Gene Gajewski

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In The Hall of the Mountain King

Here’s the musical piece I promised earlier. It took me a little longer to complete than I’d expected, too many things are happening now. This is a short piece, only two minutes long. What was interesting is that most of the brass and woodwinds notes were staccato. This means, as far as converting the score into a usable MIDI sequence, there would be a lot of manual intervention required. You see, just as musical notation is not an exact science and open to interpretation by a player, so is the conversion of the musical score into the digital data needed by a computer to perform it. It’s never a 100% complete conversion, there’s always nuance that the computer can’t understand, and you must provide.

Staccato notes are a prime example. There’s nothing in the MIDI standard that provides for all the possible articulation of every instrument. There have been a few stabs at this; there are strings sections in the General Midi standard that can switch between normal (arco), pizzicato, and tremolo articulation via a MIDI program change command. But that is just a limited example; there are many other articulations that string instruments are capable of, none of which are covered in that standard. When it comes to articulations, it all depends on what your virtual instrument vendor provides, and how they expose them to you.

Most virtual instrument vendors expose the various articulations they provide using key switches rather than MIDI program changes. They do this so that a keyboard player can play the instrument with the keyboard and switch the various articulations on and off using unused keys. Most instruments do not have the full eighty-eight note register of a piano so those unused keys can be used as articulation switches. It is inconvenient to fiddle around with a keyboard’s buttons to send a program change during a manual performance – therefore the vendors do this.

Of course, this means I must go through all the parts of a piece and manually add these key switches – especially since all the brass and woodwinds are staccato. I also had to fix up the timpani too, as Musescore really can’t do much with a percussive “roll” than to output a stream of short notes. A roll is a much more nuanced sound than that – this comes off like a machine gun. Still, MuseScore has its good points – it handles accents nicely.

Enjoy.

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