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  • Are sordino strings always needed?


    For some months, I've been working to a virtual version of Ligeti's Atmosphères. Since the strings orchestra is made of solo strings, always con sordino and mostly playing very long notes, I decided to use Xsample instead of VSL SE for them. Xsample has looped solo strings sustain notes, allowing for long notes, while VSL (SE or not) doesn't have them.

    However, with the arrival of VSL Solo Strings I (ordinario) and II (con sordino), I decided to try VSL for strings. I will try to replace long notes with legato short notes, lasting as long as a single bowing. Ligeti asks for irregular bowing, so this would be more respectful of the original score than the looped strings.

    However, Solo Strings II lacks several of the needed articulations. For example, missing are the muted versions of sul tasto (flautando), sul ponticello, molto vibrato/espressivo.

    I wonder if these particular articulations have to be absolutely played with muted strings, or their particular sound can be 'faked' with the non-muted versions of Solo Strings I. Can you clearly recognize the muted flautando or sul ponticello sound from the non-muted version?

    (Actually, I wonder how you can play sul ponticello when the mute is inserted at the ponticello. Do you know how this is meant to be played?) 


  • This is a difficult question. Since Flautando and sultasto bowing already makes a very warm smooth tone it seems, that VSL do not expect anyone to have flautando or sultasto mave even more smooth with aditional mutation. While I expect, that Ligeti perhaps exacly was looking for this kind of exaggeration of smothness.

    As far as I know there are not that much Libraries who even take much care with flautando and sul tasto only Spitfire audio even makes a difference between the quite similar sul tasto and flautando articulations and I honestly do not know any with original recorded muted sul tasto or flautando. Orchestraltools Berlin Strings Expansion A+B offers "Sul tasto (Flautando)" and since their "mute" is not recorded but generated by a filter applied on the samples you should be able to simulate something "likewise".

    I personally would hesitate to simulate mutation with filters but if all you can have does not reach the thing you are looking for, you have perhaps no other choice than to simlate mutation with filters or an certain eq-setting.

    Meanwhile I wonder how you will respect existing copyrights if ever you might intend to share a recording of Ligetis atmospheres. I am very curious to hear you results if ever possible please keep us informed about your progress.



  • Hi Steffen,

    Thank you very much for your considerations. I think to understand that Ligeti wanted the most transparent and delicate sound at the beginning of Atmosphères, so he asked for a combination of all the techniques allowing for it (sordino, sul tasto, dolcissimo, pp going to al niente). I believe using the sul tasto articulation contained in Solo Strings I, and keeping the dynamics a bit softer, can be enough to achieve that effect. I was thinking to add the filter included in VI, but the only thing that it seems to do is to cut the higher frequencies, and as you suggest it is not the expected result.

    As for copyrights, this is something I’ve been asking myself often, and maybe you can help me on this matter. Can, presenting a virtual rendition of a copyrighted work in a forum, be considered copyright infringement, as if you were playing it in a theatre?

    In the USA, the Copyright Act allows “fair use” of a copyrighted work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, or research)”.

    In my country (Italy), the current law (dated 1993, but based on a law of 1941), allows for free use of a copyrighted work for “teaching, studying or researching, including practicing and essays of amateur level music activities” (my translation), and in general in any case of non-profit use.

    Still in my country, based on my experience as an amateur musician and a theatre manager, I guess this type of activity would not be approved by the national copyright agency (SIAE), usually acting according to their own rules, notwithstanding the law. For example, playing Schubert would still be only possible after their authorization, and paying the rights (formally, to the editors of the used score).

    I wonder how this works in Austria, whose laws should be the ones to be considered when posting something in this forum. I’m personally ready to retire any example might I post, in case the owners of the rights ask for it. I would also comply with the law, in the hope that the “fair use” mentioned above is a common rule.


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    Oh I am from Germany, and we do have with the GEMA a potentially very strict protection of copyrights. I'd happy to have in germany such generous handling of non-profit-use as you indicated.On the other hand would no one here ask for an copyright of any composers who was not alive after 1946 (= +70Years). So Schubert would be in nearly no case any problem (unless you use an protected first or critical Urtext Edition which was published not befor 20 or 30 years.)

    I think, since you would not upload your music on the VSL-Server to share it, you presmably have to handle copyrights as they were handled in the country where you "publish" it online. So if you upload thhe music on your own Website-Server it should presumably italian laws.

    OK in short I am german and therefor tend to handle everything as scrupulous as possible 😉 sorry for that....

  • It's much simpler:

    In Germany the GEMA quite recently closed a deal with YouTube that allows YouTube and its users to use all GEMA material in videos uploaded to their platform. YouTube is paying an undisclosed annual lump sum to GEMA. Also, GEMA represents not only the rights of their german members, but those of the members of most foreign copyright societies, aka: worldwide, too.

    Furthermore, german Urheberrecht says if a musical work has been performed in public, the copyright holder has no right to prohibit any further performance of the same work in its original form, as long as he gets paid the royalties for the performance.

    So, given that Ligeti was a member of the austrian AKM, in Germany I would simply upload the rendition to YouTube, as YouTube is paying for the right to use his works.

    As the GEMA was the last copyright society in the world to finish a deal with YouTube, I would strongly assume that the societies in Austria, the USA or Italy have similar deals.

  • Exactly.  Here in Canada, once a work has received its first public performance, all subsequent performances/arrangements are permitted without consent of the composer, as long as mechanical royalties, and other PRO royalties, etc. have been accounted for. 


  • In Belgium, the author's rights are pretty similar to the German ones. Only, the financial benefits are distributed in a very odd way. The author's rights society owns all the rights and pays a small part of the revenues to the composer (performer, editor...) To illustrate this: From last years performance of two symphonic works of mine (for orchestra and choir), I initally received 0.003 euro. That is not so unusual, because they don't do any effort to verify who is who. (Who is the composer, text writer, orchestrator, editor, producer...). They assumed that everything in these compositions was public domain (free to use and perform without any duties), which was not at all the case. I was the composer and orchestrator, the score was not published nor recorded. Which means that every right was mine. I had a lot of trouble to convince the SABAM people, but finally they agreed and sent my some extra 30 euro. That is rather normal, but famous artists receive a lot more for such a performance...

    Conclusion: I'm not happy with the way they work in my country, but I have no other option.


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    @MassMover said:

    In Germany the GEMA quite recently closed a deal with YouTube that allows YouTube and its users to use all GEMA material in videos uploaded to their platform. YouTube is paying an undisclosed annual lump sum to GEMA. […]

    As the GEMA was the last copyright society in the world to finish a deal with YouTube, I would strongly assume that the societies in Austria, the USA or Italy have similar deals.

    I confirm this same agreement exists between YouTube/Google and the Italia SIAE. The more clicks, the more advertising, the more the rights holder gets.

    So, releasing a copyrighted work on YouTube could actually reward them, even if it is just a mockup.


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