Category Archives: Music

Symphonic Poem no. 1

I just finished, in some sense, the first of a series (hopefully) of symphonic poems. I took a long break in the middle of writing this, so I could be mistaken, but I think it took about 20 hours total. It still needs a little tweaking; in particular some of the harmonies on the climaxes are drowned out by the percussion and poor instrument balancing, and I’m not sure if I’m happy with the ending (it’s meant to be a little unsettling…). But the idea is there.



SNW Backlogging

SNW is dead :-(. But I still have some recordings lying around that I’m gradually editing. Here’s the first batch, from March 20:

  • 01
  • 02 – a minimalist (in the classical sense) exercise
  • 03
  • 04 – fun and funky
  • 05 – a long piece with many sections, pretty upbeat

#01 and #03 are included for completeness; they suck :-p. The rest are pretty good.

Another Session with Bob

Here’s the session from March 5th, with Bob Mulligan on drums. This was the first session I recorded with three tracks; the sound is much, must cleaner than last time.

  • 01 – light and fluffy
  • 02 – gets good and funky by the end
  • 03 – a fantastic space out jam, very subtle with lots of interesting textures
  • 04 – some eccentric piano jazz
  • 05 – almost tribal funk
  • 06 – an interesting polyrhythmic piece
  • 07 – happy and chilled-out

My favorites are 1,3, and 5.

The Return of Strange New Worlds

By now, Eric is fleeing to Venezuela to go make some latin band down there awesome, and do God-knows-what else. Meanwhile, Evan and I have been playing with a drummer named Bob Mulligan, who is too good for us. Still, it’s a great opportunity to play with him, and I think given a few months after we find each other’s buttons we could rock.

Eric was our recording engineer, too, so we’ll have to make do with the room mic again. Still, with some post-processing, it’s not too bad.

Using the Guitar Hero controller as a musical instrument

At the show last night I played the Guitar Hero X-Plorer controller. No, really, as if it were a real instrument. Like, I could actually determine whether I played a C or a D.

After the show people asked me how I did it. XNA easily interfaces with the X-Plorer controller as a standard xbox 360 controller. So I built a little C# program (after learning C# with some of Jude’s help) using XNA and the C# MIDI Toolkit to map the controls to MIDI notes (in a clever way, see the program documentation for more details) and output to a MIDI Yoke port which was read by Reason. Then I just used Reason’s excellent guitar and synth patches and played away. There will be YouTube videos of the show soon :-).

The C# program is here, called Guitar Hero Hero, and here is the source.

Orson Scott Card Improvs

Last week I picked up a book of short stories by Orson Scott Card. Two of them (so far) have inspired improvisations:

  • The Maker (from “Unaccompanied Sonata”)
  • Songbird (from “Mikal’s Songbird”)

The Maker is an uptempo and very dissonant, built on augmented chords and a random alternating bassline.

Songbird is one of the most complex pieces I have improvised so far. It is harmonious (it stays diatonically in one scale almost the whole time), but there are at least three voices that I can identify. While improvising this one, I kept thinking to myself that I should end it soon before I mess up, because I can’t keep up the complexity… but I didn’t. I just kept going until the song wanted to end. In my opinion, this is one of my best improvs to date.

Oh, I should say something about “Mikal’s Songbird”. This is a jewel of Orson Scott Card’s work: great story, beautifully written, captivating to read. I highly recommend it.

Non-improv band

In the style of the SNW call for musicians which created the last year of great music, I just posted the following to craigslist Denver.

I’m trying to create a project, in whatever genre that emerges from it, which is inspired by the ideas of classical music. That is, a project where members write complex songs with beautiful harmonic interplays and variety, not songs based on repetition of the same idea for five minutes and then end.

I come from a background of improv jazz/funk and classical piano music. Basically I want to see what music with a jazz/funk instrumentation sounds like if it’s be finely arranged and rehearsed, in a way that would be impossible to improvise. Hmm, it might end up sounding kind of prog-rocky. I’m open to whatever happens with it, though.

So, I’m looking for any talented instrumentalists regardless of their instrument (in order to put together a balanced ensemble for the first session). You get extra points for each of these things: * reading music, * being a composer, * open-mindedness.

Don’t worry, SNW is not dying1. At the risk of musicing myself out, this is an additional band.

1 However, it will undergo a personnel change in the near future. Eric is moving to Argentina :-(. Farewell Eric, it will be damn near impossible to replace you.

Session with David Barry

We had a jam session last night, with David Barry standing in for Eric on drums:

4 and 5 are pretty cool, the rest are listenable but nothing spectacular. Part of that could be blamed on the recording, which popped and clicked, and removing the pops and clicks left little “holes” which messes up the rhythm by a few milliseconds, which is apparently enough to notice.