Humanize Playback

Discussions about our next-generation scoring application, Dorico.
alindsay55661
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by alindsay55661 »

cparmerlee wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 2:48 pm
alindsay55661 wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 12:25 am
Dorico aspires to be more than an exceptional notation tool, it aspires to be an exceptional writing tool. Notation is just the anchor
I suppose most people would say [realistic playback] should not be the ultimate objective for any notation program. But I suggest it actually should be one of the measurements of success long-term for all the reasons you mentioned... ...Auditioning music (or better yet, evolving music iteratively) is most effective when it sounds realistic. And honestly, we aren't that far off already.... ...What' I'm trying to say is that I agree with what you wrote, but just wanted to point out how far the technology has come already.
Agreed, and how nice to get further confirmation from the team that regular strides are to be made:
Daniel at Steinberg wrote:
Sun May 31, 2020 10:59 am
It's still absolutely our goal that you should ultimately be able to produce a great-sounding mock-up in Dorico without needing to send the project to Cubase... ...Notation software necessitates additional layers of abstraction between the music notation and the resulting MIDI, which I think is always going to be perceived by some users as awkwardness or lack of flexibility. But there is a lot more we can do to develop the software in this area, which we will do, but it cannot and will not come at the expense of balancing the development of features that address other use cases. Playback is just one facet of Dorico's feature set. We cannot do everything at once. But you can expect every version of Dorico to take significant steps forward in the area of both automatic playback and providing more tools for you to shape playback as you wish – just as you can expect it also to include features to improve workflow, make the notation more beautiful, and make it more efficient to produce publication-quality graphical output.
Dorico has come out of the gates running and done such a great job advancing music writing and publishing. I have already moved most of my workflow into Dorico and look forward to continued improvements in the playback space. Thank you Daniel and team!

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by scoredfilms »

alindsay55661 wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 12:25 am
What we see here is a range of feedback requirements. While John Williams needs only visual feedback, an understudy may need audible pitches from time to time, but not in every bar as most music is still heard internally. These folks don't need so much aural feedback because they can already hear the live, and very human, orchestra playing in all its glory and imperfection. For them, perhaps Dorico is only a tool of efficiency.

But further down the line is someone that needs to hear a pitch in every bar, and someone that needs to hear harmony, someone that needs to hear rhythm, someone needing to hear the contrast of multiple instruments played together, until you finally get to the writers that need to experience near-human performance before they can liberate the music inside them... should these writers be forced to the piano roll? Nay!
I'm one of these people who hears it all internally, but I still agree with you completely. Sure, you can ramble off letters like a speed train and I can recognize every letter I hear instantly, but I can recall less barlines than Mozart. Even Mozart had to go back and listen again at times. Aural recognition is one aspect of charting how our minds work with music. Composition informs aural and vice versa.

I recently switched to a StaffPad (writing) + Studio One (recording) + Dorico (engraving) workflow due to SP's in-app pre-mapped library integration, something I suggested to most developers years back as the ultimate composer UX end goal and was told it was lightyears away from anything the industry has. Library integration and human playback is essential to keeping people out of frequent piano-roll edits. As a human being, I'm prone to seeing 30 things to do, doing 10 of them, my daughter asks for help, then I come back and wait... oh yeah, I had 8 other things to do (notice that 12 edits on my agenda just got lost to the void). Less performance tweaking makes 10,000x the difference in one's writing. I've written music without computers, and without instruments. Any aural feedback will have influence over writing. But the closer it is to the real thing, the less distracting it is.

I don't want it out of a need to hear, but out of a need to fight to manage my attention.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by Rob Tuley »

alindsay55661 wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 12:25 am
... until you finally get to the writers that need to experience near-human performance before they can liberate the music inside them...
Others might disagree, but I don't believe such people exist.

There may be people who think they need that to "liberate the music inside them," but the real test is whether anyone else thinks their music was worth liberating.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by alindsay55661 »

Rob Tuley wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:08 pm
alindsay55661 wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 12:25 am
... until you finally get to the writers that need to experience near-human performance before they can liberate the music inside them...
Others might disagree, but I don't believe such people exist.

There may be people who think they need that to "liberate the music inside them," but the real test is whether anyone else thinks their music was worth liberating.
Let me phrase this another way. Consider much of the vocal music that comes from tribal regions and is created and passed down through oral tradition. If these groups were not allowed to sing as part of the composition process, and instead had to compose parts using a piano, another pitched instrument or just their mind, I am suggesting we would not enjoy much of the rich soul, melodies and harmonies of African and Polynesian chants and spirituals. There is process that occurs when the real thing is brought together and you are exposed to texture, tone, depth, presence and a number of other things beyond pitch, tempo and dynamics. Pitch, tempo and dynamics are not the exclusive informers of worthy music. That is why two groups performing the same number yeild completely different audience reactions.

You may disagree on this point as well, but there is a body of soundscape infused/inspired music that has its place and successfully moves people emotionally, makes them laugh, cry, feel relief, etc. and some of it can only be discovered through actual performance. How do these artists discover and write their expressions without the real thing? The same is true for music with electronic elements... the growl of a snyth, frequency of a sub bass and punchiness of a lead are all critical to the expression, and these elements are often difficult to discover and settle upon without experiencing the real thing and then recognizing: "yes, that is the expression I want to liberate".

And finally, consider the more traditional improvisation we are already cozy with in notation software. Just put a few slashes and let someone do their thing. This gets directly at the heart of liberating the music within only by experiencing it. Lots of written music and hit tunes have come out of improvisation sessions. I am suggesting these improvisation sessions are liberating in part because they are as close to the real thing as you can get, they are the real thing. If we restricted improvisation sessions for all music to just a piano, I am suggesting you would liberate less and some people would be unable to liberate anything at all despite having an expression within that others would deem completely worthy and desirable.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by Derrek »

What I think Rob is referring to--and which I agree--is that one can imagine a musical result without hearing it first. Many composers do not even need a keyboard to imagine and create their music, and music came into being for thousands of years with just the voice or a keyboard to use.

It is nice to have modern electronic means to simulate and create or confirm new sounds, but I would say that most people imagine what they want and then (if necessary) search for a means to reproduce it. They do not need the electronic (or even acoustic) crutch as a prerequisite to imagining it.
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Alberto Maria
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by Alberto Maria »

Derrek wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:43 pm
What I think Rob is referring to--and which I agree--is that one can imagine a musical result without hearing it first. Many composers do not even need a keyboard to imagine and create their music, and music came into being for thousands of years with just the voice or a keyboard to use.

It is nice to have modern electronic means to simulate and create or confirm new sounds, but I would say that most people imagine what they want and then (if necessary) search for a means to reproduce it. They do not need the electronic (or even acoustic) crutch as a prerequisite to imagining it.
Absolutely agree... :)
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by MiloDC »

I just want to say that it's great to see such well-articulated sentiment, coming from several people, regarding the importance of playback, and the need for Dorico to continue to develop in this area as a primary consideration.

It seems we've come a long way from the earlier days of Sibelius, when expressing concern over playback would be met almost immediately with numerous Luddite admonitions that Sibelius was notation software, dammit.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by cparmerlee »

MiloDC wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 10:40 pm
It seems we've come a long way from the earlier days of Sibelius, when expressing concern over playback would be met almost immediately...
That division was not limited to the Sibelius world. One saw the same arguments in the Finale world. There are people whose musical universe requires them to set music to notation and apparently little else. That's OK, but as time passes, one finds the competitive environment moving quickly. Many of us find ourselves in a position of needing to pitch our ideas to clients, and the standard of playback is rising every year. A level of playback that might have been successful in 2010 may now come across as amateurish and reflect negatively on the whole enterprise.

Fortunately good notation and good playback are not mutually exclusive, so there is actually little to debate other than priorities.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by ptram »

Apart for the need of some composers to touch the sound matter, prelistening a piece composed on score is absolutely needed for students, competitions, film works. I've never attended to a composition course or competition, or met a film director, not asking for a "MIDI mockup". The better it is, the more chances one has to be selected, to win, to be hired.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by steveparker »

Absolutely. I write without piano or playback - just a blank page. But more and more, what is discussed in meetings is the playback and not the print out.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by dankreider »

I don’t have much to add here, except to agree strongly that easy and realistic playback continues to be increasingly important. I know fewer and fewer musicians who are able to audiate strongly, especially as it regards orchestration. Everyone wants an audio mock-up.

We can bemoan the decline of music literacy (and I do), but it’s reality. The technology is there… Let’s use it.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by cparmerlee »

dankreider wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 3:57 pm
I know fewer and fewer musicians who are able to audiate strongly, especially as it regards orchestration. ...
We can bemoan the decline of music literacy (and I do), but it’s reality. The technology is there… Let’s use it.
I really don't see this as any indication of the direction of music literacy. Music existed before the notation. Notation is only an approximation of the actual music. I venture that most of the greatest musical works were not perfect on the first edition. Maybe people like Mozart, Sousa, and Beethoven who were basically mechanics following familiar formulas, opus after opus, could be happy with every note they wrote. But most great composers have always wanted to hear the music and have the opportunity to revise.

If Ravel or Stravinsky wanted to revise their work after hearing it performed, that would surely not indicate any decline on their skills. Indeed, it might indicate they were pushing the envelope with each new work, moving farther and farther from the paint-by-numbers reality of lesser composers.

I don't think there is anything new or distressing about musicians wanting to hear their compositions auditioned. To the extent that a computer can save the cost of employing a full orchestra, surely that is a good thing.
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Re: Humanize Playback

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cparmerlee wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 6:04 pm
dankreider wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 3:57 pm
I know fewer and fewer musicians who are able to audiate strongly, especially as it regards orchestration. ...
We can bemoan the decline of music literacy (and I do), but it’s reality. The technology is there… Let’s use it.
I really don't see this as any indication of the direction of music literacy. Music existed before the notation. Notation is only an approximation of the actual music. I venture that most of the greatest musical works were not perfect on the first edition. Maybe people like Mozart, Sousa, and Beethoven who were basically mechanics following familiar formulas, opus after opus, could be happy with every note they wrote. But most great composers have always wanted to hear the music and have the opportunity to revise.

If Ravel or Stravinsky wanted to revise their work after hearing it performed, that would surely not indicate any decline on their skills. Indeed, it might indicate they were pushing the envelope with each new work, moving farther and farther from the paint-by-numbers reality of lesser composers.

I don't think there is anything new or distressing about musicians wanting to hear their compositions auditioned. To the extent that a computer can save the cost of employing a full orchestra, surely that is a good thing.
Fair point.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by Rob Tuley »

Well, I suppose if you compare Rondo alla Turca, Fur Elise, and one of the handful of Sousa marches that are still played (if only by the US military) you can put all three composers in the same category if you like.

Except that you are comparing the best of one (99% of Sousa's compositions are totally forgotten, and for good reason if you spend five minutes looking at the scores - they are endless pages of formulaic trash) with a couple of bits of trivia by the other two.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by cparmerlee »

Rob Tuley wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 7:43 pm
Well, I suppose if you compare Rondo alla Turca, Fur Elise, and one of the handful of Sousa marches
Actually, I would say that Fur Elise is less paint-by-numbers then his symphonies, but to each his own. None of that would make it on my list of music I'd select if banished to a deserted island.

I wonder if Bach would have done things differently if he had Dorico. Most of his stuff was written quickly under the weekly pressure of his church commission. Even without Dorico and all that time pressure, just about everything he did (that survives) is elegant, and hard to find any angle for improvement. I guess he threw away 100 times as much music as most of us will ever write. Perhaps with the benefit of Dorico and good playback, some of the discards would have become survivors.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by alindsay55661 »

cparmerlee wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:49 pm
I wonder if Bach would have done things differently if he had Dorico.
Good question, and additionally, who else might have produced works and what types of works might have been produced?

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by cparmerlee »

alindsay55661 wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:27 pm
cparmerlee wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:49 pm
I wonder if Bach would have done things differently if he had Dorico.
Good question, and additionally, who else might have produced works and what types of works might have been produced?
Throughout history, the music business has favored those who had classical training, including intense fluency in writing and reading notated music. But I have had the pleasure of working with some really brilliant musicians who could barely read or write a note of classical notation. Some of them have become real monsters working within DAW environments. And I know a few who are using the notation features in the DAWs as well as notation products like Dorico to teach themselves to understand "our language." For people like this, it begins with the sound, not the dots.
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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by steveparker »

The only problem is that no mock-up behaves like an orchestra. Note that I didn't say 'sounds' like one - it's possible to make some great sounding mockups. But in (for example) Dorico with Noteperformer that involves a lot of odd tweaking of dynamics and articulation (and sometimes doubling or removing parts) just to get it to sound like an orchestra would at say 'mp'. If you don't know that and just write 'mp' you'll get a shock when it goes in front of a band.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by gdball »

There's a video where Mr. Zimmer did a round table with a couple of couches worth of other film and TV composers. They all groaned about film producers saying "Just let me hear the idea, just a piano is fine, I'm very creative and experienced; I can imagine where you're going." And if the composer falls for that, the composer will inevitably hear "I dunno, I don't really get it, it just sounds like a solo piano."

I don't think decent mockups are optional for that kind of writing.

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by Rob Tuley »

cparmerlee wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:49 pm
I wonder if Bach would have done things differently if he had Dorico.
I doubt it. For example, there is no solo organ music that Bach actually wrote down, after the age of about 25. That certainly doesn't mean he never composed (or improvised) any more for the rest of his life.

The same goes for his contemporaries as well. For example Reincken, generally considered the best organist of the day, and a major influence on Bach, was employed as a full time church musician for 65 years (working right up to his death aged 99) but only published a handful of works - several of which were rearranged by Bach.

They were both too busy making music to waste time writing it down!

(Note: the date of Reincken's birth is disputed, but the alternative date has rather tenuous documentation to support it, and makes him an unlikely child prodigy - though it still has him working up to age 79).

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Re: Humanize Playback

Post by cparmerlee »

gdball wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 8:33 pm
And if the composer falls for that, the composer will inevitably hear "I dunno, I don't really get it, it just sounds like a solo piano."
Indeed, and in film scoring, the orchestration is often more important than the actual notes and rhythms. That is to say the texture may be more important than the notes.

A piano rendering is always going to be inadequate to illustrate what should be a soft cello tremolo with a harp gliss leading to a piccolo ornament.
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