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Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next [all]
Author Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis
mousegarden
CJ Miller wrote:
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.


The criteria you list for judging a piece of music, genre, skill, are potentially uninteresting, and you should have an open mind. But all of us close off certain areas simply because we aren't interested in them. I recognise their merit, but for me personally I may not like them. As for skill, well, I sometimes admire that in a performer, or composer, I don't totally dismiss this, I have certain favourite players, and it's inspiring to see them play to such a high standard, but only those that use the technique in the service of the music, not the technique as an end in itself.

MouseGarden.
CJ Miller
strettara wrote:
Can someone translate this into English for me please?


What I meant is that because electronic musics abstract the relationships between gesture and sound, people seem to need to try extra hard to keep electronic compositions and sounds fairly simple for the casual listener, to give them something familiar to identify with. Much idiom seems to involve a degree of stereotyping. With electronic musics, there is abstraction both in the production of sounds (between gesture and excitation/modulation) and in the perception of sounds (DACs, density, and the pitch relationships of human hearing). These abstractions can be another magnitude of idiomatics, where trying to mimic the normal creation and perception of sounds and music itself becomes idiomatic, when it was more or less taken for granted in acoustic musics.

In popular/casual listening, this can cause a huge disconnect where people have no pre-existing cultural context by which to appreciate electronic music which has not been deliberately and self-consciously "humanized" by use of these idioms. If the listener cannot quickly discern that it is music made by and for people, which was subject to normal rules of physical sound production, that these musics are quickly ignored. Most listeners will not bother to analyze electronic musics for any underlying structure if they cannot "identify" with it first. For instance, many people in musical discussions here give primacy to how an important piece of music is remembered over time. This presents a dilemma with regards to musical innovation, because if people cannot be bothered to analyze complex or unexpected musics, they will have little capacity for remembering such musics. This results in a situation where the cultural canon always favors the familiar, with anything beyond the obvious being relegated to elitist or outsider status.

Yet, paradoxically, the tools and the ideas for opening musical experience have become far more democratized and commonplace!
mojopin
Beermaster wrote:
This is quite a discipline to follow and does require a more traditional approach to composition: make the timbres then record with those sounds to make the music.


I agree with everything you wrote. The unexpected benefit for me has been that because I have to compose and plan before patching and recording, my music and composition skills have become stronger. So even though it takes forever to finish a tune, I am more satisfied than ever. When all the criteria you listed comes together, wonderful things can happen. Cheers!
Infrablue
mojopin wrote:
Beermaster wrote:
This is quite a discipline to follow and does require a more traditional approach to composition: make the timbres then record with those sounds to make the music.


I agree with everything you wrote. The unexpected benefit for me has been that because I have to compose and plan before patching and recording, my music and composition skills have become stronger. So even though it takes forever to finish a tune, I am more satisfied than ever. When all the criteria you listed comes together, wonderful things can happen. Cheers!


This is an example of why I'm really digging this whole thread. It's such a complex issue, and I love having elements of it solidified more precisely in my head and learning from hearing everyone's take on it.

It kind of just reminds me of the fact that it's a very cool point in time to be a musician and have all these approaches and tools available.
Infrablue
I have way too much to say on it all though. It's a huge topic for me and I don't want to just get boringly lengthy.

I play trumpet and EVI (wind synth, analog and/or midi). I love them both so much for different reasons. I can make the EVI sound like the trumpet and sometimes that's a better way to go but not usually. Trumpet is just so great to play and experience and hear. Playing the trumpet is so physical and different. And what the EVI does is just as legit and filled with nuance that a trumpet can't do.. and nothing does quite the same way.

But I can't play violin, unlike my dad and brothers, but I love the string sound of the EVI and string filter and love I can do that "sort of thing" and it's an effective tone and experience musically for me.

I think it is a GREAT learning experience to make synth emulations and they are even useful for all kinds of reasons at times in recording.

But more, I love expression emulation, or just using similar human control to modulate synths in a way that you get something as expressive as a known acoustic instrument, but which is a fully new tone, complete with the things only a modular synth can bring to it.

I love alien versions of english horns.

I love playing that same violin/cello sound on my Martenot style controller and bringing in modulations fully different than a violin tone would ever go... fast and complex lfo's, growls, effects etc...

I even love the unique, wonderful sound non human computer rhythm and form brings into a tone and love mixing that with human input.

I love finding all the ways human muscle of every effective kind can be translated to CV for instance and brought to a synth or modular control.

I'm coming to the end of an experimental acoustic recording project where often my direction has been to use acoustic sound in the way one would approach modular synthesis. So kind of the converse of the topic here... I'm trying to emulate synth kinds of things with acoustic or non electric stuff. The project has been a pain to engineer and create but I have learned so VERY much about sound and it has improved my voltage work.

Would have loved to see what Bach and Mozart etc. would do with the gear and software we all have access to. Respighi (Pines of Rome etc.) treated his orchestra like a synth at times just as the electronic music age was being hinted at. He used recordings of birds live with the orchestra performances and also wrote and directed acoustic instruments to mimic bird effects and all kinds of other unusual effects.

In the end, again, it's a great time to be a musician.
spinach_pizza
excellent post, infrablue!
Infrablue
spinach_pizza wrote:
excellent post, infrablue!


Thanks so much!

I just listened through your video performance "Starting Somewhere..." and was fully blown away. So inspiring!

(link to your vid for others: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-GHMt-8pNc)

Great example of mixing human with electronics and very topical. You are incredibly talented.
baboo
Hey Infrablue, nice post!

I know this is possibly OT but could you say more about the EVI or post some examples? I've always dismissed the thing based on it being an electronic instrument emulating a real one and the fact that it is impossible to try one in most areas.
But after reading your post I'm interested.
How is it compared to playing trumpet?- I thought the technique is more like a woodwind instrument. Is the midi good enough to control a modular or some other synth?
Infrablue
baboo wrote:
Hey Infrablue, nice post!

I know this is possibly OT but could you say more about the EVI or post some examples? I've always dismissed the thing based on it being an electronic instrument emulating a real one and the fact that it is impossible to try one in most areas.
But after reading your post I'm interested.
How is it compared to playing trumpet?- I thought the technique is more like a woodwind instrument. Is the midi good enough to control a modular or some other synth?


Thank you... this is actually pretty on topic it turns out...

On EVI, playing analog sounds are smoother, more expressive, more fun to play, but generally, midi stuff is better emulation (of course going to samples and modeling). But some analog is quite good for emulation or non-real but acoustic sounding things. The analog is so smooth I can growl while playing and FM modulate the tone with my vocal chords.

Here is an analog saw wave which I then demo going through a string filter and then play violin style.

On EVI, and this applies to other approaches for synth... the key is breath for natural brightness, a thumb vibrato pad for natural human vibrato, and in this case slew that varies from none to a lot if I bite harder on the mouthpiece.

EVI playing analog string sound: https://soundcloud.com/monkeydrums/evi-string-filter



I do run it through some spacey BBD delay so that takes away from emulation but I just like violins in outer space a lot.

...Then here is a video I did that included EVI with expressive saw wave and then string filter. All analog. In the video the live and seen EVI part starts around 3:30. It shows well the vibrato from realtime human control. The intro music on this vid is a good example of EVI using a very plain wave used expressively, but not trying to sound like any specific acoustic instrument.



Then a huge contrast using the same sound... in my signature below... the first link is a demo that has that string sound played from a breath controlled martenot style instrument I made and that becomes very non violin in expression at times and kind of alien and strange. It starts at 1:40 with a very short oboe-ish tone and then into the string stuff...
baboo
Wow great sounds! I agree this is on topic. I really like how it sometimes sounds like violin and then turns into something completely different!
Very nice and musical!

This is the steiner CRUMAR EVI isn't it?
I thought you were talking about the AKAI EWIs, did you try them as well?
TheBradster
Really grounded and eloquent posts Infrablue! I love the EWI/EVI & love the idea of emulating a string instrument with a wind instrument. A wind player could certainly bring an interesting angle on how to be expressive with a synthesizer voice.

This is fantastic, really interesting to see so many points of view represented. I love all the examples people have been posting. Great stuff! we're not worthy
mojopin
Check out Infrablue's last post in this page:

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=80259&postdays=0&pos torder=asc&highlight=violin&start=40

I have had this opened as a tab in my browser for a month now. This is the instrument I have literally dreamed of making for a long time. If ever I were to perform I would want something like this. I even thought of putting a Choices and was surprised to find that he did! Same wavelength dude.. (I would want mine wearable though)
Infrablue
baboo wrote:
Wow great sounds! I agree this is on topic. I really like how it sometimes sounds like violin and then turns into something completely different!
Very nice and musical!

This is the steiner CRUMAR EVI isn't it?
I thought you were talking about the AKAI EWIs, did you try them as well?


Thank you! The EWI's are basically sax fingered versions of the EVI so this basically applies. The earlier EWI's did have an analoge engine and midi out and both worked quite well... and the first Akai EWI module did have a great sounding string filter similar to this. I play one that Nyle made special for me, but I have owned Akai's and they do a great job. I think even just having a usb EWI would be well worth and it and I would use it through Silent Way to get a sample accurate CV output (smoothed in Silent Way after midi then to the CV out) to get to a modular. And it would also be great for samples and physical models.

The breath also is killer just to drive brightness/filter frequency with a keyboard. I have a good demo sound demo of that I'll see if I can put up. Just that bit of added human expression does so much.

Okay, here it is... a recording of an fully analog Alesis Andromeda with CV breath opening the filter. Other than that it is keyboard and pitch bend wheel. I especially like the end segment that gets a bit of blues going. This demo also has some of the FM mod caused by growling with my vocal chords while doing breath control.

Here's the wave link: 8_) https://soundcloud.com/monkeydrums/andromeda-filter-driven 8_)
Infrablue
mojopin wrote:
Check out Infrablue's last post in this page:

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=80259&postdays=0&pos torder=asc&highlight=violin&start=40

I have had this opened as a tab in my browser for a month now. This is the instrument I have literally dreamed of making for a long time. If ever I were to perform I would want something like this. I even thought of putting a Choices and was surprised to find that he did! Same wavelength dude.. (I would want mine wearable though)


Thank you so much! ...and others for kind words and forgive me being indulgent here.

I love that you thought about the Choices module as well; We are on a wave together!

Definitely build your instrument! If you want any tips on the process let me know... there are some strange hurdles in this direction... very cool to do a hand held! I'm now doing a smaller one that sits nicely flat in my lap for live and is simplified but still powerful. My Artemis is a blast but it's also quite big and complex.

So cool... very excited to hear you play your finished instrument!
Infrablue
Paul's MOTM demos are seriously amazing... and just from this thread I discovered Richard Galbraith's (spinach pizza's) stuff and bought his download album tonight. His stuff is so great and a very pure example of human expression and emulation of normally acoustic expression driving modular. Beautiful work!

Here's an excerpt he put up... 8_) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e90tdkYwqM 8_)

Very cool!
spinach_pizza
Thanks, infrablue!

I look forward to hearing the Pines of Mars.
Beermaster
Infrablue - stunning demo with the string emulation, you're totally on my wavelength regarding using modulars to create expressive music !

As a sax player I messed with the early Akai EWI and WX7 but sadly didn't have joy at that time as the only synths you could use with MIDI at that time were all sample based and just sounded terrible - the exceptions then being really expensive synths like th Oberheim Xpander and matrix 12

Always wanted a lyricon and still eager to get a good one for my system !

Beer.
mousegarden
CJ Miller wrote:


In popular/casual listening, this can cause a huge disconnect where people have no pre-existing cultural context by which to appreciate electronic music which has not been deliberately and self-consciously "humanized" by use of these idioms. If the listener cannot quickly discern that it is music made by and for people, which was subject to normal rules of physical sound production, that these musics are quickly ignored. Most listeners will not bother to analyze electronic musics for any underlying structure if they cannot "identify" with it first. For instance, many people in musical discussions here give primacy to how an important piece of music is remembered over time. This presents a dilemma with regards to musical innovation, because if people cannot be bothered to analyze complex or unexpected musics, they will have little capacity for remembering such musics. This results in a situation where the cultural canon always favors the familiar, with anything beyond the obvious being relegated to elitist or outsider status.

Yet, paradoxically, the tools and the ideas for opening musical experience have become far more democratized and commonplace!


Music always has an emotional impact, no matter how abstract or how much it lies outside familiar cultural references. Also, being "moved" isn't restricted to just the happy/sad major minor concepts of popular music. Abstract electronic music of the most extreme nature can be deeply emotional, but you may not be able to express exactly why. Also, sounds made by familiar instruments, acoustic sounds, are somehow seen to be more involving, or emotional, and come with centuries off familiarity, which I found mundane, and boring as a child. I can remember being bored with the sounds of acoustic instruments when I was about seven years old, they had become so much part of the wallpaper and every time I heard an electronic sound or a sound that was unfamiliar it was a revelation. I became fascinated by anything that was differnt, especially electronically generated sound, as there didn't seem to be any limit to what that sound could be, unlike the sounds of acoustic instruments which are fixed to a certain timbre.
After this I was seen as strange by most people, they couldn't see how somone could get so emotionally involved with what they considered to be totally abstract dissonance.

MouseGarden.
doctorvague
Turning to the listener for a moment, of course it's regional and cultural, but just talking about western society for a moment, listeners have a good idea what a sax, trumpet, violin, nylon strung guitar, etc sound like. I find it interesting to use those listener touchstones by evoking a nylon string guitar for instance but then stretching that outside of what the sound of the "real" instrument is and riding that fine line. In other words fucking with the listener, but not completely shattering their expectations either (trumpet turns into a screaming ring-modulated banshee being strangled) just gently taking them outside of their preconceptions.

Sorry I'm not a college-thesis type poster just an old musician. Probably no business posting in this thread actually.
Infrablue
doctorvague wrote:
Turning to the listener for a moment, of course it's regional and cultural, but just talking about western society for a moment, listeners have a good idea what a sax, trumpet, violin, nylon strung guitar, etc sound like. I find it interesting to use those listener touchstones by evoking a nylon string guitar for instance but then stretching that outside of what the sound of the "real" instrument is and riding that fine line. In other words fucking with the listener, but not completely shattering their expectations either (trumpet turns into a screaming ring-modulated banshee being strangled) just gently taking them outside of their preconceptions.

Sorry I'm not a college-thesis type poster just an old musician. Probably no business posting in this thread actually.


It's a good point Doctor. Even pushing limits of expectation is better done tastefully. Restraint is tough to master.
Nelson Baboon
Looks like the dark side has won!
Infrablue
Nelson Baboon wrote:
Looks like the dark side has won!


It's a good point Nelson. I mean, I'm guessing at what you meant. But it's a good point. So what tips do you have for avoiding the appearance of any genre. Just some solid, formulaic tips that'll work in every instance would be great.
Nelson Baboon
That's likely a joke, so I will not respond seriously.
TheBradster
Nelson, it doesn't seem like you to give up so easily. Jedi
Infrablue
Infrablue wrote:
doctorvague wrote:
Turning to the listener for a moment, of course it's regional and cultural, but just talking about western society for a moment, listeners have a good idea what a sax, trumpet, violin, nylon strung guitar, etc sound like. I find it interesting to use those listener touchstones by evoking a nylon string guitar for instance but then stretching that outside of what the sound of the "real" instrument is and riding that fine line. In other words fucking with the listener, but not completely shattering their expectations either (trumpet turns into a screaming ring-modulated banshee being strangled) just gently taking them outside of their preconceptions.

Sorry I'm not a college-thesis type poster just an old musician. Probably no business posting in this thread actually.


It's a good point Doctor. Even pushing limits of expectation is better done tastefully. Restraint is tough to master.


And I'd add... there are also times emulation isn't even what one is after, but similarity of musical effect, or relation of the effect certain types of instruments normally have, but with tonalities no where near usual instruments.

I also find it fascinating how nice "failed" attempts at emulation turn out to be especially nice. The organ stops on a pipe organ were intended to be emulations of orchestral instruments/sections. We could perhaps say they "failed" at excellent emulation, but succeeded well at bringing a big, interesting classical sound that was similar or related. And now we think of all that as being as a bunch of very classic organ sounds. And we even now try to emulate these emulations on a synth or computer.

So an emulation of an emulation.

And the roto-vibe guitar pedal was to be a portable emulation of a leslie-speaker which was originally intended to emulate a chorus of orchestral instruments kind of in it's roots... or a bigger organ sound. And now the roto-vibe is it's own thing, it's own sound. So it's all an interesting evolution.

And my point is, I guess, failing to perfectly emulate sure brings some unattended new sounds not present before.

It reminds me of how at times, a given prog rock group would reach a point where they were able to substitute live, a "real" acoustic orchestra for their normally used synth emulations... and how, while it could be a pretty cool thing, it made me miss the synth arrangement and made the songs less interesting. (And I love orchestral concerts and classical music.)
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