Home Forums Pianobook Should I Have Booked That Orchestra For MB300S?

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    Hi there, this is very much a request for candid responses, the only negative, or rather slightly uncertain feedback from MB300S seems to centre around me booking a pro string band. Would love your thoughts? Not in the spirit? A departure from what I had stated as an intention? Made it too mainstream?

    My intention with MB300S was to be led by the contributions and not to prescribe what people submitted. I did however lay out a very “approachable” chord sequence that I feel coloured people away from the more experimental end of the “systems” spectrum.

    I was surprised at how much melodic content was submitted and felt that in order to honour those entires, that I would need to work out how to make this sit on top of a mix of this magnitude. Especially say with Keith’s theme, played on piano, how was I going to get that in front of 200 pianos without making the other pianos distant and small?

    I thought therefore a string band would soar way above anything submitted and so I think it did. The band was booked in haste and cost me £10,000 all in (which I financed from ad-revenue from PB). I was glad to inject this cash into the Glaswegian musicians and technicians so shortly before the rug was totally pulled from under them.

    But most importantly, as a budding film maker, I knew that the addition of this aspect would create a nice narrative shape to the pre-amble film. There was a huge temptation to tease the fact that we’d recorded an orchestra but i decided against it, instead making it a nice surprise for all of us, not only those whose material had been selected but those of us who would empathise with the excitement of that surprise aspect of the project.

    Appreciate and thank you for your candour in advance!

    C. x

    Keith Theodosiou

    This is one of my replies on your YouTube post of the mix with Jake…

    ‘Being one of the more ‘melodic’ contributors to this piece, it’s just the way I write. I don’t really do minimal kind of composing so I just naturally did what I am used to as all my music is highly melodic lol.
    I think it all boiled down to how all the pieces could fit together that structured the finished piece. For me personally the orchestra was my icing on the cake and I will never forget that feeling I had when I heard it :)’

    So for me personally, the orchestral part was my highlight. I know I will never hear my music performed by an orchestra so hearing that, like you mentioned in another vlog was a total and unexpected pleasant surprise.
    That is my personal view 🙂

    Darren Prescott

    Those dissenting negative voices were very few and far between weren’t they? The overwhelming majority thought it was incredible.

    The live strings brought cohesion and helped unite the constituent parts thematically and structurally with the opening piano theme. They bridged across the motors and pylons like a kind of arcing structure – almost like the pylon cables. They connected everything together which may otherwise have been ever so slightly compartmentalised and isolated.

    For me, music is about emotion. Any musical ingredient that heightens that emotion is not only justifiable but necessary. The strings were not suffocating or smothering the piece with a saccharine blanket. They were just the right balance.

    It is one of life’s great mysteries how music has the capacity to emotionally move and bring people together. But musicians and composers have an innate ability to conjure this ethereal quality using the very air around us as a conduit. It’s remarkable how all this strange mystical process even works – but I’m so happy that it does, and grateful to be able to participate and experience it.

    (Sorry, rambled on a bit!)

    Keith Theodosiou

    I think it’s great what you said.
    I have said this in another post but say for instance, my piano piece. Now I didn’t really think it stood out that much, I just thought it was my bit and that’s it. Two things that Christian did was one, saw the potential of my part as being the melody line that could bind all the parts and two (more importantly) knew that this melody line would be hugely transformed into something that gets to Human soul. What i’m trying to say is, my piano part sounded nice but that part played with the string section totally transformed it into something so beautiful. Violins can put emotion into something better than I can ever do.
    John Meyers part was the same, sounded nice on it’s own but when played with the strings and my melody together, well we all know how that sounded.
    Rambling is fine here as you are expressing yourself, I am also rambling lol.

    Bottom line is Christian in his experience with working with orchestras knew how they would transform an amazing piece into a truly beautiful amazing piece.
    I rest my case (cos it’s heavy) lol

    Bob Ellis

    Hi Christian.
    When I heard the string section my gut instinct gave me instant reservations as it didn’t seem to be in the spirit of being submitted via the YouTube platform like all the other contributions.

    In order to reach out to a wider audience it most certainly achieved its aim as my family gathered round to watch the video shortly after the premiere and they loved it.

    The strings glued it all together and took it to another level and I doubt it would have achieved that standing on its own. Toplines are normally doubled/quadrupled and we didnt know what others were composing so there was always going to be that mix limitation. We’ve all got degrees in hindsight but I think it may have been wiser to declare that intent, particularly if it was there from the start. Maybe if you release the main stems to the community to try out remixes without the strings it would help answer your question. I for one would certainly like to hear/have a go at a remix without them.

    The motive behind using them is not in doubt and I will be in the minority with my reservations but all voices should be heard. At the end of the day it was a great piece of music.


    Speaking as someone who super unfortunately was not able to participate this round (so take my opinion with many grains of Himalayan Pink Salt):

    Would I have had a submission in the systems music piece, I would have been really honored to hear an actual orchestra perform a part of it, or in junction with. And I’m very jealous of those of you who did get that opportunity.

    I can also completely identify with those who maybe feel like something was “taken away” from them by having a professional coordinated ensemble joining in as to round out the piece, but at the end of the day:

    1. pianobook is an extremely diverse community and while having many amateur musicians, it also has many professionals taking part in crafting it. Any of these pros who work with an ensemble regularly or are proficient in each instrument could have submitted a high quality work that functionally served the same purpose, so I think having this hired orchestra in a way levels the playing field so that each individual participating has an equal shot at contributing a meaningful and beautiful idea. No matter the quality, this orchestra is representing community-written and submitted ideas, not solely a single person in the project.

    2. £10,000 is a lot of money to be invested in paying working musicians in loomingly uncertain times, when it could have just gone in pocket. I’m not saying that christian would do or does do that, but there are many other people out there who would. And it’s not to say that money couldn’t have been spent somewhere more commercially viable like site-maintenance or other things, but I think the musical vision of pianobook is core to the community and functioning of the project, and so I see it as valuable of an investment as say hiring a web-designer to make the downloads a little more quick or reliable, or the site a bit more snappy. I don’t claim to know all the inner-workings or logistics of pianobook financially, but as a musician its always cool to see other musicians get paid, and the fact that contributors are also being rewarded is lovely too.

    3. Even though this systems piece is “a community project” at the end of the day, nobody knew what it was going to sound like when they submitted their small piece of the puzzle. We were given tools and a framework from which to craft, but it was going to be the pianobook team’s job to make a song out of these many great ideas and at the end of the day that means musically it is their vision largely responsible for the specific outcome. The fact that they hired an ensemble to serve the musical motifs and ideas of those who participated and then marketed the project primarily as a massive collage of the work of many people speaks volumes to me, when it could have leveraged far more coverage to the group who played. To me that orchestra is sort of like christian’s own submission to the project, after all he is a part of the community and has a unique voice among us

    But once again, I also feel the sentiment of those who felt unprepared for this addition which was sort of last minute. So I say:


    I think it was a good idea, but I agree that maybe it would have been nice to know just a little more in advance, even if it was as vague as like:
    “We have something very special planned in the way of performance for the end of the project to honor and support all of the amazing ideas that are coming in.”

    I also think the stem suggestion is cool, an alternate version with just pianobook would be a really unique chapter of the story to hear. It is understandbly difficult to do amazing things in such a massive project and still work towards making everyone feel included and valued (which all of you are!!!!)


    Personally for me it took it to 11 out of 10. It was the glue.


    Dont worry Christian, you did the right thing. You can NEVER go wrong with a real orchestra. It’s always an enrichment, imo.
    Love, Ima

    Emil G.

    I thought the addition of the orchestra was brilliant. It was amazing to hear Keith’s melody complimented by orchestration. And there is always room for more cello. I am very much looking forward to the album version :-). Thank you.

    Paul M

    Forget the strings Christian! You should have hired a Saxophonist! 🙂

    Seriously though, I ran out of time to make a submission so I can only speak as an outsider but I thought the strings added a good surprise twist and helped to gel it all together. Congratulations to everyone that took part!

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