Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Graphical MIDI Tools plug-in brings sequencer-like capabilities to Sibelius

Views: 721

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

I think there is a discrepancy here in how we understand the term "realism" or "realistic".

I would say that, in general, the "realism" which NS output is usually lacking in to one extent or another, is what I would call, for lack of a better term, the realism of expression. It has nothing to do with the quality of the recording, or the properties of the auditory space. Rather, the issue lies in trying to imitate the expressive capabilities of a particular instrument (or a human being playing the instrument!), and failing to do so. In short, a poorly executed MIDI mockup (and NS will usually produce those, since it can't manipulate the material fluidly enough) will give an impression that there is some sort of alien instrument playing the part, which seems to have a similar timbre to, say, a violin... but that's where the similarity ends. Oh, and it also has no life in it and the emotional message is barely implied at best.

Contrast this with Bob's mention of early orchestral recordings. Yes, they don't sound "realistic", either. But they differ from what you'd hear in a concert hall in a way completely different from what a bad MIDI mockup does. The expression is there. The dynamics may be flattened, but the shapes remain. Everything is distorted, but you can still hear real musicians feeling real emotion and pouring it into their performance.

I'm not implying that NS output can be anywhere as good as a DAW. 

But...

Greg said, and I agree..." the issue lies in trying to imitate the expressive capabilities of a particular instrument (or a human being playing the instrument!)".

The expressive capabilities that one flute player can produce can be, and usually are, rather different from those of another player. Put them together and the result can be altogether different. A violin player cannot produce the same expression as a clarinet player. So that the whole 1st violin section playing the same thing will be a watered down version of what a single player would produce. And unless someone is an expert at playing all the instruments they write for, how can they know what expression the instruments are capable of? Well yes, you can say that it only makes common musical sense that a phrase will do this and that, here and there. Rubato here, dim there, ebb and flow. But that ebb and flow can differ greatly from person to person. So the DAW composer has to do something to give his compositions life, and the life giving possibilities inherent in a DAW are great, indeed. But has he made the correct choices? And who decides? Is it only the composer?

Dave, Until I trashed my entire record and tape collection, I had some recordings of some of my favorite pieces. In those days you couldn't listen to something before you bought it. Let's just say I would rather stick a knife in my ear than listen to them.

  

Bob P,

You ask how a composer understands the expressive capabilities of an instrument, well that is the result of years of hard work and study, a rite of passage that all committed composers have to navigate in order to write with maximum efficacy for an orchestra, nothing new there. If you are asking about individual players aesthetic proclivities then clearly a composer cannot predict every subtlety in performance of a personal or unison approach but surely they don't have to for reasons which you have alluded to. The conventions that are adhered to in the performance of written music do clearly allow for self expression on the performers behalf. In fact, in performance this individuality is to be encouraged and keeps actually the art of performing and recording music alive. This obviously extends to conductors too and their interpretive approach to tempi, balance etc. There is little point for a musician in playing at all if self expression is denied, it is fortunate that the relation between musician, music and composer is symbiotic. But to get to the point...

What really matters to me most of all in the light of your question, is that as a composer, you should  be aware of what you are writing for and if you do it effectively enough - that is, if your writing is informed by the qualities (technical and expressive) of the instrument as you write - effective music will be heard, music that can often withstand many sensible interpretations whilst not losing its intended impact.

Regarding DAW renderings (btw,why are you railing against just DAWs? Surely the worst of NS GM playback is more detrimental to the music, especially from a composers pov because it is lacking in adequate, audible expressive content -the sine qua non of the art, yes?), a parallel can be drawn with the fact that a lot of great composers have conducted and recorded their work, which then becomes if not definitive in terms of interpretation, then at the very least a sensible guide as to how they experienced it and by extension how they want us to experience it. Likewise a DAW (and quality NS rendering for that matter) in all its expressive detail will communicate its intent to a listener in an ever more musically convincing way (depending on the depth of programming) which is surely the point - it's about the music. A committed approach to programming gives satisfaction to the listener and is the equivalent to a great composers recording. Sadly, most of us will not hear our music played live with a well rehearsed orchestra so digital manipulation is the only option and I believe that the more you commit to it, the more sated and enjoyable  your music and expression will be. 

 To posit answers to your final questions, yes I believe the composer makes the correct decisions and choices whilst programming because it is his/hers expression and the digital decisions are informed by the musical requirement or expressive need (this is instinctual), which in turn is ideally  baked in during the writing, which in turn again is informed by years of study that encourages self awareness of the aesthetic within you.  If the music is done well, it might actually inspire alternative interpretation not stifle it.

." It's especially fascinating to think about these early wax recordings, that the noises made by those long-dead musicians is etched forever into a physical format directly from their fingers and lungs.'

That's it Dave. Whatever the format be it NS gm, DAW or just a manuscript, it will probably endure so give it the best chance you can by infusing it with all you know.

Indeed. I once worked with Eric Thomlinson  who told me how nervous he was about chopping the 1/4 inch tape with a razor blade for the Star Wars scores he recorded and mixed. Thank God for Apple/ Z, no such worries now.

Dave Dexter said:

Back in those wax days, you didn't have the cut or trim tool. You had a hot knife, and your project folder was a nice cold room.

Spotted a crucial mistake in my earlier comment: "You can have a good idea of the expression available to an instrument without having heard one!" Obviously should be "without having played one."



Mike Hewer said:

." It's especially fascinating to think about these early wax recordings, that the noises made by those long-dead musicians is etched forever into a physical format directly from their fingers and lungs.'

That's it Dave. Whatever the format be it NS gm, DAW or just a manuscript, it will probably endure so give it the best chance you can by infusing it with all you know.

Believe it or not, I'm not railing against DAWs. I'm just doing a little probing. Maybe I'm just jealous. I don't have the wits to figure one out, nor the money to support one. Maybe part of what I'm talking about has to do with our motivation for composing.

Consider Beethoven. I think we can all agree that he was a pretty good composer. But how do we know that? What was his intent for his music? I've never seen any of his original scores, but I have to assume that he marked them up somehow. But we don't know what he really wanted them to sound like because we don't have recordings of him conducting. All we have are notes on a page.  And, as has already been pointed out, if the notes on the page are good, then they will survive most any type of interpretation.

Maybe that's what I'm talking about. We need to write good notes. When we hear something that is performed by general midi we tend to think it doesn't sound very good, not very musical. We think it lacks expression. But in some respects, aren't we really saying is that the piece is not "good notes"? Expression is a very personal thing. My choice of musical expression is mine alone. We think the GM rendering has no life in it. But is it possible that it's up to the listener to hear the life in the notes.

With a computer (DAW/NS), we become the creator and arbiter of what the piece will sound like. What if that is missing the point? What if what we really need to do is write good notes? That's what we believe Beethoven did. Should we aspire to anything less? I'm not saying we should write like him, but that the best notes we can possibly produce should be our goal.

Might I suggest that NS is one of many ways to do that. Because audio output is not the purpose of NS, we are forced to rely on writing good notes. Writing good notes is hard. All the expression in the world can not guarantee a quality result if the notes are not good. Not everyone knows notation. Not everyone knows how to use a DAW. Is one better than the other? Is that the right question?

Dave,

Your example recording is truly interesting. But it is not a very expressive piece. If I had not seen the video, I might not have been able to tell humans made it. The recording I was referring to that I didn't like was, to me, a lifeless rendition probably from the 50's. I later bought what I considered to better versions. An example I have used before is this. I once had two recordings of a Baroque trumpet concerto. One was by the Boston Symphony. It was slow loud and bombastic. I loved it. The other was by a small German orchestra. It was soft lively and tasteful. I liked it also. They were as opposite as could be. I believe it was because the notes were good. 

I get it. Because something seems lifeless, we don't want to listen to it. But I think here on the forum, things should be different. It's not easy to post something here. We can be pretty tough on each other. When someone posts something having used MuseScore with the default sound set, well I think it is too easy to be distracted by that and forget about the notes the poster presented. This person did the best they could with what they had. Over the years, I've faced some pretty shriveling reviews. Of course, I didn't deserve any of them :)

For me, the advantage of combined software would be to write in notation, have the DAW realize it to get a good recording to get someone interested in it, then print out parts for a group to play. For a person like me with no brain, even this is a no brainer.

Hi Bob,

Of course expression is personal but with regard to a NS GM rendition, the sound made by such has hidden treachery for a composer who is not on their guard. Frankly, and with only a cursory consideration, I find that GM is misleading on 4 counts. Firstly it does not really sound like what it purports to imitate and secondly, if there are gaps in a composers knowledge of orchestration, balance issues will abound (even with a decent balance, timbre is hopelessly unreal). Thirdly and most pertinently to our chat, is the fact that because of the lack of expression inherent in GM, potentially an inexperienced composer will either not realise the power of his expression, not feel inwardly the expressive arcs of the individual parts or main themes as he listens to a cold playback and fourthly,  most likely get used to and accept what he hears on playback, especially after repeated hearings. There is a fifth which entails the combination of all the above. 

If you believe in GM as an expressive vehicle in its own right, or as something a listener can gain satisfaction from, then I can't argue against that.  I do however realise there are other factors at play here, economic and practical so please take my remarks as more of a theoretical rejoinder for the DAW and programming cause, rather than insensitive dogma being slung back at you. Not all of us can get the best for our music but even within NS GM a little more effort and know how can have a drastic effect on composer and listener.

Ray often advises folks to listen and compare more and he is right in my view. GM can be useful if one is prepared to listen and then match especially with balance in various dynamics and various stages of tutti and combinations.. If due care and attention was paid to just that aspect, a NS GM rendition would improve tremendously as would the confidence inside the composer and his ear training would improve enough to negate the adverse effects of GM playback. 

Because not everyone has or wants a DAW, I can certainly agree with you about NS GM and its worth up to a point because it can be a vital tool for aspiring composers and I do not want to discourage anybody from using it. One can always use its audio imaginatively as a training tool but always in hand with reality. The problems start when GM is used without said complimentary learned approach to as many technical aspects to music the composer feels it necessary to master, (and that has to include production these days). If that is ignored, the rendering will be detrimental to the expression and impact of the music and in some cases damaging to the composers ears and creative journey.

All of which means nothing if you accept GM as a viable means of expression!

Bob Porter said:

Believe it or not, I'm not railing against DAWs. I'm just doing a little probing. Maybe I'm just jealous. I don't have the wits to figure one out, nor the money to support one. Maybe part of what I'm talking about has to do with our motivation for composing.

Consider Beethoven. I think we can all agree that he was a pretty good composer. But how do we know that? What was his intent for his music? I've never seen any of his original scores, but I have to assume that he marked them up somehow. But we don't know what he really wanted them to sound like because we don't have recordings of him conducting. All we have are notes on a page.  And, as has already been pointed out, if the notes on the page are good, then they will survive most any type of interpretation.

Maybe that's what I'm talking about. We need to write good notes. When we hear something that is performed by general midi we tend to think it doesn't sound very good, not very musical. We think it lacks expression. But in some respects, aren't we really saying is that the piece is not "good notes"? Expression is a very personal thing. My choice of musical expression is mine alone. We think the GM rendering has no life in it. But is it possible that it's up to the listener to hear the life in the notes.

With a computer (DAW/NS), we become the creator and arbiter of what the piece will sound like. What if that is missing the point? What if what we really need to do is write good notes? That's what we believe Beethoven did. Should we aspire to anything less? I'm not saying we should write like him, but that the best notes we can possibly produce should be our goal.

Might I suggest that NS is one of many ways to do that. Because audio output is not the purpose of NS, we are forced to rely on writing good notes. Writing good notes is hard. All the expression in the world can not guarantee a quality result if the notes are not good. Not everyone knows notation. Not everyone knows how to use a DAW. Is one better than the other? Is that the right question?

Dave,

Your example recording is truly interesting. But it is not a very expressive piece. If I had not seen the video, I might not have been able to tell humans made it. The recording I was referring to that I didn't like was, to me, a lifeless rendition probably from the 50's. I later bought what I considered to better versions. An example I have used before is this. I once had two recordings of a Baroque trumpet concerto. One was by the Boston Symphony. It was slow loud and bombastic. I loved it. The other was by a small German orchestra. It was soft lively and tasteful. I liked it also. They were as opposite as could be. I believe it was because the notes were good. 

I get it. Because something seems lifeless, we don't want to listen to it. But I think here on the forum, things should be different. It's not easy to post something here. We can be pretty tough on each other. When someone posts something having used MuseScore with the default sound set, well I think it is too easy to be distracted by that and forget about the notes the poster presented. This person did the best they could with what they had. Over the years, I've faced some pretty shriveling reviews. Of course, I didn't deserve any of them :)

For me, the advantage of combined software would be to write in notation, have the DAW realize it to get a good recording to get someone interested in it, then print out parts for a group to play. For a person like me with no brain, even this is a no brainer.

Silly boy....:-)

Dave Dexter said:

*googles Eric Thomlinson*

Holy shish! When are your memoirs being published?

Mike Hewer said:

Indeed. I once worked with Eric Thomlinson  who told me how nervous he was about chopping the 1/4 inch tape with a razor blade for the Star Wars scores he recorded and mixed. Thank God for Apple/ Z, no such worries now.

Mike,

Thanks for the discussion. 

I'm not defending GM as such. Yes, of course, I understand how unreal in is. I would suggest it only as a starting pont. And there are sound sets that are recorded instruments that will work with MuseScore. Sure, it is still NS controlling them. Not ideal. but better than GM. 

I'm not putting down DAWs. I think I've said a couple of times that an ideal setup for someone who needs a score for real players, would be to write in NS, transfer to a DAW to check overall sound (balance, timbre, all the things you suggest) and make correction to the score. As a result, you have both a good recording and a good score. Seems like a win, win to me.

I'm not a professional. That doesn't mean I don't strive for good results. But there are serious limitations involved.

This thread has gone away from the reason it was posted, and that was to let people know about this plugin, and to get responses from users as to their experience using it.

This entire debate about DAW versus notation software was addressed quite definitely in a past thread, and should further discussion be desired, it might be added on to that, or a new thread started.

My sincere thanks to those who responded to the discussion of the original topic, and Im still very interested in how the Graphic Midi tools plugin worked for people using it.

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

RSS

Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!

Store

© 2020   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service