What is a digital demo “performance?” It’s an audio realization of a work without the use of live

musicians. It’s done, obviously, on a computer using notation software, sequencing/audio

production software and what are called “sample libraries” (these use recorded live instrumental sounds that are turned into digital files that one can then work with).

It is becoming more and more common for composers to turn to such techniques in order to obtain a decent sample for sending out to potential performers or for submitting to competitions. By the way, much of the music that you hear at the movies or on television is now realized digitally. It is much cheaper than hiring live musicians to perform, say, the background music to a nature program.

I just completed a digital demo performance of my new one-movement work for orchestra. The effort was quite time-consuming and full of learning opportunities. One could even call it an exercise in obsessive-compulsive behavior. I tried something new: First, I completed the four stave piano reduction score. Then I input that into Finale (notation software).

In the Finale software I used the full orchestra template, but inserted an additional 4 staves for the piano “short score” reduction that I had completed. Honestly, during the composition of the piece I had not thought much about the details of the orchestration, except for opening violin melody, the brass fragments and a few wind licks. After completing the piano reduction staves I then used copy and paste to fill out the instrumental parts. This worked well for me, I think; it helped me to focus on the details of the orchestration.

Then I saved the Finale file as a MIDI file and imported it into Digital Performer (my sequencer software), then went to work on editing and fine tuning each instrumental part (e.g. tempo changes, expression, dynamics, phrasing). I used Garritan Personal Orchestra sample software for the orchestral sounds and had great fun testing and choosing the GPO “instruments.”

Actually, listening so intensely to the piece helped me to make decisions on a number of orchestration issues (percussion, flute doublings, some string registers), and I often worked back and forth between the score and DP. I rather enjoyed the process, as it called upon my experience as a performer. This was my first attempt at such a big production project, and I learned a great deal from members of the Garritan online forum. Here is the link to the performance on SoundCloud: 

     https://soundcloud.com/john-l-newell/samsara-breakdown-mix-1-26-13

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