Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

following from conversations on other threads, I was encouraged to start a new topic that I find quite interesting:

On one hand, I can't help noticing that the amount of comments and reviews of compositions (not just on this site, but widely on the internet) is directly proportional to the quality of the MIDI rendering. Trivial music that is well produced, with good sounding libraries will get far, far more attention than sophisticated music rendered by say Microsoft Wavetable Synth or MuseScore's basic soundfont (btw better soundfonts are available for MuseScore).

Maybe it's an age thing, but back in the 90s we used to show our work to colleagues, directors, producers on the piano. And if you were a lousy pianist like me, then you would play very basic lines and explain "this is meant to be the strings or the french horn", etc. That was followed by sequencers that had that awful sound that most people associate to the word MIDI. They were synthesised emulations of real instruments, but it was almost as much of a stretch of the imagination as playing on the piano and asking the listener to "imagine" what the real thing would sound like,

We jump forward to the last 10-15 years and we have become completely intolerant to anything that doesn't sound virtually real...

The comparison to CGI becomes very tempting. Computer generated imagery started back in the 70s and... Well, it hasn't aged well. I was surprised when I caught a glance of Terminator about 5 years ago and realised man that looks really fake, but when I was a child I remember believing it fully! (Surprisingly Star Wars has aged fairly well). But the point is, like early synths, there was a time when we accepted it and now we find intolerable! Low budget films today will often feature CGI that is of better quality than any massive Hollywood production of the past. However people will just laugh out loud and say things like "that's so fake".

Finally this opens up a whole other can of worms: decent libraries are expensive and producing a realistic playback is extremely time consuming (I certainly never bother unless I'm getting paid to do it). So in a way this is a form of discrimination, where only the  wealthy (or the wealthier) who can afford these technologies will ever get a chance to have their music heard.

I could go on, but I'm very curious to hear people's opinions on this!

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I'm with you, although perhaps I wouldn't go as far as "disturbing" but definitely of concern, hence why I started this post.

I just want to say, a bit off topic, but I find your renditions much better than even average and your writing is pretty good too! But the point is YOU make renditions that portray your intentions, albeit a bit mechanically because you're letting a computer play it, but the music is very clear and I would think you would have to be a real snob to object to them.

Just to remind everyone that the conversation is about degrees of rendering, not the "BEST".  There's a vast range at the top where renditions and live recordings compete almost equally i.e. an excellent realistic rendition versus an average live recording will very likely get the same attention if the writing/music is very good. I'm talking about that difficult line between "acceptable" and just downright offensive... (we need smileys in this forum, otherwise tone is not always transmitted).

Bob Porter said:

"Trivial music that is well produced, with good sounding libraries will get far, far more attention than sophisticated music rendered by say Microsoft Wavetable Synth"

I get it, but this is still disturbing. Seems to me that as a result, the overall musical quality of what's out there is diminished. 

Again, my music is perfectly average, or lower, and I don't write professionally. So it doesn't really affect me. 

Yet, If I choose, I can nudge the timing of notes forward and back as well as velocity of individual notes (I don't choose). I can also define holds, hairpins, tempo change text and so forth (i do choose).

Of course, I want to produce the best file that I can. Depending on what I have written, "best file" is subjective.

If someone listens to my music and can't hear the music for notes, not much more I can do. 

Ha! Well actually I work with both... Samples are my more desperate musicians, available 24/7 and they can work in the middle of the night!

Charles Holt said:

Obviously but if the OP thinks a sample library is expensive he's in for a shock concerning the cost of musicians. Samples are there to substitute and sometimes very convincingly.

Jon Corelis said:

The best technology is a system consisting of living human beings using physical instruments and voices to project music into the ears of other human beings who are physically present. Everything else is a substitute.

I'd like to make one further comment in this thread, which I think is relevant because it's included some discussion of posting scores vs. posting sound files.

Many posters seem to look at this forum as sort of a virtual concert hall, where people post the equivalent of performances for the equivalent of concert reviews.  That's fine, but there's another way to approach a forum like this:  as a workshop, where people can give readings of compositions and receive nuts-and-bolts feedback on them.

This is the approach I'd prefer to take: a workshop, which means the sort of feedback I most value, and try myself to give when possible, are things like:

  • In the left hand piano part in measure 47 if you changed the E in the first chord to E flat, it would make a more interesting progression from the previous chord.
  • The cello double stop in measure 28 is theoretically possible, but in practice very difficult to play.
  • In measure 36-44 the lower register of the flute part is going to be hard to hear due to the flute's lack of projection below D and the number and dynamics of other instruments.
  • Though the soprano part is within range of most sopranos, the extended high registers at the end will be difficult for most singers to maintain.
  • You mix crescendo hairpins with "cresc. ......................................", which will be confusing.

Obviously such comments will not be practical to make and expect if scores are not posted, which is why for someone like me, who approaches this forum as a workshop, scores are essential.

Jon,

I don't disagree. But some folks that use a DAW can't, or at least have great difficulty producing a meaningful score.

I can post a score, but is is not setup for real players. It's marked, or not, to get the software to playback sort of how I want. If the software doesn't read certain phrasing, I don't put it in. Some things are over marked. All of which distracts people following it.  

I would prefer to not post a score unless there is interest in the piece. 

Some people post here just to get a general feel for how their music appears to others and aren't interested is a blow by blow account.

Jon, the problem is the term 'Composer' can be quite broad in this age we live in. A hundred years ago in Europe it meant a rather specific endeavour, someone that wrote music on paper for it to be performed by musicians. But since about mid 20th century this definition has expanded considerably. From early graphical scores, to tape, aleatoric even jazz, the idea of notation is now in the minority.

So I suppose this expands the conversation even further and brings another idea to the table: in an era where producing a playback is so easy (think in comparison to tape), why should we put up with a lazy, computer rendered playback? Ha, ha, ha, ha! This is a question not an opinion, just being devil's advocate...

As I've explained in another post, I'm not willing to devote a lot of time and money to making excellent computer generated audio files because it's not my goal to produce computer generated music, I'm not interested in getting opinions on my compositions considered as computer generated music, and I don't want to encourage anyone's assumption that the deliverable I am producing is computer generated music.  I post sound files for exactly the same reason I post scores: to assist potentially interested persons to imagine what a performance of the composition would sound like so they can offer opinions on that imagined real performance, and hopefully eventually to get some actual humanoid entities interested in performing it on actual physical matter instruments. I believe the quality of the computer generated sound files I provide in my postings here  is adequate for that purpose.  I suggest that forum members whose interest is limited to evaluating computer generated music files as computer generated music files ignore my postings.

Claude Werner said:

Jon, the problem is the term 'Composer' can be quite broad in this age we live in. A hundred years ago in Europe it meant a rather specific endeavour, someone that wrote music on paper for it to be performed by musicians. But since about mid 20th century this definition has expanded considerably. From early graphical scores, to tape, aleatoric even jazz, the idea of notation is now in the minority.

So I suppose this expands the conversation even further and brings another idea to the table: in an era where producing a playback is so easy (think in comparison to tape), why should we put up with a lazy, computer rendered playback? Ha, ha, ha, ha! This is a question not an opinion, just being devil's advocate...

Ah! But it's appears you're taking it as a personal attack, when this post is meant to discuss a phenomenon that affects us all... I do however really appreciate your insights on the matter. I feel the same way, but I'm trapped between this idealism and the reality that not even my friends will sit down to listen to a poorly rendered MIDI file... 

Although I confess that as the years go by I'm regretting less and less that I've started doing it. After leaving the chore of it well behind I now have semi decent recordings of my work...

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