Friday, 29 January 2016

"Interpretations" Update

With the GTK Studio computer now fully operational and possessed of a lot more grunt on the processing front, I've been hammering ahead with the "Interpretations" album in pretty much every bit of spare time I have (which hasn't been a lot, I can tell you).

Tonight, I've been working on a piece of music from one of my favourite composers, Sir William Walton, and it's called "Crown Imperial". William Walton wrote it for King Edward VIII's coronation scheduled for May 1937, but alas it didn't get used because the king decided to abdicate to marry an American divorcee called Wallis Simpson (a bit bloody inconvenient if you ask me). Fortunately, it managed to see the day of light later that year with the coronation of Edward VIII's brother, King George VI and then, with something of a substantial revision in 1953 for the coronation of the present monarch, Elizabeth II. It's a very stirring piece of music that, even in its quite modernist form, invokes all the pomp and circumstance that so many associate with our country.

This one has been something of a challenge, because it's quite tricky to take a piece of music that has been written for a high state occasion, full of fanfare-type themes and motifs with orchestral string passages and present it in a more electronic form. I'm kind of there, but something of a concession has been made in terms of the use of percussion and certain instruments, namely the strings and the church organ. To minimise the overall impact of this compromise, I turned to one of my main influences for this project, Wendy Carlos, and listened very carefully to her first two albums, "Switched On Bach" and "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" to try and draw inspiration for a way through. That happened and manifested itself with one synthesizer that has now seen extensive use throughout this track (and indeed the album thus far), Arturia's Mini V2, an excellent Minimoog emulation. When you eventually hear this piece, the fanfare brasses, woodwinds and some of the basses (alongside basses from ReFX's fucking amazing Nexus²) are all the Mini V2 - it's proven to be a hugely useful piece of software and something of a workhorse.

I still have a way to go with "Crown Imperial" as I replace orchestral sounds with electronic/synthesizer sounds, in particular the percussion sections, the timpani kit really makes the piece come alive and finding an electronic counterpart without compromising the integrity of the track and the project is a bit of a challenge. That said, it's really getting there and I'm very confident that I'll retain the intense majesty (no pun intended) of the original.

Here's a YouTube video of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra playing "Crown Imperial":

Whilst working on "Crown Imperial", I took the opportunity to try out a demo of Waves Audio's latest release, the Nx Virtual Mix Room. The idea behind this is to allow the user to conduct mixing sessions using headphones, something that's a bit of a no-no in the production world. This is achieved by attaching a webcam to your computer, which then tracks your face. You also have to tell the program the circumference of your head and the distance between your ears, measuring around the back of the head. You can then alter the position of the speakers within the program and get it to lock onto the sweet point (the optimum listening position). A lot of people will be highly sceptical of this program, and some would say with good reason, as headphones really are not ideal for mixing because you don't get a true spectrum of sound or a properly defined stereo field. What Nx does is to evaluate the speaker positioning and the  physical properties of the user then adjust the output of the headphones accordingly. I approached this with a totally open mind, not placing any expectations (negative or positive) and found myself pretty much blown away by the clarity, depth, balance and transparency of what I was hearing through my StudioSpares M1000 closed-back headphones. If you're in this music game thing, I seriously and strongly suggest you try out the demo. I've just finished nearly three hours of studio time, all done on the headphones, and the mix sounds as good across my studio monitors as they do on the headphones. I think it safe to say that I will be parting with my cash for the licence before the demo expires!!!

More "Interpretations" updates coming soon :-)

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