Thursday, August 12, 2010

8/12 Re-Orchestrate B's 9th Symphony in 1 min.

Most people know by now what MIDI is, but in short, it is a way for musical devices to communicate information electronically.  More importantly, and for the purposes of the below discussion, a MIDI music file is a set of instructions that a synthesizer can read and execute, kind of like a player piano.  The MIDI input file is like a piano roll and your computer's sound card is the player piano.  Because a MIDI file is so small, it is very easy to share and is royalty-free.  There are MANY websites which feature free MIDI files of all kinds of music, including classical.  Which includes Beethoven, of course.  And that's where the fun begins!

OK we need 3 things, a MIDI file, a MIDI player program and some imagination.  Here is website where you can find lots of MIDI-fied Beethoven pieces:
The Classical Midi Connection
Click on one of the links, such as Cello Sonata (Op.5, No.2) 1st Mov't (sequenced by Mr. Hudson).
When you get to the next page you can hear the piece just by clicking on the Quicktime widget, or you can download the MIDI file to your computer to get more creative with it.  To download follow the instructions on the page.

Now you have the MIDI file but you need a MIDI player where you can change the instruments and other wacky things.  I use Anvil Studio: Get it here from CNET.

Go ahead and install it.  Once installed, you can now open a MIDI file that you've downloaded to your computer.  It looks complicated but you only need to know a few buttons.  Let's open the Cello Sonata we downloaded earlier.

Choose the "Open Song" option from the top left menu to choose a MIDI file, in this case the Cello Sonata.  Play the song using the play button.
Hopefully you can hear the music.  If you can't then you may need to adjust your MIDI settings which is beyond the scope of this post.  OK now you can start changing the VOICES.  In other words for the CELLO part, you can change it to GLOCKENSPIEL: Click on the where it says CELLO, a box opens where you can choose a new instrument by clicking on it:
like GLOCKENSPIEL:
Click OK - Now the cello part sounds like a glockenspiel.
You can do this for any of the other voices, which in this case is PIANO LEFT and PIANO RIGHT.  I'm going to make PIANO RIGHT a TANGO ACCORDION, and PIANO LEFT into ELECTRIC BASS(with Pick).
Here's before and after:
Before
 
After
 
Neat huh?  You can do the same thing with the 9th symphony, change the instruments into whatever you feel like, such as an all BAGPIPE version, or a rock version with drums, guitar and bass.  With some advanced software (VSTi) you can have Britney singing the 4th movement chorale if you want.  Well, kind of.
One last neat trick I will mention is the TEMPO button.  You can type over this number to whatever speed you want.

Right now it's 76, let's make it faster, say 120.
 
Say you recorded this and impress your friends.
This one is for the drummer in the family.  I'm not even going to say what piece it is yet.

OK highlight the space below between the arrows to find out:
->Excerpt from 1st movement of Kreutzer Sonata for Violin & Piano Op.47<-

There are many many more things you can do, change notes, dynamics, combine, transpose, even use an external program to "conduct" it so to speak to give it more of a human feel (TAPPER).  Theoretically, between TAPPER, an expensive sample library and some mastering software, you can transform this primitive sounding experiment into something many people might mistake for real instruments.  Makes one wonder....

MIDI files websites with Beethoven content :
Classical Midi Connection (above)
Dominique Prevot's massive Beethoven site  (I think he's got a complete set....)
Mutopia
Kunst der fuge (A huge collection but only 5 a day or you have to pay)
Classical Archives (5/day, same as above)
Chamber music (Harfesoft)
Piano pieces (Bernd Krueger)
Diabelli Variations and more (Thomas Lefeldt)
8Notes music library
Classic Cat (lots of links)
Laura's Midi Heaven
Midiworld
Midicenter
Classical Musical Midi
eSpace

I think that's enough....

(BTW, if you are on Vista then you have as awful a soundcard as I do, if not, your MIDI files should sound much better than my samples.  And of course, I take no responsibility if your computer decides to go South.)

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