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Re: [OT] Vivi, the Virtual Violinist, plays LilyPond music

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: [OT] Vivi, the Virtual Violinist, plays LilyPond music
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2011 10:22:02 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Shane Brandes <address@hidden> writes:

>        As a random aside on the whole electronic music effort. On the
> one hand the technology and science is very interesting, but on the
> other it is somehow disturbing. I suppose since I have spent so much
> of my life attempting to master keyboard instruments and having watch
> so many students progress in their own studies that it seems to me
> that one cold never hope to replicate a human at an instrument.

Where is the difference to other manual endeavours?

> There are all sorts of odd philosophical ramifications of trying and
> already certain deficits are occurring especially in the film industry
> on account of such efforts.

If computer-generated animations do a reasonable job of supplanting the
God-awful embarrassing musician pantomimes of typical actors, they have
my vote.  I really have little sympathy for people with that sort of
salary not investing one day of time for a role in order just to know
how to _hold_ their instrument.  If actors don't take their job
seriously, I can't blame the film industry for outsorcing that aspect.

> As a tool and a method of rationalizing musical praxis it is certainly
> useful and convenient, but where will the limits be? And no this not a
> forum for such discussion, but we should all be conscious of these
> questions.

Film music is happening in small circles.  For example, there are about
three accordionists (usually responsible for their own compositions) in
all of Hollywood.  Film orchestras and composers are similarly
specialized and confined circles.  You can't actually expect to have
them appear on-stage because they look totally fossilized compared to
the constant influx of young faces.  And people would get annoyed if
they see the same old faces in every motion picture, anyway.

> An example of the limits of our technological advance might be
> supplied by the following technical issue. The piano which is my
> primary instrument, if not the primary performance vehicle, (church
> organist) is an instrument that I have studied in depth, not that I
> have or ever will realize any sort of mastery over it, but being
> exposed to some of the great teachers on the planet has really altered
> my view of what is possible. I once heard someone say that with the
> advent of touch sensitive keyboards pianos were obsolete, and perhaps
> years ago I might have agreed, but the mechanics of that instrument
> are such that I find it doubtful that it will be ever replicated by a
> electronic device for a whole host of reasons. One of my favorite
> examples is that of vibrato. It never would have occurred to me that
> it is possible or even relevant to piano until it was demonstrated to
> me, but yet at the same time it can be achieved simply by the action
> of your fingers upon the keys after they have been struck. The
> difference in tone is of course not terribly obvious but yet it can
> yield a completely different character to the chords thus being
> treated. There are certainly other examples, but that is the one that
> I find least likely to ever be replicated.

It is a marginal effect.  I have an accordion with basic Midi equipment
without any velocity or pressure sensitivity.  Just notes on and off.
Hook this up with a reasonable Midi Expander (using a Ketron MS40), and
this is fun to play with most instrument simulations, and feels quite

You _know_ certain forms of feedback (most of them, actually) are not
possible with that setup.  But it does not feel like that.

In a different vein, there is this old Atari800 game called "Ball
Blazer" from Lucas Logic (the same that were making Star Wars etc).  The
control you use for playing it is a joystick.  A digital one: either you
push it forward or not.  There is nothing to be gained by pushing it

This rationale does not survive longer than about 10 seconds into the
game.  You'll find that you are straining your wrist by then, trying to
force the max out of that joystick.  Never mind that you know better.

> As is the simple fact that no two people ever draw the same tone from
> the same instrument and that can be startlingly different.

People play expressively on organs equipped with electric keyboards.

<URL:> plays a Scarlatti
sonata on accordion solo.  All voices have a common dynamic control, the
bellows.  Still you'd be inclined to believe that their dynamic lines
are developing reasonably independently.  Which is physically
nonsensical; perceptually however, masking effects may combine into that

A similar phenomenon on a bandonion:
<URL:> for a Bach fantasia.

So I am rather wary with prescribing too much musical importance to
obscure physical phenomena.  It is more than likely that those don't
really count significantly in practice for the perceived musicality of
the result.

David Kastrup

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