Diary of a project, part 2: The Big Picture

January 19, 2017

 I soon realized that I needed to take a step back and stop trying to find beats that sound "cool" and get more in touch with Chopin's music itself. So I did some research on what was happening in his life when he wrote these preludes, as well as reading some analysis of how the pieces should be played. This helped give me a focus for properly conveying the feeling and atmosphere of his music.

The short version of the story is this: during the winter of 1838-39 Chopin vacationed on the island of Mallorca with his mistress (the old-fashioned word for girlfriend), the writer George Sand. He went there for health reasons to escape the damp winters of Paris but the weather was awful - cold and rainy most of the time. Still, he hired a bunch of guys to push his piano up the hill to the monastery where he was staying, and spent the days composing his heart out. Some of his best work, it could be said. I believe that his bleak surroundings and ill health revealed themselves in some of what he created, in true Romantic era fashion.


And now to more mundane issues...


12/17 - 12/20

By the way, in case it wasn't clear in the previous post, I've come up with the brilliant idea of combining parts of my two favorite preludes into one track. (We'll soon find out how brilliant this idea turns out to be.)

The next step was to record myself playing the first half of one of the preludes on my Alesis MIDI keyboard. This did not go as well as I would have liked. I think I've finally realized that a MIDI keyboard has more in common with a computer keyboard than with a piano. They're fine for sampling or plinking out simple one-note-at-a-time melodies but full piano pieces end up sounding like they're being played by a kindergartner. (No offense to kindergartners.) I'll have to decide what to do about this later on, but for now I'll just use what I recorded.

GEEK ALERT: The following paragraph may be indecipherable to some readers, but I'll try to make it as painless as possible.

My plan was to start the track with my MIDI recording in the original tempo (about 60 bpm) and then repeat it at a faster tempo (70-75 bpm). Not as straightforward a task as I thought. I wrestled with this issue for a couple of days, going back and forth between the two DAWs until I finally figured out a solution. I converted my MM Premium MIDI recording to a WAV audio file and loaded that into an Ableton audio track. Although I can't explain why, I found that the WAV file kept the tempo from the original MIDI recording, even though the bpm in Ableton was faster. And then by automating the tempo of the master track, I could independently adjust the tempos of the WAV file and the rest of the track. Eureka!

This experience led me to think that I'll probably have to use both DAWs to create this track - some sounds from MM Premium combined with the precise control of Ableton. Interesting.

So my first technical challenge seemed to be solved. My next challenge will be a musical one. How do I combine these two preludes, written in totally unrelated keys, in the same track? Circle of fifths, anyone?



Stay tuned for part 3...





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