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Microtones and sequencers
Last post Sun, Jan 09 2022 by PaoloT, 16 replies.
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Posted on Sat, Dec 09 2017 20:15
by Gppp
Joined on Wed, Dec 28 2016, Posts 5

Good evening,

I am new of VSL and I am still understanding how it works. I am mainly interested in using VSL to experiment with microtones, modifying the pitch of a quarter tone or an octave tone. As sequencer I'm using Cubase LE 8.

The first issue I found was to record a microtonal phrase in Cubase. Of course when I play it I can hear the microtuning and everything works perfectly, but when I playback what I have recorded I just hear well tempered notes, of course because I play with a master midi keyboard. So, which is the trick?

Thank you

Tags: microtuning
Posted on Sat, Dec 09 2017 22:01
by bbelius
Joined on Sat, Mar 14 2015, Posts 883

You have to record / manually set pitchbend information in Cubase. Vienna Instruments then will play these back.

Ben
Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Sun, Dec 10 2017 10:17
by Paul
Joined on Sat, Aug 03 2002, Vienna, Posts 13475

Welcome GPPP,

Are you using the scale tuning in Vienna Instruments PRO?

Best, 
Paul

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Paul Kopf
Product Manager - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Mon, Dec 18 2017 16:52
by Gppp
Joined on Wed, Dec 28 2016, Posts 5

Hello,

I am also using the scale tuning in VSL. Unfortunately Cubase Elements "plays" in real time each microtonal note in the correct way, but if I "record" the same phrase and play it back Cubase interprets the same micronotal notes rounding them to the closest tempered notes.

I would be happy to know how you solved this issue.

In the Steinberg forum they told me that the version I have - Cubase Elements - doesn't have a function called "Micro Tuning" that the more advanced versions of Cubase do have. So I am going to upgrade to a highest version of Cubase. But before purchaising it I would really be happy to know how do you manage with this issue in your sequencer.

Thank you

Posted on Fri, Apr 10 2020 22:43
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Originally Posted by: Paul Go to Quoted Post

Are you using the scale tuning in Vienna Instruments PRO?

I'll revive this thread, beacause I'm too trying to let VSL instruments play microtones.

It is not a matter of using a particular scale, but of playing microtonal accidentals on individual notes, for example ina space of 24 EDOs.

The lack of this features is particular apparent with Dorico, where writing microtones is very easy. NotePerformer can react to these intervals. Unfortunately, VIPRO can't, and a contemporary score based on microtones is very hard to render.

Any chance this can appear?

Paolo

Posted on Mon, Apr 13 2020 12:08
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Hi,

Back on this issue. First of all, a little of background, to understand where I come from with this matter. I mostly compose taking from the principles of spectralism. Microtones are very important, because partials approximation to a semitone is no longer satisfactory, as it was at the times of Messiean. Quarter and sixth of tone are necessary, to create the particularly rich sonority typical of this music.

Most composers have been using programs/languages like Max, jMax, PureData, SuperCollider, OpenModus to deal with this. Quarter-tone support in "commercial" apps, that can also be used without wearing a lab's white coat, has never been available. There was something in Sibelius. Until the appearance of Dorico, a scoring program that can be used both for hymns and more sophisticate writing alike. Microtonal accidentals are supported from the start as a standard feature.

Microtonal accidentals are not only needed in the niche type of music I was citing above. A niche that, for something like VSL, is maybe a bit less niche, since the users are very often specialists of classical and contemporary music. Microtones are however also useful for ethnomusicologists, or musicians from cultures different/exceeding the Western tuning system. Or even Western musicians including forlk elements in their music (starting from Bartók, whose violin sonata did include an early form of microtonal accidentals).

Then, I know Haas, the most notable Austrian spectralist, is from around Graz, so I guess Vienna tries to refuse him!

I have done several tests with Dorico these days. Microtonal support with NotePerformer is great. I couldn't test support with apps compatible with VST2's Detune and VST3 Note Expression parameters, like Halion or Pianoteq. What I could see is that VST players are not, alas, compatible with this system.

Steinberg is not interested in using pitch bend instead of native VST controls. If VSL can't implement the requested controls, we will still live in a world where great sound libraries can't fully communicate with great scoring programs. We have all we need, only living in two separate, non-communicant dimensions.

So, I'm here just to voice my dream of being able to write music, and have those odd symbols before the note performed correctly. Spectralism is 50 years old. Bartók/Kodály's ethnomusicological researches are more than a century's old. Parry and Lord are nearly as old. Still, computers can't be used to write down and play their music.

Paolo

Posted on Tue, Apr 14 2020 22:43
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Hi,

I've done a test with VSL Vienna Instruments (non-Pro), inserted in Dorico without using VEPRO. Dorico looks for VST3 plugins, and to VST2 ones only if whitelisted. VI (non-Pro) is VST3, so I was hoping that it could show the way for a Pro player coming in perspective.

Alas, no, even the VST3 plugin refuses to play quarter tones.

With all the experimentations of the latest decades, I was thinking that microtuning was of great interest for the music community composing for orchestra. May St. Ravi and St. Partch forbid us – it seems it isn't!

Paolo

Posted on Wed, Apr 15 2020 08:53
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

I don't know if there is room for a discussion on this matter, but I notice that many new opera commissions, during the latest years, have gone to composers more or less influenced by the spectral movement. With the pupils of Kaja Saarihao progressing in their career, it is to be expected that fine interval will be more and more used.

Traditionally, a score goes fast from the written page to the orchestra. However, we can agree, in this space, that prototyping is a precious tool that is common in film music, but is also spreading in classical contemporary music. And while it seems that the film industry is a much richer one, in reality there are very few successful composers in that area, than the (much poorer, but more) in the classical contemporary arena. And philantropy and public funding are still going. It is a niche, but the niche of sound developers like VSL.

Personally, I don't see the request for modern techniques to be fading away. The quick success of a VSL competitor, deeply involved in developing sound libraries based on techniques from the most extreme contemporary composers (like Ligeti or Penderecki), should show that this heritage is mutating and impregnating more styles of music. Some years ago microtones were a keyword, after the "pop" success of Partch. Now it can come back from sophisticate "pop" composers like Greenwood. The multiphonics in VSL Clarinet 2 can become a new source of inspiration.

I remain with the hope to see scoring programs like Dorico easily interface with great libraries like VSL's in any aspect. NotePerformer did an excellent work in integrating with Dorico and other programs. In the meantime, I continue to patiently manually program my pitch bends to detune each single notes of my Clarinet 2 library…

Paolo

Posted on Wed, Jan 05 2022 02:08
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

I’m reopening this thread, because I still hope the VSL players can soon get microtones information from Dorico.

Today I was reading one of the germinal scores by Grisey — it was from 1975. Nearly fifty years ago. It is now to be considered classical music. Yet, even the most advanced computer music technologies are not able to deal with it.

Nor with the many musical cultures of the world, that use different scales, and are more and more often trying to find a space into the Occidental classical music.

Paolo

Posted on Thu, Jan 06 2022 15:34
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 589

One thing that really disappointed me on first exploring my new Dorico Pro was finding that the only intonation alternative to ET on offer is 24 EDO - one the most unmusical intonation schemas I've ever encountered. I must say, if that's the Dorico development team's idea of a useful option, it hardly bodes well for Dorico users such as your good self who wish to spread their wings intonation-wise.

Also, perhaps we both could start lobbying Steinberg/Dorico to make the pitch class of every written staff note available as some sort of straightforward MIDI code, and also to introduce the option of inserting a MIDI transformer (lifted from Cubase but with a lookup table feature adapted from Logic) that could turn this pitch class code into a Pitchbend message. (I'm grossly oversimplifying the technical necessities.) Then BINGO! At least there'd be the possibility of basic orchestral intonation directly from notes written in Dorico. Special intonation schemas would then also also be possible simply by selecting special transformer lookup tables in Dorico.

However, even if Dorico added these things, it still wouldn't help composers hear what they're playing live in their chosen intonationation schema. But at least it would be a big step in the right direction, and no doubt composers would then soon express their wish to have live playing included. Then the real challenge begins: how to tell the DAW which of the 35 staff notation pitch classes are being played live, without having to use exotic MIDI keyboards that might look something like, say, Nicola Vicentino's design, shown here:

Vicentino's special keyboard

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Thu, Jan 06 2022 16:59
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

One thing that really disappointed me on first exploring my new Dorico Pro was finding that the only intonation alternative to ET on offer is 24 EDO

Actually, with Dorico you can divide the octave for any number of equal intervals you want. 24 EDOs divides an octave by 24 quarter tones, therefore allowing for the use of quarter tone accidentals.

You could as well divide it by 36 sixths of tone, and then program the distance between the seven available degrees of the scale. Since the distance between each degree is free, you can program a scale with the desired distance of equal subdivisions (semitones, quarter tones, sixths of tone, and so on). 

Custom scales can be saved and imported, therefore making for a library of custom tonality systems.

Division lower than a semitone have up to now been transmitted as VST Expression data. With the most recent MIDI protocol update, Steinberg's ideas have been included (at least in part) in the new protocol. A receiving sound generator has to understand either VST Expression, or the new MIDI protocol.

MIDI Pitch Bend has not be used, because it doesn't allow detuning of individual notes in a chord. I would personally be more than happy of the Pitch Bend solution, since I mostly write for monophonic instruments, but that's how they went for. Maybe something will change with Dorico 4?

Keep in mind Dorico (as far as I know) will not deal with intonation, but with scales. Intonation will still be left to the sound generator. So, it will deal with the harmony system, but not with the exact tuning of the individual pitches (either recurring for all the occurrences of the same pitch class, or varying as in the piano stretch tuning).

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

However, even if Dorico added these things, it still wouldn't help composers hear what they're playing live in their chosen intonationation schema.

If I understand what you mean, Dorico can already do it when playing back a score with NotePerformer. It should be able to do it with Halion and Pianoteq. I can't, however, do it with the VSL players, as it can't with Kontakt, Sine, and the Spitfire Player.

Paolo

Posted on Thu, Jan 06 2022 17:54
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Just a little experiment, to show how Dorico + NotePerformer can deal with microtones. Some Grisey:

Grisey, Partiels (beginning)

Paolo

Posted on Thu, Jan 06 2022 18:10
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 589

Well I must examine the Dorico user manual more closely to see if I can set up cycle of 53 temperament - aka Mercator's Temperament (the mathematician, not the map-maker), the only temperament that can emulate PI while also doing a fair job of accommodating JI.

Have you actually listened to quarter, sixth and other similar idealised divisions of a tone? I've not found any that are anything more than idealistic mathematical conveniences - attractive to some music theorists but useless in actual music that people want to listen to. For example I still see amateur theorists today talking about Arabic scales using "quarter tones"; though in fact they do no such thing. It's just a regurgitation of some old, dogmatic and fallacious western music theory that didn't bother about empirical validation.

I'd urge anyone entering this field now to guard very carefully against being seduced by apparent mathematical conveniences.

And yes, Paolo, by now you should know I've long been painfully aware that all DAWs fight shy of fully bridging the great divide that still separates the electronic keyboard world from the real world of acoustic instruments as have been used in orchestras and other ensembles around the world for many centuries. All that history is not about to go away, nor be reshaped to become convenient and amenable to simplistic electronic mechanisms and trite arithmetic. That's been my position for a very long time.

[Update] I can't help but hear Grisey's work through the prism of decades of experience in my own experimental music dating back to the '70s. What I hear there is, sad to say, too unsophisticated for me to get even the least bit excited about. Sorry but that's just how it is.

And in my book, today's talk of so-called "spectralism" and "microtones" is skirting rather too close to snake oil. Alas there appears to be a marked tendency these days to try the "Elizabeth Holmes approach" to innovation - i.e. history, truth and cultural realities be damned; just get people to believe in the unicorn.

The only "microtones" I use are the Comma of Pythogoras the Comma of Didymus (aka Syntonic Comma). I've found that departure from these two leads to nonsensical Carrolian rabbit holes. I get by very well with 108 pitch classes in total (120 including ET).

On a positive note, many years ago I identified what I believe is a unique chromatic scale that includes these partials:

   15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. (the others are straight JI, if I recall right.)

The 17th and 19th partials are present in ET (where they're not exact but within 2c of the pure numbers); 17 giving the well known "Blue note" (as used so poignantly by J.S. Bach in his sublime BWV 721, and more recently in countless Blues songs), and 19 giving that exquisitely beautiful yet always somehow elusive minor third of ET.

Hope you give it a go, Paolo, I'd be interested to hear what you think.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Sat, Jan 08 2022 11:38
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

I admit I'm not particularly inclined to discussions on the value of aesthetic choices, in particular if they are already historicized. I'm much more interested in the status of the contemporary instrumentarium, that I always hope to become more and more flexible and ready for the widest use in these incredibly multifaceted times. Since we are hosts of an Austrian forum, I'll have to cite Olga Neuwirth as an example of how this complex world can become a form of art. Including – yay! – spectralism.

Contemporary composers, unless they have limited requirements consisting in some neo-schlakian well-quantized lines, are still far from having the necessary tools for their everyday job. That's still true for composers of hymns, as well as for those avant-garde composers winning all the competitions announced by the major public institutions.

The appearance of Dorico has been a true revolution. Its main architect decided to base the work of his team on the guidelines of the main editor of a major contemporary music publisher (Faber Music). It was no longer something born from the personal ideas of some informed techie or classical music lovers. It was a tool designed for the professional classical/contemporary music world.

VSL has a similar history, having been formed by classical musicians, and still based on the work of professional classical musicians. The musical competence you can hear in their demos is stunning. And it's no wonder that many of those piece leave many users 'cold', since this type of competence require an everyday attendance to this type of listening to be fully appreciated.

Their catalogue includes many supports for avant-garde composers, from the then unique inclusion of frullati in each woodwind library and harmonics and glissandos in each strings library, to the recent incursions in the most experimental field with things like FX Strings I and Black Eye.

It's therefore a shame that there is not yet a complete integration between Dorico and VSL. The tools we have are not yet complete, and we have still to patiently craft our own scalpels and ruling pens.

Paolo

Posted on Sat, Jan 08 2022 21:55
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 589

Has Dorico really introduced a paradigm shift for composers? Is it truly revolutionary? I don't believe so. Arguably it has made great strides in terms of being more convenient and flexible than the others - I like Guy Michelmore's comment that Dorico has done to Sibelius what Sibelius did to Finale, Lol.

But what about the elephant still sitting in the room? Why doesn't Dorico offer orchestral intonation? That would indeed be revolutionary. It seems to me the onus lies fairly and squarely with Dorico for getting that put in place, not with VSL.

And once Dorico has taken the real revolutionary leap and incorporated OI, then the niche interest in spectralism - ugh! - would also be catered for, being of course simply a matter of notating Syntonic comma shifts explicitly (except where a composer is intent on torturing the musicians with absurdly awkward partials, though thankfully those few sadists are unlikely ever to become popular with orchestras or conductors, Lolol.)

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Sun, Jan 09 2022 01:50
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Contemporary music is per se niche. Even pop-star contemporary composers like Einaudi or Richter don't do very well in charts dominated by slightly different kinds of music. Even the most popular contemporary composers, John Williams and Arvo Pärt, are not in the Billboard charts (Williams was, briefly, when Star Wars hit the theatres – but that was classical music meeting popular culture).

In any case, composers using microtones might be more popular with orchestras and conductors than one could expect. Bartók is still quite popular, and Ives is well respected. Ligeti and Penderecki are still two of the most beloved ones, and they are also popular thanks to some movie soundtracks. Scelsi is still transversely popular among listeners and performers. Partch and Branca have a transversal mytical status. Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis and Takemitsu have still their place in concerts. Ferneyhough is still loved and respected by notable performers.

One generation later, Saarihao and Haas are among the most revered and performed ones. Saarihao is one of the composers earning more commissions from concert and opera institutions, including the MET, Opéra Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Opéra Lyon, Lincoln Center, Spoleto. And les spectralistes are still at the center of the music activity in France, probably among the ones with more power in the music institutions.

I cited Olga Neuwirth, whose stage works have been staged at Frankfurt Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Wien Modern, Philharmonie de Paris, Opera Scotland, Young Vic London, King's Theatre Edinburgh, and so on. Niche, maybe, but a quite mainstream niche.

But there is a more recent generation making use of microtones, that is still hard to count, but any familiarity with concert programs should make easy to find. Just a quick look at programs in the main European capitals let me discover an abundance of young composers using microtones.

So, I don't know what can be considered popular in the world of contemporary music, in particular for the scope of composition tools like VSL's and Dorico's. What gravitates around the major opera theatre and concert institutions is popular enough for me, and looks like the most interesting target for the manufacturers of the necessary writing tools.

Paolo

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