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Let the Tweaking Begin!

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Now that I've declared my piece, Transitions, "finished", I am solidly in the tweaking phase. I brought each section as audio files into an app called Hindenburg. The app is used primarily to create storytelling pieces for such things as public radio broadcasts, but I find that it is super simple to use for working with music. I learned to use it in one of the documentary studies classes I took.

Hindenburg has no assumptions about music, so it's not thinking that I am some pop star wanting to mix in loops and other effects. Apps like Logic Pro and the Personus equivalent have complex interfaces to support studio music production. Hindenburg doesn't. It does, however, assume radio broadcast guidelines. So by default, it normalizes the loudness level of each imported track. This is not desirable for music, so I had to switch off that default.

One of the reasons I like working in the sound domain at this point (rather than in the notated score), is that I can see the entire piece at once. This allowed me to spot an anomaly caused by me not explicitly notating in the score for the violins to stop pizzicato. Of course, no human violinist would have continued pizzicato after seeing a tremolo notation, but computers are not so smart. I fixed that and a few other issues that I spotted. This is a screenshot of the entire piece.

I have since created a version with even more tracks—breaking out the doubled parts, and some of the individual percussion instruments. Now I am working on the dynamics. I am fairly certain that the notated dynamics are correct, but when Notion plays back the piece, I find that sometimes the violins can be drowned out by the woodwinds, despite the fact both the dynamics and number of violins are higher than the woodwinds. A human conductor would analyze the score and work to bring out the various voices in a way that makes sense. Although I've taken a few conducting lessons in my life, I really have no clue about conducting. Instead, I resort to Hindenburg where I can adjust the dynamics of various instruments and phrases until I achieve what I imagine.

It's a rather laborious, but rewarding process. Pretty soon I'll have to come to grips with notating all the rest spots for every instrument. I've already done this for most of the score except percussion. Some of the percussion is "dressing" and so many of those instruments, like the claves and vibrastick, have nothing to do most of the piece. There is a way to indicate bulk rests—like to rest for the first 100 measures—but I need to research how to do that. In the meantime, I can use a feature in Notion called "Fill With Rests". It is fast, but it does require me to select all the rests. I would rather have a global function that does this: "Find all empty bars in all parts and fill with rests." In any case, using Notion beats using a pen and paper, which is how all those dead composers of the past did it. Can you imagine Richard Wagner writing The Ring? All 15 or so hours? And then having to write out the parts? And what about fixing mistakes, making small tweaks, or revising. I have it easy.

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