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Showing posts from February, 2005

HiFi Snips

One of the dilemma facing a business like ours is the conflict between the need to show off our wares to their best advantage and the need to secure our property. There are a whole range of solutions adopted dye different sites including special streaming plug-ins. We decided to keep it simple and make LoFi Clips of all our pieces and that is part of our standard production process. Usually we just take the first 30 seconds and publish them at 22k bits per second as compared with the 192k used for our paid for material. This means that browsers can check that it is the piece they were looking for and get a feel for the performance and orchestration but not the full audio quality. So we have introduced a few HiFi snips which are typically of simillar duration but the files are ten times larger. We have also included a whole piece because although it is very nice it is rather too short for us to sell. This is a Mendelssohn Song Without Words. The streaming sample today is a HiFi Snip

Franz Schubert MP3s

Preparing the Schubert selection was fun - sunshine steel drums in the dark Austrian Forests evoked by the ErlKing offset by Moog synthesizer French horns in the darker passages - this really is shining new light on old masterpieces. The impromptus and the march militaire are simply delightful and responded well to the combinations of steel drums, harp and marimba. The real discovery for me was the Wanderer Fantasie where we have presented the four movements separately. In this case we have stayed a little from the New World instrumentation with the inclusion of a Hammond organ emulation but we did select a south American preset which combines a percussive approach with sufficient sustain to support the more lyrical passages. Today's streaming sample is a LoFi clip from the famous Impromptu No 3 from Opus 90.

Paganini - Percussion MP3

Yes Paganini the extraordinary violin virtuoso and composer - his works can respond well to percussion instruments as we have illustrated. If you think about it, part of his dazzling performance was based on the manual dexterity with which he poured out streams of very short notes - the other part was the musical genius to be able to improvise on the fly and at great speed. No wonder he wanted to keep the scores, on which these performances were based, a secret from potential imitators. Today's streaming sample is a LoFi MP3 clip from Caprice No 24 which is the famous one from which Brahms took the theme for his variations. We have tried combining to different instruments with steel drums for these pieces including a Mega Moog synthesizer and the Marimba. The latter produces a purer percussion sound and is probably my favorite but I still try out the Mega Moog from time to time as part of my homage to Keith Emerson for his inspiration and because it can deliver unique dramatic

Podcasting MP3s

From Blogging to Podcasting in only a few weeks - isn't technology wonderful - and on again to streaming to try and protect our intellectual property against use as ring tones in the latest mobile phones.(updated 27.05.05) Today's sample is a LoFi clip from our steel drums based arrangement of Beethoven 's streaming sample Military March - which is more fun than you might expect. I guess that the prime Podcasting audience are iPod owners but someone may know better. As I understand it our standard (unprotected) MP3 files are entirely usable in that medium but some feedback would be nice. In the meantime my site logs are starting to indicate increasing readership of this blog so we'll see how it goes. Paganini tomorrow!

Debussy is top of the shop

Debussy's page is the most popular composer's page on our site this month so far. This is fits in with the popularity of the target keywords and their position on the first two pages at Google and it is satisfying when you start to see a plan coming together. Web site optimisation is not a game for the impatient. In fact optimism is probably a basic requirement. When we started this we would never have guessed that 19th century French composers would play such a significant part in our site. But their music has proved particularly adaptable and is more popular than one would have thought. Perhaps they have just been neglected by the Big Boys and Girls and left a opportunity for us.

Danse Macabre by Saint Saens

Danse Macabre and Carnaval des Animaux were more complex arrangements than most of the key board pieces we have tackled to date. In the case of the Danse we hit upon the idea of associating a Flying Sine synth with each part which is quite effective in enhancing the eerie mood without going too far over the top. The dying note at the end was a bit of a puzzle but an angelic vox seemed to do the trick. Most of the available Carnival files include copyright claims but the Finale and Fossils were available in orchestral form. The key here was simplification of the arrangement. The relatively percussive character of the music allowed the use of steel drums to replace the string parts but we needed the ocarina as a New World replacement for the clarinet but we found that steel drum support for that part sharpened things up. The Moog synthesized Marimba really came into its own as xylophone replacement in Fossils because it really does sound like old bones. But we got away with less promin

Too Modern?

The last few days we have been stepping through the composer alphabet looking for selections to make available. Too my surprise Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff are too modern to be confident about their copy rights under US jurisdiction at least. There were some lovely opportunities there but better safe than sorry for now. We did some work on an interesting piece by Raff, a relatively little known German contemporary of Liszt , Brahms and Wagner, with no explicit copyright claim but further research showed that it had been sequenced by a chap who had dedicated it to the memory of his father. Everyone who has tackled Ravel's work seems to have claimed copyright so we are moving right on to Saint Saens - of which more shortly. The link on this posting is my first attempt at Podcasting - to all you iPod listeners out there I intend to include a link from the title to a sample of our work in straighforward MP3 format on each posting from now on. The file name should give you a good clu

Offenbach Can Can MP3

The arrangement of the Barcarole was one of the trickiest we have tackled to date. Our first use of the ocarina is but one indication that a primarily percussion approach would not fit the more lyrical elements of the piece. Getting an acceptable balance of harp and steel drum on the pizzicato line was also trickier than expected. But perseverance was rewarded by a sound which strongly evokes the starry Venetian night in which the Tales of Hoffmann are set. The Can Can was a much more straight forward adaptation with just enough novelty to make you listen afresh to a very familiar tune. The Promenade was problematic for different reasons. The arrangement included a bass and drum kit. So far we have kept to original scores and this is a bit of a departure. The bass part fitted in well, supporting the momentum of the piece in the second half and on balance we decided to retain the drum kit. It would not be out of place in a modern musical theatre and seemed to heighten the drama. It al


Mendelssohn is one of those composers who is in danger of being written off as 'charming' but doesn't deserve it. Some famous pieces like Mid Summer Night's Dream might fall into that category but his violin concerto sets him apart into very illustrious company. The pieces we have selected to remix for this page are not in that class but he piano concerto is really quite dramatic and has responded quite exceptionally well to our steel drums and Mega Moog synthesizer. Pieces like this remind me of our debt to Emerson Lake and Palmer and his reinterpretation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The Prelude and Fugue provides and interesting point of comparison with Bach and I think Bach comes out ahead. Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words on the other hand risk the charming epithet but despite that I think they are little gems and they responded nicely to our percussion treatment.

Marimba MP3's

The Marimba has proved to be a tantalizing instrument for Download2MP3. The sound produced by the Moog synthesizer emulation is exquisite but the processing power required to emulate the resonance tubes for any thing more than a simple melody or accompaniment line knocks our system over. We've looked at what sort of investment would be required to make a significant difference and we are still looking for a feasible option. The pieces where we have succeeded have been highlighted on our Marimba Music page and they range from a Beethoven Bagatelle to a Handel Concerto. We will continue to add to this as opportunities present themselves.

Making Harp Music MP3s

To help improve access and navigation round the site we have developed pages that focus on the contribution of instruments used in different arrangements. Steel drums form the backbone of all the arrangements but in every case they are combined with at least one other instrument and this page highlights where for this download music, Harp makes a really strong contribution. The Harp can provide sustained notes but its real strengths are in the arpeggios and glissandos and so we have tried to include it where those strengths are highlighted. It is fairly heavy on processing power but it has been possible to associate it with vibraphone and or flying sine synthesizer as well as the steel drums to make some exiting harp music mp3 s. The synthesized harp models that have been selected for use in this way include the Celtic, Spanish and wire for the relevant balance of tone and sustain which they offer. Together they make an interesting set of harp music files for download.


Having found some niche phrases in the steelband arena we set about targeting them - using the instrumentation rather than the composer as the focus of some page content. As part of this process we look at the competition and what should appear but local Caribbean CD sales sites with versions of popular classics performed by a whole range of steelbands . A small number of sites with a very specific local feel made us feel like intruders - interlopers on their patch. But the feeling didn't last - we are just more competition after all - perhaps we might even get round to collaborating at some point.