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Achilles Concert Overture

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by William Kersten, Nov 22, 2019.

  1. @William Kersten You seem to be very disappointed about ViC. However, I am not into any details about the drama and why things went overboard there and actually I am not sure what the whole gripe there is. However a little advice and I know you will laugh: If you don´t like it there, simply stay away. It is that simple. Regarding youtube: If you upload music there, yes, people may dislike it. That is the nature of Youtube. If you don´t like that too, simply don´t upload pieces if you are having a problem with that. (you can also deactivate the likes).

    But one thing I know for the things here: I would appreciate if you rephrase your comment slightly because I think it was and it is never good to shoehorn absolute generalizations on all of the people from that other forum. I also would appreciate it that we keep our fruitful music talks.

    Thank you! :)
    Martin Hoffmann and Frank Wales like this.
  2. #3 William Kersten, Nov 22, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
    Yes, poorly presented. I resolved to stay off that other Forum so should just drop it. This is a piece that was played live but the performance was under-rehearsed and discouraged me about the music. The sample version done much later was much more faithful to the score.

    Another thing on this piece that was weird - I had originally written it by hand, but then did a MIDI performance the way I used to program by playing in each line instead of using notation or step sequencing. So each line was non-quantized. I then was trying to prepare a printed score and parts to finally publish it. I tried to quantize the MIDI but it was so hard with the mixed triplet/duplet alternations and the fact it is mainly in 12/8 though the MIDI was 4/4 with triplets the quantizing just went crazy - a huge mess - so I gave up and simply rewrote the entire score in notation this time into the software and totally bypassed the MIDI file. It is so much harder to quantize an imperfect performance than to humanize a perfect one.

  3. I am curious to hear more about this if you feel like sharing.
  4. Well to date myself it was written in 1979 and played shortly after by a university orchestra who weren't bad. But the music is pretty difficult in various sections and overall, not performed well as a result. Years later I did a sample performance that correctly played a lot of the fast inner lines with no wrong notes, was in tune, was together, and it made me realize my opinion of the piece had been influenced by the performance. In other words I thought it wasn't that great because of how it sounded. But I was actually shocked when I did the sample performance, and thought "Hey! This doesn't really suck!" This is the exact opposite of what people are often talking about on forums - how performers bring a wonderful reality that transforms a composer's music and makes him hear things he never thought were there, etc. etc. What happened with me is I DIDN'T hear things that I had put there.

    I've said this on other forums and instantly people chime in "well, if you have bad players..." No, that is not the case. These were not bad players. They just weren't virtuosi who can practically sight-read a new piece and play it perfectly.

    Another example of this happening with my stuff was "Earth and Paradise" a song-cycle. It was performed live by the Reno Chamber Orchestra (not an easy orchestra to get to play your music - try it), and the singer Lori Trustman was fantastic, but the orchestra just couldn't do the music without out-of-tune strings, wrong notes, harp playing in the wrong bar, etc. So even though that music was well-recorded at the time, I don't even want that performance heard. I later did a performance with the same singer and used VSL for the accompaniment and it represents the music vastly better than the live.
  5. That is a very interesting account. I am always daydreaming of a live performance, but perhaps I shouldn't. I have previously commented on this piece on other forums, and you know I like it. So I will not comment further on the composition.

    So based on your experience, perhaps if we hope for a live performance, we need to really try to write our music to be more easily playable than we might have thought necessary? I'm not sure I could do that. What are your thoughts?
  6. #7 Martin Hoffmann, Nov 23, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
    I'm actually kind of glad you say that because I often felt weird for seemingly being the only one who is underwhelmed by the live recordings that people (usually very enthusiastically) post on forums sometimes. Maybe it is because I got so used to hearing samples, but I'm quite fine with hearing sampled-only versions of compositions compared to "budget-range orchestras" or even better ones with too little prep & rehearsal time.

    P.s.: Really like your track by the way, but I think I might already have said that on VI:C.
  7. #8 Mattia Chiappa, Nov 23, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
    I think technology is fucking with our brains and distorting our perception of what can be achievable in reality. I do not have a ton of experience with real orchestras but from years of playing in bands, I do know for a fact that there isn't such a thing as a medium ground among professional players. They are tremendously inconsistent in terms that their levels are all over the map. Writing for the specific player can drastically change the outcomes of how the music turns out, even if in the end it'll alter the vision you originally had for the piece. I can only imagine that unless you can afford to hire a top orchestra, you'd probably get a similar experience. The right music for the proper context.
    You can pretty much mockup any type of music for any ensemble at any level, as well as you can break all the rules and make your music only possible to be played by machines. Both scenarios have potentially unachievable outcomes and I wonder if these 2 realities start coincide when your music is so complex it can be only played by top players or machines.

    I'm not talking about William's music specifically, just as a general thought.
  8. "...distorting our perception of what can be achievable in reality." Mattia, yeah, especially with recordings in which you hear the greatest orchestra that ever existed, and since the CD only cost $7.99 people think it's pretty normal. Also, thanks Martin that is my experience also. Paul, I never wrote for specific groups of playing ability though probably should have. But commercial arrangements need to be practical. One example I can think of is writing something for concert band that will be published by a school music publisher. There you obviously have to write for the abilities of the players.
  9. Fascinating discussion. First off, congratulations on another impactful work, Bill! Dramatic gestures abound alongside some beautiful lyrical phrases.

    As to the idea of writing music that meets the technical abilities of performers, in my mind that's no different than simply deciding to chase the style of music/trends that are popular. My father in law once told Becky and me (for those that don't know, my wife Becky and I are a classical accordion and clarinet duo, Acclarion) that in order for us to build our career, we should write and play music that was popular...he showed us a website for (this is hilarious!)...Alicia Keys. Yes, my father in law had discovered her after the Grammy Awards and said all we had to do was "change our style" and we'd be successful. Lord help us all.

    A composer should be true to their voice. They should write first to appeal to their own musical tastes and sensibilities, developing their skill in a direction that they see as most beneficial. If the goal is the most live performances by community orchestras one can attain, then sure, write music that will sound great by a violin section comprised of doctors, lawyers, and accountants that see Tuesday night rehearsal as an escape from their daily grind. If the goal is to challenge oneself to write more contrapuntally and develop musical ideas, then go for it. If the goal is to be played by powerhouse orchestras, the first step is to recognize how competitive the landscape is, and the giants that have come before you (composers today inevitably must suffer "burden of the past") and ensure that the music you are writing has something to say. Understand that high level musicians will appreciate technical challenges coupled with musically satisfying sounds. Writing endless tuplet polyrhythms alongside endless chromatic 32nd note runs, coupled with tone clusters that never provide a moment of harmonic respite might not appeal to a lot of people (outside of academic circles). As with everything, finding the balance is key.

    To return to my initial point: for me, being a composer offers a freedom of expression that helps me make sense of the world in which I live. The music I write is deeply personal and meaningful to me. While I consider idiomatic instrument techniques and being respectful of the technical challenges that musicians will have to overcome, I will never personally try to "dumb down" my writing to meet the needs of less-virtuosic/capable performers. Doing so would leave me with music that wasn't authentic, and even if it got performed, I'd only be getting performed music which I wasn't wholeheartedly satisfied with. Even if the live performances never come, at least we're in a position with samples to give listeners a hint at what our music might sound like played by a competent ensemble. In fact, I've had midi performances get me live performances and discourage live performances from disgruntled musicians all at the same time, but I'll digress for now!

  10. That really puts it eloquently. David has a way of expressing things so well that I felt but never articulated.

  11. Well, this thread has transformed nicely from "Rat-fucking" (BTW don't knock it until you have tried it ;)) to a worthwhile discussion.

    I am the yin to everyone's yang here, but I am also curious to ask about your chamber works. You have a number for duo, quartet etc. listed on your site

    Have you had those smaller works played? Obviously fewer logistics involved. I gave up using sample libraries 6-7 years ago and I am never going back.

    I would rather quit music honestly.
  12. It's interesting to hear you say this, Doug. As someone that is in my early 40s and having ended my career to compose full time (essentially considering myself FIRE-financial independence, retire early), I would be lost without samples. My ultimate goal is getting live performances of all my chamber and orchestral works, and to that end, I get about 3-5 performances annually. If I spent my entire year only able to savour those few moments, I would be very depressed. Working with samples gives me the chance to be productive year round, and quite honestly, to hear my works "better" than they often are live (by better, I mean technically better...there are of course aesthetics and interpretive aspects of live performance that always impress beyond the perfect tuning, note/rhythm execution we get with sampled performances).

    I apologize for sabotaging with my experience, when your question was directed at William, but felt it might be worth adding an additional point of view to keep the discussion alive.

    Doug Gibson likes this.
  13. #14 Doug Gibson, Nov 26, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2019
    You mean about Rat-fucking? :p

    Yes, I recall. I had mentioned to you my first mentor was Christos Hatzis, whom I consider a dear personal friend.

    Well I do use Noteperformer and Sibelius. So it would be a lie to say I am exclusively pen/paper. I just mean I don't invest any money in libraries, and don't spend time tweaking them, worried about reverb etc.

    Before I give you my counter-argument, let me explicitly say that I have just found what makes ME happy. NOT EVERYONE or even what I feel is the
    RIGHT way. I don't think my way is better at all. It's just a personal statement of what makes me the happiest. Some people have gear lust and thrive on it.
    That's cool too. Diversity is a cool thing for collaboration.

    Ok. So when I thought about the same thing as you state above I saw it as a "false choice". A middle ground made me the most artistically satisfied.
    The way I read your statement is --- Samples or Live performances.

    Having live musicians go into a studio was the best of both worlds for me. I rarely ever use recordings from a live performance. It's not even something I am concerned about.

    Basically, if I have $$$ I would rather spend it on getting one of my works recorded than a library or gear.

    For example, this recording turned out perfectly for me. We had a one-hour rehearsal and the whole recording was done in about 90 minutes.
    Now the pianist is the pianist for the NY Phil, and the principle Violist for the New Jersey Symphony.....so.....they really is amazing.

    The point is the whole process was a thrill. The end result was a thrill, and it's totally over. No more tweaking. Live and die with any imperfections.
    I am ok with that.

    My Bass Clarinet Concerto: It was recorded with a 3 hour session in Bratislava. I have no idea how long I would have to spend mocking it up. But again for me the PROCESS is more important than the "Product".

    But I really don't care to be admired. I am in the "I don't care if you listen" camp. Glenn Gould is a hero of mine.

    I am much more interested in keeping my practice alive, and interesting right now over anything else.

    That aside: If I was going to invest in gear etc., I would go for a building a home recording studio. For Classical music, really you need good mics, and ideally a wonderful piano. That's the most of it. But that is just me.
  14. I can genuinely see the appeal in that. I get so lost in tweaking things, it often feels like stepping in a trap.

    But having stuff performed live would give me so much anxiety, I don't think I'd ever even get to the point where I'd think anything I write is even good enough to have recorded in the first place (and it probably really isn't yet).
  15. Doug,

    First off, I apologize for not recalling our previous conversation! Your mention of Christos Hatzis triggered that I had indeed chatted with you prior, but my memory for certain things is less than stellar.

    Now, to your comments: First, I listened to a significant portion of your bass clarinet concerto, for which I'll return to in short order (life with a 2 year old makes it difficult to find uninterrupted time). The first thing you'll appreciate, is my wife walking in to the room, hearing your piece and saying, "that's not a sample library is it, because if it is, we're getting it." LOL! Appropriate response considering the subject we're discussing. And she's a clarinetist herself :)

    You don't care if we listen, which I'll assume means, you also don't care what we think. I'll keep it short: I enjoyed your work, appreciate your inventiveness, and modernity without over-reaching to the point of complete alienation of your "audience."

    I will say, I personally have struggled with the meaning of what I (or any of us) do. When speaking with new music composers, I've often heard your sentiment echoed. It seems to me that those that have studied music formally and at a high level, whether in academic circles, or even through self-study, increasingly face alienation from mainstream audiences. They know their work has value and amongst colleagues, can find some validation (or at the opposite end, discouragement) from those that are capable/interested in discussing/dissecting their work. However, since this style of music will not resonate with the vast majority of listeners, they develop a wall around themselves and their art, essentially doing what they do for themselves. While this is admirable, I've often felt that the more skilled/educated/capable a composer, the more insecure. Rather than risk rejection/criticism, they essentially protect themselves with the "I do it for me only" perspective. (I'm in no way insinuating this applies to you, Doug, but just a general feeling I've had from the circle of composers I've known and befriended.)

    Anyway, in order for me to find value in what I have chosen to do with my life, I've had to find an uneasy marriage between your stance (I do it for me, and don't care if anyone else appreciates it) and the need to reach people with my music. At the end of it all, music is a form of communication and expression that can be a gift for those willing to accept it.

    You mentioned your love of the process, and for this, I can absolutely, unequivocally agree that collaborating with humans can bring something to the table that a computer never will. And again, your experiences with fine musicians performing your work would of course, trump any amount of work with samples. That said, from my perspective, I'm simply grateful for having expanded my skill set beyond simply writing. Many "classical" composers will never be willing to explore DAWs and samples, and recently I spoke with such a composer that was regretful that he hadn't acquired these skills, feeling like a prisoner to the waiting and hoping game that performers will play with you (I know for a fact that I've been the bad performer that didn't respond to countless composer emails asking me to play their work over the years...and now as a composer, I experience it from this end as well).

    Finally, it seems if one has the financial resources to pay orchestras to record their music, that is a luxury that will be hard to relate to for many composers. This might shock you, but if I have $10,000 to record a concerto via a real orchestra, or put that same money in to sample libraries, I would choose the samples. Why? Two reasons: first, while the single recording would no doubt trump my 3 month DAW mock-up, it's just a single piece...and I'm going to want every other piece done to that standard. Second, a recording for posterity is wonderful, but for me, having an expensive recording and no audience to share it with would make me feel like it was a very expensive vanity project. There's one final thing, and I hesitate to say it, but I will: I've often felt that composers (living, unknown) are essentially glorified beggars that must bow before the almighty performer and request the privilege of a performance. I'd much rather have music played by live performers that value the music itself and want the chance to lend their interpretation (often the first and only vs. the 100th of a Brahms work for example) to something new. When they value the music beyond simply seeing it as a "gig" for which they're paid, it feels much more fulfilling for me, because at the end of the day, there's no real money in any of this for any of us...we may as well see the composer-performer relationship as a team, rather than a "work for hire" mentality. I understand this isn't realistic most of the time, which is why I respect a composer making the choice to pay to have their work recorded/performed. Just wish things could be different more often :)

    I'll stop rambling now, but again, I wanted to thank you for your wonderful insight in to this, Doug. And congratulations again on those two works being recorded. I have some more questions for you re. the orchestra recording, but will save that for another time as this is actually William's thread!

    Doug Gibson and Paul T McGraw like this.
  16. #17 William Kersten, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
    "But I really don't care to be admired. I am in the "I don't care if you listen" camp." - Doug Gibson
    Sorry this set me off. I am misunderstanding things.
  17. I don't think those comments were aimed at you at all William. The discussion had moved away from your piece and towards the relative use of samples vs live. All I'm reading in this thread so far is that different people have different approaches for different reasons. So what? I don't believe for one second that Doug looks down on people who use samples. Why else would he bother to give feedback to many people's works here? Most of which are sampled. As for not caring about whether people listen or not, I am fairly certain he's talking about his own work there.

    You're free to leave of course but from what I've seen so far everyone here has been hospitable and generous with their time. It's a two way street.
  18. Thank you, friend.

    All my best wishes


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