For a long time this thought has been haunting me:
What would happen if I transcribed some of my organ improvisations into music scores?
Of course, not all of the improvisations are worth preserving in a written form but some definitely are because other people might want to play them.
The problem is of course that transcription software is still rather inadequate these days. If I had a piano recording, then audio transcription might be more accurate but with pipe organ it's much different because software can't yet deal precisely with reverberation, tempo fluctuations and organ colors. The time might well come when I can just upload an audio file with my organ performance and after several minutes my music notation software can produce a close to perfect-looking score. But this time is some years away, I think.
Nevertheless, today I decided to try out transcribing my recent organ improvisation called "Sarbievijus Rhapsody" which I improvised a couple of days ago at St Casimir's church here in Vilnius. The idea was to improvise a piece of music based on the poem of the 17th century Jesuit poet, one of the most famous alumnus of Vilnius University, Motiejus Kazimieras Sarbievijus.
I've transcribed my own improvisations before, but only on small-scale works, lasting 2-3 minutes, such as this Meditation in D:
Here's how the score looks like:
The score is available in my Secrets of Organ Playing Store.
By the way, it was arranged and performed by the chamber orchestra yearly this year:
Since this piece only lasts around 3 minutes, I transcribed it in several sittings. It still was a challenge but my end result was always close at hand so I didn't quit. If I had quit, this orchestral arrangement might never have seen the light of day.
But this time my Sarbievijus Rhapsody improvisation lasted 13 minutes! I know it cannot be transcribed in a two or three sittings. If I can do up to 1 minute every day, it will still be a two-week project. The opening texture is rather simple and it takes less time to transcribe than the intricate textural fabric with pedals in the middle or culmination so it may take more time than a couple of weeks. I might have to miss some days too. So the entire project might take even up to a month. We'll see.
But a month is not a year. I think it could be done.
If I persevered with my 0 to 10 pull-ups challenge last year (this morning I did 18!), working on a single project such as this transcription might be successful too. I just really want to start creating archives of my improvisations available in written form. Improvisation is one of the most important things I'm best known for so it seems just natural to concentrate on it more.
Besides, I really miss composing on the organ.
So anyway, this morning, after writing some entries in my diary after breakfast, I did Salutation of the Sun, fired up my computer and downloaded a MP3 file of "Sarbievijus Rhapsody". I will use it just like in writing a musical dictation in ear training where a teacher plays a short musical idea and the class has to notate it on paper. Even though it takes some years of dedicated training to be able to do this, now I don't need to see my hands and feet from a video to notate what is sounding at the moment.
I then opened my Sibelius music notation software and created a new file for my transcription. I set up C meter with a sixteenth note pick up bar, wrote Ad libitum tempo and character indication and my name.
Upon playing the file from the beginning in a slow speed, I discovered that I'm using Flute 8' stop on the Choir division of this Neo-Baroque organ. I wrote this in the score too.
Then the actual transcription work began. I played back many times short segments repeatedly over and over until I could figure out what notes and rhythms to write. The most difficult part was when chords appeared. Without seeing my hands I had to decide which notes should go where.
All in all today I wrote 14 measures (this is 45 seconds of music) and it took me about an hour. Next time might go a little faster because all the preliminary work has been done and I won't have to decide on the concept of this project anymore.
I will just need to keep going. Here's this opening fragment which I completed:
Compare it with the real sound in this video:
What do you think?
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