Thursday, June 16

video #2, recording #4 - MIDI Accompaniment and Faith in Music

Well over 8000 visitors: BRAVISSIMO! 65 countries: AUSGESEICHNET! To honour all you visitors, I will keep the list of countries in another tab. Eventually, I will put your flags next to your country’s name.

Blog: over 6 months

I started this blog for 2 reasons:

  1. to track my progress as I attempt to regain my former skills on the oboe, now that I am a software engineer living with chronic pain;
  2. to communicate with people of all descriptions and, hopefully, encourage others in similar situations to mine.
Interestingly, Blogger Statistics shows me that people actually get here by Google Searching topics which include:
  1. oboe reed cases (the single most popular post by far),
  2. MIDI accompaniment and sound recording techniques,
  3. general oboe playing topics,
  4. IMS and physiotherapy concerns,
  5. playing with an extracted tooth!

I wish to express my gratitude to all of you for taking the time and making the effort to visit here. I really enjoy when people leave comments or send e-mails. All contact with people from several continents and from home is a real treat and I hope the favour is returned!

2nd video:

O Souverain: oboe & MIDI orchestra

Apart from a few sagging notes, undecided phrasing here and there and a bit of hasty rhythm (all predicted in this previous post), pretty good improvement in 4 months, if I may say so myself! If this trend continues, in a year, I should be a decent player again. My apologies for the bad picture quality: I have a lot to learn about lighting… nah, I’d rather spend my time practicing oboe! On the other hand, I really should have spent more time on the MIDI accompaniment…

A cute thing about making recordings at home is that I have to contend with my dogs not understanding that silence is more important than the cat running on the other side of the street! 5294752263_83eb41f392But, how can I get angry at such a cute little thing? (Dog face Dogs are great! I truly love them! Dog face) I could have just cut-out my interjection “Popcorn Down!”, but you see my mouth moving in the video….. and because the opening recitativo is never played at the same speed, it’s really hard to use the video from one take with the sound-track of another!

One thing that really amazes me is how much the choice of speakers and/or head-phones (ear-buds) change the quality of my oboe sound. On my real sound system, it sounds like I hear it when playing, also true on my desktop computer and an old head-set that came with a waterproof Sony Walkman tape-cassette player! But the high-quality new Sony ear-buds I just got or my lap-top speakers…. much brighter and a little buzzier.

MIDI accompaniment AND multi-tracking.

This is not the first time I use MIDI as accompaniment for a recording, but I’m glad to have found a file ready-made with dynamic expression already included. I’ll add links to MIDI sources and free sheet music to my page on great places as I come across them. I did use software to add some orchestration a little bit, but thankfully, most of the work was already done for me (thank you Aria-Database!). For this recording, I had to “clean up” the MIDI file before it could play well with instrumentation other than the piano. The only dynamics are done by adding or removing instruments and there is no rubato apart from the opening recitativo. I found it curious that playing the file without rubato or dynamics at all still conveyed an inspiring quality. I guess this is the evidence of an extraordinary composition.

Music is faith… in my point of view!

Ô Souverain, sung by Ben Heppner.

I must have already mentioned that I consider music to be more than an art form, more than a mathematical equation; in fact, I consider it a full-fledged expression of the living soul. I consider music to be the closest direct language of Divinity that humans are capable of understanding. Some songs, a small handful, seem to speak to my soul very directly and stir something that I cannot describe in terms of emotion or psychology. In fact, I don’t even understand what effect they produce, only that I can’t sing them because my throat gets a lump! “Ô Souverain” is one of these.

Music, greater than song!

I believe that songs are music with a handicap; that is, because words convey a clear meaning, they severely limit the potential panorama that we can experience from a melody is restricted to the meaning of the words. Some melodies, however, seem taylor-made for the words. These songs usually loose much when they are translated. In the case of O Souverain, the link between French words and the melody is so strong that I would play it with one pattern of dynamic phrasing and articulation, but would be disappointed when playing back the recording. When putting the words back on the notes, it became clear why my phrasing was wrong.

I’m really not a fan of opera, but I have to admit, Jules Massenet wrote an powerful song as part of his opera Le Cid. It might be an overstatement, but Radio hosts have said that the Metropolitan Opera would not have been able, at the time, to perform Wagner without Ben Heppner. So it is a privilege for me to include a You-Tube of this amazing Canadian Tenor. The performance I give does not follow his style. Apart from the fact that I play the oboe in my study rather than singing at the Met, one of the the miracles of music is that it speaks differently to everyone with a Cartesian product of different messages from each performer and at each performance.

I usually consider lyrics to severely restrict the meaning of music. But some melodies seem custom tailored around words that are especially meaningful on their own right:this song is one of them. Translation is a very difficult thing because a language is much more than a vocabulary and grammar, it is a whole mind-frame  and worldview; it reflects the deepest characteristics of the culture that uses it in the unique way it uses it. So here is the original French and my best attempt to translate it.

Ah! tout est bien fini. Mon beau rêve de gloire, mes rêves de bonheur s'envolent à jamais! Tu m'as pris mon amour, tu me prends la victoire, Seigneur, je me soumets! Ah! It's all over now. My wondrous plans of glory, my beautiful dreams of happiness are all now dust in the wind! You have taken my love, You now take my victory, O Lord, I do submit.
Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père, toujours voilé, présent toujours, je t'adorais au temps prospère, et te bénis aux sombres jours. Je vais où ta loi me réclame, libre de tous regrets humains. O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father always veiled, always present, I adored you in prosperous times and bless you still in troubled days. I go where your law commands, free from all human regrets.
Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père, ta seule image est dans mon âme que je remets entre tes mains. O Sovereign, O Judge O Father, Your image alone fills my soul which I commend into your hands.
Ô firmament azur, lumière, esprits d'en haut, penchés sur moi, c'est le soldat que désespère, mais le chrétien garde sa foi. Tu peux venir, tu peux paraître, aurore du jour éternel. O Firmament, azure blue light, Spirits on High leaning over me, it is the soldier that despairs but the Christian keeps his faith. You can come, you can appear dawn of the eternal day.
Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père! Le serviteur d'un juste maître répond sans crainte à ton appel, ô souverain, ô juge, ô père! O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father! The servant of a just Master answers your call without fear. O Sovereign, O Judge, O Father!


Cooper Wright said...

Listening to your youtube, I think it's great that you have the courage to post yourself. Truth be told, its more courage than I have myself.

I think there's a lot of nice things going on here. I agree with your deepened color and tone. Your dynamic range is certainly expanding, and it sounds like you're making your reeds to allow you to play softer than to play louder, which I think is a great thing. It helps you play longer, more controlled. As you continue to play oboe and gain strength and endurance, it will allow you to play bigger reeds which will allow you to expand the upper range of your dynamic levels.

Two things I can hear a bit is the tone spreading a bit, to the point of distortion (note your F at about :40 and your F# at #46, high Ab and G around 1:52), and the stability of your pitch (recap around 2:16 begins a bit sharp, probably due to fatigue). Fortunately, both are related to the placement of the reed in your mouth, in conjunction with the pitch level of the reed to begin with. I can clearly hear that you're covering the reed quite a bit, which gives you a lot of depth, and I can also hear in your decrescendos that you aren't biting or pinching the reed but rather muffling/covering the reed with your embouchure. These are two great steps, that a lot of players just coming back to the oboe don't get beyond as quickly as you have.

What I can suggest however is to make a slightly sharper reed, and to play closer to the tip. I think if you played closer to the tip with the reed the way it is, you'd be pretty flat. It will give you more cover, more roundness, and stabilize your pitch. It will also even out your tone color from note to note. I also suspect that you might be playing on a slightly flat reed, and it's probably fatiguing you a bit more than you are aware.

Anyways, those are my brief suggestions. Not that I'm a great oboist myself, but I think we have a mutual respect enough that you will know I mean all suggestions with the best of intentions. I'm grateful for your passion, and your blog of self discovery.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Cooper, you undervalue yourself: your opinion is highly valued by many. I'm flattered that you took the time to listen and so clearly "critEEK" it: I emphasized the phonetic because I feel no criticism at all, but rather a lot of wisdom that I will observe in the coming time.

Everything you said about the embouchure and reed sounds a sympathetic chord with my experience. In terms of fatigue, I have recently made observations during breathing exercises that I will experiment and blog about eventually.... need my physiotherapist's input.

For the reed, I am handicapped by time... to make them and discard those that are horrendously tied or blatantly bad cane. Some people have come here looking for warm-up exercises, so I'll try to reflect your very sound advice. I find it easier to sharpen a flat reed than to relax a sharp reed... I think this is a sign of inadequate control. My preference is for a reed that is open in the belly, but closed at the tip so I can keep only the very tip in my lips.... this is rare (amazing when it happens), so I believe in compensation techniques. As you say for the decrescendos, I now do more naturally what I would have struggled with much difficulty to achieve after graduation and when "in the scene".

Strange that I was nowhere near this passionate when I was a music student... I guess God sometimes "robs" us of what really matters so we can truly appreciate how much they do matter! I am undyingly grateful that He allowed it to come back in my life. This is why I wish to share my journey and love it when people tell me they are in similar (often much worse) situations than mine and find some encouragement here.

Thanks also for your explanation of your return to the Lorée: I find a good deal of wisdom in your account.

Mrs. Webfoot said...

Nice, Robin. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your journey.

RobinDesHautbois said...

What goes around comes around!