20-20: A Choral Suite: New Delivered Videos, and Some Technicals

[NOTE: This is about some changes to the sound of the current first 3 videos from “20-20: A Choral Suite,” posted on Jan. 10, 2020. Here are links to the pages which deliver them: “1: Alone,” “2: Shopping,” “3: Social.”]

If you’ve read my “Production Technicals” (under “About“), you know that I write using the score software Avid Sibelius. Avid Sibelius is a “word processor” for music — it allows a lowly composer like me to write and self-publish notes assembled as pieces using an ordinary home computer. But just as language started as an oral tradition, my goal here is to take those published notes back to sounds and music for you to hear. Although computerized “text to speech” has gotten pretty good, “notes to music” is a sight harder. Some instruments (an oboe or a church organ are good examples) are reasonably easy for a computer to “play back” as realistic-sounding music. Some are much harder — my string quartet was written for solo stringed instruments, the playing of which require a LOT of variation and nuance, much too complex for a home computer to render to sound realistically. Singing voices are probably the worst, since they combine the demands of reproducing realistic vocal sounds with the added need for sung words (lyrics). The technology is getting closer — here’s an example of such a tool, EastWest Hollywood Backup Singers. (It even shows the words inside the software as they’re rendered by the computer!) But providing a full choir or individual soloists singing traditional compositions with lyrics, with the emotional nuanced expression you’d expect from a human, is beyond the capabilities of the tools I use.

When I began my “20-20: A Chorale Suite,” I used a free plugin for my “word processor” — NotePerformer — which did the “notes to music” conversion. Last week I finally purchased and leveraged a true sample-based system of sounds to do that job, once again from Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL). A sample system uses actual recordings — VSL assembles a choir in a performance venue, and records their singing of a variety of pitches, volume levels, and a few “word” — “Ooo’s” and “Aaah’s” mostly. When Sibelius plays back my score, the use of VSL samples sounds much more like a choir, but the words are still, unfortunately, mostly missing.

I have re-“recorded” the first three movements of the chorale suite using the new VSL sample library. They are linked from the same pages that delivered them before (start from the “20-20: A Choral Suite” home page), but I’m hoping you’ll find these versions a bit easier to listen to than the earlier, cruder ones.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be recruiting a real choir to record the entire suite when it’s complete.

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