The Concerto Project (background)

The Concerto Project was born of desperation, frustration, or both.

The purpose of the project is to create a MIDI mockup of my Second Piano Concerto, using virtual instruments. I would not even consider a demanding project like this, were it not for the fact that the single performance of the concerto was not recorded. The people contracted to record the concert reported that their equipment broke down (a claim I’m inclined to doubt).

Since I’m very proud of the Concerto (OK, I’ll admit it, I think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date!), and since Martha performed it so beautifully, I wanted to document it in some form. The plan was for Martha to record the solo part as a MIDI file, then for me to realize the orchestral parts using my ever-expanding collection of sampled virtual instruments.

Martha recorded the solo part at the old Sweetwater Sound studios in August 2005, on a Yamaha MIDI grand piano. I took the MIDI file home and inserted it into a Sonar project. After several experimental tries, in which I tried out various combinations of libraries, I started over from scratch.

For a while, it went pretty quickly, but kind of stalled out for a while. I didn’t touch it for several months. I think I may have been starting to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the project, to say nothing of the audacity of believing that virtual instrumentation could take the place of real instruments.

Also, I just wasn’t satisfied with the realization. I have heard some recordings for virtual orchestra which actually sound quite good, and my own efforts didn’t come close. I think I got the idea that if I waited until I had some better recording skills, the resulting increase in quality would be worth the wait.

But recently my thinking has changed again. It seems to me now that there will always be an excuse to put it off, either because of a new library that comes out, or a new skill to learn. If I put it off until everything’s ready, it’ll never get done.

So, for better or worse, I’m back to work on it. I’m determined to finish it even if the quality is less than optimal, because of my lack of skill or equipment. Right now I’ll be happy just to have something that people can listen to and get a sense of the piece. Perhaps in the process I can gain something of the skills I need.

Last night I posted the first section of the first movement, as it currently stands. This section, just over 6 minutes long, constitiutes the exposition of a sonata-form movement. My plan is to realize and post the piece a section at a time, then post the complete movement as a single file when it’s ready.

I’ll have more to say about the concerto later, and I plan to talk about software, virtual instruments, and equipment I’m using (I know you’re all interested in that stuff!). All this will appear in the (hopefully) near future. Thanks for listening.

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