I am pleased to present the fully orchestral version of my Sinfonia Solenne, which I'm now calling my Symphony No. 1 and giving the opus number 2b (the finished strings-only version I posted last week is now my Op. 2a). There are a few new elements here, most notably that the work opens with a soft timpani roll, as does the recurrence of the main fugue; and in 3 passages in the score there is a sparse, very quiet bass line given tentatively to the timpani (I don't know how quickly timpanists can retune - if it's unplayable as written i can rescore the parts where pitch is essential for double basses, pizzicato).

The work is scored for two flutes and a piccolo, two clarinets and a bass clarinet, two oboes, cor anglais, two F horns and two C trumpets (I call for a D6 which I don't think a B-flat trumpet can reach - but I could be wrong), bassoon and contrabasson, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, a string quartet, and standard strings including double basses. The string ensemble is in some places reduced to 2 or 3 players per section for a purer, more transparent sound, but I do not call for a separate "chamber strings" choir as I did in the strings-only version. The low brass are used VERY sparingly, as is the piccolo. Percussion is limited to the timpani; this is mostly a slightly expanded classical orchestra; I think the size is similar to what Robert Simpson used for several of his symphonies.

The rendering was done with Sibelius + NotePerformer using Concert Hall reverb level. I do not like that much reverb and think the sound in this version is a little on the muddy side, but since that's the only kind of hall this version could be performed in, I felt I had to go with it. There are places where the inner voices are obscured a lilttle by the reverb, but others where the distinctive timbres helps to bring them out, so it might be a wash.

Final update I think, as of 01:00 UTC ib 3 June. I'm pretty satisfied with this - no really significant changes since last update, mostly refinements to dynamics and various hacks to make Sib / NP articulate the phrases clearly and correctly. If you held off listening because, aww shoot, she'll just make more changes, I think now would be okay. If you've already heard the orchestral version, no need to listen again unless you really want to. ;)

Audio file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NgmfgUOwyxlDcNOizRP2zUR9B5YehbHC/view?usp=sharing

Score used for rendering (meaning: here be hacks): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1D9TvbwdQyRsEzC9AZRt8C50PWbaUXa1T/view?usp=sharing

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                    • After reviewing all my options, I confess that my inner geek is taking over, and now I am harboring completely unrealistic ambitions about cooking up my own VSTs. None of the options seem particularly appealing, honestly, because they all require manual intervention to operate -- AFAIK none of them are scriptable.  Also, simply importing the MIDI isn't going to work for my setup: I split my orchestra into sections, each of which goes into a separate MIDI file, because I need more than 16 simultaneous channels in total. For this I use my own custom instrument assignments, which will likely result in totally garbled output if I were to simply feed the MIDI into, say, NotePerformer.

                      So I'm thinking instead of taking one of the better free sample sets like Virtual Playing Orchestra or one of the derivatives of the venerable Sonatina Symphony Orchestra, and writing my own program to drive them.  For one thing, while MIDI has played an important role of being the common language for transferring musical data between diverse programs, it also suffers from inherent limitations, such as lack of direct representation of musical elements like articulations and phrasing -- hacks are employed to work around this (like keyswitches and such).

                      My (totally wild and unrealistic) dream is to use a musical representation that retains more of the higher-level information like articulations, phrasing, and such, so that the underlying sound synthesis routines can do a better job at all-important elements like phrasing.  Bowing and tonguing, especially, are a royal pain to work with in MIDI.

                    • Each midi file can carry 16 channels which will generate 16 tracks in a DAW or 16 staves in a notation program.  My chamber orchestra template is 12 solo or section instruments and it goes back and forth on one midi file. I can also easily assemble multiple midi files in either the DAW or Sibelius.

                      NotePerformer will not accept midi but there's no reason for it to.

                      It's easy to make your own samples also but that's another story.


                    • If you will send me one of your midi files I'll be happy to see exactly what happens with it in Siblelius etc. I'll send a PM


                    • I must say, that sounds very ambitious. On the Dorico forum, someone who is pretty good at programming wanted to demonstrate that you can get musical results with good reprogramming of the Halion orchestra library bundled with the notation software. And indeed there was a certain amount of musicality in the phrasing etc but nothing that could compensate for the fact that the string samples are not remotely realistic to begin with. Starting with a completely free library (and I listened to a bit of the Virtual Playing Orchestra you mention) sounds on the face of it as a non-starter in terms of producing something which sounds like a real orchestra but I would be delighted of you can prove me wrong!

                      NotePerformer, which has been much discussed here and is very popular with those using notation software, is pretty good in many ways but has its limitations. Unfortunately the only way to get something which sounds remotely like a real orchestra is to invest money in something which has decent samples and competent programming and then be willing to put in a bit of work. Virtually everything like that comes in a industry-standard format with VST being the most popular and to use these you require notation software with good playback support -- Dorico is already the best and the gap will only widen -- or a DAW. Of course a lot of people aren't willing to do that -- and I, myself have to set limits on how much time and money I'm willing to spend on the illusory perfect performance.

                    • I agree that starting with non-realistic samples is a non-starter. As they say, no matter how much you polish a turd, it's still a turd.

                      I actually have no problem with paying for higher quality samples -- but the problem that arises for me is that these come with the IMO completely irrelevant requirement that I must use their interface to interact with said samples in the way they dictate. I'm not talking about copyright issues here (I respect their copyright and the fact that musicians and studios need to be paid if they're to continue doing what they're doing), but about the fact that the data I purchased is already here sitting on my hard drive, yet I am not given the keys to use them as I see fit, but can only access them via the IMO klunky interface the seller has arbitrarily decided that I must use.  I can't for example write a script for automatically rendering some sequence of notes into a file that I then post-process into part of the resulting audio; I can't, say, import the wave data from a bass pizzicato C and insert it into my audio file. I have to click through endless layers of buttons and drop-down menus just to coax the thing to do what I want. Every, single, time.  The hood is welded shut; there are no user-serviceable components inside and prying it open voids the warranty.  As someone who isn't getting paid to write music, I don't find these working conditions very appealing, because they don't fit in with the way I work, and it's a big waste of time having to do things in this circuitous way when I'm already pressed for free time.

                      (Of course, I do understand the irony of complaining about free time when I'm talking about engineering my own solution to a problem an entire industry has been working on for the past several decades. :-P  But I did say this was a completely unrealistic and impractical dream.)

                      And it's especially frustrating when the data is already there for things like phrasing, tonguing, etc., in the form of the myriad of articulations modern sample libraries come with these days, but I can't access any of that directly but have to go through that antiquated interface of MIDI with keyswitch hacks and other band-aid solutions.  All the necessary materials for engineering a better solution are already at hand, yet I am prohibited from making use of them to build a better house, just because someone else has already decided that their way of building a house is the only way to build one.

                      P.S. All of this is prompting my inner geek to look for a priori ways of generating sound waves from first principles, i.e., of synthesizing individual instruments from scratch by simulating the physics behind it.  Which, of course, relegates this idea from "extremely unlikely" to "outright impossible, never gonna happen". :-P

  • I feel a bit inadequate to really say anything about your piece. I will second an opinion shared here about moving on and not fretting too much about small details in a piece. I think as well that it may lead to you losing sight of the original spirit, that is at least what happens to me.

    In the end... To each his own, if you are sure that perfecting a composition is really good for your piece, then I am sure it is. Being true to yourself is always important when composing, that's one lesson I carry from my composition professor.

    Personally the piece seems to hold on together very well, and the identity is well established. The melodic movement is powerful to keep the energy of the piece going (a lot of dissonance), but the repetitive nature of it takes away from the energy the longer the piece goes. The use of the timpani in the middle does help somewhat, but it is not enough. 

    It's a great piece, and i hope to be able to write something of this magnitude one day, well done. Can't wait to hear what you will share next here.

    • Thank you for listening and for sharing your thoughts! I have a hard time squaring "it's a great piece" with "repetitive nature" and"it is not enough", but you could be right about the latter. Several people have commented that it comes across as repetitive. I can't really judge. It is what it is, it's not really an energetic piece except in the central section, more a reflective one. But it's my Op. 2, and I know I have a lot of learning to do, in comparison to many of the experienced people here. And yes, I've pretty well moved on and am working on an exercise in fugue writing, which was the original intent of this piece when I started. This one I'm determined to not let get away from me. :)

  • Tried to listen, file wont play.

    • try downloading it instead -- the player is a bit dodgy, I think.


      • Yes, the player is AWFUL. I think it's actually Google Drive... every time I've tried to listen to this piece straight from a link to my Drive, it quits at some random point. Definitely download it and then listen on a player of your choice.

        And thanks, Saul, for your interest in my piece.

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