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Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by William Kersten, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. This is one of my favorite pieces by Grieg and I did this MIDI performance a while ago, but recently re-mixed it. It is using the VSL Dimension violins and the Solo Violin on the somewhat detailed 4 part violin sections which have a lot of divisi, and the Appassionata strings on the other parts. The mix was done in the Pernegg Monastery MIR. I'm eager to hear any feedback on it.

    Last Spring
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  2. #2 Alexander Schiborr, Nov 17, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2019
    Hey William,

    Thanks for sharing your rendering of the beautiful piece from Grieg. I am not very familiar with Grieg, though I know the more famous pieces from him.

    You asked about feedback. So as we are speaking here about repertoire work I of course won´t give any feedback about composition or orchestration, but more about the things on the mix and impression of your digital mockup.

    Now first of all let me say: I am not big into VSL Sample Libraries, I have only a very few of them and so my knowledge is very limited in using them.

    What I noticed also in your other pieces you posted is that you obviously seem to handle VSL libraries in a great fashion, means that I heard quite a lot of mockups done with VSL which I did find a bit mostly very synthy sounding, but not with that one. It seems there is a long learning curve with VSL and once you understood how to use them, you can definitely create great sounding mockups with VSL too. The mix is decent too.

    What I still feel also in this mockup is the quality of performance in the samples which to my ears sound very conservative and sometimes a bit too much "safe" and "clean" for my taste. By that I mean that VSL is not so much on the side of romantic soaring expression on all the longer sustained notes which I simply miss quite a lot and lack of molto vibrato performance. I don´t know if that is a limitation of the library (which I guess it is) or simply you chose that deliberately for your interpretation.

    Having said that: Most libraries simply don´t come up with that overly molto vibrato and portamento techniques because the vast majority of libraries are not designed to mockup either classical or romantic era music.

    As this is not a fair comparison but still I do compare things in terms of expression that becomes very obvious when putting a reference on the table, e.g. like that one:

    Now don´t get me wrong: I know that it is not always the ultimate goal to "replicate" someones else performance but at least I think it might be an idea to look at a reference with attention in order to get close at least with some aspects like the dynamic range and amplitude between the very quite almost inaudible parts and the very loud ones and the expression and details on the first chairs etc.

    Also mate, don´t froget: That kind of pieces are the hardest to get right with samples because the amount of emotion and settle nuances in the playing of the string players is almost impossible to re-create with samples. Still there is what I call trying to push ourselves to the limits and using all kinds of tricks to make an "impression" of it.

    Being intrigued and interested to try out that piece by myself I mocked up a few bars this morning in order to take a closer look in the writing and divisi orchestration. Here is so far my take also.

  3. Alexander you're right there could definitely be more hairpins, espressivo in general. There is a lot more on the recording you posted. Yours sounds good (though your tempo is too fast - ha-ha!). I would re-do this but since I didn't compose it doubt I will! Grieg doesn't need any help from the likes of me.

    On the VSL sounds, Appassionata strings (and the other VSL strings as well) do have molto vibrato, very extreme portamentos, but I didn't use those. They could definitely be put in. Also, I had actually recently toned down this performance a little. I thought it got too loud. That was probably incorrect. Anyway it's very interesting to hear this and I think you're right about the additional dynamics. Probably more tempo variation also.

    Thinking about it generally, one thing that often happens in a MIDI performance is you put in some dynamic shading, and think it is just right because you adapted to it - somewhat like doing EQ in which your ear starts to adapt to it, and you can really screw up things that way. With dynamics, you can imagine that there is more there than is actually present. It's probably a good thing to exaggerate dynamics as you will probably find out they are not actually exaggerated.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  4. 2 + years ago I wrote a Homage to Grieg. The requirement was to stay within the difficulty level of high school string orchestras.

  5. William, I think you did a terrific job as this is a very difficult piece to perform. As you asked for feedback, I agree with what Alexander has said "in words", but not with his example (sorry Alexander). What you guys are calling dynamics and "hairpins" I think of as more the arc of a phrase that is very particular to string and wind players though something that some other performers also try to emulate. Its almost like stretching notes out and letting them decay at the end of a phrase to create dynamic room for the next crescendo or phrase arc. This is something that 8dio tried to emulate with their burned in arcs although this never seems to feel quite right in terms of its timing. These little nuances are very delicate and require just the right amount of timing, like spice in cooking.

    Could I do better? I doubt it. I'm still working on and focusing on my piano performance skills. As I said, its very tricky and gets into the realm of what makes a virtuoso performer. I feel really good performers would understand that problem that us lesser players struggle to attain (Leon Fleischer and Yo-Yo Ma have done some great tutorials and discussions on these you can see on YT - I've posted here before I believe in other threads so I won't do here). Ideally, a samplist would have the skills levels of a virtuoso player on our own instruments although I think few of us do. And very few (if any) of the worlds top virtuosos use samples. So that is really the issue we are up against - what is it that makes a really really great performance, as that should always be our reference point.

    I'm not sure if that helps at all, but I just wanted to clarify, as I hit the like button on Alexander's comment, and I thought it better to explain than say nothing at all. btw, I sometimes give feedback to a friend who creates demos for library you might know well, and my criticism can sometimes be very harsh, something I wouldn't do in public. However, in some cases, I've seen him do revisions, iterations, and improvement of thirty to forty times or more (more than I would ever have patience to do). Yet, this is what it takes before they reach the standard of performance level before these go public. Its not that they don't sound that way out of the box, but that, they took that much work to get a satisfactory performance. And this isn't really surprising if you think about how much time an effort a virtuoso performer puts into mastering his instrument.
  6. #6 William Kersten, Nov 18, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    Sorry - I am very bad at forums...
  7. William, I have nothing but respect for your talent and skills, believe me. However you were asking for feedback and I am simply giving an honest answer in the most respectful way I know how. My apologies if it was not in any way helpful.
  8. Why so defensive? Isn't this exactly what happened at the other forum? Greg's very first sentence to you was

    It's hard for me to tell (and I am sure others) do you just want to post your work here and be left alone?

    He was being very nice and trying to help. I am sure it must have taken 30-45 minutes to listen to your work, think about what to write, and then finish the message.

    Then, not even a basic "Thank you" but rather:

  9. @William Kersten: I invited you here because I knew that on average people here appreciate your craft and style more than the average on VI:C, and I was hoping you'll be happier here and share some of your knowledge with us too. However I failed to clarify that counter to what quite possibly was your initial impression of both forums, we generally have the consensus here that VI:C is the place "to get easy pats on the back" and this place here is the one where the gloves come off (in the most well meaning and supportive way!) and everyone - no matter how skilled - will get some "tough love" and critical feedback on their work, so that they may learn and improve even further. It is an approach that I value highly, because it's much harder and more exhausting to give honest critical feedback than to just write "Good job buddy, keep it up!" but I know not everyone - and sometimes not even myself - has the stomach for it. So if you can't cope with criticizm at any time for whatever personal reason, please make that clear when you share your work, so that no one wastes their time on giving out some well meant advice that you might not be able to appreciate the way it deserves at that time.

    Based on things you've written elsewhere I have a feeling there is some discrepancy between what you are looking for online, and what forums can provide - even on a systemical level. I fear there is no solution for that, but it might warrant some introspection in the hopes that you get a new perspective on what forums can provide and appreciate them more for what they are.
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  10. Hey William,

    Thanks for replying back. Yes, my version is definitely a bit faster than yours, simply because I tried to stay close to the reference that I have posted. Sure I could have posted another reference like this:

    Still, there are very similiar ingredients that I was talking about regarding emotion and expression. I think the crucial aspect of capturing emotion is to look very closely at either a recording or a live performance because it can help incredibly to inject more life into a sampled based mockup. I think you did a nice job but of course, though the forum here (unlike some others) is more about improving your own craft rather than (just) collecting appreciation. I mean, look: I have read also the other comments by Gregory and Doug and Martin and I think they made some very important points.

    Remember where you said that you think that forum here could be more active? And I told you that I appreciate that you post more and also share your experience. By that, I meant that you not only post your own works but also participate in other people's threads in order to give them feedback and share your own experience so that we can learn something new from you but also have a fruitful conversation and learning effect.

    At least that is what I do and why I registered here in the forum because I think it´s both important: Getting help and but also giving support and sharing my knowledge with others.

    I think you surely have a long history of music so I am pretty sure that you have a lot to give to a community. Now what I am not quite sure at that point is how do you see yourself in that regard? Do you prefer to simply post your own music and get appreciation or are you more into getting let's say critical but constructive feedback to improve your own skills? And I guess you posted your midi mockup here to get some useful feedback because you said: "I'm eager to hear any feedback on it." So by reading Gregory´s comment, I think he gave his very sincere opinion and in my opinion very useful and elaborate feedback which is useful to consider. I don´t think by a second that he wanted to diminish anything about your knowledge and work. Gregory also gives me feedback all the time and we may disagree in the past on some points but I always value his contributions a lot and even if I may think different, it is always good to switch gears, you know?

    And there that point what Doug rightly said that it seems that you take a tiny bit of criticism a bit too personal? Can that be? I am not quite sure.

    Best wishes,
  11. My apologies - I've been rather touchy about any Forum recently. I do appreciate the truly talented and friendly people here - thanks for listening and giving your valuable ideas on this.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  12. @Alexander - such a cool level-headed response. I really respect that. How do you do that? I thought you came from a heavy metal background? (conjuring up images of mean-looking bearded beer drinkers, screaming and yelling - "KILL and DIE M&*#r F^&*^r", and smashing things up all over the room :rolleyes:).

    @William - Hey, let me try again if I may. I'm very interested in your works as they pose some problems that I'm trying to resolve for myself. As you mention the skills you need are beyond that of a typical conductor, can you share how you actually handle the issue of conducting timing with a group of MIDI tracks as well as that of the lack of virtual players situational awareness of each other? I'll explain in a bit more detail.

    1. The problem of properly conducting with MIDI instruments is the biggest issue that I think samplist face (unless you're doing static tempo, static dynamic "Epic" music). Real players have a natural sense of how to phrase music, including delicate timing nuances, accents and dynamics. The problem with a MIDI orchestra is that you have to allow for a variable tempo flow across multiple tracks and often against multiple different musical lines. Real conductors and players can sense this in real time and make adjustments through visual cues and sense of awareness of those around them. With MIDI tracks, you have non of these cues and its a bit more like the lack of human cues in e-mail or forum comments. So to achieve effective musical results, you have to find a way to compensate for this. MIDI editing is an obvious solution though not satisfactory in the sense that it doesn't allow for the bigger picture while you're doing it. For example, its very easy to build dynamics up far too rapidly and then have no where to go (I hear this problem all the time in MIDI mockups). So as a MIDI conductor, you need to keep a vision on the larger picture beyond just editing individual notes. So how do you go about handling this problem?

    2. When you are dealing with ensembles or just multiple lines all playing varying tempos, how do you compensate for the virtual players inability to sense each other's performance? For example, in your chamber piece, you have multiple instruments playing against each other each with presumably slightly different tempos, yet, all needing to eventually sync up with each other at the end of the phrase. This is extremely hard to accomplish effectively with MIDI editing. And playing in parts free-hand makes it difficult as you don't have any of the visual cues that you would get with real players or a real conductor. Some people like to play one part free-tempo and then edit the other tracks to match. This works great for a duet or small group but becomes much more of a challenge with a larger orchestration with multiple different musical lines. So how do you approach these problems?
  13. Gregory, glad you are not mad at me.

    One reaction I have to what you are asking is that a performance is not only what players do. It is also what a composer imagines. In other words you hear the musical lines and can feel whether or not the MIDI is expressing the ideas. I have done a lot of performing in real time in the past, playing in each line, and this involved playing slightly out of sync but with a musical out of sync. Much like a player would do. To make this fit with others one is either listening to the playback while playing a new track, or is imagining it and comparing that intuitively with the feel of the music.

    Concerning tempo I have done a huge amount of tweaking, and it is not easy obviously, but is much more controllable than a live performance. It is all done with very subtle changes in tempo across or within bars but these must be felt by the composer. One thing that should be discussed on actual pieces of music under consideration, has one had a live performance and also a MIDI performance of the same piece? This has happened to me a number of times (not as many as I want of course!) but there was no supreme magic the live players brought to the music. Nor the conductor. In fact, in several cases I was prejudiced against my own music by live performers and when i did a MIDI perfomance of the same music I realized "Wait a minute! This isn't a piece of crap! That actually sounds kind of good!" I think there is a general concept that getting a live performance is the Holy Grail, but in reality it is only getting the kind of performance that the London Symphony or New York Philharmonic or similar virtuoso orchestras do that actually accomplish that. From having played in fairly good orchestras like the Reno Philharmonic, Reno Chamber Orchestra and Nevada Opera Orchestra I know that a lot of what is done by players is just an attempt at getting it right and is often done with too little rehearsal time or with an incompetent or barely competent conductor. But with MIDI a composer who imagines and hears in his mind the musical expression he wants can actually achieve that without assuming he will get the greatest players in the world to reproduce what he imagined. That is very rare.
  14. #14 Gregory D. Moore, Nov 19, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2019
    Hey William, This is the internet, maybe I'm not actually the handsome guy in my avatar? So do you really want to waste your time arguing with me? I thought not.
    Truth is, I don't really care what you say unless the content is meaningful to me.
    My rule is real simple, I won't waste a second arguing on the internet. If there's not content, I'm no longer interested. It makes interacting on the internet much more rewarding and interesting.


    I forgot who said this (maybe it was Jorge Bolet?) but a composer writes a piece once, but performers play it for a lifetime. So in that sense, a virtuoso performer might actually know a piece better than the composer. The truth is, all performances are a collaborative effort between composer and performer.
    Yes, it was Jorge Bolet...

    This is quite tricky to do with free flowing music. Yet, its the only way I think samplist can tackle the problem. Real players have a huge advantage being in the room with one another in this respect. I wonder if it would be easier if we video-taped our performance and could also watch ourselves playback lines of another track?

    Yes, I agree with that. I've heard live players struggle over and over to get a single phrase right, and the entire "live" recording ended up being simply a collage of little phrase snippets by the live performers - hardly a fluid performance! Yet, little did the listener know. And this is how most game music orchestral music is recorded. And the truth is, the players actually have a difficult time with material that is not aligned to a steady click and anything slightly out of the realm of "Epic" can be a real challenge for them to play through even partly. And I'm talking about probably the most well-known overseas recording orchestra.

    You are very lucky to have that experience and hopefully could use it to get your pieces played live.

    Yes, we are fortunate to have great samples and I think the possiblities are far greater than any of us has yet achieved. Yet, the trick lies all in the execution. And that is the difficult challenge. That is why I have great respect for anyone's sincere efforts, yet there is still much we can all share with each other on how to make even further improvements. However, to not end with a disgusting Black Friday Walmart food fight, we need to have respect and tolerance for each other, knowing that we are not trying to knock each other down, but simply trying to achieve a great good for us all. And ultimately for music itself, as its badly in need of such efforts today!

    Thanks for sharing your insights. I look forward to hearing more of your work and thoughts in the future.
  15. #15 William Kersten, Nov 20, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    Now I get it....
  16. No, no, no! I didn't think you were arguing at all! I took your post as being completely neutral. And tried (maybe poorly) at a little humor.

    I took absolutely no offense, and appreciated your reply to my questions. Nothing personal meant in my reply other than a bit of humor (sorry if I was bad at it....I thought the idea of replying to the pink pants in the photo was funny, but maybe I'm racist and not PC? If you wear pink pants, my deepest apologies. I once joked to my good internet friend about balding and he sent of picture back telling me he actually was bald, so these type of mistakes are real.)

    As I said at the end, I enjoyed and appreciated your insights. I'm 100% sincere. Not many people interested in this stuff you know? So its good to meet someone that is interested in these topics. But damn, the internet can really twist your meaning and expression at times. Look, I'm only a few hours above you up in Oregon, if you ever pass this way, I'll treat you to a nice dinner. And I promise not to wear my pink pants that day. o_O (not kidding, I won't). <--------just another attempt at bad humor. Sorry.
  17. Oh, sorry! I am just misunderstanding everything these days. Thanks for that. Also I don't wear pink pants so no problem there...
  18. Hey, you never know these days, so you have to be careful! (re: pink pants)

    So what did you think of Jorge Bolet's comment? He has a good arguement I think, and performers do have many different interpretations. I've actually heard performances by performers that I preferred better than that of the original composer. For example, I prefer Kissin, Wang and Garilov's performances of recorded examples of Prokofiev playing his own pieces. I think the performers add a tremendous amount of sensitivity that Prokofiev didn't have himself. He tended to be very heavy-handed even though he was the original composer.

    Prokofiev never could have played with his level of sensitivity, yet he wrote the piece.
  19. I tend to react against the hero worship of performers while composers are usually ignored, but one example of what you're saying is with a composer conducting his own work: Stravinsky conducting Rite of Spring. It is the worst recording of it I've heard, totally boring. I have many recordings of it among my 11,000 LPs, and probably the best is Zubin Mehta and the LA Philharmonic which blows away Stravinsky. In that situation with Stravinski you have the person who imagined this great music, but communicating it to an orchestra is another thing. He seemed like a very prickly, unpleasant person. However two film composers who were great conductors are Bernard Herrmann and of course John Williams. I'm rambling now but it's interesting how Herrmann's Vertigo score was not conducted by him due to a strike, so it was farmed out and somewhat poorly recorded. You can hear lots of mistakes in the original soundtrack! Usually his scores were impeccably played when he was conducting.
  20. I'm with you Gregory. I know I've had the good fortune of working with musicians who brought out surprises for me in my own pieces.

    I love the collaborative aspect. Just FYI. Ever seen Richard Strauss conduct? Less than awe-inspiring.


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