What is The Parlor Songs Academy?The Parlor Songs Academy site and domains (.com, .ac) are the primary product of The Parlor Songs Academy, a Tennessee unincorporated Association. The association was established for and is dedicated to the preservation of popular American music and musical culture with the following three primary functions:
1. Preservation of musical manuscripts and related documents
2. Education about the music and musical culture of America
3. A Forum for study and discussion of related issues.
The association is organized exclusively for educational, literary, and scholarly purposes.
We feel it is vital to share these works of art through education and exposition. This is accomplished through articles about the music, composers, lyricists, cover artists, and others who contributed to the early development of American popular music. These articles and essays also address issues of historical perspective and include publication on the World Wide Web, CD-ROM, lectures, books and other forms of information distribution.
We also have added the Academy Store where you can purchase professionally notated reproduction scores (music & lyrics) for any of the public domain songs published on our site. You also can buy CDs of some of our best music as well as some free screensavers. Be sure to check it out.
Association DirectorsRichard Reublin
Germantown, TN 38139
The Story Behind The Collection
The Academy site has its origins in the attics of our homes and
the unwanted trash of other people, We hold a very large personal
collection that makes for one of the largest private collections showcased
on the web.
The Evolution of Our Technology
Most of the MIDI files were originally created using a CASIO keyboard, my trusty mouse and the music notation software "Rhapsody" from Passport Designs (who have since been dissolved). The songs are all General MIDI format. If you have a wavetable soundcard or are using the Apple Quicktime extension, you will have a more realistic listening experience and get maximum enjoyment from the collection. More about that later.
In late 1998, I began a process of re-quantizing and re-tracking all of the songs to provide for a more realistic performance sound. We obtained the incredibly powerful software package "Cubase VST" in early 1999 and with that software are more able to create the nuances of performance that a live performance could offer. All songs after the February 1999 Featured page were created using Cubase and many prior to that date have been re-engineered. Also, in late 1998, we began digitaly recording some of the songs into sound files for distribution on CD for some of our fans. Since then we have begun producing CDs of some of the more popular themes and now have completed three collections on CD. For more information about the CDs, visit our Academy Store.
Our search for newer and better ways to present our music continues and in August, 2000, we implemented the biggest innovation in presenting our music since our site began in 1997. The Sibelius Scorch format, a professional notation software, allows for the creation of a music file that through the use of a free browser plug-in, displays the music and lyrics of the song as it plays! The Scorch format is a tremendous advance in the presentation of MIDI generated music as it allows for a full audio and visual enjoyment of the music. Once again, we are the first site of our kind to implement this innovative approach.
All of the song scores are faithfully reproduced exactly as written in the sheet music to preserve the original scoring and sound. We have resisted the temptation to orchestrate or embellish the music in ways that detract from the original composer's intent and to ensure a truly genuine Parlor Songs listening experience.
Although most of the MIDI files are voiced for grand piano, some use idiomatic
voices. For example, some of the Tangos such as
"Irresistible" are voiced for Tango Accordian, or listen to
"Nearer My God To Thee" for a full church pipe organ sound. Finally, you
can hear a song written for Hawaiian steel guitar by listening to
Hawaiian Lullaby. For a feast of Hawaiian music, see our December 99 feature.
For more information about getting the most out of your computer's sound, read
Do You Hear What I Hear?
One unfortunate consequence of using MIDI files for the presentation of music on the net is the wide variety of sound systems installed on PC and Mac systems. Though we have to admit that Mac systems tend to be more consistent thereby guaranteeing a fairly unifor listening experience, PC systems vary tremendously.
As we create our music, the volume, balance, stereo stage and dynamics are all carefully set according to what I hear on MY system and how it sounds to ME. Though General MIDI commands respond in the same way in all players, the sound quality can vary tremendously. For example, if I add a crescendo to the music, no matter what sound card you have, you should hear an increase in sound level. On the other hand, if I add in a guitar sound, you may or may not hear something that sounds like a guitar. Though almost all of our music is played for piano, even that can be inconsistent. Some of you may hear a near perfect piano sound while others of you may be hearing a rather unrealistic "electronic" sound that is an imitation of a piano. The range of sound you hear can go from "being there" to a cheesy 1980's electronic game sort of sound.
Let's test that theory right now and see what sort of system you have.The following files were created to sound "exactly" like the instruments listed. Listen to each one and decide if what you hear is "realistic" or not.
Did you hear realistic sounds or were they all similar and without clear definition? If realistic, wonderful, chances are you are hearing our music (and that of other midi music authors) as intended. If not, then maybe there are some things you can do to improve what you hear.
Wavetable vs. FM sound synthesis.
Computers generate MIDI music in one of two basic ways; either the sound card uses what is called FM synthesis, or in newer cards, wavetable technology is used. FM synthesis generates a sound based on a General MIDI instrument sound layout of usually 128 sounds. The sounds are created internally and are approximations of the instrument. Sometimes they sound real, usually they dont.If you have a sound card in your computer that uses only FM synthesis, what you hear now is about the best you will ever hear. If so, we kindly suggest you consider replacing your sound card with a wavetable card, particularly one capable of using sound fonts.
Why wavetable? The FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis method uses a signal to modulate the frequency of another signal, and the results sound like arcade games from the 1970s. Each FM voice needs at least two signal generators, and the more sophisticated FM systems may use four or six operators per voice. In general, however, FM synthesis is not as desirable an asset in your sound circuitry as wavetable synthesis. Technically, wavetable is also a form of synthesis too but if you want to re-create the sound of an existing instrument or other sound using a sound card, the easiest way is to make a digital sample and then modify it to change the pitch. That is how wavetable synthesis works, someone actually records the real instument and from that, generates a wave sample that the sound card can use to recreate the instrument sound. Sample-based synthesis is called wavetable synthesis because of the way samples are stored and retrieved. If you're buying a sound board or a sound-enabled system, make sure it has this type of synthesizer.
Sound "fonts" are instrument wave tables if you will, that can be used by your sound card to improve or change the sound of the instruments it synthesizes. Some sound cards use a fixed wavetable to generate sound and the user has no control over how they sound. Others, such as the Soundblaster Live! series offer you the opportunity to change the wavetable references the card uses to generate instrument sounds. The result has been an ability to customize your sound output and generate some exceptionally realistic sounds.
Getting the Most From Our Music.
So, where do we go from here? Our first recommendation, if you are running a PC is to get a wavetable card that uses sound fonts if you don't already have one. Even if it does not use sound fonts, it will be an improvement over an FM synthesis card. Obviously, you enjoy listening to music on-line, otherwise, you would not be visiting our site and others like it so why not enjoy the music as it was intended to be heard? If you have a Mac, you really don't need to do anything except be sure you are using the latest Apple Quicktime extension.
Once you have a wavetable card then you need to find a General Midi sound font that gives you accurate sounds of instruments. A sound font is a group of wave samples that can be loaded into the memory of your sound card and used by it to generate sounds. If you have a Soundblaster Live, one annoying feature to me is the default to its "environmental" sound. To me, the sound is still much like FM synthesis and the clarity of instrumental presentation is poor. Turn that off and stick with your sound fonts. Finding a good General MIDI sound font is fairly easy. In fact, the ones that usually come with the sound cards are adequate. I have searched a number of sources and have found one that I believe gives an excellent overall balance and realism.
Finding a good piano sound font is another question. Reproducing the complex sound of a piano has been a problem ever since the first recordings. Creating a good sound font that results in an accurate representation of a piano across the entire range of the instrument has proven to be a difficult task. I have tried and listened to several and have settled on one that I use primarily and another that is a good compromise. The difference of course can boil down to personal preference. The best overall piano sound font in my opinion, is the "pianissimum" that can be found at http://space.tin.it/musica/almarzai/sfe.html, among other sites. A second one that is fairly good is a sample from a Kawai grand, which can be found at: http://www.hitsquad.com/smm/programs/KawaiStereoGrand/ . I recommend these two fonts and suggest you try them for use with our site music. When using these, turn off all the "environmental" and other effects and just enjoy the pure sound of a piano.
One other suggestion we have for you is that you definitely stop listening to our MIDI files! What? Yes, stop listening to our midi files and listen to (and see) our music using the Scorch player. All of our music is notated using Sibelius and with it, you can fully enjoy the music as it was written with all the lyrics and performance markings. There is no better way to enjoy "midi" music on the net. We know many of you have not yet downloaded the scorch player but do yourself a favor and get it right now at the Sibelius music site. With Scorch you will see everything and as well, will hear more than you do when you just listen to the midi files. The Scorch files include all repeats as written, our midi's do not. Rather than devote extra time to creating midi files, we are putting our energy into doing the best we can with the Scorch format.
The Next Level.
About external MIDI generators...in progress
The Parlor Songs Academy is an educational website, designated by the "ac" (academic) domain
If you would like to submit an article about America's music for us to publish, go to our submissions page for information about writing articles for us. We also welcome suggestions for subjects for future articles.
Please Help Us Continue our Efforts with a donation. The Parlor Songs Academy. is a Tennessee unincorporated association. Donations go towards the aquisition of additional music, preservation of music, equipment and educational efforts. If you like what we do, please help us out. Donation funds are used entirely for the operating expenses of Parlor Songs and/or aquisition of additional music or equipment.
We realize that there are those who prefer not to transact financial matters on the Internet. If you would like to donate or make a purchase by check, email us for mailing information.
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