“Elsie” was my first attempt at combining a piano and the Korg MS-20 Mini synthesizer. The piano is the virtual Una Corda, a VST created by Native Instruments in collaboration with the composer Nils Frahm. The VST is unique in its inclusion of a piano’s mechanical sounds; the sounds used here are the sustain pedal, piano hammers, and the hammers hitting a sheet of cotton placed over the strings. The latter two add an interesting percussive quality to the piano track.

Elsie is a bit of a cheat in that it uses MIDI notes transcribed according to a score composed in MuseScore:elsie-real-finished-01

This transcription was then exported as a MIDI file and imported into Logic Pro X. The piano transcription triggers the Una Corda VST while the synthesizer transcription triggers the analogue synthesizer by means of a MIDI signal. Though a live performance is of course preferred (and, I hope, will soon be attempted), this allows for perfect execution and directs focus purely on manipulating the sounds produced by the synthesizer.

I’d say the most important setting in the synthesizer is the pitch of the second oscillator to a value of -3 (which I believe is a minor third, though I’m unsure if the numbers correlate directly to intervals), which creates an interesting harmony between the two tones, even though only one key is pressed on the keyboard. Note as well the two oscillators differ by two octaves and that both produce saw waves for the richest harmonic qualities. Here’s a picture of the specific settings:


The piano uses three chords: Esus2, D major, and E major. It’s programmed to emphasize both the mechanical sounds of the piano as well as the resonance. The sustain pedal is continuous but for the transition between D major and E major. The piece begins with the depression of the sustain pedal and ends with its release.

The image accompanying the song is a photo I took on the shore of Lake Michigan.


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