Open source music = stem tracks?

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Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby West » July 10th, 2010, 10:13 pm

There's been a lot of discussions about what consitutes the "source" of an open source piece of music, and to my knowledge there's never been any consensus because a) project files won't be of use to anyone else unless they have the exact same DAW, samples and plugins, and b) the rendered wave file of the tune can't be considered source, because you can't really change it very much.

There is however sort of a middle ground, which is stem tracks. Stem tracks are dry rendered wave files of every track in a mix, and technically you can load them into any DAW and remix to your heart's content. No, you still can't change what the individual instruments are playing, but you *can* change levels, effects and so on. With some copy, cut & paste work, you can even change the arrangement.

As an example, here are the stem tracks for Silvan Sanctuary. FLAC format, 24 bits, 44.1kHz (will likely need to be converted to wav before importing into your host).

As cool as this might be, I really wouldn't want to make it a requirement that Wesnoth composers must post stems for all their mainline pieces. With REAPER it's fairly easy to do but I'm not sure all DAW's actually can export stems and we wouldn't want to lose valuable contributors just because their software lacks this specific feature. Not to mention that we're talking some pretty massive amounts of data if we're going to keep stem versions of all mainline music around for people who might want the "source". Even with a compressed format like FLAC, we'd be looking at several gigabytes of files.

Nonetheless, I would like to encourage all mainline composers to release stems for their tunes. If nothing else, it might be educational for budding contributors to be able to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby Tyler Johnson » July 11th, 2010, 2:48 am

I wouldn't be entirely opposed to doing this.

I'm sorry I've missed previous discussions about this matter, but what does the GPL license say about this?

Does it have to be EVERY track? That could easily be 500 minutes of .wav files in a 5 minute song if someone is using the Platinum version of EWQLSO. 100 tracks is a very simple task in this case, since each instruments articulation will most likely have 3 tracks assigned to it; close mic, stage mic and surround mic.

What about each instrument family? Brass, Woodwind, Strings, Percussion? Keep it simple.

Even then, the game package would easily add several gigs if these files came packaged with the game, unless they were kept on a server online for download and manipulation.

I wouldn't be opposed to delivering .wav stems of the pieces I've contributed so far, as long as I can open the sessions again (it's been a while and my setup has changed multiple times).
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby Tyler Johnson » July 19th, 2010, 5:12 pm

Bump.

This is an important topic, I'm surprised no one has commented on it. I think the developers should shed some knowledge on the subject. Is anyone clear on the exact GPL license concerning this?
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby West » July 19th, 2010, 5:42 pm

Considering that the stems I posted have been downloaded only twice, I don't think there's sufficient interest to go through all the trouble of making the files available. I for one lost all interest in doing it again.
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby Tyler Johnson » July 20th, 2010, 4:34 am

West, don't take them down yet. I'm not in a place where I have a solid connection, but I would love to download them and check them out!
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby desertdweller » July 20th, 2010, 10:31 pm

I honestly skimmed through this topic and completely missed the point of it. o_0 Now that I see what they are I will most certainly take a look when I get a chance. :)
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby Tyler Johnson » July 21st, 2010, 6:16 am

I think people may have been confused by the term "stem tracks", even though some people know what that means, not a lot of people have heard that term, and just by reading it you can't figure out what it means.

But this is an important topic, and it regards a legal issue.

Although, I know I can't open up some of my old sessions. I can't open Into the Shadows anymore, since I'm on a new setup, I can provide stems of Sad, and actually, maybe not even casualties of war.

Is there anyway we can setup a standard, like just provide family stems? Like I said, in some sessions if someone is using EWQLSO Platinum, you can have up to 50 tracks for strings, at least! For a 5 minute song, that's 250 minutes of .wav files, which is a lot of space...just for strings.

I would be happy with .wav stems of each family.

That way it's only 20 minutes of .wav's instead of hundeds. Thoughts?
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby zookeeper » July 21st, 2010, 6:34 am

I can't say whether stem tracks would really qualify as the source in a strictly legal sense (I doubt anyone can say anything truly conclusive either way), but I do think that for music, providing even just the family stem tracks would be well enough in line with the spirit of the GPL.

So, I personally would encourage people to do that. We can stash the tracks in a central place somewhere if people start posting them, although I'm not sure if the current resources branch of the repo would be a good place, since the tracks would take up a whole lot of space.
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Re: Open source music = stem tracks?

Postby West » July 22nd, 2010, 10:05 pm

Tyler Johnson wrote:West, don't take them down yet. I'm not in a place where I have a solid connection, but I would love to download them and check them out!


I can't take the file down even if I wanted to, once it's up on filefront it stays there until it gets pruned b/c of too few downloads. Which might have already happened as the link throws me an error.


Tyler Johnson wrote:I think people may have been confused by the term "stem tracks", even though some people know what that means, not a lot of people have heard that term, and just by reading it you can't figure out what it means.


Maybe so, but in my defense I *did* explain what stem tracks are in my initial post. :)

Tyler Johnson wrote:Although, I know I can't open up some of my old sessions. I can't open Into the Shadows anymore, since I'm on a new setup, I can provide stems of Sad, and actually, maybe not even casualties of war.


Same here. So for anyone hoping for stems for TKID or whatever, sorry, it ain't gonna happen. At least not without me moving around dozens of gigabytes of samples between drives and installing Cubase again. And frankly I have better things to do with my time.

Tyler Johnson wrote:Is there anyway we can setup a standard, like just provide family stems? Like I said, in some sessions if someone is using EWQLSO Platinum, you can have up to 50 tracks for strings, at least! For a 5 minute song, that's 250 minutes of .wav files, which is a lot of space...just for strings.


I see what you mean, but instrument families is a bit too limited IMO. You won't be able to do a whole lot of remixing with a single stereo track with *all* strings, for example. OTOH, when you start dividing everything up into sections, you end up with a ton of large files.

As for the SS stems, I rendered the outputs of the two instances of sfz+ I was using. 2x8 outputs, 16 tracks. So some things had to end up on the same tracks, e.g. flutes and clarinets are on a single stem track. That's also something to take into account: what your sampler can actually output as discrete tracks. Someone using a multi-timbral sample player with only one output won't be able to create stems at all :/
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