First movement from Corelli Sonata 3 Opus 5: Recording in the time of Corona

in hive-193816 •  2 months ago  (edited)


So, it is a bit weird being a musician in the time of the Coronavirus lockdowns... as a Classical (Barouque...) musician, all of our performances are cancelled... and the point of music is to play WITH each other, as it is a form of communication... perhaps it is more abstract than the spoken word, but it exists in a back and forth with other lines with grammar and all of that... and just like a "normal" conversation, it requires a partner to have meaning!

On the other hand, ever since the advent of recordings... that idea has taken a back seat... and these days, we mostly have music that emphasises perfection over communication. This is something that is prevalent in all fields of music and it is the reason that people should go to live music events rather than thinking that CDs are the same thing!

Anyway, rant aside... these days, it is impossible to play with other musicians due to the lockdown restrictions. Over the internet, it is possible... but the lag makes live performances a disaster with more than one person... and pre-recorded overlapping on top of each other is like having a conversation with a answering machine. That said, I'm lucky to be living with my wife who is a decent pianist, and we have been rediscovering the joy of playing together... we specialise in different types of Classical music and so it has been a while since we've played together... but it also means that she doesn't play the instruments that I need for my Baroque specialisation... and she has a different take on the squiggles on the page!

Today, I wanted to try out an idea that I had in my head... I play violin, but I don't play anything that has a bass sound (8 foot...), and most of Baroque music requires a treble and also a bass line... well, at least most of the violin music requires more than a single violin line! The idea that I had was that I could play the treble line on violin, and then play the bass line on VIOLA! Then, with a bit of amateur editing, I could just drop the pitch of the Viola line an octave and I would have the pitch of the 8 foot, the equivalent of a cello! So, a self-recording... with the proper registration of the music!

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Screenshot 20200426 16.33.57.png

My first attempt was to just play the two lines and record them seperately... however, it appears that I'm not a robot... and the two individual takes were quite different in length as you can see above.

Now, my wife has been doing this for the past few weeks with her choir conductor to record pieces for the choir to rehearse with... and she said that I should record one line, and then record the other whilst listening to the first track on headphones! In hindsight, that is pretty obvious... I'm a DUFUS! Well... more accurately, I'm a musician... and in Classical-Music, we don't handle the sound recording part... so, I'm just a curious novice in that regard!

Doing it this way, I was able to make a decent take that only required a couple of little time shifts to align the two tracks... and seeing as it is the same person playing the two parts, I already know what I am thinking and signalling when I am playing the piece. These are things that you don't get if you are playing along to a recording by someone else, you miss all those little physical and timing cues that are part of real-time communication.

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It took a couple of timing tweaks to fix up some bits where the stupid Viola player rushed a little bit ahead... leaving the violinist scrambling to catch up! However, after a little bit of experimentation with time stretching one track and then adjusting it later... I managed to line them up okay... it is still a touch weird in spots, but I don't think that is really that noticeable for other people.... but it does bother me a little bit!

The "transformation" of the Viola to a "cello" was a simple affair of a octave transposition in the editing. It is passable, and turned out a bit better than I had expected... however, I can hear some moments where it sounds not quite right! There is one spot that I use a bit of vibrato to embellish... and vibrato is faster and wider than what you would otherwise get on a real cello.... an artifact of changing everything EXACTLY one octave lower!

It isn't really quite the same as "real" music making... but this is what my profession has been reduced to for the near future... on the other, in a more cynical vein... it is what the various recording companies have been churning out for quite some time anyway. Still, I feel my accomplishment a bit tinged with a bit of sadness...

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... for those who are interested, this last version was the original Violin and Viola version. It is a little strange as the two parts aren't properly separated due to the similar range of the instruments.

PS: In the original music (the photo at the top), there are three lines... the middle line is the written version by Corelli... and the top line is the ornamented version by Corelli. In the Baroque era, the musician was expected to improvise and embellish in real time performance. A skill that is not studied so much these days... due to the risk and dangers that might otherwise mar a PERFECT performance....

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You did a good job on this considering you are not so into recording. You can do a fair bit with Audacity. The playing sounds great to me.

Thanks... I'm pretty surprised by what is possible... of course, I knew that the sound engineers could do quite a lot of stuff.. in some ways it is really interesting... in other ways, it is quite depressing!

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The edition (first image) looks actually quite ancient. Somewhere 18th, early 19th century. The art to improvise embellishments a prima vista, or to feel save to do so, is perhaps lost longer ago than the start of the recording era.

That is true, but modern recordings definitely hastened the demise of the skill in most players!

The manuscript is from the Amsterdam printing of the Sonatas (or was that other one... I can't remember how!)

I found the score at IMSLP. It's from 1723 (even earlier than I thought) and according to the notes the added ornaments were approved by Corelli himself. Seems the fear of playing something wrongly is from all times.
Still, the 'modern' emphasis on perfect recordings has not helped at all...

From what I understand, these were given as an example of ornamentation rather than a canonical version. Some of the other composers have some pretty elaborate ornamentation... Especially the Italian styles.

Yes, that extra line is heavily ornamented. Even though I like to add in some trills or pralls or mordents in the organ music I play, I'm far from improvising that many notes, even in slow movements.
And somtimes I do it in music of Bach as well, and that is not always well received: the written notes are canonical and it is not-allowed-to-play-something-else-than-written... :-)

Heh... Bach is trickier as it is much more dense writing to start with... it is weirdly treated with too much reverence at times. Although, the people I play with are usually quite okay with ornamentation of Bach!

A huge hug from @amico! 🤗