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Are we "performers?"
Last post Sat, May 12 2018 by jsg, 64 replies.
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Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 16:14
by Acclarion
Joined on Sat, Aug 15 2015, Canada, Eh!, Posts 364

Hi all,

I've been thinking about the question, "are we as composers/sample users also performers?"  This was born out of a couple of things:  first, everytime I go to register a new piece with my PRO, I'm forced to list the instrumentation of the work and then the performer(s).  It always feels weird listing "Vienna Symphonic Library" or "David Carovillano" as the performer, even though I often play parts in, rather than simply edit midi data.  Second, also tying in to this was an article I read that tried to argue that percussionists are not musicians but rather technicians, because many aspects of musicianship are not required to "bang on a drum in time" (as a distilation of the main argument).

This had me thinking that when we create our performances using samples, are we essentially acting as technicians and not performers?  Here are my arguments for and against the thought of also being a performer in addition to the composer:

We're performers because: 

-we interpret our music and carefully consider many/all of the same things a live performer would (articulation choices, dynamics, phrasing, tempo, etc.)

-we may phsyically be able to play parts in due to advanced keyboard skills

We're not performers because:

-even if we play parts in, we're almost always going to edit data after, and a performer would have no such benefit in a live performance situation

-much of performance training/skill is the ability to not only perform the material, but to do so under the stress of live performance with an audience, and further, to connect with the audience in ways that go beyond the simple mechanics of playing notes

As a further aside, one might also suggest that to the outside world, if you were to present a mockup of your music and the audience loved it, they would more likely credit the "computer" for the performance, more than your skills in realizing the work through samples...I hear almost daily from people outside our realm, when they hear a piece of mine, "wow, computers are really close to making humans obsolete!"  They never consider the skill/learning process/time that goes in to making a mockup.  

So, while this is really not the most pressing issue, I'm curious as to how others view the work they do.  When you use samples are you simply a technician adjusting cc curves, tweaking knobs, etc. or are you also the performer of your own work?

Dave

 

-

www.dearvillainmusic.com - music for live performance by David Carovillano

www.acclarion.ca - concert accordion & clarinet duo
Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 17:02
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5113

Who said that about percussionists?  That makes me mad because it is utter stupidity - a percussionist has to know how to play all the instruments, and is a drummer as well. I would like the fool who said that to go up against a great jazz drummer, a master of timpani,  of the vibes, etc. etc.  I just recently heard an incredibly difficult piece for timpani and orchestra.     

But on the question in general I have had actual problems with "performer" listings.  There is some confusion with performing rights organizations, companies like CD Baby, etc.

Artistically I feel one is mainly a composer/arranger when using samples, though there is a lot of performance skill involved obviously.  Just listen to a masterful use of samples by Guy Bacos or Christian Kardeis and the difference between that and ordinary MIDI is immense.  So it is a special niche of performance as well as composition.

Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 17:13
by Fabio Biolcati
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2013, Milano — Italy, Posts 131

We live in times dominated by "performers": no more people sculpting or painting, just "performing". And what about "installers"? Why to exclude ourselves from such a league? After all, we spend so much time installing sounds on our machines!

Seriously, I agree with you Dave on the pros and cons of seeing us as performers. Maybe more from the conductor's point of view of the business, "teaching" musicians how to deal a part, crafting the overall sound to express the feeling the right way — at least the way we hear it in our head.

Interesting topic.

PS About percussionists, as William's post was published while I was writing mine: many years ago I attended Philippe Herrewege conducting one of his ensembles were a timpanist has my attention all the concert long for her touchful mastery.

Fabio Biolcati
SE1 Bundle, SE2&3 Strings; Notion5; Tannoy Reveal 501a
Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 17:43
by Jos Wylin
Joined on Mon, Dec 03 2012, Flanders, Belgium, Posts 547

Actually, we all know the answer from what we're doing.

But first I want to come back on a quote from yesterday. A lot of forum members regularly post their own version of existing (classical) works. I guess (and I count myself in) they are mostly doing so to gather more skills in using the rich VSL libraries. It goes without saying that this takes a long and intensive learning process. It's a lot easier to start with good existing music. Then one doens't have to bother about structure, harmony, progressions, rhythmic patterns... It's already there and it is excellent as it is. The only matter remaining is the performance (interpretation and execution, after the meticulous search for the most apt articulations). Of course the ultimate goal of our labour (and that is what it it is) consists of creating our own compositions and consequently perform them as a kind of replacement/alternative for the barely existing possibility of a live performance.

To the point now. My answer is simple: we are composers, musicians, creating in any manner new our traditional work and want it desperately played for an audience. Music is communication and communication needs at least an ear to listen to it. Comments afterwards are welcome, but not necessary. That's why we chose the difficult alternative of virtual music. (I hate the senseless word 'mockup' in this context. There's no mockery involved here.) Therefore we necessarily have to be technicians imposing ourselves to deal with knobs, sliders, CCs, key switches, etc. Sculpting sounds/instruments is not a composer's business, but do we have another choice? We can sit back with our paper versions until a fairy comes down and takes us to the musical heaven were every note will be performed brilliantly. Alas, that can be centuries beyond our graves, or...never.

On the other hand, let's be extremely happy that we live in such wonderful times where all this is possible. I can still see myself writing hundreds of hanwritten scores and multiplying them to be performed with my chamber orchestra, until... until the first computer entered the house. The notation program MusicPrinter Plus did the job and played back everything notated. Wasn't that wonderful? And things went fast. Some 20 years later, we have a more then decent philharmonic orchestra at our fingertips.

Are we performers? Some are, some aren't, depending on the point of view. Is a performer someone playing in all the notes (in a concert-like way)? Or is he the patient manual enterer of a note-by-note score? One is a lot faster than the other, but the final result can be the same after hours/days of tweaking. Is the computer the performer (with VSL and other libraries)? Definitely not. A machine doesn't perform, it simply acts as a transmitter of human creativity which will always come first. Can a computer compose? Maybe, if composing limits itself to recreating technical rules and conventions (harmonic structures, strict musical phrases, guitar chords, pitch bound accompaniments...) neatly entered again... by humans in programs.

So I think we're some kind of octopusses with a certain skill at each arm and we try to leave one arm free to conduct our work. At least in our heads.

Jos

http://www.joswyl.be
compositions and sampling exercises
Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 17:47
by Guy Bacos
Joined on Sun, Jan 16 2005, Quebec, Canada, Posts 1969

I would make a distiction between performing and interpretation. What we do is interpretation, and I would disagree about crediting the computer, people know that a computer doesn't have feelings, so the moment your interpretation has expression and touches you, it is because of your personal interpretation. With my experience dealing with professional musicians, the praise went to the programmer while being impressed with the technology involved. So I wouldn't over estimate the function of the machine here. 

Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 19:22
by MMKA
Joined on Tue, May 22 2012, Posts 253

I was formulating my thoughts about the subject. In the meantime Guy gave his answer about perfomance and interpretation, and that simple answer cleared the things up as for me. So I deleted most I had written.

Concerning the person that said, that a percussionist is not a musician,... when I had to worry about all things that people say, I had no life, so... but he doesn't know what he is talking about...

I compare working with samples and "interprete" the music often with "painting" a  reality. The samples and all the other tools are the paint, and I use them to make a painting of a performance of a piece of music.
I explain to people often, when I’m talking about this in a conversation, that when you have for example blue and green paint, you can make a picture, but for making a real sky and a real meadow you need to do more than just put that paint on the canvas. (But it is just "a" comparison).

Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 20:34
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5113

I like that analogy about painting and in fact said something similar somewhere, how the samples are almost like colors on a pallette of the "painter" composer.  

Both digital video allowing high quality cinema images created by one person instead of a whole studio, and sampled orchestra performance created by one person are incredibly powerful developments in artistic history.  The process of getting live performances is almost more schmoozing than music, just like getting a Hollywood (or other) studio to do one's own film ideas is almost ALL schmoozing.  But with the tools that now exist a person can work on symphonic music or cinema in the same way a solo painter or novelist creates his own work. 

Jos you had Music Printer Plus?  So did I - I still love that program.  In fact I was trying to get it to work recently but couldn't.  It produces notation a lot like typeset music in old books.  Especially those horizontal slurs.  I guess it is nostalgia that makes me fond of it. 

Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 21:07
by Acclarion
Joined on Sat, Aug 15 2015, Canada, Eh!, Posts 364

All interesting and valid perspectives.

On a very small side note, because I fear I may have misquoted, the article in question was read several years ago and I tried to find the magazine but couldn't.  Anyway, I do believe the article specifically referred to "drummers" and not "percussionists."  Just to clarify because I believe within the article I recall the author specifically excluding those trained and performing the variety of orchestral percussion instruments.  Again, it was a long time ago, but when thinking of the question today, that article flashed back in my memory.

www.dearvillainmusic.com - music for live performance by David Carovillano

www.acclarion.ca - concert accordion & clarinet duo
Posted on Wed, Apr 04 2018 22:06
by Paul McGraw
Joined on Mon, Feb 29 2016, Georgia, USA, Posts 335

Wonderful discussion topic, and everyone has added something meaningful to think about. This is a truly remarkable community of musicians/composers/arrangers/conductors/performers/interpreters!

I think a new vocabulary is called for to describe making music with samples. For the end product I like the term midi-performance instead of mock-up. Perhaps we could call ourselves midi-artists which would encompas all of the various things we do to bring our creations to life.

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 08:52
by Jos Wylin
Joined on Mon, Dec 03 2012, Flanders, Belgium, Posts 547

Originally Posted by: Paul McGraw Go to Quoted Post

Wonderful discussion topic, and everyone has added something meaningful to think about. This is a truly remarkable community of musicians/composers/arrangers/conductors/performers/interpreters!

I think a new vocabulary is called for to describe making music with samples. For the end product I like the term midi-performance instead of mock-up. Perhaps we could call ourselves midi-artists which would encompas all of the various things we do to bring our creations to life.

I think you're right about the vocabulary. As I mentioned above, mock-up has too many connotations of something being made rediculous, falsification, without any value, phoney, fake... Since I'm not a native English speaker, some sensitiviness of the correct word might escape in my phrasings, but mock-up seems a bad choice of expression for what we're doing. As to midi-performance, this would be a far better term, but not fully covering the content and nature of creating a virtual instrument performance in a complete virtual environment. Midi is already a bit outdated and there's a lot more than only the fidling with CCs and switches, enveloppes. Midi doesn't say anything about interpretation, emotion, musical feel, phrasing, building-up and tension...
So let's create another topic as some sort of competition to find the most fitting expression for what we ('re trying to) do here. 

Jos

http://www.joswyl.be
compositions and sampling exercises
Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 12:21
by Paul McGraw
Joined on Mon, Feb 29 2016, Georgia, USA, Posts 335

As a native English speaker, I agree with everything you said about the term "mock-up" and the conotations associated with the term. So let's get rid of that term.

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 13:13
by Acclarion
Joined on Sat, Aug 15 2015, Canada, Eh!, Posts 364

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

Both digital video allowing high quality cinema images created by one person instead of a whole studio, and sampled orchestra performance created by one person are incredibly powerful developments in artistic history.  The process of getting live performances is almost more schmoozing than music, just like getting a Hollywood (or other) studio to do one's own film ideas is almost ALL schmoozing.  But with the tools that now exist a person can work on symphonic music or cinema in the same way a solo painter or novelist creates his own work. 

It is true that these technological advances have given us the chance to express our musical thoughts convincingly and to essentially create defacto performances of our music without reliance on others.  But at the same time, this presents a new set of problems.  First, we may respond to the challenges of getting live performances and the politics that often surrounds the ability to break through and get the orchestras and chamber ensembles to recognize us and our work and be willing to program it, by essentially tuning them out and relying only on ourselves to create and publish our works.  But then what?  Where is the audience to listen and appreciate that work?  In theory, it is the billions of connected individuals online.  But reality has shown that it is almost impossible to get works heard and far less possible to develop a following online.  Even on these forums, much of the music gets heard 100-200 times with zero or very few comments (usually from the same small handful of fellow composers).

For me, why I am still pursuing live performances, comes back to the fact that there is joy in sharing a communal experience. Composer interacting with live musicians as they work to bring the vision of the piece to life.  Then, the opportunity to enjoy the performance with an audience and seeing their reactions is really a whole other level of reward than simply posting the work online and either getting little/no feedback.  

At the end of the day, many composers by their very nature are introverts that enjoy working in isolation.  And to that end, the tools we have today have enabled self reliance...but once the work is done, we still have to find an audience for it...which means schmoozing, working connections, building relationships...SIGH!

Dave

www.dearvillainmusic.com - music for live performance by David Carovillano

www.acclarion.ca - concert accordion & clarinet duo
Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 15:34
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5113

Yes that is absolutely true, I really just mean the ability to create something in these forms.  But finding the audience and getting things noticed is as you note more of a problem with all the vast quantity of stuff that already exists and live performance is still the best way.  Which is actually comforting in a way. 

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 17:31
by fahl5
Joined on Fri, Feb 04 2005, Hall One, Posts 869

Sorry imho the "performance" of music is one of the more important problems of music in history: the necessity to realise so much decisions nearly in the same time the result was heard.

It is a problem, because it reduces in many aspects the precision and possible reflection that might improve those musical decisions "made in a hurry" in a live-performance. What since more than 100 years made it so attractiv to develop so much technics to record and reproduce music always in order to improve those musical decisions.

And yes as far as we use sample libraries we have "solved" that "problem" in the currently presumably most detailed possible way. and to be honest that makes me look with more and more commiseration for those who nowaday still try to realise music with their chunky 10 fingers and any kind of more or less resonating wooden instrument . (at least as far as we have good or even better and better samplelibraries available)

So I would not expect to be called a "performer" much more than an modern industrial farmer would call himself still a "cowboy" while nearly all of his procedures are since many years digitally automated.But of course as this guy is still or even more a good and often very intelligent "Farrmer" I do think likewise that we are musicians and of course a apretty interesting and potential kind of musicians.

Because we also know that higher technical potential does not mean at all, that neither the modern (non Cowboy-)Farmer nor the digital muscian has less or even anything more at all to do.

I personally do have the impression that with the possibilities which opens with using highend Samplelibraries the challenges to explore the musically reasonable become ore and more ambitious and the work to spend to achieve what is reasonable possible even became still more and more time consuming.

And the audience ?

- If you are lucky you dont have to care at all what any audiance think about what you want to do.

- if you depend on someone who pay for, Ok, than he is your audience.

However 'I do have some doubts that we are pretty close to become very popular in larger parts of the society with programming music since there seem to be so little reason to be interested in any more ambitious kind of music. Those who are interested will either find what they are looking for ... online

or just realise their ideas for themself with VSL  however they might think about the term "performer"  . 

Good Samplelibraries deserve to be used for more than just "Demos",
http://klassik-resampled.de ...more than 3400 mp3 with sample based interpretations of complete Scores from 7 Centuries

You realy want to know how Synchron Strings could sound in real music?
http://resampled.de/synchron
...33 mp3 with more than three hours of complete and ambitious scores from 19th and 20th century produced with Synchron Strings.
Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 17:59
by Guy Bacos
Joined on Sun, Jan 16 2005, Quebec, Canada, Posts 1969

Originally Posted by: fahl5 Go to Quoted Post

Sorry imho the "performance" of music is one of the more important problems of music in history: the necessity to realise so much decisions nearly in the same time the result was heard.

It is a problem, because it reduces in many aspects the precision and possible reflection that might improve those musical decisions "made in a hurry" in a live-performance. What since more than 100 years made it so attractiv to develop so much technics to record and reproduce music always in order to improve those musical decisions.

And yes as far as we use sample libraries we have "solved" that "problem" in the currently presumably most detailed possible way. and to be honest that makes me look with more and more commiseration for those who nowaday still try to realise music with their chunky 10 fingers and any kind of more or less resonating wooden instrument . (at least as far as we have good or even better and better samplelibraries available)

So I would not expect to be called a "performer" much more than an modern industrial farmer would call himself still a "cowboy" while nearly all of his procedures are since many years digitally automated.But of course as this guy is still or even more a good and often very intelligent "Farrmer" I do think likewise that we are musicians and of course a apretty interesting and potential kind of musicians.

Because we also know that higher technical potential does not mean at all, that neither the modern (non Cowboy-)Farmer nor the digital muscian has less or even anything more at all to do.

I personally do have the impression that with the possibilities which opens with using highend Samplelibraries the challenges to explore the musically reasonable become ore and more ambitious and the work to spend to achieve what is reasonable possible even became still more and more time consuming.

And the audience ?

- If you are lucky you dont have to care at all what any audiance think about what you want to do.

- if you depend on someone who pay for, Ok, than he is your audience.

However 'I do have some doubts that we are pretty close to become very popular in larger parts of the society with programming music since there seem to be so little reason to be interested in any more ambitious kind of music. Those who are interested will either find what they are looking for ... online

or just realise their ideas for themself with VSL  however they might think about the term "performer"  . 

As usual fahl5 you are mixing apple with oranges. The question here was, are we performers? Nothing to do with the quality of a live performance vs a thought out recording. Performing is a totaly seperate art and a very important tradition in which the artist has that direct communication with the public, even though the performance might not always be best interpretation, and rarely a concert musician will chose a live performance for a CD. But 2 different things and equally imporant. We are not robots, we need this human interaction as well in music.

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 18:16
by fahl5
Joined on Fri, Feb 04 2005, Hall One, Posts 869

Originally Posted by: Guy Bacos Go to Quoted Post

As usual fahl5 you are mixing apple with oranges. The question here was, are we performers? Nothing to do with the quality of performance vs a thought out recording. Performing is a seperate art, which is also very important, but rarely a concert musician will chose a live performance for a CD. 

Already your beginning with "As usual" does not sound like a very subject based answer on a conrete post for a concrete thread. It is a pitty. Please.do not waste our time with such general attitudes.

If the thread asks "Are we "performers" than the question is, how this term relates to what we are doing with samplelibraries If you are seriously interested to discuss that question substancially, I am sure you will better understand my contribution to that discussion.

Good Samplelibraries deserve to be used for more than just "Demos",
http://klassik-resampled.de ...more than 3400 mp3 with sample based interpretations of complete Scores from 7 Centuries

You realy want to know how Synchron Strings could sound in real music?
http://resampled.de/synchron
...33 mp3 with more than three hours of complete and ambitious scores from 19th and 20th century produced with Synchron Strings.
Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 18:49
by mh-7635
Joined on Wed, Aug 04 2004, Posts 177

I think fahl has a point about micro-management of a (midi) performance and all attendant advantages such as appropriate reflection on interpretation and so on, but for me he is mistaken in feeling sorry for players being involved in performance. Samples for me are only a mock-up (sorry gents) because they are well, samples, of real instruments. The infusion of feeling from musicians will only enhance your composition and may even bring out more latent expression. There is also a restriction creatively at present with samples that hinder more advanced instrumental techniques and scoring, thus limiting creativity for those of us who can't or may never get a live performance.

As a result, I find it hard to take samples seriously as a means of expression in their own right (although I acknowledge that in the right hands, they can be expressive and realistic - I find no irony here) - to me they are a tool that provides a aural calling card, even if that card is never picked up, listened to and the number rang.

Are we performers? I suppose we are, but as fahl intimated, the job description is new and more complicated, but at heart still the same. At the very least, we interpret our work and render it to a kind of idealised but (at present imo) rather sterile performance. They do however provide us with a recording and in this day and age, with so much music, that is probably the most important criteria to keep a work viable.

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 19:41
by Guy Bacos
Joined on Sun, Jan 16 2005, Quebec, Canada, Posts 1969

One thing we have to be very careful is not to generalize anything.

There are outstanding live performances as well as bad ones, there are great recordings as well as horrible ones, there are terrific performers and orchestras as well as mediocre ones, there are truly great mock ups as well as ones that suck, in some cases, there are live performances that have been magical and that was also because of the interaction with the public, in other cases, it's the thought out process, detailed research and all you want, to get the most of a work in a recording. Sometimes the latter one can be detrimental because it lacked spontaneity, too inteluctual, even the great Pollini in his older Chopin's recording are played too straight, lack of freedom, too much thinking, and he'll be the first to admit to this. The point is, no matter what tool, technique, resource etc you are using, whether it's live, recordings or computers, it comes down to the craftmanship, the expression and what you have to say. 

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 19:50
by Paul McGraw
Joined on Mon, Feb 29 2016, Georgia, USA, Posts 335

And each of us will respond emotionally to different stimuli. For example, I prefer a more subtle amount of expression (variation in dynamics and timing) within a phrase. I personally am easily destracted with more extravagant expression. On the other hand, a friend of mine is always telling me I need to add more expression into my midi-performances. He finds my expression too lifeless. 

These types of differences are common. One person loves the intellectual nature of Bach, another likes the grand gestures of Wagner. And on it goes.

So I do not believe that we can determine "are we performers" based on any particular characteristic of the music itself. But performance is certainly one of the many elements that goes into what we do. But we are more than that, much more.

Posted on Thu, Apr 05 2018 20:00
by Guy Bacos
Joined on Sun, Jan 16 2005, Quebec, Canada, Posts 1969

Originally Posted by: Paul McGraw Go to Quoted Post

And each of us will respond emotionally to different stimuli. For example, I prefer a more subtle amount of expression (variation in dynamics and timing) within a phrase. I personally am easily destracted with more extravagant expression. On the other hand, a friend of mine is always telling me I need to add more expression into my midi-performances. He finds my expression too lifeless. 

These types of differences are common. One person loves the intellectual nature of Bach, another likes the grand gestures of Wagner. And on it goes.

So I do not believe that we can determine "are we performers" based on any particular characteristic of the music itself. But performance is certainly one of the many elements that goes into what we do. But we are more than that, much more.

 

Yes, those are good points. We are all different, we all have different personalities, qualities and sensitivity, and this is what makes us humans and not machines. I'll add to that, the beauty of interpretations is that not 2 performances will sound alike nor should they, they should reflect your personality as well as respect the authors inttentions. Both can be managed in a balanced way. If we were to all study exactly the exact intetention of the composer and all play it the same way, music would be boring. In fact, some of the greatest performers have played passages contrary to the composer's intention, and I'm fine with that, as long as it's tastefuly done and within reason. 

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