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"A Peek into a Boson" for Orchestra - my first "serious" music of scale for a decade - expert input?

Hi, friends. I just finished this last weekend, putting probably around 60 hours into it for about 9 days, really struggling to produce anything the first couple of days, and almost abandoning it several times. Now I'm pretty happy with it, though I know there's plenty of room to do better next time. I'd be so appreciative if some of you would be kind enough to tell me what could have been better, especially concerning the structuring of the composition, the substance or lack, if it's not novel enough or too this or that, etc. Or just whatever you want to throw out there is welcome.

So here's the audio + score in HD video: 

https://youtu.be/9zRUS5mzQrY

I can go into some of the structure and theory behind it if you want, but I figured first I'd let the music speak for itself.

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Sure, good idea. I'm using GPO4, which is pretty lousy by today's standards I hear, and for DAW I'm using the latest version of Reaper. I mostly relied on GPO's carefully-tuned positioning and balance of instruments, and then applied some basic compression to keep the whole audio track from being to quiet, but without sacrificing dynamic range. I started by exporting my Sibelius 6 score to MIDI and importing that into Reaper, then tweaked the playback nuances of the parts, at least where there were obvious problems, and where things bothered me musically. So I had my 30 or so MIDI tracks routed into 3 or 4 GPO VSTi instances, which then go straight to the master track where the compressor sits.


Ingo Lee said:

Hey Joel, yes audio libraries and midi are tough, but I'm sure you have the ability to do whatever you want with them if you are willing to make the effort.  I'm currently trying to get better with that stuff so I'm probably not going to have much to offer but others here will I'm sure. Why don't you detail your current setup and what direction you'd like to go, maybe someone will have some suggestions?
 
Joel Becker said:

Oh man, I wish I could make the MIDI recording sound way better. Either I don't have the patience or the ear for it...or the sample library. Right now I'm hoping one of a couple live performance possibilities will come through, however slight the chances may be; but if it is performed live then I won't have to worry about making a better MIDI recording :)  

But if there are some simple things I could do next time in the MIDI recording that would represent the music better, I certainly want to do that. I could talk to my bro who is a recording engineer, but he's no less busy than I. Maybe at some point I'll be inspired to get educated on better sample library utilization and mixing.

Wesley Lawrence Curry II said:

Hi Joel.

The fun melody and chord arrangements are fine.

But the SOUND....thats another matter.

You should consider "lightening" or making quieter some of the instruments to give it an orchestral sound.  Everything sounds Flat in you face with the mix.

Lighter glockenspiels....absolutely lighter horns.

Arrange the instruments in your DAW the same way they sit in an orchestra.  The Trumpets and French and Trombones are set BACk in the orchestra for a reason.....they are VERY LOUD instruments ....even when playing pianissimo.

And the GLOCKS....certainly a perfect accent to the orchestral palette....too should be quiter..to give it that TINGLE they are best at producing.

Your music is FUN,,and pretty good....your mixing is lacking a sound you could really use to impress somebody with especially in a work that is so well written.

All the best,

Wesley

I must first say I'm happy to be on the same forum as composers of such professionalism as this shows.

It was interesting to get a view of some of your theoretical thought processes in one of the posts above. I hope I will be able to understand the details of your thinking there, at some time in the future.

I'm unsure if I can contribute with something that will benefit you in this comment. Below are my thoughts simply from my uneducated listening.  I'm sure you understand that what I say should be taken with a grain of salt.

The piece tells a nice coherent story to my ears. There are definitely significant melodical elements -- I think I can hum the main theme after listening, and its reappearance about 3 minutes from the end was very effective. My favourite part were the large static chords somewhere in the middle.

There is some "wild west" feeling here and there, to my humble ears, which of course, in one way, is very appropriate since this is about exploring a frontier. But if you ever do another version, I guess it depends on whether you want to go towards the "serious" side or towards easier listening / film music, whether to accentuate this feeling or not (however it may be produced musicotechnologically).

The last measure with its repeated notes feels a bit cliché (says I, who just have posted a work that is completely cliché), and one would like something more climaxy ("climactic"? is that a word?) or surprising.

Is the title an afterthought or a fundamental basis for the work? To me, the title is exactly the kind of title one would expect from a modern composer, but why not do something a little bit more unexpected?

I'm not happy with my midi recordings yet and I haven't posted anything lately but I'll give you my suggestions FWIW.

I use Reaper and the East West sound library. Reaper is good at a good price ($60). East West is worth considering primarily because they offer a $30/mo. subscription plan which you can turn off when you are not using it. Considering the price of good audio libraries that's a bargain and EW is maybe not the latest and greatest but they do have some good sounds and the library is huge for that price.

So I score in Sibelius and export midi files to Reaper. Sib encodes the dynamic markings from score as velocity levels, not volume, and EW's plugin player lets the instruments respond naturally to acoustic volume increase which is important of course. I also program keyswitches into the Reaper midi tracks which the EW patches respond to, and the EW player has some ADSR controls as well.

I try and have as many EW player plugs as possible all on separate tracks. I don't usually pan because EW samples have some natural ambience that varies with the sections in an orchestral layout. But I do add EQ and a separate EW reverb plug either on each track or on the master 2 bus. I also automate track volume levels and anything else I need to independently of the midi controllers. Compression is optional..

That setup gives me a lot of control over many variables and I'm getting better results as time goes on. Hope that helps some.

Thank you, Lars. 

Yes I can see how the ending might come across as cliche; it might be better with more surprise. Seems like endings have the most potential to put a smile on the listener's face, because of all the different, surprising ways you can conclude all of the previous material.

The title itself was an afterthought. Albeit the love for science and deep pondering, and some abstract meanings, were there all along. I've questioned the title, wondering whether it's good or if it might be somewhat juvenile in its concreteness. Part of the decision was to give the non-musician audience a concrete way to connect with the music.


Lars Johan Martin Nilsson said:

I must first say I'm happy to be on the same forum as composers of such professionalism as this shows.

It was interesting to get a view of some of your theoretical thought processes in one of the posts above. I hope I will be able to understand the details of your thinking there, at some time in the future.

I'm unsure if I can contribute with something that will benefit you in this comment. Below are my thoughts simply from my uneducated listening.  I'm sure you understand that what I say should be taken with a grain of salt.

The piece tells a nice coherent story to my ears. There are definitely significant melodical elements -- I think I can hum the main theme after listening, and its reappearance about 3 minutes from the end was very effective. My favourite part were the large static chords somewhere in the middle.

There is some "wild west" feeling here and there, to my humble ears, which of course, in one way, is very appropriate since this is about exploring a frontier. But if you ever do another version, I guess it depends on whether you want to go towards the "serious" side or towards easier listening / film music, whether to accentuate this feeling or not (however it may be produced musicotechnologically).

The last measure with its repeated notes feels a bit cliché (says I, who just have posted a work that is completely cliché), and one would like something more climaxy ("climactic"? is that a word?) or surprising.

Is the title an afterthought or a fundamental basis for the work? To me, the title is exactly the kind of title one would expect from a modern composer, but why not do something a little bit more unexpected?

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