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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Symphonic Electronica = Synergy of Music Ideology

It is my life's dream to be able to work symphonic instruments together with electronic instruments. It's a simple idea really, and I expect that I should hear it somewhere soon, but I did not.

Contemporary classical music using electronic instruments are often very 'analytical,' and to me, they aim for dissonance and atonal but somehow loses its soul. I played a lot of piano music in Bartok, Rachmininoff and the like when I was a teenager, but deep down I much prefer Baroque.


On my path to broaden my musical taste, I came across Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. It's contemporary classical but very listenable. On the booklet which comes with the CD, Steve recalled that his professor once advised him--I can't find the exact quote--that if he wishes to make harmonized music, he should just write harmonized music. I took this to heart and started writing simple fugues, using counter-point techniques that I once learned in college for music composition.

On the electronic music front, there has been a few DJs, most notably William Orbit, who has attempted to redo baroque classics in electronic music--but in my opinion, they are no difference than sampling records in the 70s and claiming as their own by putting a few VST filters on them. Indeed, Pieces in a Modern Style is so disappointing that I question how it ever got out of the studio.

Then one day while I was listening to trance on Rhapsody -- my pumping background music for work, I came across Hybrid's Finished Symphony. It was the first symphonic electronica piece that I responded to. It combines symphonic parts with electronic instruments and have a lot going for it. It is from there that I thought to myself that perhaps it is not such a bad idea to do something about it.

I started writing this piece in early 2006 as a way to fight depression. Music lets me free from my surroundings and allows me to go places where words and images cannot. But like most afflicted with NADD, I have trouble finishing it, and I was also too insecure to release this piece for fear of getting excruciatingly bad reviews that I probably would not be able to handle.


In the late summer of 2006, on my research to figure out how to construct better dance beats (since I'm a classically trained pianist, I naturally had no training in percussion and must somehow acquire that knowledge), I came across a fact that many DJ contests on the Web which gives out pristine vocal tracks for download to be remixed and uploaded. At that time, I was toying with Sony ACID Pro, so naturally I signed up with ACIDPlanet and began producing.

My intention was to do these mixes just as studies, to gain experience, in order to write my Symphonic Electronica piece. So I simply took the vocal tracks of all these songs, throw away all the synths, percussion and instrumental parts and throw in my own strings, choir samples and baroque instruments for a symphonic / choir mix of commercial dance remixes!

My first remix is Madison Park's All about the Groove (original commercial release / my remix) To my surprise, I received many positive feedback, both from friends whom I know and from strangers who were kind enough to provide me with criticisms. The best comment came from Steven Hall, a friend of mine who is a music producer by profession. He noted that this was the first piece I have created that is actually good. I took that to heart, and so began a new hobby--mixing music from ACIDplanet.

One thing great about contests is that you get to learn a lot from other entries. It is from these entries that I discovered new ways of handling samples, and experimenting with different things. Coming across Ableton Live was also a blessing, which enables the programmer side of me to experiment with settings that are too challenging in a linear setup like Cubase.

Symphonic Electronica Opus 0.5.9

After many months of remixing, I came back my Symphonic Electronica piece again. From my experience of the remixes, I identified my style and decisions. I decided to publish this piece and ask the world for my opinion. So here is one of many sketches of musical ideas:

Symphonic Electronica Opus 0.5.9 (04:14) / ACIDplanet WMA / ArtistServer MP3
Copyright 2006-2007 See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

What I am aiming for is a synergy of symphonic and electronic instruments, as a co-existing harmony, like a vanilla+chocolate twist you get on an ice cream truck on the street when you were a little boy / little girl.

Unlike my other music posted on AcidPlanet, it is 100% original material.


I have learned much from other people's feedback and comments for my photographs on Flickr and my music on ACIDplanet. As such, if you are reading this post, I would highly appreciate your thoughts and comments, as I can only get better with constructive criticisms.

Appendix: Music Studies Playlist

  1. Volley Ball / Steven Hall / SML (04:16) / WMA stream / RM / MP3 download
    Copyright 2007 Steven Hall / See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

  2. Symphonic Electronica Opus 0.5.9 (04:14) / WMA stream / MP3 download
    Copyright 2006-2007 See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

Appendix: Symphonic Electronica Soundtracks

Before these studies, I did some loop-based soundtracks for two client showcases for the living + perpetually creative company that I work at:

  1. IconNicholson Client Showcase 2005 - WMV / hi-fi - YouTube / lo-fi

    Copyright 1987-2007 IconNicholson / See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

  2. IconNicholson Client Showcase 2005 Indian Country Edition - WMV / hi-fi - YouTube / lo-fi

    Copyright 1987-2007 IconNicholson / See-ming Lee. All rights reserved.

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