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Beethoven's 5th Symphony — MIDI Remake (Studio One 4)

José Herring

Senior Member
I totally agree, José, but unfortunately, mocking up the classics, and particularly anything pre-romantic, creates a whole set of problems for which there is, in my opinion, simply no solution. (Ever heard a good Beethoven or Mozart mock-up? I haven’t.) Hence my inability to offer constructive suggestions. I would love nothing better than to be able to point the opening poster, or anyone else who’s interested, to library X or Y knowing, from experience, these products to be the right tools for the job, but as I said before: such libraries don’t exist. Nearly all orchestral libraries today are developed, from the first sampling session to the final script edit, with a ‘music for media’ purpose in mind, for perfectly understandable reasons of course. Developers think in terms of ‘cinematic’, ‘soaring’, ‘emotional’, ‘nordic’, ‘fit for trailers’, etc. and they assume, perhaps wisely, that we all want (or need) to sound like Williams, Zimmer, Newton-Howard, Richter, Jóhannsson or Newman. None of them assumes that some of us might want to sound, occasionally, like Concentus Musicus Wien, or the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, or Le Concert Des Nations, or The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, or the Freiburger, or Gli Incogniti or any other dedicated ensemble or bona fide ‘classic’ orchestra.

There is to my knowledge no developer, and there’s certainly no product that suggests there might be one, who, while planning an orchestral library, is thinking: “we’ve got to make sure that this is going to be great and sound right to do Haydn, Schubert and Stamitz with”, or: “let’s do an orchestral library that’ll bring people a few steps closer to being able to make musically convincing, historically informed and timbrally defensible renditions of Mozart and Beethoven” …

In order to do classical music — from, say, Monteverdi right up to the present day — a minimum amount of justice, it would require very specialized libraries (and very different ones for each century) that no developer is interested (and/or would be allowed by his/her accountant) to produce. And it isn’t just a matter of sound — although that already disqualifies most existing libraries right from the start — it’s every bit as much a matter of idiomatic articulations, phrasing and overal musical perspective and insight.

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The reason I didn’t have any suggestions for improvement to offer with regard to the production of the above mock-up is that, to my ears, there is no consistency in the problems it is struggling with. In some bars, the strings may actually sound quite decent, in other bars they sound totally wrong and out of their depth. At times the woodwinds may seem to fit, at other times they appear to belong to a different recording entirely … From one bar to the next, different problems rear their distracting little heads and all of them together simply can’t be reduced down to a clear, convenient list that includes a suggestion for improvement next to each identified issue.

Some issues have to do with wrong articulations (sampled or programmed), other issues are the result of the libraries’ limitations, still others are the inevitable side-effect of ‘mocking up and orchestra’, others still are space-related, and then there’s also a few issues that are much more difficult to analyze because due to the sonic clutter it is near impossible to determine where the problem begins and where it ends …

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Re SPAT: I use it many different ways. In a piece I’m working on at the moment, for example, I have 4 different clarinet libraries — incl. the one you were involved with, José — which take care of the clarinet parts. They’re all sent to a bus where SPAT is inserted, and they come out sounding as a single instrument consistently located in one specific place in the mix. At other times I might send a prominent solo instrument through SPAT, or suggest extra depth in a string section by placing a selection of desks a little further back … The options are limitless and my answer to any imagineable question that is spatialization-related and inquires about something being possible with SPAT or not, is: yes.

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I have a question too. For the opening poster and people with similar inclinations. What’s the fascination? I mean, why would one want to mock-up a classical piece? I never understood that. I have never understood what creative satisfaction can be derived from producing musically wrong, artistically inferior and sonically crippled versions of a classical piece of music. Surely, the music itself can’t be the reason. (I would think that the music itself provides all the reasons NOT to do it.)

People usually answer that it’s very eductional, as in: you learn a lot about your libraries when you mock-up classical pieces. That may be true up to a point (although I fail to see what there is to be learned from forcing your samples onto music for which they weren’t created to begin with) and also, if self-eduction is the main drive behind these efforts, then why do entire movements or even entire works? I don’t get that. Why not just do a minute or two, and give those two minutes all your focus, attention and commitment? If, for example, you had just done, say, the exposition of this movement, and truly made the effort to take things as far as your tools allow you to go, doing your utmost to sculpt everything as musically correct as possible, wouldn’t that have been a much more satisfying and educational excercise than doing the entire thing in a sort of slapdash, inconsistent and “there’s just too many problems here to address them all”-kind of way?

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Jon W, I hope the first section of the above text answers your question too. In addition, I must say that I’m very reluctant to recommend libraries (strings or others), because any choice is, in my opinion, always determined by the music that needs to be rendered. That said, Sable (the ancestor of Spitfire Chamber Strings) is as close to a constant presence in my mock-orchestral music as any library ever got, as are the Spitfire Bespoke Chamber Strings. Next to those, it’s a merry and chaotic coming and going of libraries like Afflatus, the Berlins (the 2 Expansions and the strings from Ark 4), other Spitfire stuff, a small selection of Century Strings patches, LASS, the old Sonic implants, Light & Sound, CSS, and several others, …

As for Tundra: I don’t have that library but judging from what I heard in the walkthrough and various demos, and even just going by its name, I don’t think it is something I would reach for should I ever decline to a mental state that has me thinking that doing a classical mock-up might be a sensible way to spend the day. (Tundra sounds nothing short of amazing for a particular type of musical stylings though. If I had any musical affinity with those stylings, I’m sure I would have bought the library on the day it got released.)

Thank you. There's a lot to consider in this post. I'm going to gather my thoughts and over the next few days start another thread based on this.


Only speculating but there's one obvious reason to mock up classical works. Many people have interesting and valid musical interpretations to share, but have neither orchestra access nor conducting prowess. You can certainly argue that samples do a disservice to the work (everyone will agree), but realistically what is the alternative? If you follow this line to the end you just end up arguing that people without vast resources should keep their music to themselves.


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Only speculating but there's one obvious reason to mock up classical works. Many people have interesting and valid musical interpretations to share, but have neither orchestra access nor conducting prowess. You can certainly argue that samples do a disservice to the work (everyone will agree), but realistically what is the alternative? If you follow this line to the end you just end up arguing that people without vast resources should keep their music to themselves.

Agreed. @re-peat is more into philosophy side of this, but we all can't be the same. Especially in part where he points out that doing this kind of mock up is showing that we don't love music.

But as I said, he is having his own reasons writing that, and i am glad that someone find his comment useful too, the same as i am glad that someone finds my remake useful! :)


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Only speculating but there's one obvious reason to mock up classical works. Many people have interesting and valid musical interpretations to share (...)

Yes, that could be a good reason to do it, Buz. There are however two proboscidean-sized problems (and several smaller ones) with that argument. The first one is that the vast majority of the people — I’m pretty sure it’s 9 out of 10 — who do these classical mock-ups, start by importing a (recording of a) real performance they like into their DAW, as a reference, and then proceed by modeling their mock-up as close as they can on the real thing. So much for ‘interesting and valid interpretation’.

I may be wrong — and if I am, please point me to a mock-up that shows I am — but the first mock-up that provokes thought and/or gives satisfaction on account of its ‘interesting and valid interpretation’ still has to be made. It is, in fact, precisely this total absence of anything that suggests a musical personality with a singular vision steering the music, which I find so disappointing in *all* classical mock-ups I've heard so far.

And even if one tackled the challenge with the idea of sharing a personal and valid interpretation with us, there’s still the second major problem to consider. See, the biggest nail in the coffin of musical interpretation, is that in order to get a mock-up more or less on its wobbly feet, you have to make so many musical and technical compromises — because of the countless limitations and peculiarities of the format — that whatever ideas about interpretation you may have begun the project with, they’re almost all doomed (tempi maybe excepted) to get fatally compromised along the way. It’s unavoidable. It comes with the territory.

Samples and virtual spaces can only do so much and that ‘so much’ is nowhere near enough to even begin considering expressing a personal interpretation of the music with. Especially music which, in order to come alive as envisioned by its composer, requires the presence of musical activity that falls completely beyond the emulative reach of our virtual tools.

How could you possibly render a personal interpretation (never mind an interesting and valid one) of a piece of music, if the bulk of the performance-related decisions have either already been made by the developers of the libraries you work with (decisions pertaining to phrasing and articulations, to timbre, to dynamics, …), or are determined by the scripts that decide how your samples behave?

If you’re not in complete control of every single musical aspect of a performance — and you never are when doing orchestral mock-ups — how can the result of your efforts be called a personal interpretation? With most of today’s libraries, even the legato isn’t yours to control, so how could you hope to phrase a legato-rich melody in a personal way?

When I listen to this Beethoven mock-up — and anyone who’s honest, ought to agree —, I hear the work of a musician who, during 99% of the time, is the totally powerless prisoner of his clumsy and inept samples and scripts, and of the many severe limitations which the mock-up format impose on the musical proceedings. There’s simply no way that, should he wish to, he can stamp his personality on the performance of this music. Mock-ups, by way of being, simply don’t allow it. I’m not suggesting that Deemarcus might not have very interesting ideas on how to perform Beethoven’s 5th — maybe he has, and discussing the topic with him might well prove very interesting —, but I am saying that whatever those ideas may be, they certainly didn’t survive the mock-up process.

The only way, in my opinion, to imprint one’s personality on the performance of piece of music, and make a genuine creative and artistic statement, is if you transcribe the music for the tools you use to render the music with. Which, of course, requires the very creativity, courage and commitment that mere mock-ups force you to abandon.

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