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I'm offering a work in progress here - this is VERY incomplete. The theme is based on the same Beethoven sketch on which Gerd recently wrote his wonderful Variations. Not to imitate - or detract from - Gerd's work, I wanted to take a different approach, to try to imagine what Beethoven might have done with the theme. My first impression was that the sketch would probably not have been the first 8 bars of a theme, but rather the last. So I tried to compose an appropriate beginning, and ended up making it into a ternary form with the first 8 bars a much more restrained variant of the Beethoven sketch, repeated, then 8 contrasting bars in the relative minor, and then finally a fully harmonized version of the sketch as written... all for string quartet, of course.

Then I started out last night to write variations... and finished the first variation this evening. The rendition is of the theme itself and that first variation - nothing more exists at the moment, and I feel the need to take a breather. I thought I would share what I've done so far and ask what everyone thinks of it. This is light years away from my usual idiom - I've never tried to do anything like this before - but I experienced intense joy along the way finding "inspiration in discipline". This first variation is extremely formal and mostly adheres to the harmonic structure of the theme. So there is almost no personal expression in it - it is severely objective and Classical. Maybe I'll loosen up later on, if I get that far with it.

Anyway, have a listen if you will. All comments are welcome, both positive and negative. If people who work in this idiom all the time think it doesn't work then I'd like to know that now! I'm very much a fish out of water with this.

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Hi Ingo,

I listened to your clip again, at higher volume, and there is some distortion there, as well as the "swelling" effect. It would really be helpful to have a longer clip.

I just learned that Sib Ultimate can export to earlier formats. If I knew what version you had, I could send you a file that you could open. I don't want to impose on your generosity though, so only if you're willing to post a longer clip so that we can be sure there is no distortion at all.

Mike Lyons at the Sibelius Forum also said he heard no distortion at all with my score. He has the same Sib and NP versions as I do, but different hardware. It's beginning to look as if it might be a hardware issue on my end, though I don't see how that is possible. What hardware is involved in exporting audio to a file, other than the CPU? But if your system is producing the same distortion, then it must be in either Sib or NP.

Hi Liz, I'm happy to work on this mystery, just short on time.  My Sib is version 2019.7 build  1580 born on 2019-07-04. It was set to espressivo and the mixer was skewed somewhat, I didn't run the NP volume plugin or the tenuto plugin.

Hardware affects everything we hear, it has to go through hardware. Distortion is subjective, just a couple of thoughts. Gotta go.

Email sent... thanks Ingo. No rush on this, take your time.

Well well the Sibs are speaking to each other!  So here is the export. Your sib file seems louder for some reason and has a hidden object at the beginning  that I'm not familiar with, go to view > hidden objects and you'll see it. I've never had that I don't think. I'm hearing the swells but I'm uncertain about the distortion, you'll have to see.

You might try exporting in wav format and then converting to mp3 at 320 kbs in Audacity and then raising the volume considerably before rendering. Or at least use 320 in Sibelius.  That will increase fidelity and put less stress on hardware for playback, something to try anyway.

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Liz I understand your position, but I don't know why it doesn't make any sense to compare with any other of Beethoven's completed works. His music is very pointy in the sense that most of it is based on a singular musical idea where the rest of the composition develops. The opening of his Fifth is 4 notes, and from those 4 notes the entire symphony is built. You can hear these 4 notes all throughout the first movement. So a sketch can give us a lot of detail and information about what the piece might of sounded in its entirety.

    

Liz Atems said:

Hi Saul,

Agreed that it's nice that we can disagree respectfully. ;) We seem to be talking past each other though. To me it just doesn't make sense to compare this sketch with ANY completed Beethoven work - it's apples to oranges. In fact I don't know of any other Beethoven sketch that is just a bare line, with no indication of what the context was to be, other than that it was found along with the Op. 130 sketches. So I don't have any point of comparison to say that this is equal to or not as good as any other comparable Beethoven sketch. To me it comes down to whether it is beautiful or not. That's why I said... de gustibus.

Liz

Sounds exactly like it does when played back on my system! Yes, quite distorted in the louder passages. So it's not a hardware problem on my end but something in either Sib or NP. And if it's in Sib it's not something that started with Ultimate. It could still be some setting in the score though. Thank you Ingo for taking the time to do this!

The loudness is probably the master volume setting in the mixer. I'm told that CAN cause distortion, but you can lower it as much as you want and it won't eliminate this distortion.

Is the hidden object a text string ~C105, 39 at the top of each staff? That's a NP MIDI message to decrease the amount of vibrato. I find NP's default vibrato to be excessive.

Ingo Lee said:

Well well the Sibs are speaking to each other!  So here is the export. Your sib file seems louder for some reason and has a hidden object at the beginning  that I'm not familiar with, go to view > hidden objects and you'll see it. I've never had that I don't think. I'm hearing the swells but I'm uncertain about the distortion, you'll have to see.

You might try exporting in wav format and then converting to mp3 at 320 kbs in Audacity and then raising the volume considerably before rendering. Or at least use 320 in Sibelius.  That will increase fidelity and put less stress on hardware for playback, something to try anyway.

Hi Saul,

I agree that a sketch can give us a lot of information about the piece. Long ago I heard a recorded discussion of the sketches for Beethoven's 5th, presented by Leonard Bernstein. He gave a few examples of early versions of the 1st movement's exposition. One thing that jumped out at me was that the sketches were very much inferior to the final version. So you could indeed say that the sketches were "junk" as they were eventually discarded by the composer... again, compared to the work that eventually emerged after the struggle to get it right was complete.

So in that sense any sketch is likely to be inferior to the final version of the work they were a sketch for. And I would certainly consider it reasonable to compare sketches for a particular passage in a work to the same passage in its final version (and I just did that). It is harder to compare the quality of entirely different types of works by the same composer: e,g. how do you compare the quality of, say, the Op. 109 piano sonata with the 9th Symphony? Harder still, in my opinion, to compare the *theme* that Beethoven used in the variations in Op. 109 with, say, the 9th Symphony's scherzo. Not the movements, but the "theme" itself against the complete movement. This is where, to me, we are starting to get into apples vs. oranges comparisons.

Here we are trying to compare not a theme but an 8 bar sketch of a theme, unaccompanied, just a bare line, and likely not even the complete theme but a fragment of a theme, against the entirety of Beethoven's output. I just don't see any basis on which to do that. I would say the same about any single fragment of a melodic line in any work by Beethoven. I would need to see the entire theme, preferably filled out harmonically, and in context, to know how I'd judge the work against similar works by the same composer.

YMMV (and obviously does, which is fine).

Liz you have a point.

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