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OK so here goes....   Here's a one minute's slow section of an 11 minute piece I just wrote, orchestrated and recorded in Nov. The world premiere is supposed to happen later

My piano concerto album is finally out on youtube/itunes.  Recorded at Abbey Road - hope you enjoy.     

Here's my latest composition:     The first few seconds have been floating around inside my head for the best part of a year, so I finally decided to make something out of it!

I'm done with doing things alone for non-existent ears.

This is gist of it really. Hard to stay motivated working on a piece when you know the odds of it reaching an audience in the immediate future is pretty slim.

does this mean I get to take the Silmarillion project all for myself then? ;)

Ahem. ;)

We'll fight to the death for it!

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Reckon you're cultivating a Frankfurt accent, and relocating to London to start working on independent films. ;)

Mine and your opinions on this matter (pen and paper vs. MIDI, film music vs. concert music) are like night and day, so I'm not going to enter a big argument over it. But good luck with your new career, and hope it gives you the fulfilment you've not yet found from writing independently.

This bit might sound daft, but have you consisted forming some kind of band or collective? You obviously have some serious skills to play those great French organ works, and you value free, associative creation rather over a more clinical approach, along with collaboration of course. I dunno, give it some thought.

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Lol well pen/paper vs. computers, film vs. concert, it's just what feels right and what works for the individual. Nothing to argue about. I don't think either is more legitimate than the other, though it does seem hard to dispute that the concert world is pretty dire lately.

I was in a bit of a group back in NYC, more focused on jazz and minimalist stuff. Maybe I should seek something similar out, you're right.

But yeah. I'm seeing the value in composing by actively manipulating sounds that you can hear in real time. It feels a little smoother to me believe it or not. And I've found that the introspection required to write independent pieces is weighing me down. Lonely, often depressing business, that. I've gotta cut it out, at least temporarily.

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With the discussion going on the thread, I'd really like to hear some more work from you guys. This used to be a pretty active thread back in the day, but no one posts here anymore, which is a shame.

Here's a suite (and by suite, I mean a shoddily edited collection of cues) from a short film I scored recently.

https://soundcloud.com/k-k-8/dachshund-suite

It's nothing much, especially compared to you heavy-weights, but hey, if it gets some of you more shy folk to post more of works, then it got the job done!

This is fantastic, I especially love the piano and string combination around the 2 minute mark. Refreshing to hear a piece utilising a time signature throughout other than 4/4! Ironic given I'm about to post a very clichéd library style track I composed in a couple of hours last week. Note the standard Williams finish ;)

https://soundcloud.com/alastairadamsuk/brave-and-bold

Uses a combination of EastWest Hollywood Brass and Woodwinds, EWQLSO percussion and Berlin Strings.

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Better than anything I've written so far :lol:.

I'm considering writing one or two pieces in free form for solo violin for someone I know who could actually perform them, but I'd have to ask that particular person about her technical abilities first.

Any particular experiences/advice the more advanced composers would like to share here regarding solo pieces?

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Your first film music stirrings/interests show in some of those textures. ;)

Clear confidence in your core ideas, in your architecture... and I have to say again that you have an uncommonly subtle touch with production. It's refreshing.

Wonderful stuff.


Also, dude, sweet Bryan Adams arrangement! :lol:

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Wow! Completely forgot about all the old stuff on there. There are some embarrassingly amateur cues there, pulling from all sorts of different places. Need to clean the page up!

The Adams arrangement was funny. It was for an old high school principal who was retiring. The staff pulled together and created a tribute video that included them singing a version of her favourite song with personalized lyrics, so that was the underscore for that.

And thanks for the kind words Grey. Appreciate it! And yes, the Z-man deserves his due share of credit with some of the colours. ;)

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As to the pencil/paper vs. computer debate:

Being capable of handling sampling software and making your own mockups really seems to be an absolute requirement for any composer working in the film scoring industry, nowadays. The average director simply doesn't have any confidence in piano demonstrations of themes anymore. Everything he hears has to be fully fleshed out, preferably with over the top orchestrations that simply won't work at the scoring stage, unless a lot of additional work is put into the mixing process afterwards.

An advanced, experienced composer is likely to have more luck scoring with pencil and paper as he has already left a trail of work behind him, giving the director a fairly good idea of the refinement he can expect, which, however, isn't to say he will have endless trust in the composer's abilities. After all, it's not just a composer's abilities that worry a director. It's the music that worries him, whether it's written with the capacities of an experienced film and concert composer or those of a recently graduated, aspiring film composer.

I believe an ideal marriage of pencil, paper, keyboard and computer, when desired by a composer, is certainly possible, concretely meaning that a composer would work in some way combining the advantages of both worlds: e.g. sketching his music the 'classical' way, with Berlioz and Adler and whatnot in mind, at the computer, however, with the aid of a keyboard and sampling software, getting him in touch with the 'actual' sound of the instruments he's writing for, experimenting and writing his ideas down on a paper sketch pad, which presents him an almost endless world of possibilities, anyway, and subsequently producing mockups at the same workstation. Essentially, the writing part of this process would only imply that the keyboard the composer would use to compose would generate a lot more sounds than the usual acoustic or digital piano.

With the current developments in notation software, however, it would in fact be interesting to compose with a DAW replacing your paper and import the data generated there directly into, say, Finale, and start refining that score. This all depends on the time at your disposal and what you prefer, really. In both cases, you're working with notation. If desired, you could combine both methods, sketching on paper and inputting the music into your DAW at the very same time.

Really, it comes down to whether you prefer to use your mind as an imaginary orchestra, with its endless possibilities of imagining sounds, fully relying on your imagination, experience and knowledge, or whether you want to give yourself a hand with sampling software and a DAW and save yourself the time of copying everything into a notation program afterwards.

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It seems to me a pointless thing to "debate" and always has been. Composing is about making music. I don't care how I or anyone else gets there. The quality is going to be determined by your craft and your soul, not whether you have a pencil or a mouse in your hand.

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Yup. I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of craft with the upcoming generation of DAW-dependent composers.

Personally, I like a balance of pencil + paper and DAW. Former for the writing, the latter for the producing.

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Yup. I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of craft with the upcoming generation of DAW-dependent composers.

That's the fault of people, not technology. With very rare exceptions you should probably learn what you're doing before you try the paperless approach.

"I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of improvisational craft with the upcoming generation of notation-dependent composers."

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Oh, I definitely agree. I was just clarifying why the computer is generally preferred in the film scoring industry and how you could satisfy that need and combine it with a more 'classical' approach at the same time.

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

You've made these arguments before, and they're just as wrong now.

Please, you're out of your element.

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Yup. I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of craft with the upcoming generation of DAW-dependent composers.

That's the fault of people, not technology. With very rare exceptions you should probably learn what you're doing before you try the paperless approach.

This.

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Yup. I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of craft with the upcoming generation of DAW-dependent composers.

That's the fault of people, not technology. With very rare exceptions you should probably learn what you're doing before you try the paperless approach.

"I guess what's becoming more concerning though, is that there seems to be a loss of improvisational craft with the upcoming generation of notation-dependent composers."

Yeah of course.. The computer is another writing tool, just like the pencil and paper. And just as with the latter, if you don't know how to use the method properly and to full effect, you lose that craftsmanship.

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

So, why does that matter to you? Would your appreciation of music you thought was brilliant at first suddenly seize to be if you found out it was composed at the computer?

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

Sure he can. Many composers these days write their concert works with the computer, like Desplat.

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He's just stirring up trouble!


I'm most interested in what technology has to offer as far as preserving improvisation. It's fascinating to just sort of let loose knowing that you'll get something entirely uncensored that you can then freely return to and polish and tweak.

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If I had a computer with better specs, specialized software and a MIDI keyboard, I'd certainly use it as an additional tool for composing. Paper is a lot less expensive, however.

Nevertheless, I can't say I'll ever completely leave pencil and paper behind me.

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

Sure he can. Many composers these days write their concert works with the computer, like Desplat.

So Zimmer can write with pen and paper because Desplat can?

I don't follow.

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

Sure he can. Many composers these days write their concert works with the computer, like Desplat.

So Zimmer can write with pen and paper because Desplat can?

I don't follow.

Are we discussing composing with pencil and paper or computer or are we discussing Hans Zimmer's abilities as a composer?

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

Sure he can. Many composers these days write their concert works with the computer, like Desplat.

So Zimmer can write with pen and paper because Desplat can?

I don't follow.

A person can make the music they can make. Their methods are irrelevant. Zimmer could not write a symphony because he's not a strictly classically minded composer, not because he uses computers. Desplat is a classically minded composer, and can write large scale concert pieces because of that, and isn't harmed by using computers to do so.

Method is nothing. Skill is everything.

If Zimmer were so inclined, he could put together something resembling a symphony using his computers. If you hit Williams over the head with a shovel, all the pencils and paper in the world wouldn't make him produce something worthwhile.

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Of you give JW a pen and a bunch of paper he could write a whole symphony.

Can Zimmer do the same?

A larger dependence on tech leads to a lesser musical skill.

Sure he can. Many composers these days write their concert works with the computer, like Desplat.

So Zimmer can write with pen and paper because Desplat can?

I don't follow.

I'm trying to say you don't need pen and paper to write a symphony!

Williams probably couldn't do it with a computer either. They're both just two different approaches to writing. Some can do both, others stick exclusively to one over the other. Neither are any less valid.

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The more dependent we make ourselves of machinery, the less we are unable to do ourselves. This is an undeniable fact!

Stefan Cosman. You, more than anyone else in the world, make me repeat myself endlessly! But I'll do it because I love you.

Use of technology does not equate with dependence on it. Surely you know this.

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Lately I use it only to sketch core thematic materials. The rest I try to let come together unfettered by anything, paper or computer screen.

Sometimes, for more meatier stuff, I try a much cruder variation of Corigliano's "architectural sketching" approach. Then it goes to the usual 5 stave sketch, and if I haven't given up by then, it goes to Finale for orchestration. I don't bother with mockups unless it's for a short film/video/etc or projects where I actually need the music to be heard, and I can't get it played by anyone (which is more than often the case). Usually with tighter deadlines, I skip the orchestration part and produce a mockup off of the 5 stave sketch. And in that process, new things and improvisatory ideas pop up.

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I read a while ago that in Finland schools will no longer be teaching children how to write by hand.

In this country there is some debate over the usefulness of teaching arithmetics at school. Children are allowed the use of calculators in exams.

Tech is doing things for them that we had to do ourselves. It is unavoidable.

Skills previously considered essential will soon be forgotten.

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Lately I use it only to sketch core thematic materials. The rest I try to let come together unfettered by anything, paper or computer screen.

Sometimes, for more meatier stuff, I try a much cruder variation of Corigliano's "architectural sketching" approach. Then it goes to the usual 5 stave sketch, and if I haven't given up by then, it goes to Finale for orchestration. I don't bother with mockups unless it's for a short film/video/etc or projects where I actually need the music to be heard, and I can't get it played by anyone (which is more than often the case). Usually with tighter deadlines, I skip the orchestration part and produce a mockup off of the 5 stave sketch. And in that process, new things and improvisatory ideas pop up.

Hmm, interesting. Personally, I can't limit myself to 5 staves - I really need at least 6, preferably 8.

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I read a while ago that in Finland schools will no longer be teaching children how to write by hand.

In this country there is some debate over the usefulness of teaching arithmetics at school. Children are allowed the use of calculators in exams.

Tech is doing things for them that we had to do ourselves. It is unavoidable.

Skills previously considered essential will soon be forgotten.

But that's not what we're arguing about. We've all agreed that you should know how to do everything, ideally. And that if you do, whatever method you then choose will be successful for you (provided you don't suck).

You feel that not knowing how to do something makes you bad at it. Well... yeah. But using technology doesn't make you bad at something. Zimmer has always worked the way that he works, and it's successful. His mind is attuned to that method, and he puts thought into what he does. Someone sitting in their bedroom, or even in Hans' studio with all that gear, need not be anywhere near as successful with that method. Williams couldn't. Because it isn't about what you use. It's not about gear or tools or any of that (and soooooooo many people seem to think it is). It's just about your imagination and how your mind works.

Of course it's easy to get a DAW and screw around and call it music even if it's utter crap. But it doesn't take all that much more skill to do the same thing on paper. Crap is crap no matter how it's brought into the world. And quality is quality in the same way.

No one is suggesting that it's cool for the musically illiterate to start taking over because they have easy access to production. But for those who know what they're doing, every tool and method is as viable as any other. They just need to figure out which works best for them.

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But pretty soon the young generation wont be given the opportunity to learn via any other way then technology. They won't be aware of the need for it. And how limiting it will be

KK's generation might be the last.

Music education has been bleeding out for decades. All we can do is try our best to preserve those opportunities, and to keep people aware of the past. Believe me, I'm as put off by the EEPPPPPPIIIIICCCC generation and their musical values and methods as anyone.

I believe Zimmer found success with his approach at least partly because of his musical awareness. That's all it takes, really. A little appreciation for the context that you're stepping into. I just hope that enough younger folks are aware of the value in that.

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You at one point note that ultimately the quality of music created by means of a DAW depends on the ability of the person using it. Good enough for me. Yes, it can help the lazy be lazier. But it can help the great be greater.

Tools that can let people get by with less musical knowledge shouldn't be demonized. Demonize the world that allows so many people to lack the knowledge in the first place, that turns it into a mystical and unapproachable act, the domain of feel-good YouTube videos featuring a six year old who just wrote the most amazing opera. And that continues to excise it from classrooms.

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I wrote my dissertation on this precise topic, if anyone fancies a read :)

Interesting dissertation but not sure I agree with this point: "It is without question that this accessibility has aided creativity". Certainly a question can be raised that ease of generating ideas is not good for creativity. It is good for producing product though. So creativity and product should not be equated and it seems you are equating it. Your conclusion states: "From a creative perspective however, the DAW has had an enormously positive impact – and creativity is ultimately the driving force behind music." but from a counter view, one could argue creativity is a result of knowledge, skill and toil.

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I wrote my dissertation on this precise topic, if anyone fancies a read :)

Interesting dissertation but not sure I agree with this point: "It is without question that this accessibility has aided creativity". Certainly a question can be raised that ease of generating ideas is not good for creativity. It is good for producing product though. So creativity and product should not be equated and it seems you are equating it. Your conclusion states: "From a creative perspective however, the DAW has had an enormously positive impact – and creativity is ultimately the driving force behind music." but from a counter view, one could argue creativity is a result of knowledge, skill and toil.

I see and note your point. My reference to creativity though is in regards to the multitude of ways in which audio can be manipulated and used to make infinite combinations of sounds within compositions; things that through software and plugins within the DAW can now be done as opposed to prior to it, when your available sound palette was in all reality comprised of real, existing instruments and their own capabilities. I totally agree that making something easier doesn't increase the quality of the final product, but expanding the options available for in this case, composers must be beneficial for the process whichever way you look at it.

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I wrote my dissertation on this precise topic, if anyone fancies a read :)

Interesting dissertation but not sure I agree with this point: "It is without question that this accessibility has aided creativity". Certainly a question can be raised that ease of generating ideas is not good for creativity. It is good for producing product though. So creativity and product should not be equated and it seems you are equating it. Your conclusion states: "From a creative perspective however, the DAW has had an enormously positive impact – and creativity is ultimately the driving force behind music." but from a counter view, one could argue creativity is a result of knowledge, skill and toil.

I see and note your point. My reference to creativity though is in regards to the multitude of ways in which audio can be manipulated and used to make infinite combinations of sounds within compositions; things that through software and plugins within the DAW can now be done as opposed to prior to it, when your available sound palette was in all reality comprised of real, existing instruments and their own capabilities. I totally agree that making something easier doesn't increase the quality of the final product, but expanding the options available for in this case, composers must be beneficial for the process whichever way you look at it.

That totally makes sense. Thanks for clarifying. I would say that expanding the composer's palette of sonorities is the key. For example, if a composer only knows DAW, they should expand to use acoustic since this will result in "opening the possibilities". If they only know acoustic, they could experiment with DAW. If they are well versed in both, then explorer Javanese or something else they are not familiar with. My point is, one should not equate DAW with experimentation and creativity if all the composer has ever known is DAW. Ultimately it is a tool.

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Agreed. Though one shouldn't underestimate the creative potential in acoustic instruments. And though instruments on their own have their limited capacities, together, the possibilities with the sonic palette are just as limitless as those that can be achieved via DAW, as evidenced by experimentalists like Goldenthal and even Zimmer.

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