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  • Hieronymus Praetorius, Ab oriente venerunt


    I've been experiment with choir, and after testing the various libraries at my disposal I ended up using the VSL Choir, being the one most suitable to the music genre I'm composing for.

    I tested the sustain/legato articulations and the velocity/expression abilities of the choir in a late-Renaissance piece for five voices. The author is the quite unrecognized Hieronymus Praetorius, a composer from Hamburg of great talent, but much less known than his nearly homonym Michael.

    The piece has not many dynamic variations, nor tempo changes. I can focus on a few things I must learn. At the same time, one has to work on the finer details on tempo microvariations and dynamic accents to make the intricate lines come out. I don't know if I succeeded in achieving this goal. Do you have other precious hints for me?


    EDIT: File replaced with a faster one (80bmp instead of 70).

  • My first doubt is that dynamics may be too much compressed, and too often confined in the loudest range. I could try scaling them (with a Logic's Exponential transformation) to let them cross the velocity layers more often.


  • I did a couple tests:

    1) Apply an Exponential Curve transformation by 1.5 on the Expression values. This resulted in a wider dynamics, that I might find a bit excessive on this piece.

    2) Apply an Exponential Curve transormation by 1.5 on the XFade-Velocity values. The pieces seems to lose tightness, become too weak.

    I think that sparingly increasing the Expression range compared to the XFade-Velocity can be the right trick in some cases. To be used with great care.


  • Hi Paolo,

    With great interest I have listened to this piece. The composer was totally unknown to me and don't recall having heard the music ever. You're absolutely right that such an approach is a learning confinement that you're imposing on yourself. That fine renaissance texture with interweaving voices is even more difficult. Since there is a total absence of consonants it's hard to put the necessary accents in the delicate harmonic tissu. Expression and Vel XF won't be enough anyway. But so far you did a terrific job. The choir is solid, with balanced voices and a logical dynamic evolution. With real words (with natural stresses and intonation) the piece would become more realistic, but by now, it is quite pleasing as it is. Please go on experimenting and keep in mind that the original text might provide some good textual hints to improve the performance.


  • Dear Jos,

    Thank you very much for your critical listening! It is incredible how the name of a composer that dominated the music life of a major town like Hamburg, and whose organ work influenced composers for decades, has faded to total irrelevance. I'm examining a 12-voice choral work, and I'm astonished by how skilled he was. Maybe not as grandious and austere as Giovanni Gabrieli, nor direct and intimate as William Byrd, but still a magnificent composer.

    Trying to simulate a singing choir is not yet supported by the same advanced tools as orchestral writing. While loving the idea behind Soundiron's Marcato Builder (where you create your how syllables by combining phonetic components), I'm not happy with the word builders I tried in other virtual choirs, and in the end I came back to the wordless VLS choir. This means I have to give up with half the meaning of vocal music.

    I'm however trying to at least, as you suggest, follow the original textual phrasing. This is essential, but hard to achieve without actual phonems. Praetorius relied on Latin, in the same way as Willaert and Gabrieli did before. This seems a deliberate decision for a German composer, that can't but influence his music.

    I've been trying adding consonants from the few syllables supplied by VSL. While this doesn't allow recreating the original text, it seems to me to add realism to sung parts. While it will not work very well with "naked" a cappella choirs, it might work well when voices are masked by other instruments.


  • While I was experimenting, I also tried with a quick rearrangement for brass. First with two cornetti, two sackbuts, a bass trombone, then two cornetti, two tenor trombone and a bass trombone.


  • Hi Paolo,

    The version trial with the consonants point in the right direction. I think you can already feel the difference, be it in a light version...

    I come from a country (Flanders) where renaissance and early baroque polyphony was a noble art. We had a great number of true masters, but most of them went to Italy, which was at that time the musical heart of Europe.

    (To name some: Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockegem, Petrus Alamire, Josquin des Prez, Jacob Obrecht, Mattheus Pipelaere, Pierre de la Rue, Jacob Clemens non Papa, Adriaan Willaert, Orlando di Lasso...). Most of them had Latin, Italian or French names because that was more appropriate in the musical circles. So they translated the name or chose a new one. E.g. Orlando di Lasso retranslated in old Dutch would have been: Roland van Moen where 'Moen' is a small village near Kortrijk, where he possibly came from.

    These composers where the founders of the pure polyphony in voices and instrumentation, that later matured in early baroque and that inspired so many great composers. Their style or appraoch was to imitate the human speech. They called it parlando or retoric style. Singing voices were actually speaking to each other in a natural way, where meter played such an important role. That's why I referred to the spoken word with its syllables and distinct consonants. So your exercice was an extremely difficult one, trying to mock-up that style without words.

    The last brass version is very appealing, because it has some connection with the typical renaissance use of brass. Well done and keep trying! It's very rewarding.


  • While still exploring, why not joining the choir and brass? It was very common at the time.

    The only renaissance trombone/sackbut I have is the Tarilonte's one. The softer velocity layer is very compact, and only limited to the lower dynamic levels. Probably, this is exactly as it is with a real renaissance trombone. Not easy to control in reality, neither in its virtual form. So, I decided for a mixed arrangement: a sackbut for the Quinta Vox part, a tenor trombone for the Tenor, a bass trombone for the Bass.

    VSL's tenor trombone has a much louder legato articulation than a sustain one. I had to lower the legato slot of -12dB. The fast legato is a different timbre, so I decided not to use it for the faster notes. In the end, you have to know very well each virtual instrument, and do a very fine adaptation, when coming from a different original part.

    Tarilonte's cornetto is very nice. It has a very loud level, so I had to lower it a lot. It has a bizarre legato, more similar to a jazz sax than a real cornetto, so I had to avoid legato as often as possible for wider intervals. Despite the excellent players and sampling, that library is conceived for fantasy/new age, more that accurate recreation of ancient music.

    MIR did a majestic work with Pernegg, voices and brass widely spaced to make the sound as deep as possible.


  • I tried with syllables, this time. And, actually, their lack was really missed.


  • Hi Paolo,

    Thanks for this new version. Quite interesting, but not yet waht it could be with a real singing choir. The music was written purelely retoric and that requires real words in intonated phrases, with word stresses and emphases, which in musical terms generate attacks and short and long notes, dynamic highs and lows, meter, etc.  Most of the virtual choirs are handy tools to 'evoke' singing people, but can hardly replace them (yet). In film scores they can emotionally double the strings and add beautiful colour, but they are not fit to sing let's say a song. I'm aware that some libraries can already sing real words, but they still sound very artificial because they consist of separate sillables puzzled together to build words. But where are the word accents? Where is the sentence intonation? How do you build the necessary meter to which the melody should be rhythmically designed? So most choir libraries are yet premature and only a means to help composers of today.

    Your version sounds more than OK, it is a delight, but still fails a bit in the choir area. A good instrumental version should serve the pupose better (for now).

    Keep up the good spirit,


  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on