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Hi folks - It's been quite a while since I've posted here, but I still lurk occasionally, and I'd like to ask for your expertise on this recording.

I finished this choir piece last month, but I still don't have a performance lined up--so I've been using Virharmonic's Soloists of Prague virtual choir to create a demo. As many of you know, word-building choir software is quite finicky and cumbersome to use (as time-consuming as Virharmonic is, I tried the free trial of the EastWest choirs and they were even worse), and I'm at the point where I've been working too closely on this to really step back and listen objectively.

I'm most concerned about things like

-dynamic balance (between different voices; between choir and piano)
-On the off chance anyone has much experience getting virtual choirs to sing in English, any tips on improving the pronunciation would be appreciated--but I doubt there's any way to substitute a live choir in that regard. Thanks!


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Yes... that's why I'm asking for advice on the mixing, etc.

Wesley Lawrence Curry II said: soon as I heard the "artificial" choir....I turned it off.....Not enough time in the day for me to listen to artificial sounds......This doesn't mean your composition isn't good..or even spectacular....but the artificial choir sounds like I am being insulted in the aural arena.


Hi Nicholas,

The balance between piano and choir seems fine to me. 

The reverb might help the choir sound if it had a bigger pre-delay and maybe a longer tail. The choir sounded a little too close for me, but this is subjective as I don't think there is a sampled choir expressive enough for this sort of exposure on the market at present.

Have you thought about getting 4 singers in and tracking them a few times?

I would like to say though that it is a lovely piece and the climax around b69 cf. is particularly beautiful. I really hope you can get a live performance and record it, if you do post it back here.

Mike and Dave,

Thanks very much for your feedback... both very helpful. I replaced the original file with one with more reverb, as per Mike's suggestion... the Soloists of Prague are really a solo (not choir) library and only has a close mic position, so it's a challenge to make them sound "choral" with reverb and EQ. I'll probably just upgrade to the Voices of Prague soon to save myself the frustration.

Dave, I agree with you about the words, and that's something I always struggle with. Maybe because of my early interest in both impressionism and film music, I always gravitate toward texts with a very imagistic surface that I can add depth to musically. If the text already has a lot of depth and stands well on its own, I often struggle with how (and why) to set it musically... sometimes adding music to a good poem just seems superfluous. Recently, I've just taken to just writing my own texts that focus on sound/singability and surface imagery--with good musical results, though I'm aware that I'm sacrificing some semantic depth.

How do others go about selecting (or creating) texts to set to music?

Lovely. Measure 53 was particularly striking. Agree too with your points that lesser poetry makes for the greater musical setting.

Re: the mixing, I think I listened to your revised version (on headphones). What struck me was that the reverb/miking for the chorus and piano seemed mismatched. The piano was quite close and crisp, the chorus cavernous and distant in comparison. While such a setup keeps the piano part clean, it does detract from the situational realism (maybe that is of less importance to you). Not sure what reverb you are using (or your setup), but sending some of the piano signal through the choir reverb might help tie them in better?

Also, I'm not familiar with Soloists of Prague, but if the interface allows, I would recommend beefing up the consonants, especially with this much reverb. I wouldn't be able to get any of the words without looking at the score.

Driscoll - Thanks for your comments re: mixing... totally agree with your feedback. I uploaded yet another version where I tried to reconcile the piano and choir's distance (not too easy, because they each use different playback engines with their own reverb... Virharmonic comes with SparkVerb, which I think lends a lot to the choir's sound, so I'm reluctant to bypass that and just route everything through my DAW's default reverb plugin). I also tried reducing some of the piano's higher frequencies to make it sound further away, but that may or may not have worked.

Dave - I know what you mean. It's probably liberating to use the human voice for its own unique sound, unencumbered by words and all their semantic baggage. In my case, I think I mostly begin with texts when writing vocal music because they help me determine the melodic character and dramatic shape of the piece--2 aspects that I usually struggle with otherwise. I find nearly every composer is different in this regard, and it's always interesting to hear about other composers' processes.

What are you using exactly for play back? 

I'm not sure if I understand correctly, but... 

If the Choir patch is running as a standalone program, that could complicate things. But I assume it works as a library within a player of sorts in your DAW like Kontakt, etc. 

If that's the case, why don't you just turn off the reverb that the piano VST and Choir VST came with. Mostly all libraries I've worked with, especially piano ones, offer this ability. It'd be silly not to. Then, create a return track and place the appropriate type of reverb on it for the type of space you're trying to emulate. Send the audio from the piano and choir track equally to your return reverb track. You could group the tracks together as well and use some sidechain compression on the return track with the reverb to help the choir and piano "pop" out of the reverb. This should create an effect of the piano and choir being 'one' in the same space. 

Lots of possibilities for setting up the space. Also look for a setting for "pre-delay" on the reverb; adjusting this has the effect of moving a sound source closer to the mic. In general longer pre-delay settings move the sound source in closer.

Compression is almost required for modern recordings but generally used sparingly on classical music.

     Beautiful work.  I say forget about making an acceptable recording and just have it performed.  I wouldn't waste time on tweaking artificial words.  The technology isn't advanced enough to monkey with it, but then I'm not a techno person. 

     I think the quality of poetry should at least match the quality of the music.  In this case it does not.  Would you compose music to something like..... Last night I did my laundry.  The socks were blue and black.  My tea shirts came out dingy, so I'm never going back.  Good poetry is as rare as good music.  Thanks for posting this.

To those who mistakenly believe that the poetry has to match the quality of a composer's music, I can reference about a hundred well-known operas where the quality of the libretto pales next to the music.

To cite just one famous example (courtesy of Joseph Kerman), the dramatic pinnacle of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro:

Contessa, perdono! / Contessa, forgive me!
Perdono! perdono! / Forgive me! Forgive me!

Più docile sono, / I am more gentle,
e dico di sì. / and I say yes to you.

Ah! tutti contenti / Ah! Everyone will
Saremo così! / now be happy!

Now listen to how Mozart set that to music:

Funnily enough, the opera itself opens with Figaro measuring space for his wedding bed (a pretty "last night I did my laundry" moment, if you ask me...)

But opera is unique, ostentatious, and mostly over the top.  Almost any recitative will be rendered with great panache yet be as mundane as "my love doth open the window."  Most of opera is great ado about nothing.  That's why we love it.  But generally the arias in an opera are well written.  A great part of opera is not poetry but just story telling.  So you can't apply this rule to an animal as wild and untamable as opera.

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