Gario

OCR03970 - *YES* Super Mario Bros. "Reflecting Pool"

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  • Your ReMixer name: JohnStacy
  • Your real name: John Stacy
  • Your email address: 
  • Your userid: 33075
  • Name of game(s) arranged: Super Mario Bros.
  • Name of arrangement: Reflecting Pool
  • Name of individual song(s) arranged: Underwater
  • Your own comments about the mix, for example the inspiration behind it, how it was made, etc.

Few years back I arranged a concert of big band music (my first submission to this site was from that project).  One of the arrangements on there was a brass only arrangement of the Underwater theme from the original Super Mario Bros that really didn't fit in with the rest of the concert.  Originally written for 4 flugelhorns, 2 horns, 4 euphoniums, and a tuba, I played all the original parts on horn minus the flugelhorns for this version.  In addition to the different instrumentation, the tempo also was lowered down to 22.5 bpm (from 50 in the original).  I also branched out a little bit, and used a combination of not only recorded horn with electronic processing, but also basic synth work.

The premise is somewhat of a study in patience.  That is to say, the arrangement goes through the original loop of the music only once, but slowed down to roughly 10% speed.  The rest of the arrangement is filled with dense 7 part counterpoint that reharmonizes the original melody and gives motion that would otherwise be very static.

 

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This is a pretty interesting idea - at over three minutes, the source only plays through once, which means it's been stretched to roughly 3-4x it's original length. Rather than acting as the focal point, this arrangement builds something rather different using the source as the backing glue to keep it all together. Intruiging; while I can see others perhaps saying it doesn't sound enough like the source, I'd argue it doesn't need to - having something sound so different while still TECHNICALLY containing the source in it's entirety is a very interesting way of interpreting OCR site rules.

The performances are quite good, and the recordings are generally clean. The one issue I have with this (and it's not a small issue) is the overuse of production effects; the flangers, the phasors, etc., really do sound slapped on, rather than letting the music speak for itself. It's the artist's choice and all, but considering everything else it just makes no sense to layer special effects on a brass septet like that.

The pacing takes getting used to, but I like the idea. I don't think the random special effects sprinkled in there take this below the bar, so I'm all for this one. I could see a differing opinion on the arrangement on the panel, though, so I bid good luck on the rest of the panel!

YES

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Well, this is certainly a novel approach.  It took me 2 1/2 listens before the SMB melody finally popped out at me.  In most of the arrangement, it's pushed below the counterpoint, so it's hard to pick out even knowing what you're supposed to be listening for.  The source is unnecessarily hard to identify because of the balance choices here--it's a moderate problem that causes a more severe one as a side effect.  In a more "normal" arrangement I think a lead that's buried like this would make my vote borderline at best, but in this, it takes away from the whole conceit.  It would be a rare casual listener that would ever make the connection on their own.

I agree with Gario that the effects are also a bit of a problem, especially the white noise wash, which really doesn't add anything.  Cutting down on that will also help with the balance issue, so I encourage you to look into it.  I don't think you need to eliminate the effects altogether, though; in many places they work just fine IMO.

I love the idea, and the performance is great, but I think the lead needs to pop out more for the whole concept to click.

NO (please resubmit)

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I'll be honest this is super cool but also it's too transformative to the point where it's too hard to tell what this is a remix of.  If I showed this to someone without context, even someone well-versed in vgm, I don't think that person will be able to tell this is a remix of such a popular and well-known song, which is a problem IMO.  Yes, if I listen really hard, I can hear the connections, but they're too faint and diluted due to the extreme slowdown.

I enjoyed this a lot on its own, great performances, and the atmosphere was great, but this doesn't really work as a remix IMO.

NO

EDIT 6/5/2018 : After Larry requested a review back in April I've been coming back to this track a few times and every time is the same.  I find the approach too transformative and I can't make the connection unless I try very hard, and even then the connections I make are tenuous and fleeting.  I must add that I'm very familiar with the original and I just have to think of the theme for the song to pop in my head.  I did not base my vote on whether someone else would be able to make the connection, I based it on my analysis, I only mentioned this could be a problem if this song gets posted and the listeners are confused by their expectations of a remix.

I'm reiterating my vote, if anyone thinks I'm doing a bad job because I still think the track is too transformative then I'll live with that.  I've come back to this track more than any other track I've evaluated, and basing my evaluation on the submission standards:

3. The source material must be identifiable and dominant.

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Going to disagree that this is too transformative when we've accepted and posted something like My Child (and plenty of other academic mixes) that include retrogrades and other transformative arrangements that aren't necessarily recognizable. I didn't really have an issue hearing the source but I do agree that you have to know what you are looking for to pick it or at times.

The effects are a bit of a head scratcher to me, specifically since the group setting of live brass doesn't really seem to fit having such effects, but I still give that up to personal choice by the artist.

Nice work overall!

YES

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I don't hear the source at all, and I agree with Sir_NutS that if I played this for someone with no explanation, they would most likely never pick out the source tune.  The effects are very odd to me, this tune is very unusual, and I can't say I am enjoying it. 

Edit:  My level of enjoyment does not affect this vote.  But no matter how many times I listen to this, I cannot discern the source.

NO

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3. The source material must be identifiable and dominant.

  • While interpretation and original additions are encouraged, arrangement must not modify the source material beyond recognition.

I'm not voting yet, but just pointing out that I don't vote by whether another listener can identify the modified source material, but only whether I myself can. Sometimes that's not possible to do unless I'm explicitly told what to listen for, and that's allowed. I'm happy to have djp clarify his POV of this language in the Standards, but I don't believe anyone should frame votes with other listeners in mind. If, for example, the standards were about what a casual listener could pick out, we'd be a lot more conservative and less transformative re: what was approved.

On 4/3/2018 at 4:24 PM, Chimpazilla said:

The effects are very odd to me, this tune is very unusual, and I can't say I am enjoying it.

Not that there isn't some degree of subjectivity to voting, and no hate on Chimpa, but this feels too subjective and unconstructive. Odd effects, sounding unusual, and, yes, even personally disliking a track all aren't things that would necessarily tank a submission according to the standards, even all at once, so it's important to clarify if this is just a NO vote on lack of identifiable source usage -- and the other observations having no bearing on your decision -- or if the writing and/or production were lacking for any specific and (potentially actionable) reasons. "2 weird 4 me" shouldn't cut it. :-)

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Finding the source fairly hard to identify here myself. In isolation the piece is quite well done, feels like the backing soundtrack to an old movie. The effects are interesting and provide a way to make the arrangement feel different over the duration while maintaining the slower pacing and minimalism of the instrumentation. I think this one is quite tough to make a call on, my main concerns are nested with the issue of clear source usage. The way its presented makes the track feel so different from the original, which is a great creative achievement in some ways, but also plays a fairly major downside for source clarity. Clear source usage infers that we can tell the track is a remix/arrangement of the selected song, I can only speak for myself - it's not easy for me. I appreciate what's been done here but this may have pushed creative boundaries a little too much.

NO

Edit 190209: Have revisited the mix on request of the panel. While I don't doubt there's source in there, it's difficult for me to properly discern it. If a track needs a speed increase several times over to help make the connection, I think that's falling short for our purposes. Don't get me wrong, it's a creative mix – just a bit too creative.

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The track was 3:21-long, so I needed at least 100.5 seconds of overt source usage for the VGM to be dominant in the arrangement.

:26.5-:42, :48-1:03.5, 1:09.25-1:25.5, 1:30.5-1:46.5, 2:07.75-2:54 = 109.5 seconds or 54.47% source usage

The approach here was definitely transformative, so I needed some time to get used to the track; I revisited this weeks later after making my first post, so I recommend the NO votes revisit this as well to make doubly sure they can't wrap their heads around the source usage.

I did take some time away from it, but once I came back to it today, I understood the source usage pretty plainly; in fact, when it was in play, I couldn't help but focus on the source melody on brass RATHER than the surrounding instruments. The source tune's a pretty simple melody, so I strongly disagreed with the judges who said this is too transformative; being frank, I think rejecting this for the source tune being "unrecognizable" or "not recognizable enough" means we're doing a bad job, because aside from slowing the melody down and adding other writing in front on it, the melody is pretty straightforward. I'd get if the song were slowed down to 1% or something extremely drastic like that, but this is hardly slowed down enough to where we couldn't make it out.

That said, doubling down on my previous point, the arrangement standards to my understanding are not and never have been whether listeners should be casually able to connect a ReMix to a source, but whether the judges engaged in active listening can. 

On the production side, I could have done without the hissing from 1:51-2:30, which sounded arbitrary; I'd rather have it removed, but I won't reject it for that. I didn't have a problem with the balance of the parts; your mileage may vary, but it's nothing messing up the listening experience.

It would be a shame to reject this on arrangement grounds just because it took an unorthodox approach. This isn't how we should be doing things.

YES

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For the record, I haven't been (entirely) slacking on this one. This is the third time I've come back to it in search of source usage.  Even with the timestamps given above, I honestly had a really hard time picking out what was going on.  Mainly because the theme is so slowed down and at times gets overshadowed by more complex or louder parts and/or the phasing effect used in the middle.  This time was literally the first time I was able to sit down, listen to it, and have the usage finally really pop out to me.

To that end, I've still been on the fence on whether or not it qualifies as dominant usage.  Yes, it is present for a majority of the song, however, it gets obscured both by how transformative it is (slowed way down, interspersed other note runs between melody lines) as well as at times being sidelined by other more complex elements in the song.  I basically had to train myself to focus on the sustained melody lines and ignore the other stuff being played.  I think some rebalancing to bring forward and/or EQ boost to 2K+ or so on the melody line could really help in this regard.

Note on the hissing, I wouldn't be surprised if it's natural hiss on the recording being amplified by the phaser added on.  That could probably be fixed by noise removal or dampened by some EQ work without losing the desired effect.

Production-wise, it's reasonably well produced.  In general, there's a lack of clarity, probably due to the live recording environment, but not a dealbreaker by any means.  Some rolling off of the mids/mid-lows on some parts could probably clean it up a bit to give more space between elements.  Parts are well performed.

I know Larry's pretty passionate about this one, but it wasn't nearly as much of a slam dunk for me.  I have to say, though, the more times I listen, the more clear the melody comes through and that, with the level of production, is enough to bring it over for me.

YES (borderline)

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I don't think the effects are working in this piece's favor. The hiss is too distracting.

I like the core idea of the arrangement but I found it difficult to follow because of the effects added. If this had been purely a brass arrangement I could see myself passing it, but I've gotta say NO.

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I've added a link in the first post to this mix at 3x speed. For the NOs on recognizability, listen to the sped up version, then go back and listen to the sub and see if it's still a NO-go due to the slowness. But the source is definitely there in a very straightforward way.

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Apologies for the delay; I honestly don't know which way to go on this one.

It's VERY arguable on the "recognizable use of source" angle - *unless* you speed it up, it is... temporally challenging... to track the notes, over such durations, and connect them to the source.

That being said, since I am uncertain, I believe we should err on the side of an expansive & inclusive definition of source usage. I *could* see this mix being removed in a future lockdown if we need to reel things in and determine that accepting this arrangement marked a "point too far" in terms of the threshold for this particular consideration, but I don't want to hold things up any longer, I'm curious to see fan/community reaction, and in all other regards it's a mesmerizing & quite creative piece of music.

YES (possible future lockdown candidate)

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