Hello. I just finished tweaking a full orchestra piece called “Remembrance – The Joy of Our Lives.” At the bottom of this post you will find links to the audio on Soundcloud and a link to the full score of the piece.
In this post I wanted to talk a little bit about the process used to create this piece.
Once I had the idea for the piece I sat down at my MacBook and opened Ableton Live. I have been very pleased with Ableton’s Orchestral Instruments collection. While a few sounds are missing (such as an orchestral bass drum) the instruments provided sound great. The multi-articulation control and its ability to be controlled by automation really helps add realism to the track. I mostly worked in Arrangement View for this piece which is a bit different than a loop based EDM type track. Once I got the structure of the tune working from end to end I just kept going into each section and tweaking here and there – adding a harmony here, tweaking velocity to get more natural builds, etc. I created a “hard quantized” version of the piece (where all the notes fell on timing grid lines) to use as a source for my export to my notation software.
Once this was complete I was halfway there.
My goal for this piece was not to build a Midi orchestra but rather to create a piece for live musicians. So I opened up Notion (notionmusic.com) which is the software I currently use for scoring. I was introduced to this software when the Panama City POPS did music by Jack Jarrett, American composer and founder of Notion Music.
It was a bit tedious but after setting up a full orchestra score in Notion I exported each Ableton tracks’ midi to Notion. To do this in Ableton you right click on the arrangement view clip and choose “export to midi.” This creates a file that I would name “Bass” or “Clarinet 1” depending on the part. Then in Notion, click File/Import and find, select and import the Midi file. Notion places the midi information on a Sequencer Track. Simply use CMD A (on CRTL A on a PC) to select the entire track and then paste the data into the appropriate track in the score.
I ran into a few problems. First, even though the data in Ableton was hard quantized Notion still did some wonky stuff when rendering notation. I had to look at what Notion did, think about what I was really wanting to communicate to the live musician playing the piece and re-write the part to sound and look right. After doing this for all the parts I got better at using Notion and solving various notation problems.
Once the basic parts were imported then the fun began. For me, looking at notation is very different than working strictly with the sound via midi or audio files. Seeing the motion of the parts in relation to each other and also seeing all the parts at once really begins to suggest additions and variations. I know standard notation isn’t really big among some electronic and traditional musicians but I feel it is a very powerful tool in music production. Certainly its use in communicating with other professional musicians is as yet unparalleled by any other medium.
The piece really came together as a result of the conversion to notation. I prefer the Ableton Orchestral sounds over those in Notion but it is nice to be able to notate a crescendo, a staccato, a slur and so on and instantly hear the phrase play in response to the markings. The sounds in Notion are “good ’nuff” to get the idea across.
And that was that. I’m pleased with the outcome of this process. Feel free to download the score and follow along with the audio on Soundcloud. And if you have an orchestra that woud like to play the piece that would be cool! Get in touch.
You can listen to the piece and read the story behind the inspiration on my Soundcloud.com page. Here is the link:
Here is a link to the full score: