Owing to my age, I have a sincere love for the simple MIDI music of the late 90s/early 00, particularly the combination of oboe, english horn, clarinet, and bassoon in MIDI renderings of polyphonic music that I spent far too much time listening to in files from classical MIDI sites like kunstderfuge.com. The charm is not really nostalgic, but perhaps more in understanding its imperfections and the clear inability to emulate real instruments. We can accept it for what it is instead of trying to look for it to replace something else, and thus we can enjoy it more for its unique qualities as an expression of sound. Unlike a VST, which attempts to replicate something real in an unreal manner, MIDI represents something unreal as if it were real: pure music in the sense that it expresses only the essentials... reverb, chorus, delay, etc. There is very little conceit in its pure form, it is nothing but the raw musical parameters interpreted at the most basic level. What you get from MIDI is what you have; for, as in an open score in interpretation, your tools in playback are what you possess, be it soundcards or external sound modules, and the result of the music is how your choose to interpret it according to your means. Unlike recorded music, the act of MIDI playback is a creative decision: one must make a choice how to best express what one has been offered.
I felt that with the rise in popularity of MIDI in the last decade—much of it perhaps thanks to the rise in interest of "dungeonsynth," among other things—I would dredge up some of my old and miscellaneous work, as it might find a curious ear or two. So, here we have a mix of roland-ish reeds, organ, and e-piano with very little mixing or modification other than a slight hint of reverb. Only the essentials, pure music as sound, without me trying to make it something other than what it is at its core, and the imperfections naturally reflect the amateurish freedom born from MIDI in the ability to express oneself freely.
This collection is a mix of old "game music," demos, tests, studies, etc., all either prior to my current musical interests, or coinciding with some of my other theoretical pursuits. I simply like these pieces, without any aesthetic or philosophical consideration, and I think it would be a shame to sit on them forever if someone else might enjoy them as well. That being said, I would never consider them part of, or even relevant to, my musical practice as it is now. This music is MIDI music, and the intent lies within the choice of medium. If I compose a piece of music for performance, I never create a MIDI or virtual rendering, because that is not the purpose of the score; likewise, here I never expect this music to exist in any other form, acoustic or otherwise, because it is tied to this essence, this MIDIness, via the initial compositional decisions.
1-5 True juvenilia, written in high school when I first tried my hand at writing music seriously. A lot of what was written was for the bin, so to speak, but the ones here are those that were the most impressive and led to more opportunities over the years. The harmonies and melodies here are a bit rough, riddled with the awkward voice leading and questionable parallel movement of someone with very little knowledge of composition, but overall there always seemed to me to be a strong idea of line in the selections from this period. The first 3 tracks were originally for a game project. Overture is a bit simple but holds a special place for me, as I arranged it for strings in order to show my work to my first teacher. Paraphrase is built off a prelude by Delius, whose music I was obsessed when I was a teenager, and though now I've found a distaste for this sort of saccharine sound, I still like the writing of this piece. 4 and 5 were written for a more ambiguous reason, as studies, but not really in the compositional sense.
6 Small work written in between studies in college. A simply study, a twelve tone row that cycles over a quasi-isorhythm.
7-8 Early counterpoint practice, written when I was studying under by second teacher. AA is a piece I actually lost the original score to and only have the MIDI file to, and though it's a bit pedantic, some of the harmonies are quite nice. Te Lucis' form is heavily indebted to Ockeghem's Mort, tu as navré de ton dart. There are some sections that are a bit four-square in terms of rhythmic values, owing to it as a standard practice piece according to Jeppesen, yet of all of my studies I thought it was one of the most successful melodically.
9-10 Written for performance but never fully realized. Miserere contains one of my favorite canons, but it was never truly possible in performance because my durational values and the slow tempo were a bit too long to be feasible in practice, especially with my preference solo voices over choir. Hymn is the original form of O Salutaris Hostia, from which I retained the first half in my 2022 recomposition.
11 Study Score B from the Prolegomena to Tetrachordal Structure. As in the other study scores, this was written to explain certain possible techniques, not really for any musical or aesthetic end. That being said, there are many sections of this piece that I think are of interest, so I thought I might as well export a setting.
12 An arrangement of a theme to test artificial "performance" of stylus fantasticus in MIDI—which, yes, I realize is a bit ridiculous in conception, as this style, as in the case of Froberger, is much more a genuine moment than a recording. The original theme in question is Norihiko Yamanuki's The Seven Apprentices from The 7th Saga. I have no real connection to the game, I just liked the music when I heard it and felt like arranging it.
13-14 From a separate, shelved composition. These are the only two (other than Omnes, though that was not written specifically for performance) that use "tetrachordal structure," in that each voice was written according to a different set of tetrachords that modulate independently. The total harmony is a composite of all of these lines being written according to different harmonic structures, which creates a wonderfully pungent, rich, dense sound.
Sean Patrick Ignatius Tartaglia
Copyright © Sean Tartaglia 2023