The Virtual Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) Background Information

The MAESTRO-2 Music System


System Description

The MAESTRO-2 music system consists of the following hardware components:

picture of MAESTRO-2


 

Building the New Maestro-2 PC (2010)

After the Christmas holidays 2009 I decided that it was time to upgrade my music computer system PC MAESTRO-1. I had set up this computer back in 2003, when it was state-of-the-art, but now it had somewhat deteriorated: The case fan of the Shuttle barebone case was getting quite loud, the Windows 2000 OS took forever to boot, and appeared to be quite slow, for some reason I was not able to instally any new software upgrades, and the existing sound recording setup with SONAR 4 and the GPO samples did have ever more acoustic "hick-ups", hereby limiting the number of parallel audio tracks which I could play simultaneously. The last recording which I was able to manage under great technical trouble was in April 2009 the first movement of Janacek's Sinfonietta - this rendition is not yet published, as I think it needs still more work.

I did a brief survey and decided on the following hardware configuration:

The issues during building and configuring this computer are described in my music blog.

For the OS I needed a 64 bit system, to be able to address all the 12 GB of memory, which would finally eliminate the sample capacity limit and would allow to have a large number of samples in parallel being played. So I also bought the Windows 7 operating system, in the 64 bit version. The choice for 64 bit meant that I was not able to use any of my existing software. But since I planned to upgrade anyway, this would not matter that much. So the new MAESTRO-2 music system is based on the following software:

Once I had solved most of the technical problems, the system proved to be excellent for the demanding tasks which I had in mind for it: at one point I had loaded almost hundred GPO samples into the memory, and the system still performed flawlessly. This means I am able to play an individual instrument live, while all the other orchestral instruments are being played by the sequencer, without making any compromise of having to mute channels because of system overload (as I had to do in my previous system MAESTRO-1). The actual rendition of the music is done faster than real-time: an 8 minute piece is recorded off-line with the "bounce-to-track" mode in less than 2 minutes.

The first recording that was made with this system in February 2010 was the first movement from Leos Janacek's String Quartet #2 "Intimate Letters". The next plans are to prepare several symphonic movements from Gustav Mahler's Oevre, in celebration of the 2010/2011 Mahler Year.

 

History of my Music Recording Facilities

Early Recordings with MIDI keyboard music station (1993-1996)

In 1993 I bought a Yamaha SQ-16 MIDI keyboard music station with a built-in 16-track MIDI sequencer. With this system I began to create MIDI recordings of classical orchestral music. The very first completed recording was the first movement of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances. Further works followed (Smetana: Moldau, Dvorak: Symphony No,9, 2nd movement). At that time I did not have the goal to create audio recordings, but solely MIDI recording. Soon I realised that the audio properties from the MIDI mapping of the SQ-16 were not comparable to other synthesizers, and I began using this device only for getting MIDI sequences initialised, that is I recorded all the notes and then processed the MIDI file on my Windows 3.1 PC with a built-in sound card. For this I used the sequencer "PowerTracks". I wanted to share MIDI sequences through the online service "Compuserve" which had a large MIDI section; however, the MIDI file sharing section was closed down sometime in 1994/95 due to copyright issues.

PC and External Synthesizer (1996 - 2003)

At the beginning of 1996 I bought a Yamaha MU-80 external synthesizer and began using this as the main General-MIDI synth. This was the synth I took with me when moving to the US in March 1996. When in 1998 the MP3 format became predominant, I began to record the audio on the PC. I had bought the synthesizer Cakewalk Pro Audio, which allowed to record both MIDI and audio within one synthesizer program. In addition I used a Soundblaster AWE soundcard for playing soundfonts. For recording the audio from the MU-80 I used an Echo GINA soundcard with external breakout box. With this system I recorded many pieces and published them online, at that time on MP3.COM, later on TopTempo.

MAESTRO-1 (2003-2009)

In 2003 I bought a Shuttle PC, with the goal in mind that this PC would be used solely as a music instrument. Therefore I chose that compact form factor, so that I would be able to easily transport this PC around and use it "on the road" or when meeting with other music friends for a music session (I actually never did this, but instead always kept MAESTRO-1 locally attached to my stationary music setup). The PC ran Windows 2000. The soundcard was a M-Audio Audiophile 2496, Midi interface was a Midiman USB MidiSport 4x4, and the keyboard was a Rolad A-30 Midi controller. I installed the Garritan GigaSamples with the GigaPiano and the Garritan GigaStrings. In 2004 I added the first version of the Garritan Personal Orchestra. Maestro-1 was the computer which I took with me when moving to the UK in August 2005.


Last page update: 3. Feb. 2011
© 1995-2011 Reinhold Behringer