My first live-orchestra-experience

Jorgakis

Active Member
Hello there,

I had the fortunate opportunity to write and orchestrate a piece for a friend's final Bachelor exam who studies church music and conducting.
As a VI composer this was a great opportunity to test my theoretical orchestration-ability for the first time and I'd like to share with you my experience.

The order:
Write a cinematic piece that shouldn't be too hard to listen to.
It shouldn't be too hard to perform, since the orchestra wasn't exactly consisting of professionals, many of them are focused on playing organ, whith strings being only their second instrument etc.
The orchestra was supposed to be chamber-sized with strings, solo winds, 1 horn and two percussion players.

Composition process:
I did a mockup in Cubase using CSS, some Berlin solo winds and a HW Brass solo horn. I was a bit afraid of the huge CSS being way bigger sounding than the 4 4 3 2 1 string players that would be playing my piece.
I used little reverb because I thought this would create more of a "chamber-feeling". Don't know exactly why, but I feel that it helped.

The piece:
It turned out pretty "far eastern", whith a clear Mononoke quote at the beginning ;D.
I felt that an asian flair would be great for the smaller sized orchestra.

Mockup vs. Reality:
In the end, the mockup was pretty accurate in its "forecast", I wouldn't have thought! It was sounding pretty close to the actual live performance, even if the strings were a lot smaller.
The biggest mistake of mine was the horn part which was written really high. And ofc, this was difficult to play for non-professionals. (it was supposed to be played by a local orchestra member though, that's why I kept it that way). It should have been written more elegantly nevertheless.
Because it was performed in a church, the reverb was the total opposite than in the mockup, really, really heavy reverb there.

String bowings are so much more diverse than what you can do with VI, this again was made very clear to me when hearing the live performance.

Bottom line:
A live performance doesn't have to be perfect, I'd still prefer it 1000 times over any mockup. I feel like chords blend much better in real orchestras, there is something about VI orchestration that prevents every section from blending with the other to create smooth sounding chords.
But, mockups aren't that inaccurate neither.


So well, enough talking. Here's the performance, hope you like it!


Edit: Mockup-Version


Jorgo
 
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CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
What a great experience, and it must have been a thrill to hear your music performed. I'd be interested to hear your mockup as a comparison. How was the recording of the performance mic'd? I've had good results using a binaural dummy head for live recordings.
 
OP
Jorgakis

Jorgakis

Active Member
What a great experience, and it must have been a thrill to hear your music performed. I'd be interested to hear your mockup as a comparison. How was the recording of the performance mic'd? I've had good results using a binaural dummy head for live recordings.
I added the mockup to the post.
It was two microphones, one on the left side and one in the center of the hall. Both were maybe 5-6 meters away from the stage I think. I don't remember the type of mics though. They were mainly for the teachers to be able to listen to it again later, so nothing fancy there.
 
OP
Jorgakis

Jorgakis

Active Member
@TGV thanks, I tried to! A string player told me that it was totally apropriate and comfortable to play, I don't know about the rest though o_O
@bryla Thank you, I hope so, too.
@JohnG Thanks John, really appreciate that! The last one was rude though:P
 

Paul T McGraw

Senior Member
@Jorgakis congratulations! This was really great to hear, and your "lessons learned" was fun to read and informative. This is a very skillful composition. Orchestration is, in my opinion, very good. Putting a piece in front of live players is the real test for orchestration, and this came out beautifully.
 

Bartholomeus

New Member
Congrats!
I listened to both versions. The live orchestra version was nice, but the details of your composition were a lot clearer to me from the mock-up. That's why I actually prefer the mock-up.

p.s. The live horn performance sounded good to me. A few chords were out of tune though.