Electronic music and orchestras

by | 9:07 am

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Today I came back from a lecture of my composition teacher and someone I would like to call a dear friend, Professor Amnon Wolman. Wolman spoke about how electronics is are inseparable from composition today. He based his case on showing how today’s established orchestral composers use or are inspired by electronics in their world-renowned pieces. It’s quite amazing how in order to document sound, you need an electronic device when in order to document words or images you can use paint and a piece of rock. One is exploited for nearly a century, and the other for 40 millenniums. Orchestras are deeply integrated with electronics. From a “secretly” delicate amplification in new concert halls while performing classical repertoires, to paper scores replacing iPads, software to notate music, the use of computers as an instrument on stage, the use of a recording studio to record a symphony etc. When an orchestra records an album, there are two main options: record a live performance in a concert hall or record in a big studio. In both cases, the technician would probably spread several mics around the performance space, be it in the concert hall or in the studio. The person who mixes the album would most likely try to create a “see-through” homogenous picture, one that would imitate the acoustic experience of a live audience sitting right in front of the group in the center of the auditorium.

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When recording an orchestra with close mics, trying to catch the details of each instrument separately, can be extremely hard let alone trying to then re-create a homogenous picture. I compare it to a graphic designer that receives separate files on her computer containing all of the human body parts in one same size (fingers, belly button, knees, hair, eyes) and then she needs to recreate a realistic-looking human being. Restoring these proportions is hard and just as is visually depicted in a Picasso painting, when the facial organs take different sizes, so too in an orchestra or even a small ensemble you can imagine what the distortion might sound like. This can be both frustrating and inspiring. It depends on what one is looking for.

Drums – Orchestra

We met Uri Mixmonster Wertheim. He said that a room full of instruments playing creates physically different overtones then when all instruments are recorded separately and artificially played together. These blending overtones are creating a new sound. The same occurs when mixing cucumber and olives in one bite, or an egg, tahini, amba, eggplant, coriander and pita in one bite. A new flavor is created that isn’t just the existing flavors one next to the other. Our orchestra is a combination between acoustic classical sections, a full rhythm section and a computer. I’m finding it difficult to decide how to place one next to the other and wanting not to fall into clichés, esthetics wise. Looking for the raw. Naked. In pop/hip hop we take pleasure from having the bass drum “in our face”. Where in a Brahms symphony, the timpani would be placed behind the orchestra, the farest away from our ears and melt beautifully with the rest. In a Duke Ellington big band, the drums would be somewhere in between. James Blake or Son Lux would use a bassoon in their track placed equal mix wise to the pumping drums. After performing for more than a year with Castle in time, dealing with and neglecting this tough conflict at every concert, now the work on the album is a confrontation. One must either decide to cut the raw material with determination. Or perhaps allow the person who does the mix to do it, and learn to let go . The process of editing and mixing is about insisting and letting go at the same time (or maybe sometimes one next to the other).


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