Now this is something that happens to me quite often. Have you ever been in the situation where someone asked “What are you using to create your music?”. Probably since most people aren't familiar with the technology nowadays, at least where I live. I cannot recall how many scornful looks I've received for stating that I take my Horns and Violins from an orchestra library. Most people don't even want to take a look at it because it seems totally ridicolous to them. I don't know if it's pure ignorance or the technology that most people aren't aware of. I guess it's a mix of both since people are trying to avoid it. I highly respect the real orchestra and I would always prefer it if I had the choice, but samples became really important because they give people with lower budgets the chance to listen to their compositions. Yeah I know, that's nothing new to everyone who reads this. However, I wish more people would acknowledge that. So how's it where you live? Well I can imagine that sample libraries are much better known and understood in states like LA, the situation in my country (Germany by the way) is stated above. Any similar situations so far?

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  • I sort of know what you mean, since I do a lot of sampling myself, but since it's sampling of the work of others, people take a different view on that which is usually more condemning. I respect the real orchestra as well, and I learn a lot from it, but I just wish people would stop condemning my music, because it's a legitimate art form as well (I'd like to see some of these people try it). But yeah I use different orchestra and drum/ other instrument sounds in addition to sampling from genres, so I know what you're talking about. I wish some people would stop being so close-minded.
  • I have a love/hate relationship with my samples. I love the ease in which it lets me create those timbres. It is however never going to be able to create the same kind of dynamic energy that a kick ass rehearsed orchestra or band will create. I started off writing with midi in the 80s, always with the idea that it was a mock up for a live band (like the way phil kelley puts up his charts, as scores with little concern on mixing or making the digital representation sound *real*) and because of the kind of work i have landed I have had to make steady sacrifice and spend more and more time getting in touch with digital samples and synths as the instruments performing and less that they represent the live instrument to be played at some point. It hurts my soul to sacrifice, but its fun also and I do enjoy it. Hmmm maybe i should get a gig with some self flagellating religeos order... haha
  • Denny, there will always be ignorant people with stupid attitudes. I usually try to get them to actually listen to my music, before they get a chance to question me about technical details about construction. My strategy is based on the music affecting them on an emotional level. Later, if they discover the trombone part was a sampled instrument, that idea won't turn them off, usually.

    A separate topic is the validity of 'computer-generated' music. Looking at the arts in general, I think society expects an individual artist to be the 'author' when he or she attaches their name to a work of art. For example, I could appropriate some beautiful recordings of fantastic phrases by Janis Joplin and then place those recordings with a drum solo by, say, John Bonham, and so on. I could do an entire CD of this kind of material with that construction strategy. The recording might sound fantastic, but you would be building on the fine talent of others and maybe without their approval. And not just their individual talents, but the talents of the people who engineered the recordings, did the mix-downs, and mastering. I think there's a valid stigma associated with excessive sampling of 'famous' recordings. I think the process of re-mixing is a lazy way to produce new material, a lazy way to compose. Hey- just my opinion.

    One of my favorite forms of generating music with computers, is with the use of synthesizers. It's possible to build very original soundscapes, by using and configuring the basic building blocks of synths, like LFO's, filters, logic modules, etc.

    Getting back to sample libraries- There are two ways to use them in recordings:
    1- as 'finished' 'polished' recordings
    2- as 'demos' that showcase your talent and ideas as a composer or arranger

    So a lot depends on the purpose of the music. Will the recording be used 'as is',
    in a video game? Or are you composing for a modern ballet, that will use
    a live orchestra? In the latter case, you don't need a polished recording, although
    it can never hurt to present a realistic recording that doesn't draw attention to the
    construction 'details'.

    When I try to use a particular sample that sounds too unrealistic, I remove it and sometimes replace it with a better sample, and that could mean changing the instrumentation. ...but my goal is a recording that can stand alone as a finished piece.

    I acknowledge the fact that I use orchestral samples because I can't afford to hire an orchestra, but in the future I may hire a few musicians to play a piano quartet. That would be a fun learning experience.
    • So a lot depends on the purpose of the music. Will the recording be used 'as is',
      in a video game? Or are you composing for a modern ballet, that will use
      a live orchestra? In the latter case, you don't need a polished recording, although
      it can never hurt to present a realistic recording that doesn't draw attention to the
      construction 'details'.

      The problem is that for me, I learned to write traditionally, pencils and score paper, and originally used computers only as a mockup (unless making synth music) and with the intention that my music would be played by orchestras or big bands. Now today I only very rarely get the opportunity of working with live musicians so I am forced to look at my sample collection differently... and it forces me to change what I am writing sometimes - when that contra bassoon staccato legato alternation just sounds wrong because the samples werent recorded with the line/articulation you had in mind, then you have to rewrite the line/articulation to fit the sample, or find a different sample that responds the way you want, possibly a different instrument... This tedium is probably the main issue that frustrates me. I am able to come up with something that sounds real, but only by compromising on some level the music. I mean maybe some day there will be some other midi controller with a hip new sample library that i can do a line with really the articulation i want "zit zoo doo daht zit doo-eee" instead of "zit zat zut zit zit zat zut" Maybe in 10 years there will be more breakthroughs with technology. But I think mostly I resent that a. the industry doesnt support live performance recordings of orchestra and big bands any more and b. My creativity and musical craft have to be compromised by sample libraries that "almost" do what you want. Maybe there already is new stuff out there but I havent heard it yet, VSL full pro ediition, Emu MSO, East West libraries... its all amazing and shite at the same time

      So what my process ends up is a LOT more time involved: writing ideas stage (keyboard, pencils, paper), sequencing stage to give it a real performance sound as best i can (cubase, gigastudio, digital performer), and if I get lucky with a budget then i have to take my sequence and quantize it to smithereens and import to finale and create score/parts from that, adding a whole layer that never existed... = SUCKS MY BUTT lol
    • In response to what Doug said takes a lot more work, study, and talent to be an actual composer than to remix something...but I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a lazy way to make new material because it takes a lot of time, effort, and creative vision to get it to sound right, sure I can throw some drums over a Janis Joplin track, (they'd have to be my own rhythms though, because other people's drum solos just don't fit everywhere), but would it blend right? Would the drums be too loud or sound as if they were just pasted over the sample cheaply? You have to re-master it, engineer it, and so on, as well as re arrange it. Random drums over a sample is simply that.
      • Sure Stephen, but that is being a producer, not a composer. If I may be so bold to quote a leader in composer advocacy and head of the Film Music Network, Mark Northam:

        "To me, it comes down to a simple difference: being a composer, or being an editor.
        Composing involves choosing notes and putting them together into phrases, parts, melodies, rhythms, etc.
        Editing involves choosing pre-packaged phrases, loops, or other pre-packaged groups of notes or sounds and putting them together like Lego blocks.
        That's not to say that some composers aren't doing composing and editing, and it's not to say that orchestral, live music is the only real "composing"
        - it's certainly not. But let's not confuse the two creative acts - composing is creating original music by choosing notes. Editing is creating music by stringing together pre-packaged music, sounds, etc. Big difference."

        That is just how it is. I think highly of what you are doing Stephen, and I am glad you are here with us, and the product you are creating is very musical and creative, but as an advocate for working with pre-created music you will fall into the category of producer/engineer that adds in a little composition, and not a composer.

        I am all for this way of expression, as long as it is a means of creative expression and not just a cheap and easy way to get cue sheet credits as a composer and placement on films without having paid your dues. I think in your case, you are on a good path of self development, but most who approach music from the loop writing side are not

        Which means that there are tons of hacks out there that take jobs from brilliant masterminds of the art of composition. And my life long goal is to be successful with that art form, and in the process to do what I can to preserve it for others like me.

        Yea I know I sound like a pompous ass probably, but I have spent 25 years refining my art, touring europe and south america playing jazz as a soloist and sideman, recording on probably well over 500 recordings as a (mostly non-credited) sideman, written scores for big band and orchestra by hand with no help from computers or synths. I guess I feel I deserve to be a little bit. Hmm hmm hmm now I need to go and meditate on why I really feel this way, something about my attitude is unhealthy tho 90% of it is righteous... so im off to think on this more :)
  • I think there are a lot of situations where a composer supplies the client with a finished recording. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm thinking about video games and compositions that are specifically designed for synthesized and sampled instruments. Also, aren't producers of lower budget films and videos, looking for a finished recording that doesn't involve hiring an orchestra?

    Another thought- if a composer wants to impress film producers, shouldn't they present a recording that shows off their talent in the best way possible? I think that would mean polishing, arranging, and recording a virtual orchestra, and doing everything possible to make it feel 'real' without drawing attention to artificiality of the instruments.

    Have you ever heard the soundtrack to Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'? ...just a piano.
    I don't think a huge complex arrangement is always a necessity. ...and that makes it
    easier to produce a polished recording. I guess it's not for everyone, but I enjoy
    mixing and recording. Does anyone else?
  • Stephen, I didn't mean to imply that a re-mix would be slapped together quickly and not skillfully.
    I guess I'm saying that even if a recording is created through a piecing together of pre-recorded
    material, in a beautiful and skillful way, there is still the important issue of authorship and
    originality. Someone can create a fantastic rhythm section, using a a variety of prerecorded
    material, and then add a recording of Miles Davis as prominent element. It may be a
    beautiful finished recording, re-mix, that took a year of sweat to compete. What bugs me,
    is that the important elements of the finished recording required the talents of
    other musicians. Using those talents to build your reputation and status in the music world
    just doesn't make sense to me. When Davis played that solo, back in the 50's, would he
    want it used in a recording in the future, maybe a recording he would've disapproved of?

    On the other hand, I rather like the idea of creating one's own loops, in a way that doesn't
    sound too repetitive.

    If all new recordings of individual tracks ceased, and we were only left with remixing,
    I'd be unhappy. It would be a great loss. -Doug
    • Yep, Yep, I would probably sound pompous too if I had done all that for 25 years. You're right though Chris...about the difference between being a producer and a composer, because though they are close (since you can compose and produce). There is a difference. I'm definitely on the producer side, since all my stuff is derived out of samples essentially. Eventually though I want to get better at reading music, so I can do more. Doug...I know what you're talking about as well. Several samples get worked into stupid songs that have little or no meaning. And it seems like the original artist who was sampled off of would thought twice before approving of it being used. It all depends on the person behind the production. Me personally, I want my stuff to get heard by the original artists/composers to see what they think of it (aside from approval).

      "If all new recordings of individual tracks ceased, and we were only left with remixing,
      I'd be unhappy. It would be a great loss. -Doug"

      I think any musician worth his salt would say the same thing. After all individual tracks are what keep remixing alive, and I learn a lot from them. Thank you both for the comments!
    • I think tools like MIDI and samples are an amazing benefit for today's composer. The great composers of the past would've loved it. Another form of 'computer' music is something called synth 'noodles'. Using a synth like the Nord Modular, it is possible to 'build' a synthesizer that producers patterns/sounds that evolve over time, using LFO's and/or sequencers to trigger various changes automatically. So in that case, the creativity is all about setting up the synthesizer, rather than in arranging each measure of music, or performing the music with various instruments.

      I object to laziness in music composition. I think it shows in the final piece of music. I think it is very easy and tempting to grab some cool samples from successful recordings and end up with something new and exciting, and that becomes your own 'creativity'. It can be a very creative process, but I think it is disrespectful to the original recording artists and very unlike a homage to Vivaldi, where you have an artist like Bach, who has demonstrated a real talent for composinghis own themes, just like previous masters. In my opinion, when an artist references another artist, it only appeals to pseudo intellectual critics, who can point out the reference, showing their knowledge base. I've seen many artists refer to famous artists in their work and often it looks like they are using the reference as some kind of intellectual stepping stone to greater heights. It's hollow. It worries me to see composers going in the direction of losing or trading the creative process of writing melodies and harmonies, making arrangements, for a new process of cut and paste collage. I think that can work, but I feel it could easily be a 'trap' because it is easy to procure a beautiful solo by Wayne Shorter, rather than writing/performing your own recording. It's like the art of customizing your own Corvette, rather than designing and building it from scratch. ...Anyway, I'm done ranting. :)
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