Eurydice

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Rainmak3r
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Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

Hi all,

I just published another piece I've been working on these past few days. The first part actually comes from a song I wrote at least 15 years ago, but that I then unfortunately lost forever due to a broken disk: I didn't like how the song progressed at the time, so I started from scratch to re-imagine it to tell the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice instead:

https://soundcloud.com/lminiero/eurydice

If you're unfamiliar with the story, Orpheus was a legendary musician and master of the lyre. He was married to Eurydice, who was then killed by a viper when trying to escape a threat. The myth then tells how Orpheus played his lyre to try and convince Hades and Persephone to allow Eurydice to leave the Underworld. They accepted, at the condition that he walked in front of her and never looked back until they're outside. Orpheus did that, but towards the end started doubting she was really, or still, behind him, and that maybe the Gods tricked him: just before getting out, he turned, and she was gone. Greek myths really loved a good tragedy!

The track I wrote tries to tell part of that story: Orpheus reaching the Underworld, and bringing Eurydice back. I tried to make Orpheus' lyre (well, harp in my piece... try finding a lyre sf2/sfz! :mrgreen: ) the only instrument that was always there and almost always with the same pattern shifting in and out of the different tones, to try and convey the feeling of his music trying to overcome all the other instruments, from the hopeful start up to the tragic ending: when Eurydice is gone, the lyre abruptly stops, and all is left is a mourning melody. Did he lose here because of his fears and doubts and because he turned? Or were the Gods really tricking him? My track won't be the response to that: I just wanted to play it all from Eurydice's perspective, from when she first sees Orpheus coming, they start climbing their way up to outside, his fears starting to take over and then the moment of loss: when the sound of his lyre, coming from an Orpheus she's now lost forever, slowly disappears.

Long intro aside, and coming to what probably may interest you most, this was my first attempt to use MIDI much more heavily in an Ardour-based project. I realized why people often complain about the state of MIDI in Ardour: I definitely found the whole process quite cumbersome at times, and I'll try to explain why in the next few paragraphs. More precisely, I tried working on the MIDI tracks in different ways, to experiment with the different ways I could take advantage of that.

Almost all of the tracks were written in Frescobaldi, so using Lilypond. I learned to love the syntax these past few months, and I found it much easier to write long phrases that way, rather than drawing on a piano or music scroll. This was the first cause of annoyance, though. Importing MIDI is simple in Ardour, and works nicely: but there's no way to update a track when it's imported. Any time I updated even a single track in the MIDI, I'd have to re-import the whole thing again, then copy the new track (e.g., for the flute) and put it in place of what I had before, and remove all the tracks from the newly imported MIDI again. Very cumbersome... The MIDI editing part of Ardour is quite bad (more on this later) so it definitely was not an option: I did do that briefly, to shorten some notes in the horns section for a more "staccato" effect, but it was quite painful . If Ardour had a way to externally edit a MIDI track when it's added, that would be amazing, but I'm afraid that's not possible. The other cause of annoyance is that Lilypond doesn't have a humanizer (at least not that I know of), and so all notes have pretty much the same velocity, which sucks... unfortunately, Ardour doesn't have a "Humanize" option either (while it does have a quantizer), which would be great to have too; from what I read, you should expect plugins to provide that (e.g., those responsible for sequencing), but I didn't find any.

That said, this is how I handled and sequenced the different tracks:
  • For the harp (which, for a few effects reason, is actually three separate tracks, although there's a main one), I used a SFZ called "Baroque Harp" from the Early Music Ensemble collection (https://musescore.org/en/node/267479). The other options I found (VPO, Ethereal Winds, some other SF2/SFZ) seemed much more lackluster than this. Anyway, Ardour does have a linuxsampler plugin you can use for SFZ: I found it a bit weird that the plugin is only a "stub", though, and that you have to configure it externally with QSampler... anyway, once you do it, it remembers it, so that worked. The only thing I had to do was to ensure only Channel 1 was used: if it was all of them, it would not work.
  • Most of the other instruments (flute, fiddle, choirs, horns) were rendered via the default Fluidsynth soundfont, using the Calf Fluidsynth plugin. Again, I couldn't find better sounds for those instruments and the effects I was after, for some reason (I expected VPO to sound much better, in particular!). Anyway, the Calf Fluidsynth configuration was quite straightorward.
  • The background strings you can hear in two separate tracks (ensemble and cellos) I wanted to be played using a Windows VST. I recently found some free VST's by Spitfire Audio (https://www.spitfireaudio.com/labs/) that sound really cool, and so I wanted to check how hard it would have been to use them in Ardour. Turns out apparently Ardour doesn't support VST's out of the box (you need a special build), so I had to be a bit creative. I used jack-dssi-host to open an instance of the VST using dssi-wine, and then spawned a j2amidi_bridge instance since jack-dssi-host only exposes an ALSA MIDI port, while Ardour only works using Jack MIDI. Then I configured the MIDI track to output to j2amidi, and added a new Audio track that would get its audio from the VST output instead. This way, I could record the rendered audio and work on that in the mix. A bit problematic if you expect the tracks to change often (you'd have to re-record them), but it did the trick.
  • The pad at the end is rendered using ZynAddSubFx as a plugin, which was quite easy to configure too. To make my life harder, though, I decided to actually WRITE the pad notes using the internal Ardour MIDI editing. As I anticipated I found it quite bad, I'm afraid to say, and can understand all those that recommend staying away from it... I couldn't find easy ways to have notes stick to the grid for some reason (I guess you can just quantise later?), and even durations are not discreet. Luckily enough I only had to write very few notes, so I was done with that soon.
  • Finally, drums are the usual Hydrogen+DrumGizmo combo, and nothing to complain about there: I don't think I'll ever need a different approach there, and scripting those percussive sections using kicks and toms was quite fun!
Apart from that, there are a couple of real audio tracks, but they don't last long: just your usual bass + L/R guitars. Those would really need to be re-recorded (I did those quickly yesterday), but I wanted to get the recording out sooner than that anyway, just to get some feedback.

Another cool thing I experimented with was reverbs. One of my best friends, who is a composer and a damn good sound producer and engineer (I mean, just hear his albums on Spotify and tell me they're not amazing! https://open.spotify.com/artist/7s01ygGi7gw8oFmvxH5MU8) has been giving me a lot of tips since I started this journey on music production in Linux. Yesterday he introduced me to the concept of aux sends, and how they can greatly improve the way reverb works, especially when you're working on a lot of tracks! I sketched this in my project and it did simplfy the process a lot: you basically create a separate bus track, only add the reverb there (configured with only wet and no dry), and add an aux send for all the tracks that should have it to the bus track. I ended up with two separate buses, because I needed different reverb properties for the intro/outro, and the song itself: on the whole, the end result could be much better, but in my defence there's a lot you can tweak there, between how much to send to the busses and how to configure the reverbs themselves... :D There will be plenty of time to improve later!

That's all, hope you'll enjoy the track and I'm looking forward to your feedback!

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turbidh20
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Re: Eurydice

Post by turbidh20 »

I really enjoyed the music and found your write-up on the process very interesting! Well done :)
Arch Linux (i7-4790k/GTX970); UMC204HD; MPK Mini MKII; Jack2 (QjackCtl) & Ardour/Mixbus

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Re: Eurydice

Post by Michael Willis »

Rainmak3r wrote:Hi all,

I just published another piece I've been working on these past few days.
I'm glad you are still here. I was afraid that you wouldn't come back after I read your previous comment. I'll give this a listen when I have a good set of headphones available.

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

turbidh20 wrote:I really enjoyed the music and found your write-up on the process very interesting! Well done :)
Thanks!

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

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Michael Willis wrote:I'm glad you are still here. I was afraid that you wouldn't come back after I read your previous comment. I'll give this a listen when I have a good set of headphones available.
What comment? I did clash a bit with someone on a different thread, but I like this forum, the feedback from you guys and this hobby of mine too much to give up just because of some harsh words :)

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Re: Eurydice

Post by lilith »

The composition is really really great! Soundwise it can be improved I think. Reminds me a little bit on Dargaard or Nucleus Torn.

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

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lilith wrote:The composition is really really great! Soundwise it can be improved I think. Reminds me a little bit on Dargaard or Nucleus Torn.
Thanks! Yep, I should find better sounds, but that's a journey that can never end :D

I'm not familiar with the artists you mentioned, I'll have to give them a listen. I remember being inspired by a band called Caprice when I wrote the "folk" intro ages ago, but I don't know if they're still around.

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Re: Eurydice

Post by lilith »

It's more the mix than different sounds. I have a bad room acoustic at the moment, so I can't really judge on the the moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiYC3qEqztg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0bP52imlms
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0wa7RDB8iE

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GMaq
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Re: Eurydice

Post by GMaq »

Hi,

Very epic! Enjoyed it very much, great job on the arrangement!

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

lilith wrote:It's more the mix than different sounds. I have a bad room acoustic at the moment, so I can't really judge on the the moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiYC3qEqztg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0bP52imlms
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0wa7RDB8iE
From this couple of examples, I was really impressed by Nuclear Torn! The acoustic guitar-only piece in particular I liked a lot... thanks for mentioning them, I'll have to start listening more!

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

GMaq wrote:Hi,

Very epic! Enjoyed it very much, great job on the arrangement!
Thanks! Epic was indeed what I was looking for, especially for the 2nd part :mrgreen:

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Michael Willis
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Re: Eurydice

Post by Michael Willis »

Rainmak3r wrote:I did clash a bit with someone on a different thread, but I like this forum, the feedback from you guys and this hobby of mine too much to give up just because of some harsh words :)
Ah, understood. Text-only communication is notoriously hard; it is not always clear when somebody is close to their limit. As discussed elsewhere on this forum recently, sometimes people bravely run away after a clash. :mrgreen:

Anyway, I have now listened to your track. It's a nice arrangement! I'm always glad to hear when other people are doing arrangements with orchestral instruments. I was surprised when the electric guitar came in. Sometimes mixing electric guitar and bass with orchestral stuff can be trouble, since both can take so much of the frequency band that they end up "talking over each other". In this case I think you did a good job of giving them their own audio space, between the panning and choice of note pitches being played.

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

Michael Willis wrote:It's a nice arrangement! I'm always glad to hear when other people are doing arrangements with orchestral instruments. I was surprised when the electric guitar came in. Sometimes mixing electric guitar and bass with orchestral stuff can be trouble, since both can take so much of the frequency band that they end up "talking over each other". In this case I think you did a good job of giving them their own audio space, between the panning and choice of note pitches being played.
Oh, I love playing wih orchestral stuff! I love symphonic music, and I love hard rock, so whenever the two merge somehow I'm always digging it. You can find some great orchestral arrangements, for instance, in efforts made by otherwise incredibly heavy bands like Skalmold, Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh, and I've always loved the contrast and how such different souls can indeed coexist, if not enhance one another. I'm really happy you liked how I got them together, if only for a short bit!

Late Romantic Symphonic music actually is my first love, and the main aim with all these endeavours was be to be able to work on a Symphony and Overture that I've had in mind for a while. I also soon realized it would be overwhelming, though, and that I should instead work on something I could chew for the time being, hence the more audio-oriented stuff I did with the first piece, and the MIDI experiments after that. I'm pretty far from the target, but hopefully, keeping on working on stuff like this, I'll finally be able to improve enough to take the symphonic approach seriously!

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Re: Eurydice

Post by folderol »

Interesting theme idea. Very nicely played/recorded.

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Re: Eurydice

Post by Rainmak3r »

folderol wrote:Interesting theme idea. Very nicely played/recorded.
Thanks!

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