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Soho - 3 a.m. for chamber orchestra.

Fl, Picc, Ob, Cor Anglais, Clarinet, Bass Cl, Bsn, Alto Sax, 2 Horns, Percussion, Strings.

DESCRIPTION EDITED as it seems to be misleading. Treat it as just another "musical/mood picture"

It’s probably the last piece of music like this I’ll write. 

Any comment good or bad will be appreciated - and thank you for listening. 

https://soundcloud.com/acitore/soho-3-am

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Obviously an accomplished and professional piece, but I'm not sure it completely succeeds as a portrait of a seedy urban area.

It's my theory that a piece of music has the first ten seconds to convince the listener to keep listening to it.  The first part of this seems too rambling and relaxed to be gripping.  I really think it doesn't get started until about 1:15.

The wind instruments with their honky-tonk mood are effective, but the string parts often seem to me too classically formal for the programmatic subject.

For me the most effective of all urban musical portraits is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.  Yes it's a piece of kitsch, but it works, not only in spite of that, but to some extent because of that.

Very nice combination of voices Dane, with plenty of atmospheric effects, succeeding in creating the scene and mood desired. Many good ideas, especially on the woodwinds. The sax also was quite effective. Excellent production. What samples did you use, and how did you get them so well placed in the ensemble? Are you using Mir or something? I have to get that!

I don't know the area, so I picture a generic '20s era street at night with the trench coats and wide brimmed hats. You set it up with describing the area as, "Not particularly foreboding but laced with apprehension about what may be going on around you." I thought you captured that scene well. I could imagine walking down the street and encountering all the riff raff, thinking, "I don't need to worry--but do I need to worry?" Nicely done.

I've only known of this tune through the Ventures, and it's one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing the source material!


Matt

Jon Corelis said:

Obviously an accomplished and professional piece, but I'm not sure it completely succeeds as a portrait of a seedy urban area.

It's my theory that a piece of music has the first ten seconds to convince the listener to keep listening to it.  The first part of this seems too rambling and relaxed to be gripping.  I really think it doesn't get started until about 1:15.

The wind instruments with their honky-tonk mood are effective, but the string parts often seem to me too classically formal for the programmatic subject.

For me the most effective of all urban musical portraits is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.  Yes it's a piece of kitsch, but it works, not only in spite of that, but to some extent because of that.

Thank you for your comments.

In fact, I probably did wrong with my potted description of the area. Far from a seedy urban area, it's very much alive and an island in the centre of London's West End, a few steps from Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. Even a one-bedroomed flat would cost someone a large fortune. It was never meant to be gripping. So I'll take advantage of the Topic Edit to erase my description. 

It could be that you caught more of the intended mood - no matter, thanks again for what you've said and...I'll edit that description. 

Jon Corelis said:

Obviously an accomplished and professional piece, but I'm not sure it completely succeeds as a portrait of a seedy urban area.

It's my theory that a piece of music has the first ten seconds to convince the listener to keep listening to it.  The first part of this seems too rambling and relaxed to be gripping.  I really think it doesn't get started until about 1:15.

The wind instruments with their honky-tonk mood are effective, but the string parts often seem to me too classically formal for the programmatic subject.

For me the most effective of all urban musical portraits is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.  Yes it's a piece of kitsch, but it works, not only in spite of that, but to some extent because of that.

Thank you for your comments, Michael. 

Most of the samples are VSL and using the free player to place them. (A beginner's effort I fear..I gradually learn how to do things with it. I'm some way from the beginning but feel no closer to the end!)

Most of the samples are from the beginners' Special Edition set 1. It came up cheap early this year. Later they offered solo strings and "buy two single instruments and we'll give you two" on promotion at a pretty good discount. The alto sax was among those. 

I haven't tried MIR and one off-put is that MIR does the instrument placing which I'd like to keep under control. But it's something I need to investigate. For example, I sometimes like to put the second violins on the right. The acoustic is different because the sound box faces away from the listener. The samples need slight filtering to change the sound. 

Cheers. :)

michael diemer said:

Very nice combination of voices Dane, with plenty of atmospheric effects, succeeding in creating the scene and mood desired. Many good ideas, especially on the woodwinds. The sax also was quite effective. Excellent production. What samples did you use, and how did you get them so well placed in the ensemble? Are you using Mir or something? I have to get that!

Many thanks, Matt. You seemed to hit it dead on with "I don't need to worry but maybe I do need to worry." Sometimes a mood catches me and fires off music. I know the area quite well. There are several interesting shops - no, not the porn emporia though there are a few of them - more the music and an antique comic/periodical shop I've had cause to visit.

So glad you caught its atmosphere.

Cheers.  

Matt Baker said:

I don't know the area, so I picture a generic '20s era street at night with the trench coats and wide brimmed hats. You set it up with describing the area as, "Not particularly foreboding but laced with apprehension about what may be going on around you." I thought you captured that scene well. I could imagine walking down the street and encountering all the riff raff, thinking, "I don't need to worry--but do I need to worry?" Nicely done.

Though I've been to London several times, I don't think I ever got to Soho.  My impression of it comes from old movies and detective novels, where it's typically presented as a "naughty," if not quite red-light, area.  Apparently it's been gentrified.

Very nice Dane, your sounds are working quite well and this piece with many different parts to it fits together beautifully.  The mood to me is 'film noir', and it sounds like Hollywood in the '50's and '60's when they used non-enhanced orchestras with intelligent harmonies and composers who were well aware of the giants who had preceded them.

Can you tell us how the gliding (portamento?) jazz influenced reed sounds are done?  Is that a midi-controller or a key switch type of thing?  And is Acitore erotica spelled backwards?

Hi Dane,

I'll forget your description as requested but would add that the last time I visited Soho was in the 70's - and the last time I visited New Orleans was in the 90's...this music is very evocative and took me straight back to (antediluvian) New Orleans. First I love the bass clarinet at the opening - it's an instrument that I probably overuse because of it's potential to depict so many things - depending on overall context of course. The sax is great and very jazzy (hence the New Orleans connection in my mind). That great city was very Janus-like - the centre in the evening was one heck of an experience with a visit to Preservation Hall included (the pianist was a woman in her 90's - terrific) - Rampart Street was a real experience - The Streetcar named Desire parked at the riverside - the great river cruisers in the harbour pumping out steam-powered organ sounds: all of these things were evoked by your excellent music which is of many moods. Outside of the lights of the main thoroughfare I was warned that danger lurked - "Do not, whatever else you do, stray beyond that block over there after midnight" - very ominous and that feeling too is there in your music. At dawn the next day I walked down to the riverside and there stood a lone trombonist seemingly in a trance as he played and paid homage to the magnificent Mississippi. What an experience.

I couldn't reproduce the sounds that you have with my Sibelius/NP3 combination but I like them very much. The portamenti on the sax are great and most expressive.

So, in a nutshell, your music is well written, evocative, exciting, foreboding and when I've finished this I'll listen again, perhaps many times over. It doesn't really matter what was in your mind when you wrote the piece because the music is of such high quality that it had my synapses firing off in all directions and I found the experience very exciting indeed.

Great stuff.

Stephen

Slightly off topic maybe ... I'm also a fan of early jazz.  There is quite a lot of it on anthology CDs (often nowadays available for internet download,) but the best collections in my opinion are the Smithsonian/Folkways Jazz Vol. I etc. series.  The volume on New Orleans jazz, available here, may be the best single early jazz anthology of all.

This was definitely mood music but sophisticated mood music done well. I especially liked your choice of the sax. I wonder how the sax became associated with the sometimes seedy and sexy? It seems to be often presented in this way in compositions. And it does have that invisible character that provokes some of that thinking or maybe it's just my conditioning hearing it associated with  these things all these years.

I believe you've captured well the essence of  this place and it gives me the feeling I've almost been there...or passed through fast.

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