Year in Review: 2020

At the beginning of the year—long since forgotten throughout the course if this year—there were plenty of analogies made with the number 2020. Although I certainly do not have 2020 vision in hindsight, perhaps I have slightly sharpened vision. I have also learned a few things along the way about making videos, editing them, and being a musician in the digital age.

What I learned from a year of vlogging—(More at what I did)

The outline of the post will look somewhat like the following. It will begin by giving an overview of what I did, how the production of videos developed, and the possible solutions to bad sounding MIDI instruments.

The Beginning of a New Chapter in My Musical Life

Beginning in February 2020, the vlogging (as I will conveniently label it) began as a real pursuit. Unsurprisingly, the first video was of J. S. Bach, though not of his Prelude from Suite No. 1 in G major. Rather, it was the Allemande from Suite No. 2 in D minor.

The whole vlogging concept was foreign to me as a practice and started off on an unsure note. Not knowing exactly how go about it but having a vague idea of what I eventually wanted to do, the vlog began.

A smattering a Bach and the discovery of some cello duets for starters. After which I interspersed some one-off videos for special occasions or simply because I liked the pieces. Then on to the complete opuses of some of those duets for two cellos, namely, from James Hook. (Completely unknown to me and probably to most people.)

Fortunately, in my IMSLP searches , I dug up more than James Hook’s duets. It was at this time that a more clear picture of my vlogging purpose come into view. Hugo Schlemüller’s works—he was one of dozens of Cellist/composers from the 1800’s and also from the German speaking people.

Schlemüller’s Op. 54 “Alleresrsten Vortragsstückchen für jungen Cellisten”. A great find. Useful, practical, and melodious. All for the beginner cellist. In both cello duet and cello/piano instrumentation.

This whole time I continued to ponder how I could achieve the goal of playing Georg Goltermann’s works by myself, which originally gave me the spark to begin. However, with each attempt I found it satisfying but somehow incomplete.

This brings my experience up to about July if 2020. (Six months in total) All of my videos up to this point were cello only. Whether solo, duet, or more cello parts I had not delved into the piano accompaniments as of yet.

Somewhere in 2019 I had tried out MuseScore—a free notation software program. Much that I wanted to do hinged on my ability to create realistic piano parts. After some doodling and learning the intricacies of the program I began experimenting with piano sounds.

Albert Siklos’ Eight Easy Pieces for Cello and Piano was the first attempt at using MIDI accompaniments. To do that I had to enter all the notes and then export the file as an mP3. Then I could record as I normally did. It was such a rush to play along with piano.

Now it was on to another of Goltermann’s Sechs Tonbilder. I continued on with the default piano sounds but became curious about installing a more satisfying piano sound. Soon I found a better MIDI piano.

Bringing this review up to date are the current two opuses that I am recording. Firstly, the German cellist Sebastian Lee wrote numerous etudes and technical studies. I found his The First Steps in Cello Playing, Op. 101, which are duets for two cellos. Secondly, I happened across another German cellist, August Nölck, whom I had zero prior knowledge of. it turns out that he was a rather busy composer. IMSLP lists 28 pages of his works. I chose Four Short Pieces, Op. 115 for the most recent recording upload. (Only No. 1 Prelude has been uploaded.) However, with all the work I have done in MuseScore, more details can be attended to. The next planned upload will sound even more realistic. The MIDI piano sounds better because of the fine tuning I am able to do in MuseScore.

My hopes are high. The new-found knowledge in MuseScore about how to make the MIDI sounds nice, softer, more nuanced, and somewhat more human creates much needed beauty to the recordings.

End of 2020: First Chapter, Done.

2020 was a learning year indeed. It had many recordings in which there is noticeable lack of finesse in the recording and editing. There were several that I felt rather good about. In general, the majority were so-so. Finally, there are several in which I am quite happy with.

It is all a time of learning particularly when I do everything by myself and on mediocre equipment in a room that leaks noises from neighbors and outside.

Thanks to all who appreciate this venture and the specific goal of building a library of little-known music for cello.