footage on the dvd. --There's also an article and mp3's on - why NOT to play chords with string samples. Hmmmmm. ;)
Posted on Sat, Jan 12 2008 14:09
by Hannes_F
Joined on Thu, Dec 14 2006, Posts 18

Paul, Problem was that I found a lot of sites under the keywords "future music magazine" and thought this would come closest. But obviously the magazine I found does not accept any subscriptions any more, and maybe is not even the right one. Our local music dealer also does not know or have it.

Will try again, but if you find a link to their homepage in the editorial this would be very helpful. Since I am for sure interested in all the topics you mentioned.

Maybe I will even learn how to avoid sampled string chords :-))

Hannes

May be joking without the use of smilies :)
http://www.strings-on-demand.com
Posted on Sat, Jan 12 2008 17:05
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

I tell you what Hannes - pm me your address or PO Box no in germany and I will send you the dvd so you can watch it and send it back to me. I would have thought you could get this in Germany, but I am obviously mistaken.
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