Monday, May 12, 2014


I'm in a bad place on a design now. I have too much information, and much of it is contradictory. So I need to find a couple of days to sit down with more material than I can display simultaneously -- or even print out -- and try to generate a consensus version that won't entirely suck.

I have the notes from a two-hour meeting with the director. I have notes in a script from an actual rehearsal, plus recordings of same (in which the actors are, of course, not doing quite what the notes in the script say they should be doing.) I have the original script, I have the conductor's score, I have an orchestration for some of the numbers, and I have the Disney recording (which also does not match the written cues -- quelle surprise!)

Overarching all of that, I have three at the moment incompatible concepts; the desire of the director to add a bunch of material, the desire of the music director not to monkey with the written score, and trailing way behind all of this, my original design impulse.

I'm feeling a little harried. Following that last rehearsal I took an early dinner then slept for almost twelve hours.

Although a large part of the original application has been superseded, I'm not unhappy with my new sound library purchases. If all I end up with on this design is a couple of percussion hits, they still complement each other nicely; the Garritan library adds some range, but surprisingly leaves out some of the most characteristic sounds of the Beijing Opera style percussion. And the Peking Opera library has in addition some potentially useful riffs and loops -- which if nothing else, are extremely informative as to performance styles.

I haven't had a chance to look into those parts of the Garritan library that won't be useful on this particular show. At first glance, it has the usual conundrum of most "world" libraries; too many instruments, leading to a lot of variety but shallow coverage to each particular. One forgets that each of the cultures represented has musical traditions as long and varied as the more familiar Western ones, and you largely miss the point by saying that, say, the dizi is a flute with a slight buzzing sound. The tradition and the kinds of lines played are intimately connected with the physics of the instrument.

The Garritan libraries have always been far on the side of the curve where the "Live Steam" enthusiasts live; emphasis on nuancing performance with a multitude of controllers, and as a result losing in instant playability. The souna -- the instrument I largely got the library for -- being a case in point. It didn't initially impress. I was looking for that blatting, tweeting, lively sound of the folk instrument, and the raw Garritan patch was giving me a dry performance with nothing of the real instrument but the characteristic timbre.

Except of course Garritan means for you to perform the thing. The bent notes are to be triggered from keyswitches or done manually with riding the bend knob, the buzzing blatting sound is of course flutter tongue, which is both keyswitch and added to taste via controller.

And truly be idiomatic, the suona family has several distinct members, which can be largely classed into the large and small; one has a softer, more lyrical tone, the other is more martial and is used for wedding processions and funerals as well. And one "Suona" patch does injustice to the tonal variety of the instrument.

Which is why some later libraries specialize in smaller and smaller families; instead of trying to cover "World," or even a region, they cover a single instrument, or perhaps just the instruments of carnatic music...or just the percussion commonly found in the Beijing Opera.

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