Comparative Analysis of Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring – Part 1: Adoration Of The Earth Dance Of The Young Girls”

It was much easier to define each conductor of this piece if I used a specific section. In the audio tracks, Bernsteins is about a three minute section opposed to Boulez’s minute and a half rendition and Solti’s two minute version.

Each conductor has their own style when it comes to re-working someones masterpiece and Rite of Spring is no exception.

Leonard Bernstein’s version of the piece is at the pace that I have come to love for the music. I like that the music is a little slower than most renditions of the work. Because of it’s slow pace, accents are brought out into the score more and create more tension and dynamics.  I believe it is the speed that actually helps the movement in the piece. Overall, the balance of the instruments and the dynamics of the orchestration is amazing. Also, it should be notes that out of all three versions of this song, this sounds the most polished and well recorded. One final thing that sticks out to me from this piece is the clarity of the instruments, specifically the brass. Because the brass is so clean and clear, it create more tension in the music as you continue listening.

The second recording is the same section from a conductor named Pierre Boulez.  His version of this piece was much faster. I found that this version of the piece was not as dramatic or dynamic as Bernstein’s version. This seemed very technical and in a way, it seemed to be a way for Boulez to show off how fast he could do the piece.  It’s obvious that he demanded perfection from his orchestra due to the lack of emotional content that is present in this very dense, overbearing version of the piece. Something else that was disappointing in this piece is that every instrument was intense. It was disorienting to be on the listening end of this song because it became harder and harder to enjoy due to the fact that every instrument that could make sound was blaring. Also, I couldn’t help but think of Beethoven after he had gone deaf. It seemed like the orchestra was desperately trying to keep up with the perfection and tenacity that Pier was bringing to the composition.

In Georg Solti’s rendition of the piece, compared to the other two this one falls somewhere in the middle. There are strong accents to each pulse within this movement which is great and it also has extreme dynamic range between instruments. This rendition also seemed to have a pretty flawless orchestra performing for it and was technically perfect however it was able to capture the emotional context of the music. Also, something that I really enjoyed was the additional layers in the strings section. Solti really brought out the tremolo in the strings and this added a lot of depth and clarity to this particular part of the movement.

After listening to each of these recordings and seeing which each one had to offer, I would say that my favorite version is Leonard Bernstein’s rendition. I enjoy the amount of dynamic range, the recording quality of the piece, the space of the orchestra in the recording and the overall tempo. When I first heard his version of the score it really shoot my emotions. I was unprepared for the pure raw power of the dissonant chords and the intense bass. I really enjoyed each version, but I particularly loved Bernstein’s version.

Digital Instruments In A Very Real World.

Music In Flims

When films arrived on the scene in the early 20th century one thing was established very quickly…what do we do about this loud projector noise!  The solution? Music. Putting music over movies has been a practice almost as long as movies have been around.

“Before the age of recorded sound in motion pictures, efforts were taken to provide suitable music for films, usually through the services of an in-house pianist or organist, and, in some cases, entire orchestras, typically given cue sheets as a guide.” (Wikipedia)

Orchestral scoring was once viewed as a very specific skill and potentially expensive. In the 1950’s you had Bernard Herrmann scoring Psycho with a similar feel to “The Rite Of Spring”.

In the 1970’s you had John Williams scoring Star Wars and Jaws.

The Invention of Midi

In the early 1980’s a brand new technology was created called MIDI. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It’s primary use was that of synthesizers, which we should all be familiar with because of the “sound” of the 80’s.

MIDI “… is a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface and connectors and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another. A single MIDI link can carry up to sixteen channels of information, each of which can be routed to a separate device.” (Wikipedia)

The Digital Impact

Over the last 10-12 years the digital impact of the computer world has really taken off.  I remember when I used the built-in MIDI on my original PC and it sounded awful. As time progressed, people started to use MIDI while composing for film and television. Ultimately it made it possible for a low-budget show or movie to be scored at a fraction of the cost. Most recently, this is how a lot of professionals have begun to creat mock-ups of theirs scores and even implemented digital samples into their final mix.

What is a Sampled Instrument?

“A sampled orchestra is a close imitation of a real one, or rather, the special-purpose recording and triggered playback of the sounds of individual orchestral instruments (or section of instruments). The playback of the sounds is accomplished by a new musical performance on a keyboard or with another type of midi- or non-standard digital controller. The way the samples are made ready for a composer’s use – the sound sourcing process – is fairly simple and standard:

First, high-quality recordings of individual notes played by various instruments are made, one by one across their entire musical range, capturing each note performed with different expressions and techniques, possibly using different microphone setups and even various spaces (concert hall, performance stage, studio, etc.).

Secondly, the combination of the hundreds of recorded samples are organized in a digital sample player (hardware or software) in order for the appropriate notes (samples) to be played back when striking the keys across a keyboard (or other midi controller) with various strength.” (Sampled Orchestras)

That explanation is a great introduction to what will be referenced in the rest of this post.  It’s important to note that all of these samples are recorded in various ways and depending on the pack that you purchase, and how you play it, drastically changes the outcome of the final composition.

The Unreal Orchestra (Sampled Instruments)

Hans Zimmer (an Academy Award Winner composer) has always been at the front of digital composing. He is known for mixing the real and unreal world of instruments. In his personal studio he has a massive wall of gear that will ultimately give him the sound he is looking for.

In one of his recent endeavors, he wanted to give people the opportunity to use sampled libraries to create more realistic scores when the budget doesn’t allow for a full orchestral session. The first volume of this has been recently released and you can watch a short video on their concept and the making of their samples below.

This is an all new percussion pack from Hans Zimmer’s collection.

Here is an example of an all orchestral score done with various different sample libraries, including the most recent Hans Drums.

*MIDI Composers Tip

“If I want a dramatic crescendo in the trombones,” says Cornish. “I raise the volume with MIDI, but also I use the mod wheel to crossfade to louder samples, which changes the timbre from light to aggressive — much more realistic.”(The Unreal Orchestra)

Changing Everything

Not only does this affect the big studios, not having to pay for full scored orchestras as often but this has also changed the face of the studio. Dave Porter, known for writing the music for Breaking Bad has a great studio that he made out of his two car garage. He has all the gear he needs and used real instruments combined with sampled instruments to create a seamless musical experience. Check out his studio below!

 

Conclusion

This revolution of incorporated sampled orchestras into real orchestras and even the lack of real orchestras in todays film and television world is amazing. One of the best things about it is that it allows for young composer especially to get their hands dirty and start composing for short films, student films and even commercials.

 

Finally, check out action strings.

Week 7: Classical (Orchestral) Music Recording.

When the average person thinks of Classical music, the common stereotype is someone sitting in a comfy chair in a robe with a cigar drinking a glass of scotch. Though this may be an accurate stereotype in some situations, let’s look beyond that. In the realm of Classical music there is one pure truth. Make the recording sound like the live performance.

Classical Music is still one of the purest forms of natural talent and should be treated as such.

“It is not an overdubbed, highly processed sound like some other genres. Any experienced engineer who works in any of these styles will tell you the “Classical” approach is different right at the start of the process in that musicians will always prefer to get it right in the first place: onstage, as an ensemble” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

When you decide to attend a symphonic experience (Seattle Symphony) you have a few expectations. These expectations contain that the audience member expects perfection in the music, skilled talent and an experience that will be a great memory.

“The classical audience comes to expect perfection, as well as a quiet, calm comfortable listening environment. It is that very environment (and performance discipline) that dictates this different approach than all other music recordings.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

The environment is very important for Classical music, most times, the audience goes to a beautiful Hall and sits down in a crowded room and listens to the symphony for a couple of hours. Sometimes, a visual element is also present, I’ve even seen full film scores played while accompanied by the film itself.

When it comes down to recording Classical music, the goal of the engineer is to give the listener that “Live” experience. Even though the listeners say they want a “live” experience, in reality, they actually want a studio experience that sounds live. As an audience member you have a filter that lets you ignore someone sneezing or coughing or dropping something on the ground. In the world of technically dynamic microphones, there is no such luxury or filter.

“…we humans process so many things at once. A well placed, single-source stereo pair of omni-directional microphones knows no such selective/human filtering.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

From my research I found that the most standard way of recording an orchestra has been either with two omni-direction microphones near the sweet spot of the auditorium or a tree-pair (Three microphones) with a left, center and right microphone to capture the orchestra.

“An omni-directional stereo coincident microphone pair is still the main component of our live recordings. But when required, it’s a missed opportunity to not expand the process further with spot mics, sectional, sub-group (and choral) mics, and even ambient mics out in the house – often dedicated to the rear, or ‘surround” component of 5.1 mixes, or just for natural reverberation and applause mics. Modern electronics, preamps and balanced cables with lower noise floors, with unlimited additional “virtual” digital tracks in the recording process all add up to more flexibility, and zero sonic tradeoffs.” (Hannigan, Weston Sound)

Overall, the quality of recording Classical music is somewhat demanding because of the expectation of the quality of technology. Listeners are wanting an immersive experience when they listen to music and engineers have the ability to accomplish that goal.