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Dear Forumites

I am writing to see if anybody would be interested in entering a competition to select a piece of concert music written by one of you to be programmed by myself and mastered by Ray. 

I have at my disposal high end orchestral samples that can be used to show the winner how their score would sound in a more realistic way. The samples are not perfect nor a replacement for real players of course, but the difference between what I can offer and whatever notation software is used for rendering is very marked, so much so that when the winning composer hears his/her piece, they may well get a nice shock! The fact that Ray has kindly offered his considerable skills in mastering for whatever comes out of my studio, means that the winner will have a full quality professional recording of their piece. 

I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback. 

I was thinking of setting this up pretty much the way Gav has set up competitions in the past
( and I thank Gav for his advice in this matter) with me choosing one out of the best 3 pieces voted for by the forum members to work on.
All this would be anonymous of course, but once the winning piece was announced online, I will have detailed discussions with that composer regarding performance details and interpretation. 

RULES

The music should be a concert work of between 2- 6 minutes for small, up to large orchestra. For clarification, a full orchestra can comprise up to (but not essential!) triple wind (auxiliaries are allowed) full brass up to 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone and 1 tuba, percussion a4 if required (all mallets and non pitched perc available) 2 harps and full strings. Chamber orchestra is a paired down orchestra and personnel numbers can be left to the composer but there must be a minimum of around 20 players although if strings are used, then the composer must specify how many in each section. Please note that divisi in strings is also possible, with a limit of a3 for each section. 

No choir or avant-garde techniques should be used because they are not very convincing at present with samples. Any style/period of music is permitted and pieces will NOT be judged on this. The piece can be anything from an overture to a symphonic poem in any mood and on any subject if you need one to write with, but it must be a concert orchestral piece.

What I will be looking for whilst judging, apart from a good piece of music, is clarity of intent in the score because I will have to in effect perform it, this means as detailed a score as possible regarding articulations and dynamics. If I feel there is a problem with the scoring in terms of balance or performance on an instrument, I will gladly liaise with the composer in order to find a solution they are happy with. 

You can submit more than one work if you wish, but not with the same alias and you can submit a work previously posted on this forum. If you are interested please let me know in this thread. 
  Entrants should then submit mp3 and full score for each piece they enter and forum members will then be asked to vote for their three favourite pieces, the winner will be chosen from the top three. If the interest is there, I will sort out the next anonymous posting phase using Gavs’ advice and set-up procedures.

Deadline for entrants to register - 15th September

Deadline for entrants submission - 30th January

Here is a well known piece programmed by me in order to give you an idea of the quality of the samples I will use on the winning piece. There are 2 files, one is live, the other isn't. I didn't try too hard to create an exact replica of the live recording and it is possible to tell the difference, but they are pretty close. Also this file has no mastering applied to it, which will be done by Ray on the winning piece. Hopefully this will entice a few more entrants.

Any questions, please ask here and I shall endeavour to answer, as an added bonus, it will also bump the thread. 

Mike.

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I'm tempted to enter this with something I'm working on now. Some concerns:

I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback.I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback.

I use EastWest strings. Is this one of the pro samples that you use?

Also, I use Logic Pro for playback. Logic includes a notation function along with it's midi function. (I've heard of Sebelius and Finale, but I don't know much about how they work). So, I'm not sure what form you would want a submission to be in. An XML file, a midi file?

No choir or avant-garde techniques should be used

My ear has convinced me that the EastWest strings have already been processed with some kind of "choir" effect. It's built into the instruments they sell you.

@Art: I think by "choir" he means a choir of voices (i.e., singers), not the "choir" effect.

Well, reading through some of the posts so far in this thread I'm well and truly mystified, thinking even if I had the money to buy some expensive samples, I would still never had the time to acquire the technical knowledge of using them, but carry on, cause I find it quite educational, although it makes me feel like a know-nothing! :-)

A lot of it is concerned with workflow and arranging your space and shortcuts and so on. But if you have good libraries and good music to write with them, the fundamentals are pretty quick to pick up. It took me about a month to get the basics of how you manipulate them for realism (an ongoing process that could take up your life, but there's a minimum decent standard that's not hard to achieve at all.)

Socrates Arvanitakis said:

Well, reading through some of the posts so far in this thread I'm well and truly mystified, thinking even if I had the money to buy some expensive samples, I would still never had the time to acquire the technical knowledge of using them, but carry on, cause I find it quite educational, although it makes me feel like a know-nothing! :-)

For those who live and breath notation, a DAW is a foreign language. I've failed a few times. My daughter would say ,"Well, not with that attitude." 

Dave, don't you ever sleep?

It is annoying that it's a skillset completely different to that needed to compose the music itself. In terms of picking up the essentials, it wasn't as if I spent 20 hours a day on it for a month, but then I had a general familiarity with my DAW and midi for years before that, though I'd not used it any of the specific functionality. If you don't need it then the time is best spend on notation. Notation is a foreign language to me, so . . .

One thing I find annoying with DAW's is working with that piano roll/midi representation of music.  Most musicians/composers learn music notation when learning an instrument, not piano rolls.  I want to view my music as notation, not Midi dots or waveforms.  

The real breakthrough will be when we get a truly integrated notation based software that also provides the DAW's ability to fine tune the Midi details of the performance.  Maybe Cubase Pro and its Score editor is closest to that now.  Perhaps Dorico will get there some day. 

This whole thread/contest exists because this kind of product doesn't yet exist in the marketplace (but no doubt will eventually, along with the kind of smarts/logic that NotePerformer has of "reading ahead" to produce a a more realistic performance). 

Logic allows you to input notation and then switch instantly to the midi input window. Them's the breaks, if you want to be making really good mockups you need to learn the skillset and take the compromises necessary.

H.S.. No, I'm pretty sure Mike is referring to the "choir" plug-in effect that you can put into line with midi passages. "Choir" is a standard "FX" modulation that attempts simulate a "fatter", "richer" sound by overlaying the sample with a duplicate signal ever so slightly detuned. Most midi scholars agree that the effect, while it makes sense, has not been  very successful. In the case of the East West strings, when I hear the sample started part way in, the detuned layer is fleetingly audible. East west has done something else to blend in the effect to make the end result more palatable. At least that's my theory. I don't know what.

I may be wrong about what Mike is referring to. Mike will have to clarify that.



eboats said:

One thing I find annoying with DAW's is working with that piano roll/midi representation of music.  Most musicians/composers learn music notation when learning an instrument, not piano rolls.  I want to view my music as notation, not Midi dots or waveforms.  

The real breakthrough will be when we get a truly integrated notation based software that also provides the DAW's ability to fine tune the Midi details of the performance.  Maybe Cubase Pro and its Score editor is closest to that now.  Perhaps Dorico will get there some day. 

This whole thread/contest exists because this kind of product doesn't yet exist in the marketplace (but no doubt will eventually, along with the kind of smarts/logic that NotePerformer has of "reading ahead" to produce a a more realistic performance).

 

Eboats, trust me. Over time, the piano roll presentation becomes just as second nature as standard notation, and even more representational.

TECHNOLOGY vs REAL LIFE (A LITTLE FRUSTRATED STORY)

 

I did not start with Logic. I started with Notator, its predecessor  back in the late 80ies-early 90ies on a simple Atari ST. I was amazed with that little and many times downgraded by snob musicians machine, that by 1992 and with help by a Notator midi extension port I was able to drive 4 different external synths on 48-64 separate midi channels without any glitches. I had hooked the latest technology in synths (Rolland, Yamaha, etc) and I was very pleased with the sounds (or perhaps my "untrained" ears could not evaluate properly sampled sound), but anyhow, all that was done by an Atari which still relied on floppy disks to load its operating system, for god's sake! I think that after that technological pick things went very badly wrong with musical technology, it started getting bigger, demanding in memory, "specialized", jargon prone, very expensive, just to mention only a few things I did not like about it, cause after all I was a trained composer, and these machines were supposed to help me, not make my life difficult, or demand big amounts of time that I was more inclined to devote to composition rather than learning their protocols.

Then the Notator became Logic, Atari closed down, and Logic was bought by Apple. I was forced to follow. I got a power Mac (and a lot of other external studio equipment to enhance "Logic's capabilities", which I haven't used ever since), and I started working again mainly by using the only way I know and understand properly as a musician, i.e. musical notation. I noticed immediately that Logic on a hell of a lot more powerful Power Mac, was not as capable as my old Atari-Notator combination in driving midi channels. And the audio tracks provided were as many as my money could afford (48 potentially, but I doubt if that would ever work since it showed many problems with just 8 tracks - I spent very big amounts of money round 95-96) plus things were going wrong all the time with it, and the chap from the local music/technology shop became a frequent visitor to my studio to help me with all sorts of problems. Well, at least we became good friends in the end, which was more than a profit to me in human terms. No much improvement in the notation side of things either in Logic, compared with Notator on the Atari, just a bit better than Cubase, which I avoided all my life, because I hated Steinberg's approach and orientation from the 80ies onwards, and now I laugh at their Dorico experiment 25 years too late-they have a long way to go till they catch up with Sibelius and Avid, I believe.

 

Anyway, I carried on recording and learning everything I could about midi and digital sound (which was not a little, at least in the midi side of it) and my recordings started augmenting in number and improving in quality.

All that was more or less fine till 1998 when I had my first major crash. I don’t know what exactly went wrong, I kept most of my recordings and sequences in an external drive as suggested by the technician, and one fine day the Mac could not see anything stored in that drive. To make a long story short, the problem was never solved by any technician, with the result that I lost a hell of a lot of recording work, but what is worse, I lost a lot of actual original compositions done straight on the Mac but not printed out yet as scores. I never trusted completely Apple or Logic after that day, but I continued working with them, keeping hard copies of at least my musical sketches (I had gone back to pencil and paper again), but I started thinking of other solutions and in the end I got a standalone 16 track studio (with 256 virtual tracks) which I still got but I hardly ever used, cause in the mean time I became a travelling musician, which I still am. I got also a Yamaha QY20 small sequencer for composing on the road and I used to transfer my midi files to Logic for further work and store the compositions again on the Mac's hard drive, but I did not attempt on it any further audio recordings-travelling all over Europe did not allow time for that sort of thing. I printed out a lot of scores just to be on the safe side, but not all of them. In 2003-4 I was all over the place, with some equipment in London, some in Peloponnese or Athens, some in Crete, while I was gigging in Switzerland and Germany. When I returned to Athens where the Mac was, in a few days I had another major (really major) crash and I lost it all. The Mac screen packed it up, it wouldn't turn on and there were 100s of unprinted yet scores in there. Of course there were solutions, buying new screens, going to specialists, and a hell of a lot of  other painful experiences to be envisaged, but… Big But…  "there's more to life than this", I thought. There is certainly more to life than composing music with Logic on a power Mac. I found a job in a music school first in Athens, then in Crete, I grabbed my guitar and my bouzouki and I went to live there permanently, carrying on with the pencil-paper approach to composition. Well, those were some of the best years of my life down there.

I hated all technology, but especially Apple and Logic. In the end and mainly because I'm a practical man, I had to come back to it, if for nothing else, just for storage purposes (cause I had written about 30000 pages of lyrics meanwhile that had to be scanned and stored, plus the hand written music. But this time I did it with Sibelius and Windows. I hated Microsoft from the early days of computing because of its very aggressive and corporate philosophy, but now I think is on a par with Apple and windows are much steadier and far more rich in terms of available applications. So, I suppose I am again ok with my Sibelius + Note Performer and my windows. I just hate technology, I don’t want to spend another moment of my life learning its ins and outs, it is not for me but for the specialist and I'm never going to be a specialist at it, cause I was trained to be a musician, not a technician. I just have some thousands of scanned manuscripts of poetry and music, which I am trying to digitise, and also I have become neurotic about computer crashes, so I'm keeping a lot of copies on external drives and memory sticks to the extent that I never know what is where and what I have done to it, or to which particular copy of it and on which drive, or when was the latest time I looked into a piece, be it poem, song, guitar prelude, or orchestral overture.

I suppose (I hope) technology helps me still doing all that, and in my mind I have a suspicion that there is nothing that a DAW can do which my AKAI 16 track recorder cannot, only the bleeding thing is in Athens and I'm in London, planning not for Athens but for Crete yet again, cause I have started thinking anew:

There's more to life than all this shit…

Isn't there?

:-)

hi Art,

Your case has made me think long and hard about whether or not your working method fits the criteria of this competition.

The fact that we only have 3 entrants so far makes me wonder if the rules should be relaxed a little to cater for cases like yours. Let me mull this over and talk to Ray and see if we can come up with a way forward that'll be acceptable especially to our 3 entrants.

BTW, HS is right about the choir. A choir effect is alien to the idea of a mock-up intending to be close to reality.

All that is needed to enter is a recording of your piece from your software as usual and a score.


Art Lowell said:

I'm tempted to enter this with something I'm working on now. Some concerns:

I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback.I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback.

I use EastWest strings. Is this one of the pro samples that you use?

Also, I use Logic Pro for playback. Logic includes a notation function along with it's midi function. (I've heard of Sebelius and Finale, but I don't know much about how they work). So, I'm not sure what form you would want a submission to be in. An XML file, a midi file?

No choir or avant-garde techniques should be used

My ear has convinced me that the EastWest strings have already been processed with some kind of "choir" effect. It's built into the instruments they sell you.

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