Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis

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Post by TheBradster » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:57 am

I concur. Really gorgeous examples, nice to see someone here working rigorously on this. Impressive and inspiring. This is very much along the lines of what I was thinking with the OP. Waiting for your grand piano :lol:

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Post by paults » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:21 pm

It's my synth modules, but I personally have ZERO musical talent.

The double reed example is by Russell Brower, who is currently the head of audio design at Blizzard Games. This piece is the end credit music for the PC game "Black Hawk Down". He has worked for Disney and with Tomita.

The lead voice was played/recorded in 1 take. But, the playing effects (gliding, distortion/over-blowing, etc) were done using 4 footpedals. He told me he practiced over 80 hours to get the 'feel' right.

The others are all by Ken Elhardt.

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Post by mousegarden » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:30 am

My god ! these are wonderful ! The recorder is beautiful, I like the pipe organ especially nice is the "chiff" as the wind enters the pipe, the actual body of the sound has a sort of modulation/fllange effect, but it's slight and doesn't really notice that much. The strings are wonderful, the cello does sound a bit "electric" but overal they sound bloody fantastic, the things I mentioned are just being churlish, these are great sounds, amazing, I wouldn't have the patience, it must take ages to do these types of sounds.

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Post by spinach_pizza » Mon Dec 30, 2013 12:44 pm

I've always loved those MOTM demos! :tu:

OK, I'll throw my hat into the ring... although I should say that when I recorded this I was more interested in 1) making something pleasing to my ears; and 2) attempting to sound (to me) like an ensemble of people playing instruments of *some* kind, which exact instruments I didn't really care. I just wanted it to sound like there were humans behind it all. So, compared to the samples posted by Paul above, I'd say there is less "realism" here, in the sense that I doubt that I captured specific attributes of specific instruments. But I think there is a good human ensemble effect. And orchestration too, because this piece was actually written for vocals (in the 1500s). Alma redemptoris mater by Orlande de Lassus, multitracked modular (all of it):


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Post by TheBradster » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:39 am

Lovely! It's very different from the MOTM examples, but no less interesting for it. It does have a human ensemble quality to it, and "breathes" nicely, I like the woodwind sounds especially.

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Post by spinach_pizza » Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:53 pm

TheBradster wrote:Lovely! It's very different from the MOTM examples, but no less interesting for it. It does have a human ensemble quality to it, and "breathes" nicely, I like the woodwind sounds especially.
Thank you Bradster! :party:

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:02 am

In a way it's interesting to me that 2 such diametrically opposite concepts are discussed within the same thread. Emulating 'real' instruments with synthesis, and also then incorporating then within a composition.

I admire the skill that is required in order to to emulate a violin with synthesis. My trollish question is, which is more difficult? To synthesize a violin, or to play one?

I suppose I'd say (probably slightly less trollish) that when one emulates a violin, one is emulating a standard usage. So, it is likely very, very different than trying to use one in a timbral emphatic composition with no loyalty to the core violin tradition. Because I think that 'emulation' presumes this kind of loyalty, else, what exactly is one emulating?

So, there is that question that was asked, which I now paraphrase. Something about the dismissal of this emulation with the retort that it is worthwhile because it is so difficult.

that's what I would like explained to me (I suppose with little chance of real success). If one is not interested at all in these traditional instrumental roles, why would this be valuable?

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Post by spinach_pizza » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:36 am

Nelson Baboon wrote: I suppose I'd say (probably slightly less trollish) that when one emulates a violin, one is emulating a standard usage. So, it is likely very, very different than trying to use one in a timbral emphatic composition with no loyalty to the core violin tradition. Because I think that 'emulation' presumes this kind of loyalty, else, what exactly is one emulating?

So, there is that question that was asked, which I now paraphrase. Something about the dismissal of this emulation with the retort that it is worthwhile because it is so difficult.

that's what I would like explained to me (I suppose with little chance of real success). If one is not interested at all in these traditional instrumental roles, why would this be valuable?
I don't think it would be valuable to anyone not interested in these traditional roles, unless perhaps they found the resultant sound pleasing in some way, irrespective of how it is achieved with whatever instrument. I would guess that there's a strong element of personal interest involved. I've noticed discussions of people wanting to make convincing sitar patches, but because I'm not a sitar fan (as traditionally played) I have no interest in those discussions--even if it is really hard to make a sitar patch...

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Post by paults » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:37 am

If one is not interested at all in these traditional instrumental roles, why would this be valuable?
Just my opinion: because it forces you to think towards a known goal, rather than accepting "well it's good enough" or "sounds like crap, let's move on". This is just the engineer in me: I *personally* like things which (obviously) take a long time of both planning and execution. I am not a fan of "noise music" (ie My Bloody Valentine), I don't like synth demos that are 6min of a frog in a blender with the person just wildly turning knobs seeming at random. This is why I love Russell's double-reed patch: he practiced 80 HOURS learning just how to play it properly, using 4 different footpedals (into the older MOTM-850 Pedal Interface). This is why I love Robert Rich's music, because I know first-hand the 100s of meticulous hours he spends not only in the patching but in the mastering. The end result shows this.

Now, you don't have to be a 'realist' to be a good artist: my favorite painter is Renior who was slammed for NOT BEING a realist. Just because you have trouble patching a recorder doesn't mean you can't made enjoyable music. In fact, the EM artists I listen to the most, only Mark Isham incorporates both (trumpet + EM). Maybe some Oregon in a few instances.

I just think it's good practice because it forces you into a 'musical corner', like a tricky algebra problem. There is enjoyment in the solving.

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:17 am

it may be your opinion, but you still have to justify it...

First. there is a wide gap, I think, between having a known goal, and ''well, it's good enough' or 'sounds like crap, let's move on'. there are so, so many presuppositions in that formulation.

You have made it clear in the past. You have no affinity or understanding of 'noise music' meaning, as I understand it, no affection at all for music that is essential timbral, rather than tonal/harmonic based.

I don't have ANY fun at all, trying to forumulate in my mind, a specific sound, and then synthesizing it. I also don't see that the people who spend huge amounts of time at this make interesting music.

I think that the burden of proof is on you - that preconceiving a specific sound, and then recreating it by synthesizing it, is somehow superior to developing one's skills by experimenting and seeing what sounds one finds, and then learning to manipulate them, and improvising with them.

I can listen to some of the tracks made by people who are emulating instruments, and I can appreciate their skill, but I simply don't understand why should actually spend time doing this, if one has absolutely no interest in it as a project.

There are lots of musical corners that one can get into without emulating 'real instruments' with synthesis, which is so diametrically opposed to what I want to use synthesis for that I can't see it as anything other than counterproductive.

A very difficult musical corner that I always find - I have this sound and modulation which I've never quite heard before. How do I evolve it in an interesting way that doesn't sound like something else? I'm not entirely sure how taking an oscillator and making a violin with it plays into this question.

paults wrote:
If one is not interested at all in these traditional instrumental roles, why would this be valuable?
Just my opinion: because it forces you to think towards a known goal, rather than accepting "well it's good enough" or "sounds like crap, let's move on". This is just the engineer in me: I *personally* like things which (obviously) take a long time of both planning and execution. I am not a fan of "noise music" (ie My Bloody Valentine), I don't like synth demos that are 6min of a frog in a blender with the person just wildly turning knobs seeming at random. This is why I love Russell's double-reed patch: he practiced 80 HOURS learning just how to play it properly, using 4 different footpedals (into the older MOTM-850 Pedal Interface). This is why I love Robert Rich's music, because I know first-hand the 100s of meticulous hours he spends not only in the patching but in the mastering. The end result shows this.

Now, you don't have to be a 'realist' to be a good artist: my favorite painter is Renior who was slammed for NOT BEING a realist. Just because you have trouble patching a recorder doesn't mean you can't made enjoyable music. In fact, the EM artists I listen to the most, only Mark Isham incorporates both (trumpet + EM). Maybe some Oregon in a few instances.

I just think it's good practice because it forces you into a 'musical corner', like a tricky algebra problem. There is enjoyment in the solving.

JohnLRice

Post by JohnLRice » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:50 am

:soapbox: First off, I'm compelled to say that synthesizers ARE 'real' instruments. They are primarily electronic instruments of course, but 'real' instruments none the less. But, I'll leave that argument for some endlessly long thread elsewhere. :hihi:

Anyways, I have felt this way for a long time, that if you want the sound of a particular instrument for a recording or performance, you will almost always have greater success to use that instrument instead of mimicking it some how. (like using a synthesizer, sampler, audio editing, an assemblage of stuff found in your basement/garage/attic, etc)

Reasons to mimic a sound (off the top of my head):
For time and/or financial constraints (no time to find a player or learn to play / can't afford to pay someone else)

For the challenge (like climbing a mountain)

For learning about the physics of sound


For me, I am blown away by what some people have achieved in synthesizing other instruments and it intrigues me to no end but, the effort required is more often than not similar to the effort required to play cover songs in a rock band accurately. I have usually strongly argued against doing covers when in a band, since to me it was important to do them well, but the effort to do so seemed like a waste of time. I felt we should put that same effort into writing our own songs, developing out own sound.

On the question of using the 'H' word (hobby :zombie: ), I can't really stomach it! Even though I probably can't rightfully call myself a "professional" musician, I hope to be able to some day. (I've only been working towards it a little over 40 years so compared to infinity, that's not very long. :ripbanana: )

Most of the stuff I have on YouTube is haphazard and not carefully planned out. (I hope paulst will still respect me in the morning! 8_) ) Much of it comes out of "wiggling" and then something starts to sound cool and I try to direct it a bit and make something moar out of it. If it's not a random wiggle or product demo/exploration video, sometimes I'll have a very loose concept, often inspired by a strong emotionalish state, like sadness, loneliness, joy, frustration, humor or maybe inspiration from something a friend is going through, a fictional story/movie or impressive landscape/sky view etc etc. I then want to express those feelings through music and just dive in to my instruments (mainly my large modular in the last 5 years) to see what I can make come about.

Regardless of how I start out, most of the time I feel like my efforts equate to "turd polishing", where I get something I enjoy and think is interesting and cool and then dress it up with video clips, video effects, other sounds and audio editing to make it more presentable. (side bar: the old saying "you can't polish a turd" is not true, even in the literal sense. You just need to freeze the turds first.)

OK, back to polishing the current turd . . . .

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:36 am

Nelson Baboon wrote: I admire the skill that is required in order to to emulate a violin with synthesis. My trollish question is, which is more difficult? To synthesize aviolin, or to play one
Who cares.

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Post by kdjupdal » Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:58 am

I think one can learn a lot about synthesizing sounds, by trying to emulate real instruments. Real (i.e. acoustic) instruments always have more complex sound than electronic instruments, always changing through time, which is one reason you never tire from the sound of a real instrument.

From this you learn different techniques to make synthetic sounds more organic and alive. Without necessarily copying an existing instrument. It is one way of getting out of the rut of patching saw into the lopass filter (something I am working on).

I think I agree with Paults. It is an art to emulate real instruments, somehow because it is difficult. And those motm demos are amazing.

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:07 am

As much as I love synthesizers, and that's a lot, whenever I go to an orchestral concert it moves me to tears and physically makes me feel like I'm having sex. The physical and aural impact of real, and yes "real" instruments is still an unbeatable experience. It's got a lot to do with the harmonic richness, dynamics, and sheer infinite variations in timbre and volume that make acoustic sounds so damn interesting. We just haven't reached that stage with electronics yet.

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Post by paults » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:28 am

is somehow superior...

See, this is *exactly* the leap 99.999% per cent of people make, which is NOT what I implied or said, AT ALL. So, as we say in Texas, don't get your panties in a wad. Your 'argument' is the same as:

a) "All beer tastes the same, why pay more for XYZ?"
b) "The camera in my phone takes great pictures, why get a separate one?"
c) "Your speakers cost $7,000/pr? What a waste of money! I bought mine for $50 at a flea market and they sound awesome!"

and so on.

Again, you missed my point entirely (don't worry, most people seem to for some reason). I will try again:

I think it's a good PRACTICE EXCERSICE to try this occasionally, because you might actually LEARN something. Something that you can 'take with you' in your own stuff. I'm sorry if you don't "see the point in it", but that is true of everything on the Internet. Arguing about "not seeing the point", is by definition, pointless.

Finally, my 2 favorite EM tracks of all time are:

"The Other Side of Twilight" - Robert Rich
"Relay Breakdown" - Larry Fast (Synergy)

and neither of these try to 'imitate' anything at all.

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Post by paults » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:35 am

We just haven't reached that stage with electronics yet.
I think the actual musical composition aspect is 50% of it. And this is the aspect I see as 'missing' in a lot of demos I hear for modular. But again that's just MY opinion.

EM can be "way out there" and still have forethought in terms of composition. Clicking the Rec button and noodling/knob twisting for 15min may appeal to many people, just not to ME.

If you want to hear a really good example of something "out there", go to www.mog.com and listen to Robert Rich's "Bestiary". And if that is 'too tame', try "The Temple of the Invisible".

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Post by TheBradster » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:53 am

I suppose I'd say (probably slightly less trollish) that when one emulates a violin, one is emulating a standard usage.
This is the definition of "imitative" versus "idiomatic".

Clarence Clemons (may he rest in peace) who played saxophone with Bruce Springsteen, played in what I would call a very fixed idiom, what possibly many people expect a saxophone to sound like. This always set my teeth on edge because of his style of playing, really quite cliched to my ears - it doesn't help that I'm not a Springsteen fan at all.

Jan Gabarek, in contrast, plays sax in a very different way (yes, I'm generalizing here) in a way that does not sound like the standard "smoky sax solo" idiom. For me this is much more interesting to listen to.

And this is really the issue I have. I think it can be very useful as a synthesist to study and analyze how different instruments produce sound. This does not mean the goal is to simply "copy" an instrument, but to understand how it produces sound and what factors are involved. This can only lead to a deeper appreciation of how a synthesizer may be used to create expressive music.

Creating a patch for emulating an acoustic or electric instrument can be an interesting and educational exercise, but that does not require it to be played/performed in a specific idiomatic style. And I'll add that the same very much goes for "real" instruments - they may be played in new ways, that while they may not sound as we are used to hearing them, are nonetheless valid.
Regardless of how I start out, most of the time I feel like my efforts equate to "turd polishing", where I get something I enjoy and think is interesting and cool and then dress it up with video clips, video effects, other sounds and audio editing to make it more presentable.
This is another argument for having some kind of idea, goal or structure for a piece (for me anyway). I have produced loads of stuff that is little more than noodling. I tend to get better results when I have some kind of plan.

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:46 am

According to your restatement of it below, I did very much understand your point.

There are many skills in life that teach you something, and one could simply SAY that one can transfer this knowledge to ones own life in a way that's worth the effort. I don't see you as bridging the gap in your argument between it being difficult and teaching one certain skills, and it actually being useful to all musicians.
paults wrote:
is somehow superior...

See, this is *exactly* the leap 99.999% per cent of people make, which is NOT what I implied or said, AT ALL. So, as we say in Texas, don't get your panties in a wad. Your 'argument' is the same as:

a) "All beer tastes the same, why pay more for XYZ?"
b) "The camera in my phone takes great pictures, why get a separate one?"
c) "Your speakers cost $7,000/pr? What a waste of money! I bought mine for $50 at a flea market and they sound awesome!"

and so on.

Again, you missed my point entirely (don't worry, most people seem to for some reason). I will try again:

I think it's a good PRACTICE EXCERSICE to try this occasionally, because you might actually LEARN something. Something that you can 'take with you' in your own stuff. I'm sorry if you don't "see the point in it", but that is true of everything on the Internet. Arguing about "not seeing the point", is by definition, pointless.

Finally, my 2 favorite EM tracks of all time are:

"The Other Side of Twilight" - Robert Rich
"Relay Breakdown" - Larry Fast (Synergy)

and neither of these try to 'imitate' anything at all.

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:52 am

You have stated your views on music before, which as I recall, included an outright dismissal of music that is anything like 'noise music' etc. Correct me if I'm wrong on that.

There is a very large gap between planning out one's music (to whatever degree - it can be very 'free' planning also, can't it?) and random knob twisting for 15 minutes. A synthesizer improvisation is really no different than one on any instrument - one can produce crap, or one can produce something good (with of course the understanding that these are subjective terms).

Robert Rich's stuff has never sounded out there to me. Which is not a criticism of it.
paults wrote:
We just haven't reached that stage with electronics yet.
I think the actual musical composition aspect is 50% of it. And this is the aspect I see as 'missing' in a lot of demos I hear for modular. But again that's just MY opinion.

EM can be "way out there" and still have forethought in terms of composition. Clicking the Rec button and noodling/knob twisting for 15min may appeal to many people, just not to ME.

If you want to hear a really good example of something "out there", go to www.mog.com and listen to Robert Rich's "Bestiary". And if that is 'too tame', try "The Temple of the Invisible".

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Post by Infrablue » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:58 am

baboo wrote:I was interested in controlling my modular with a trumpet since I got into modulars.
Never really got around to do it but it is somewhere in the back of my head. Also the sound could be blended with the natural sound of the instrument.

But do we have a pitch to cv module that is accurate enough?
Silent Way software has an envelope follower with pitch detection all to sample accurate cv out. It is on my list of projects to try it with my trumpet and slide trumpet to drive the modular but never yet quite gave it a go. I'll post back here if I do and this gives me an excuse for doing it sooner for sure.
New Breath Control Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTiWw4rL ... bAqEVbUEOE
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My demo of the Steiner 24 Stage Vactrol Phase Shifter/String Filter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh1-A_dYY6Y
Site for my classical/modular/wind synth project:http://thepinesofmars.com/

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:18 pm

I guess that I was thinking more broadly - that if one is emulating a real instrument on a synthesizer, that one has a wide range of playing styles and sounds to choose from.

But, for instance, I actually play the violin. And the education that one receives in playing it in various ways is how to bring the tone in various directions by various changes in the way that the bow contacts the strings, fingers strike the strings, etc. In an improvisatory setting one is in essence 'thinking' within these parameters and actually using these physical actions to change the sound.

I'm just trying to articulate this to myself, not propose it as an argument.

Where I would be at a total loss, even if I practiced creating static violin sounds on a modular, or certain types of classical phrases, or even copied this player or that - how to emulate this live thinking, which for me is very much the experience of the violin.

Can turning a knob or two ever be the same within the improvisatory thought process as how someone improvises on a violin? I find even with alternate controllers (joystick, ribbon controller, etc) that one (well, I) thinks in very different ways.

I guess for myself, I still conclude that one would certainly learn things by emulating (or trying to) real instruments, but yes - that it is difficult and would take a lot of time. Not having infinite time, I then have to make choices about what is going to be more effective for me, and spending a hundred hours (just made up that number - I suppose it might be more, or less) learning to get a good violin sound with some flexibility in the playing on a modular just doesn't seem like a wise use of it.

TheBradster wrote:
I suppose I'd say (probably slightly less trollish) that when one emulates a violin, one is emulating a standard usage.
This is the definition of "imitative" versus "idiomatic".

Clarence Clemons (may he rest in peace) who played saxophone with Bruce Springsteen, played in what I would call a very fixed idiom, what possibly many people expect a saxophone to sound like. This always set my teeth on edge because of his style of playing, really quite cliched to my ears - it doesn't help that I'm not a Springsteen fan at all.

Jan Gabarek, in contrast, plays sax in a very different way (yes, I'm generalizing here) in a way that does not sound like the standard "smoky sax solo" idiom. For me this is much more interesting to listen to.

And this is really the issue I have. I think it can be very useful as a synthesist to study and analyze how different instruments produce sound. This does not mean the goal is to simply "copy" an instrument, but to understand how it produces sound and what factors are involved. This can only lead to a deeper appreciation of how a synthesizer may be used to create expressive music.

Creating a patch for emulating an acoustic or electric instrument can be an interesting and educational exercise, but that does not require it to be played/performed in a specific idiomatic style. And I'll add that the same very much goes for "real" instruments - they may be played in new ways, that while they may not sound as we are used to hearing them, are nonetheless valid.
Regardless of how I start out, most of the time I feel like my efforts equate to "turd polishing", where I get something I enjoy and think is interesting and cool and then dress it up with video clips, video effects, other sounds and audio editing to make it more presentable.
This is another argument for having some kind of idea, goal or structure for a piece (for me anyway). I have produced loads of stuff that is little more than noodling. I tend to get better results when I have some kind of plan.

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Post by baboo » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:39 pm

Well put Nelson- I totally agree that it would be very hard to replicate the feeling of improvisation on an acoustic instrument with a modular- the whole process of the sound beginning in your head and your body automatically transmitting it to music including volume, articulation, harmonics, intonation- it is much to complex to do with the available controllers. Also I don't think you ever get to be so intimate with a single patch as you do with a musical instrument. I have been playing the trumpet for four years now, with about an hour of practice daily and I still consider myself pretty amateur- there is tons of room for improvement. In contrast a difficult patch is probably one that you'd spend a week or couple of weeks on.

But then you could probably use your acoustic instrument to control a modular to get sounds that your instrument doesn't normally do- and with enough practice you could possibly acheive the feeling of improvising on a real instrument.

I also think that imitating the sound of a real instrument, for example a violin is more than just a pointless excercise because once you get a working model you can use it and abuse it in very interesting ways. I see why some people would consider this more of an art that just twisting knobs untill a result happes ( although I personally think both are valid and the result is ultimately more important than the process)

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:14 pm

Nelson Baboon wrote:According to your restatement of it below, I did very much understand your point.

There are many skills in life that teach you something, and one could simply SAY that one can transfer this knowledge to ones own life in a way that's worth the effort. I don't see you as bridging the gap in your argument between it being difficult and teaching one certain skills, and it actually being useful to all musicians.
paults wrote:
is somehow superior...

See, this is *exactly* the leap 99.999% per cent of people make, which is NOT what I implied or said, AT ALL. So, as we say in Texas, don't get your panties in a wad. Your 'argument' is the same as:

a) "All beer tastes the same, why pay more for XYZ?"
b) "The camera in my phone takes great pictures, why get a separate one?"
c) "Your speakers cost $7,000/pr? What a waste of money! I bought mine for $50 at a flea market and they sound awesome!"

and so on.

Again, you missed my point entirely (don't worry, most people seem to for some reason). I will try again:

I think it's a good PRACTICE EXCERSICE to try this occasionally, because you might actually LEARN something. Something that you can 'take with you' in your own stuff. I'm sorry if you don't "see the point in it", but that is true of everything on the Internet. Arguing about "not seeing the point", is by definition, pointless.

Finally, my 2 favorite EM tracks of all time are:

"The Other Side of Twilight" - Robert Rich
"Relay Breakdown" - Larry Fast (Synergy)

and neither of these try to 'imitate' anything at all.
I just listened to your music Nelson, it's interesting, but I have enough trouble dealing with my own demons let alone someone else's.

MouseGarden.

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Post by Beermaster » Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:56 pm

Joe Zawinul said in an interview that he approaches playing a new sound he'd created on a synth as if he were learning to play a whole new instrument. By this he meant that in order to perform with a new melodic timbre and maybe for it to become a new tonal colour he'd develop at new way of expressing and controlling the sound as if it were say a different instrument in the 'orchestra'

There are three different things here:

1. The timbre of the new sound (and the way this can be altered in real time)
2. The music to be performed
3. The performance of / Performer of that sound to make that music.

The reason many of the very best and latest sample sets of Violin or Sax timbres don't sound very good is partly because of the huge range of nuances between the duration of any single note and the next both in articulations and expressiveness but also mainly due to the lack of ability of the person 'performing' with that sound to make it sound real. Just In the same way that there are many more players of the real violin who sound really shit compared to those that sound great. It's not always the instrument . . It's the experience and character of the performer.

If you're making a melodic synth lead sound and want it to live and breathe as if it was some sort of never heard of 'acoustic' or hybrid instrument then it takes a lot more experience in both the patching of the sound but the performance of that sound too.

There are times when a bug music is good, there are times when a simple arpeggiiator tone is all that is required . . . And there are times when you just want to make a musically responsive and expressive lead tone that breathes like a real instrument . . . .yet sounds like it's from planet Vulcan !

Beer.

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CJ Miller
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Post by CJ Miller » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:36 pm

What I find makes artistic idioms potentially limiting is that most people seem to use them as a shortcut for a sort of shared context. For example, "What genre of music is this 'supposed to be'?", or "How skilled is this performer compared to other performers?". These are, to me, fundamentally uninteresting questions. The only reason they recur is because the casual listener does not have sufficient interest to really analyze a piece of music based upon its own merits. If we can assume that it was 'supposed to be' (for example) a chromatic piece in 4/4 time then we can quickly compare it to superficially similar musics without really needing to think much about it. Borrowing a cultural context like this I think is quite lazy. Trying to work within established idioms is at least as pretentious as trying to avoid them is, but always continues to happen mainly because the former is simply far easier. And while this presented a nearly overwhelming obstacle for people composing and/or performing instrumental music - I think that this situation makes electronic music even more challenging. The idiomatic character now includes not only musical tradition, but also the usual gestural interactions of the human organism. This I think makes it far easier for listeners to ignore electronic music for which they lack some sort of established context.

But I would argue that music has it easier in this regard than digital video and animation. People often joke about some music being "abstract", but there has never been (so far as I am aware) any trends towards representational music - as people usually contrast abstraction in the visual arts. The modern capability of photo-realistic graphics in computer visual effects and games seems to have led to a trend where the marketplace has room for little else between the poles of realism and pure graphic design. I have increasingly encountered remarks that visuals which do not strive for realism are immediately perceived as bad, or unskilled, or cheap. Of course, that they are immediately perceived as such once again demonstrates that lack of formal analysis, instead relying upon assumptions of shared cultural contexts.

I am surprised at how difficult it can be for the individual artist to help cultivate appropriate expectations for those who happen upon their media. Explaining that the work was intended to be stylized rather than realistic, or in its own new genre - really seems to do very little to provide context in casual situations. When people feel that they themselves are not part of the culture they are experiencing, they seem to rely on perceived populist attitudes, or the critical judgement of a specialized elite. There is hardly any direct dialectical process for discussing the intentions and background behind a work. Instead, most people rely upon semi-deliberate use of a proliferation of stereotypes. But stereotypes are deliberately kept at a surface level, trying to 'characterize' what is observed while avoiding any kind of formal critique. If shared context is so crucial, I am alarmed that what must frequently pass for shared context is of such a facile nature.

I suppose I see the problem being idioms as assumed and implicit, rather than deliberate and explicit.

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