Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Dear Forumites,

Ray and myself regret to inform you that this competition is as it says in the header, cancelled.

We still think it was a worthy adventure because the winner could well have benefitted from this, but lack of interest has dictated otherwise.

Our thanks go to HS and Socrates for their willing participation and to all who supported the idea in this and other threads.

I'd like to add a special thanks and show of gratitude to Ray for agreeing to be a part of this.


Time to get back to what now seems like the breezy job of composing.

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. 


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. 


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No big deal, Mike. as we discussed elsewhere, I'm likely to finish this in a month or so. I'm not likely to want to wait until the contest closes to get it posted at Soundcloud. since I am a DAW composer, I have already heard a rendition what my music sounds like. Hearing it rendered it with different artificial instrument samples and  with other enhancements, would add little to my experience.

The loss  of  your music was a tragic event, one that I recently averted. I'm sorry for your loss.

Socrates Arvanitakis said:



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?


Very true Bob!

Me too, now I come to think of it I don’t see that bill around anymore and it was there two days ago. :-)

I mean, I have forgotten (well I suppose I was a little tipsy at the time) complete notebooks in telephone boxes once or twice (just for looking for friends' numbers amongst my verses), which I very much regretted later, but at least I had only myself to blame for such incidents. Now I know that I have collected about 200 verse notebooks in a giant leather bag and I've put it in the loft, but most of that stuff is scanned and I have it on my laptop also, and in my bookcase I keep all my music notebooks, old print outs,  scrap papers, taverna serviettes etc, with all my music scribblings, all in black folders and labelled, so unless the house goes on fire I hope I will not lose them. But still I know that I have a lot of songs on some Atari unlabelled floppies cause 25 years ago I was working a lot setting different poets to music. I did not transfer all that stuff on the Mac, but I cannot retrieve them, cause the Atari does not work anymore, its floppy drive packed it up and I cannot turn it on. I don’t think that there are technicians still who can fix it or replacement drives on the market. Do they exist in the states still those machines?

Understood Art.

Mind you, you would be very surprised at how your music would sound if done professionally, which is the point of this competition. The realism that is possible goes a lot further than what you are using....Keep watching this thread.

Art Lowell said:

No big deal, Mike. as we discussed elsewhere, I'm likely to finish this in a month or so. I'm not likely to want to wait until the contest closes to get it posted at Soundcloud. since I am a DAW composer, I have already heard a rendition what my music sounds like. Hearing it rendered it with different artificial instrument samples and  with other enhancements, would add little to my experience.

I can offer this: My laptop is the last model made with a mechanical hard drive. it had been devloping a lot of glitches. I figured that the drive was coming to the end of its life and if it failed, I would lose everything. So I had the drive replaced with a solid state drive. Suddenly, everything happened with lightning speed, and the glitches went away. The best part was that the entire content of my drive was offloaded to an external drive in the process, which I kept as a part of the deal. So, now I have a 2tB external drive to which I can back up my entire drive often. I'm not likely to forget where that drive is. 

Something you can consider. It Wasn't super expensive - around $400.

Thanks Bob and Art for your suggestions. I'll follow that path Bob, it’s worth exploring, cause I wouldn't mind at all having my Atari ok again and re-run Notator with those old synths back in Athens!

But while we are at it I wanted to ask you something else if you happen to know. I got back then a very expensive guitar synth Rolland G 50 I think it was and I got a special pick up for it splited into 6 smaller pickups, one for each string. I attached the pick up to a Fender strat and I was driving it with it, but any steel string guitar would do, cause I have used it with an acoustic also for finger picking. Now, the unit is ok and plays fine, but the  pickup  or its cable which was multi pin are off. I have looked the modern guitar synths by Rolland, but I don’t see the pick up for that old unit available anymore…

It was very versatile with marvellous playing effects and still has fantastic sounds. I would love to use it again live for gigging!

Ok Ray, I don’t know about the Cassio, but the Roland was very good also and with all sorts of bells and whistles, it still is to me if I could use it live again, but that GK-2 6 way pickup is discontinued from what I see and I cannot find a solution.

Now as for the irrelevant content of these discussions, that's how any thread can go, but still my attention and expectetion is on the main subject of the thread which is the rendering of a composition more realistically.

Mind you, If I could operate my guitar synth by playing it as a guitar again, at least some of my strings, plucked and bowed (and some WW like flute, sax and clarinet) would have a hell of a lot more human feeling about them than any sample can give, I believe. What says you?

(Sorry, I meant any numerical midi manipulation of any sample as opposed to recording my own guitar playing on that sample-plus it would take only a few minutes to record all the generated midi data required as opposed to hours of programming blindly.)

Not at all you mean? What do you say, is it the same to just simply play a guitar bend the way you want or you feel it should be and to pragramme by mouse all pitch bend messages required?

Or do a continous glissando on the guitar and copy-paste on a violin sample?

I find that by playing the thing i was having much more realism, and in a minimal amount of time.

On topic -  Mike, you've made a generous offer here and I hope you will be able to continue with this, it will be useful information for all of us.

Off topic - Anyone interested in midi guitar should check out this company:

For $100, or free trial, this plug in will convert audio to midi; either playing live or using a previously recorded audio track. (No special pickup necessary. )  I like it and it gets good reviews.

Yes indeed and as an added bonus, Ray will master the track. My mixing skills only go as far as an accurate balance between instruments thanks to my experience in orchestration and live work, and what will hopefully be a judicious amount of room and ambience.  Ray offers a polish to the mix that although highly specialised is an essential part of producing a professional mix.

The winner will be able to hear his/her work in a new light and it will be a very good approximation to what the scoring would sound like if played live. I expect this to also be educational for the winner as some scoring may not work as expected and in those moments, I will help out by consulting with the composer to find an acceptable solution for them by suggesting ways around any issues. In this scenario I will be led by what the composer wants to achieve and will act accordingly - the end result should be the composers' wishes.

Because the response is poor, I will keep this thread alive by keeping the competition open for anybody  to register their interest until 15th September and also change the rules to accommodate pieces under 4-5 mins. Any duration over 2mins and up to 6 mins will be acceptable. 

The deadline for entrants music to be submitted will be 30th January next year. This is hopefully enough time for all involved.

I am again slightly confused as to the rules of the composition competition.

Meanwhile, I want to ask you, Mike, do you mind if digital  technology in general is discussed in this thread? If you don’t want it been discussed, then I owe you an apology and I won’t do it again.

Also, could you please confirm that the duration is now from 2 to 6 minutes and that a score is required.

I am very surprized that people have not shown so far a bigger interest in your generous offer, but I think they will, otherwise it is their loss, not yours.


Ray, of course I never meant that we should go back to the days of Atari, I would give up all hope for humanity if that happened, I merely wondered why the Logic of 1996 on a Mac could not perform better than the Notator of 1992 on an Atari in terms of midi output.

Btw, I did not realize that even the name "Roland" was chosen because of its easy sound and cultural association to the medieval "La Chanson de Roland" by the Japanese solely for commercial purposes! I thought it was just a misspell of the ordinary French share name "Rolland" (as in Romain Rolland etc). I will get a T shirt with it and thanks for the elucidation.

I listened to a bit of the Britten clips. They sounded nice. Why two clips of the same music? Is one a live recording and the other, one of your studio productions? Was that what you are showing us?

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