After five years of faithful service, my old
HP 9800 wide format printer died this morning. I started printing a score from the project I’m working
on with Byron, and it started making strange noises while it retrieved a sheet of paper and started printing.
Suddenly, it made its last loud noise and died. I buried it out in the depths of my garage along
with other items that have met a similar fate.
So I went to Office Depot and bought an HP 7000 wide format printer.
This one works well with Windows 7, can handle all the types of paper I use for scores and parts, and is even a little
faster. I’ve printed out some parts and a score with it and it performs quite well. It
will work with both Windows and Mac. However, my price out the door was close to $300, but included an
additional 2-year warranty. But I’m back in business, and that’s what matters.
completed the first two of the seven scores I’ll be doing for Byron. That includes creating a playback
CD of the instrumental portion of the score. This has posed some interesting problems. Byron,
not being aware of what’s involved in using a computer and software to notate, create an audio file, edit and mix that
audio and render it to a CD, asks for things that are sometimes very difficult or virtually impossible to do.
So our working together has been educational, especially for him, as I enlighten him as to what’s doable and
In turn, it has been educational for me because I’m challenged to find within Sibelius
the ways and means to do much of what he’s asked. So it’s been a two-way street, so to speak.
But one area that has been the most problematic for both of us is dynamics. Byron assigns dynamic
markings like mp (mezzo-piano) in a casual manner, knowing he’ll rehearse with the players
and establish the balance he wants through that process. Sibelius, on the other hand, sees an
mp as a specific volume (approximately a 71 on a scale of 0 to 127). It doesn’t
compensate for anything.
Because we’re creating a playback audio file by exporting it from the score using the virtual
instruments I’ve assigned, it reads all these markings according to the definition in its playback dictionary and plays
them back as written. Now there are a number of ways to make adjustments using various plug ins (for diminuendo
or crescendo on a held note, for instance) or by assigning a specific volume level to a note by attaching a command to it
like ~C7,71 which calls for the MIDI controller for volume (C7) and assigning a level of 71 (which is approximately mp).
This forces Sibelius to play that note at mp. The command itself
is hidden on the score and only affects playback. The score itself looks normal, so the conductor doesn’t
So I have to dig deep in my Sibelius know-how bag of tricks and creatively accommodate Byron’s wishes
wherever I can. For instance, on Amazing Grace, the first seven bars are identified with letters
A thru F. The remaining bars are numbers but starting at 15.
Sibelius intuitively numbers bars from 1 and continues sequentially for the rest of the score.
But you can override that and force it to use letters and to have it start at whatever point you choose with whatever
number you want to start with. Fortunately, this isn’t a long and tedious process, so accommodating
this wasn’t a big deal.
But it’s the interpretation of dynamics that’s the real problem and it has more to
do with the relative precision Sibelius applies versus the relative and approximate application of dynamics markings
most composers and arrangers use. They know they’ll coax the performance they’re looking for
from the players who’ll perform it live. Programs, like Sibelius or Finale use
very specific interpretations of most markings on a score, not just dynamics.
That’s because the
original intent of the playback feature of these programs was to give the composer an idea of what the piece will sound like.
It wasn’t intended to render a final mix ready for recording as a finished product. But that’s
what I do and it’s what a lot of other composers and producers do every day. Most use DAW software
like Sonar or Cubase and don’t even read music, let alone use a notation package to document the music.
Final and ready to go tracks are produced with a computer all the time.
In some cases, there’s live players, sometimes
not. In our collaboration, we have both situations. The score and parts are notated
so that a live player can read and perform the music as written with a little guidance from the conductor, in this case Byron.
My first task is to notate everything exactly as Byron has in his hand-written scores, to ensure the players have accurate
parts and Byron has an accurate score. The benefit is I will produce engraved quality manuscripts that
are much easier to read.
But the playback CD requirement is where we are having the most problems. Conventional
notations that he puts in his scores and I transcribe to the computer-generated score are interpreted in playback differently
than Byron expects. The obvious difference is he’s used to working with live musicians, I’m
used to working with virtual instruments. We have to find as much common ground as possible to satisfy
both worlds. So far, this has been a struggle but we’re getting through it.
As Byron intends to use
me as his copyist on all projects going forward, it’s imperative we cultivate a mutual work process that accomplishes
what his client is looking for. He sees offering a playback CD as a definite plus and gives him a big advantage.
Many other composers and arrangers already do that, so Byron needs to in order to stay in the game. That’s
why he’s partnered with me. He avails himself of my experience using computers to make music so he
doesn’t have to go through the steep learning curve of trying to acquire these skills on his own.
That works for me as well.
It keeps me involved in the business but in a way that separates me from the commercial side of things.
Byron negotiates my fees with his clients. I don’t intend to do this for anyone else, so that
works for me. I’m not desperate for the bread but a few extra coin is a nice thing. I’m
satisfied with the arrangement. I’m also pleased to be able to put to use the years of experience
I’ve accumulated using computers and music production software for someone else besides myself. At
the same time, Byron is gathering an education of sorts on computers and music software that helps him to better understand
its capabilities and, more importantly, its limitations.
He can now have conversations with others and better understand
and use the vernacular of the technology. So he’s benefitting as well, in more ways than just getting
the scores and parts he needs for the sessions. Through Byron’s scores, I see things he typically
uses that I never do in the type of work I compose. I get introduced to callouts and the like I never saw
before, so I learn about them and what they mean and how they’re used. It’s an education for
There are things that Byron adds to his scores that come from his years of writing for singers and other
performers, making records and conducting live performances, that I’ve not seen before, that are born out of a need
to better communicate with musicians. Very often what it says in the books and what goes on in the studio
are two different things. It’s good to know and understand these things for me. So
this project, stressful as it sometimes can be, has been a very worthwhile effort for me, and I think for Byron as well.
October draws to a close, I see that my readership has declined somewhat. I’m think a lot of that
had to do with me being sick for at least half of this month and really not writing anything worthwhile. When you’re
out of it, it’s hard to be “on”. If I don’t write anything, you have nothing to
read. But I’m back up and healthy, so I hope to resume a full schedule of blogging once again and,
hopefully, give all of you something worth reading. I really appreciate your loyalty and hope to continue
this for a long time. I’ve just renewed my contract with Register.com for another year, so I’ll
be here. Thanks again.
Trick or treat,
If you’ve been following the weather news
these past few days, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the storm that hit the Midwest. Well, I live
in northwestern Illinois, which was very close to the center of this storm and it took its toll on us. I
lost power for about 14 hours, starting about 7:30 am on Monday, October 25. Besides all the usual inconveniences
of not having electricity, I also lost the day of working on Byron’s project. Even though we have
time on our side, I really didn’t want to waste any of it.
It does bring into sharp focus our utter dependency on electrical
power. My situation is compounded by the fact that I have a well, so loss of power also means no running
water. This raises the inconvenience bar up a notch. Of course my car is in the garage
with a door that opens electronically, so I had to disengage the chain drive so I could open the door by hand.
We decided to have our internet connection, home phone and cable television service all be provided by one company.
The downside, of course, is no power, no phone.
But I still had my cell phone but I couldn’t charge the battery
for obvious reasons, so I went out of the blackout area to a store where I could get a car charger for my cell phone.
I found one and proceeded to connect my phone to it and drive around charging my phone. As a side
benefit, I enjoyed the heater running so I could warm up because it was getting a little chilly, and of course I had no heat
at home. While I was out, I decided to pick up a sandwich for lunch as I didn’t want to open the
refrigerator for fear everything might start to spoil.
So the list of dependencies started to add up pretty fast.
I realized we’re screwed! Without power, everything we have, in one way or another, is useless.
If you don’t have a well, you’ll probably have running water, assuming the pumping station has power.
Oh yeah, the gas stove still works, so you could cook something if you had to, assuming you can see what you’re
doing and your food is still edible. Battery operated devices still work, assuming you have a supply of
batteries. If they’re rechargeable, you might be in trouble. Yeah, we’re
screwed, and there isn’t much we can do about it.
We’re techno-trapped! The alternative,
if you could call it that, is to have a backup generator to provide power until they restore things. But
that can be a challenge as well. You have to get one big enough to run all your stuff, and connect it correctly
to your home’s electrical circuits so you don’t blow something up, most likely yourself. Yes,
it was a fun couple of days. But we’re past all of that and I’m back working on Byron’s
project. I managed to get the first score done and emailed it as a PDF file, along with an MP3 file extracted
from the virtual playback, to Byron so he can review the score for mistakes and determine if the playback is okay as is, or
if we needed to modify tempo or re-mix things for balance.
He is reviewing the score as I write this and will call me so we
can go over it and make corrections. In our last project, he was not very comfortable with PDF files and
viewing the score on screen, but he’s getting better about such things. The alternative is for me
to print out a copy and mail it to him overnight. This is both costly (for me) and time consuming.
So I convinced him doing the reviews online was a better alternative. He agreed. The
new addition for this project is the audio file.
When we spoke over the phone, I played back a little of it for him
and he immediately realized the tempo was too slow, so we got out our metronomes and decided it should be mm=176.
I made the change and played it back for him. He was satisfied. There’s
also a bar marked poco ritardando. In Sibelius, you can call out a ritardando
and modify the amount of ritard you want, expressed as a percentage of the original tempo. I modified it
to 65%. So he’ll review that in the audio file to see if it’s enough.
The biggest challenge
is translating his intentions, as notated on his score, into the appropriate markings in Sibelius that are interpreted
during playback. I have to, first of all, retain his markings so both he and the players are on the same
page and reading the common language. But I have to, second of all, accommodate what Sibelius
will allow me to do and attempt to reconcile that to what Byron has written. They’re not always the
same thing. Sibelius follows certain conventions that are consistent with accepted notation practice.
But Byron adds other markings that his experience has taught him are better understood by most session players.
My task is
to find enough common ground to accommodate both conventions and get as close as I can to a reasonable compromise.
Sometimes, I negotiate with Byron about changing some of what he’s called out for a similar callout in Sibelius.
It’s part of the dialogue we engage in to reach a consensus. What results is an engraved-quality
score that’s still close enough to Byron’s intent to work. In this case, the performance will
be live on stage. But there will be about a week of rehearsals, so any glitches and interpretation issues
should be worked out.
I try to keep errors to a minimum so proof reading reveals very few mistakes. Most
that I make are misinterpretations of what notes Byron intended, mostly due to the usual problems with hand writing scores.
Often, a note placed on a space appears to also cover the line above or below it. Now I have to
determine what the note actually is. Often it’s doubled in another instrument, so I look at that
to see what note is being played by the doubled instrument and interpret the other accordingly.
The rest of what
needs to be done is handled very nicely by Sibelius. I use a wide carriage HP 9800 inkjet printer
for both scores and parts. I usually print scores on 11” x 17” stock and spiral bind them with
covers front and back. I print parts on 9-1/2” x 12-1/2” heavy stock I get from Judy Greene
Music (now All-Print since Judy’s death in 2007). This is a premium paper (about $80
a ream) but is perfect for parts printing because it’s heavy enough so it won’t fall off the music stand and beige
in color, making for nice readability in most lighting.
Since the parts for this project are typically
2 or 3 pages long, I will tape them so they lay flat on the stand. The fewer page turns you have, the fewer
opportunities for problems like knocking the part on the floor or other such disasters. Stage performance
requires a whole different set of requirements than a studio recording session. In the studio, you can
dress informally and do several takes to get it right, although most professionals get it right on the first take.
On stage, you have to look good and get it right the first time. So whatever I can do to facilitate
that (the getting it right the first time part), I make sure I take into consideration.
Relatively speaking, this is about all the stress
associated with doing copyist work. After 40 years in the corporate world, this is a walk in the park on
the stress meter. Besides, I find that adding a little stress like this helps me to keep a sharp edge.
I never want to return to the stress levels I experienced in all my years working, but this doesn’t even compare.
So it gets my juices flowing and prompts me to really focus. This is actually a good thing.
Byron and I get along very well and have always had a mutual respect for each other. This makes
for candid conversation regarding score interpretation without any ego problems getting in the way.
There will be seven scores
to be transcribed. This is regarded as a moderately sized project, as projects go. A
film score is a whole other thing. Those are much lengthier and far more complex scores. If
Byron gets a movie score gig, it will definitely be a challenge for me. The only time I did a film score
was for a film I put together, which was only about fifteen minutes long. Feature films are a different
animal altogether. But it would be a challenge I’d be up for.
Being a copyist for Byron opens me up to opportunities
I wouldn’t otherwise come across. I wouldn’t want to be a copyist for anyone else, as I simply
couldn’t keep up with that level of demand. I don’t plan on doing this professionally.
I still want time to work on my own music. So limiting my copyist work to just Byron works out nicely
for me. And it gives Byron a resource that allows him to take advantage of technology and capability he
doesn’t have. This negates the need for him to acquire the wherewithal to do the same thing, as well
as the steep learning curve required to effectively use it. So I’m his hired gun, a fitting gig for
this Chicago Italian.
Peace, love and tolerance,
How many of you are part of a social network
like Facebook or Twitter? Do you use it for personal or professional reasons, or both?
Many people in all areas of the music business are using these social networks to stay in touch with colleagues and
to keep current with what’s happening in the industry. Whether or not you believe they’re a
good thing is irrelevant. They’re not going away. They may be replaced by a newer
version (like Facebook overtaking MySpace in popularity) but they aren’t going anywhere.
not without their problems. There have been privacy issues where personal information has been pirated.
We would be naive to think that any venture into cyberspace will be risk free. There will always
be a few schmucks out there who are evil-minded and will try to take advantage of a situation. But over-reacting
with extreme censorship measures is not the answer. Acting responsibly and intelligently is.
Don’t put information out there that, if put in the wrong hands, can do you harm.
For me, this website
and this blog are my main avenues of communication. For the small amount of work I do for others, I find
that email and phone conversations suffice. I don’t actively solicit work from others and, therefore,
have no need, beyond my website and email, to have an internet presence, like a Facebook page. As
for Twitter, this is something that makes sense for those with Smartphones and the like who text message as a primary
means of communication.
I no longer have a Smartphone and have never liked texting.
When I’d get a text message from someone, asking a question, I’d usually reply with a simple “Yes”
or “No”. Sometimes they’d ask me if I was mad at them because my replies were short.
I’d always tell them, no I’m not angry, I just hate texting! My computer keyboard and
monitor are as small a texting vehicle as I’d like.
Telling me to text on a phone with mini-keys
and a small screen is a waste of time. I’m not doing it. It’s especially
a pain with a touch-screen phone where I invariably have to correct wrong key entries for most of the message.
Besides, I tend to be too literal. I haven’t mastered the short-hand language of texting nor
do I have any desire to. I tend to spell out each word and, heaven forefend, use correct grammar.
When you add up all these deficiencies, it makes for a very slow and arduous messaging process.
But I would
never say that Facebook and Twitter are bad things. If your perception is that they’re
a great means of communicating, and you have the wherewithal to use them, then you should. Whatever facilitates
better communication between people for any reason is a good thing. But what I see happening sometimes
is very typical of how people react when using the internet for any of its many purposes.
People tend to go into this protective cocoon
when they’re online, like there was nobody else around. They sometimes get lulled into a false sense
of security, never considering that what they’re writing or pictures they’re uploading can be seen by everyone
else. So they say things that are private and show things that can be potentially embarrassing, never thinking
that these things will be open to the public, some of whom are not their friends and are often vicious.
Like the person who just
started a new teaching job and bragged about how easy it was and how much free time he had to do other things.
His boss read his tweet and he got fired. I view this from two perspectives. First,
he should have the right to say whatever he wants because that right is protected by the constitution. Second,
if he’s that stupid and couldn’t figure out what he was saying was being broadcast to the world, he should have
been fired because someone that dumb shouldn’t be teaching our kids. It’s a double-edged sword.
I’ve read, those who should know advise keeping personal networking separate from professional networking.
This makes sense to me. Having spent many years in the corporate world, most business associations
were kept business only with just a minimal amount of personal small talk. We’d usually limit that
conversation to general things like “how’s the family?” or “how’s your kids doing
in school?”. We’d never say things like “do you know who the father is?”.
We didn’t need a guide book to tell us it wasn’t cool to say this, we just knew.
So mixing personal
and professional social networking can be hazardous. It makes sense to keep them apart. I
guess a lot of this depends on how private a person you are. I tend to be private. That
is I’m usually reluctant to reveal a lot about my personal life. I feel it serves no purpose, so
I just don’t do it. However, if I think something about me personally will help to emphasize a point
I’m trying to make, I’ll reveal it but not in any great detail.
I’ll say just enough
to make the point, as I did a few weeks ago when I told all of you about an old girlfriend whom I had an intimate relationship
with. I revealed that in the context of making a point, not as a tabloid bit of gossip. I
did so because I felt that you could, in some way, relate to it and, therefore, better get my point. Evidently
I was right because readership for that particular blog entry was the highest I’d ever received. Or
maybe you guys just like stories with sex in it. I’m not sure.
Because I’m still a member of the Society
of Composers, I am copied on all emails from members of the listserve (all SCI members). There
has been ongoing threads discussing things like experimental music (should we or shouldn’t we), compose or starve, and
questions about computer music. I usually don’t respond to any of these but I do read them.
It would seem the overwhelming majority of members are involved in academia. In fact this organization
started out as a forum for academics involved with music.
So it’s no surprise that the respondents are all teachers
or educators of some kind and, as such, have that academia air about them, almost snobbish. But I try and
see past that to the points they’re trying to make and the validity of the arguments they offer. Some
are actually surprisingly open-minded and advocate exploring and experimenting musically to their students. That
was refreshing and exciting to see. But many seemed to still have that closed-minded view of things and,
sadly, tend to pass that down to their students.
I’ve already decided not to renew my membership and will
allow the current one to expire. I did the same thing with the American Society of Composers for
the same reasons. I am not now nor have ever been part of the academic world. I’ve
known many people who have. I think, for the most part, they’re in their own world and that world
often has little to do with the real world. Their students usually go on to jobs in academia as well.
Very few enter the music business, at least in any major way.
But that’s cool.
Everybody’s got to do something. Like I always say, there’s room for everyone.
But I guess it bugs me to hear their pontificating and expounding, even if it has little real substance, just because
they’re teachers. Teachers, like Doctors, are far from infallible. What comes
from their lips is not always true or even close. Use your own brain to figure things out.
I think these SCI members engage in these email threads just to try and impress everyone else, like a bunch of peacocks
strutting around the barnyard. But that’s just my opinion. I’m one voice
among many. But I use my voice because this is my blog. If you’ve got something
to say, start one of your own. Seriously, most are free and the experience is very satisfying.
you to visit my What’s New page and check out the first two “Stones” in the series of
six I’m planning. They’re short statements of electronic music, generated with HighC,
a PC program very similar to the UPIC Xenakis used. It allows you to “paint”
your music on a grid with pitch on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal. You can make it for any
desired duration and choose from a variety of sound sources.
I usually generate a main theme (for lack of
a better term) and then vary that in different ways (shorten or lengthen the duration, reverse it or modify it with some echoing
or reverberation). I then arrange each of these iterations on a timeline in Sonar and mix the
whole thing down to a final track. That becomes the “Stone”. I’ll
do the same thing with each of the stones, once they’re all completed, and mix everything down to the final composite
track. Who says composers don’t know how to have fun?
Peace, love and tolerance,
p.s., Monday, October 25th marks the 15th
anniversary of the school bus tragedy that killed seven students at a railroad crossing in Fox River Grove, Illinois.
I remember that event very well and the impact it had on our community. My thoughts remain with
the seven victims and their families.
I completed my String Quartet No. 5 and
posted it on my What’s New page. It’s dedicated to the victims of the Babi Yar
massacre. If you care to, you can do a web search for that name and you’ll find all the history you’ll
need about it. It’s in a single movement and about ten and a half minutes in duration.
As I mentioned earlier, I made no conscious effort to create a structure for this piece. Instead
I basically strung together musical thoughts as I had them. There are some patterns that emerged but not
deliberately. I guess I sometimes think in patterns and phrases, so that tends to manifest itself.
is Opus 133 which signifies that I’ve written that many pieces since I started composing in 1958.
That doesn’t include any of the songs and jazz tunes I’ve written. On my website, I’ve
created separate pages for my songs and for my other music. I just felt it would be better to separate
and distinguish between the two genres. But that’s as much differentiating as I intend to do.
In a recent
conversation I had with my good friend Byron, we were discussing how badly Pierre Boulez treated Igor Stravinsky
and for that matter John Cage. Most of what I read about this came from The Rest is Noise
by Alex Ross. I discovered Boulez in that late 1950s when I bought a vinyl album featuring Le Marteau
sans Maitre by Boulez and Zeitmasse Nr. 5 by Karlheinze Stockhausen. I was very impressed
by these two works and by these two composers. They were dramatically different than anything I’d
heard to that point. It was the first serial music I experienced.
But the more I read about each of these composers,
the more I realized what kind of people they were. Stockhausen seemed to have better manners than Boulez,
who could be very demeaning and even hostile at times. From stories I’ve heard, mostly firsthand
accounts, he’s still that way. Most of what I heard came from his time conducting the New York Philharmonic
orchestra. Stockhausen, on the other hand, was just strange at times. I read somewhere
that later in his life, he believed he came from another planet.
At one point, Boulez and Cage were friends. After
awhile, Cage got to be too much for Boulez. By the seventies, he was calling Cage a performing monkey
whose methods betrayed Fascist tendencies. He had said similar things about Strauss, Sibelius
and Stravinsky. After reading that, I was glad I missed an opportunity to hear Boulez lecture
at the Art Institute in Chicago.
I was going to have him sign my copy of the score to Le Marteau.
I no longer hold him in the same regard. In fact, I lost all respect for him as a person.
I came up listening to Stravinsky and learned a great deal from his music. I guess I resent
Boulez for messing with my musical role model. Even though he may be a musical tour de force, Boulez is
still an asshole.
I’m almost done with my read of Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music and it
has some very interesting articles by some very noteworthy contributors, such as Jacques Attali, Luigi Russolo, Morton
Feldman, Edgard Varese, Henry Cowell, John Cage, R. Murray Schafer and Mark Slouka.
nice to get some insight from these guys about sounds and how they envision their use in music. They also
discuss some of the philosophical issues regarding sound and noise. It’s been an interesting read
thus far and am looking forward to finishing the book. As I said before, had these composers lived into
the time of computers, they would have been dynamite! From reading their articles, they each wished for
“something” that would make it easy to generate the kind of sounds they heard in their minds.
be receiving the first hand-written scores from Byron for this project we’re going to work on. My
task will be to translate Byron’s notation and markings into commands understood by Sibelius. In
addition to transcribing the score and generating the parts, I need to export each score as an audio file and record that
to CD. Byron and Tonia will use these for rehearsal, as they will not have the vocal track recorded.
It will appear on the score, however.
This will be my second recent project with Byron and most likely there
will be more. There is an upcoming project for a bassoonist and chamber ensemble I’ll be doing with
him. We both would have never guessed that, fifty years after we met, we’d be working together again.
Our first collaboration was in 1960 when we co-wrote The Frug, a popular dance of the time. The
single went to number one in West Germany. But because we were basically stupid, we inadvertently signed
the rights away to this stock broker dude. The message here is don’t smoke and sign.
started reading another book that I highly recommend. It’s called Fear of Music: Why People get
Rothko but don’t get Stockhausen by David Stubbs, published by Zero Books, 2009.
It explores why new visual art seems to be better received than new music. He makes some interesting
points about the differences that’s actually giving me some insight I never had before. There’s
always something more to learn and this is of particular interest to me. I’ve spoken about this very
thing in earlier blog posts. It’ll be good to get another perspective on the subject.
an update on my Windows 7 experience, now that I’ve been using it for a couple of months. I like
it better than any previous iteration of Windows. XP was the closest to it in terms of reliability, but
that was only after SP3 was added. I’m running Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit on a machine with an
Intel Core i7 CPU and 12GB of ram. The speed is quite noticeable and, when I go back to my XP machine with
an AMD dual-core, it becomes even more apparent.
My primary music programs include Sibelius 6.2, Sound Forge Pro
10, and Sonar Producer 8.5. I also run Kontakt 4.1 sampler and occasionally the
Play 2 sampler. All of these are compatible with Win 7 64 bit and perform with no problem.
I have a Tascam US144MkII USB audio interface with 64 bit ASIO drivers. Even though these
drivers are designed to work with Win 7 64 bit, I sometimes have problems with playback in Sibelius.
I have to switch from the ASIO drivers to the WASPI drivers and boost up the buffer size considerably to eliminate
the clicks and other noise I get.
Since playback is essential and, even more so, the export to audio feature, noise artifacts can be a
serious problem. I continue to use the WASPI drivers with an 8096 samples buffer as a work-around.
But I need to visit the Tascam website regularly to see if they’ve released a newer version of the 64 bit drivers.
One thing I haven’t tried is to run the 32 bit drivers, but I don’t know what impact that may have on other
things. The only playback problem I’m having is in Sibelius. All the
others playback with no problems.
The big concern with creating too big a buffer size is latency, that lag in response between attack
and sound. On faster tempo passages, this latency problem becomes very noticeable and totally unacceptable.
I did not have this problem running XP 32 bit, using a Delta Audiophile 2496 PCI audio interface. In
fact, the sound was warmer with a nice depth to it. Playback quality is an essential capability I will
not compromise on. However at this time, 64 bit drivers for this unit are only available in beta version.
M-Audio, who makes this card, are accepting applications to participate in their beta program for the audiophile card.
Since I have to create playback CDs for this project I’m working on for Byron, now is not the time to get involved
I’ve looked into Cubase 5.5 as well. This is a complete digital audio workstation
(DAW) 64-bit software package with some notation capability. It can import scores from other notation programs
but only in the music XML format. Currently, Finale is the only one that can save a score in XML
format. Sibelius cannot unless you have the Dolet for Sibelius add-in, which runs about
$200. Cubase itself runs about $500. So for about $700, I get to import a Sibelius
score into Cubase and, hopefully, configure the samples in a full 64-bit environment.
Basically, this means
being able to take advantage of all 12GB of ram and assign many more samples than I could otherwise to the score in Cubase.
The problem is I don’t know how well this would work. Spending that kind of money to find
out is a little too risky for me. I may consider buying Dolet for Sibelius, adding it into that
program, and downloading a trial of Cubase to see if it works as I hope it will. My investment
would only be $200.
This may be a good option as the music XML format is becoming the defacto standard for notation
files. I’d be hedging my bets that future software offerings will support XML and adding this to
Sibelius may extend its compatibility. Avid, the parent company of Sibelius, says it
may consider creating a 64-bit version at some point in the future but are making no firm commitments.
as I mentioned before, Windows 7 sees Sibelius as a LAA (Large Address Aware) application and
will allocate around 4GB to it. This is about twice as much as XP will do in 32 bit mode. For
now, that may be enough to load an adequate number of samples to create scores with a larger number of instruments.
These are the kind of dilemmas I’m encountering with running Windows 7 64 Bit. It
seems the music software and hardware aftermarket are still developing products for this new OS. My only
real option is to wait for these developments to yield new products that, hopefully, will provide better usability.
If I try to conjure up some work-arounds, most of which will be expensive, I still may not have any assurances that
they’ll remain viable down the road. I guess my biggest disappointment with this new OS is not with
the OS but with the developers for lagging so far behind the curve. C’mon guys! You
gotta catch up!
Peace, love and tolerance,
It seems to me that the mid-term elections
are bringing out weirder and weirder things. Some of these are beginning to sound dangerous.
For instance, Joe Miller, running for senator from Alaska, said that border control was important and he advocates
we model our border control tactics after Communist East Germany, who he said were very, very effective.
they were more concerned with keeping people in rather than out, and controlled this by firing on and killing anyone who tried
to escape. The amazing thing to me is that Miller, in spite of hopefully knowing all this, still made the
statement publically. When a reporter tried to ask Miller a question about this, he had his private security
people apprehend and handcuff the reporter. I guess he’s serious about what he says.
He’s a Tea Party supported candidate.
Christine O’Donnell, in a debate with her opponent Chris Coons,
advocated teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. When Coons pointed out that the separation of
church and state was one of a number of settled pieces of constitutional law worked out through years of legal development
including Supreme Court decisions, she said the actual words weren’t in the first amendment. Somehow,
she evidently felt this was enough reason to ignore what the first amendment actually states and continued to make her point
that creationism should be taught in public schools. She’s another Tea Party supported candidate.
you beginning to see a pattern here? Some of the policies being publically advocated by these candidates
range from ignorant to dangerous. You’d think their advisors and consultants would do a better job
of preparing them. We need to be careful this time around. The Tea Party seems to be
leaning way over to the right and backing candidates all over the country who share that same tendency. They
seem to forget that we govern the nation with the constitution and all the laws enacted that support it. We
don’t govern with the Bible or any other doctrine.
It’s okay for you to believe whatever
you want. The first amendment assures you the freedom to follow whatever religion you wish to follow.
We are, after all, a
nation of immigrants. That means there is a convergence of cultures and religions throughout the country,
each having the freedom to live their lives by their beliefs, as long as they honor constitutional law. It’s
even okay for like-minded people to gather together and celebrate their common values. But it’s not
okay to say that other like-minded people who gather together around their beliefs should not be allowed to do so, just because
they’re different from you.
Advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools says that these beliefs are the “right”
way and therefore should be adopted as the “official” dogma. This also says that Muslims, Hindus,
Jews and the myriad of other religions are somehow unacceptable because they’re superseded by the official religion.
That’s not how things are in the United States and that’s thanks to the constitution. You
have the right to send your children to private or parochial schools to receive the religious education you want them to have.
Everyone’s cool with that.
There seems to be an appeal by the Tea Party to people’s base emotions,
where all complex issues are made to sound simple and easily dealt with, if we only vote for the candidates they support.
What they say seems to have little substance and is actually more rhetoric than fact. As you can
see from just the two examples I cited, much of what they say is at best misinformed, at worst dangerous.
political system, such as it is with all its flaws, is based on a two-party system, allowing for independents to run for office
as well. Does it work well? No, it does not. Should it be replaced with something different?
Probably, but only through constitutional change. The founding fathers encouraged regular constitutional
conventions to reassess it in light of a new time.
There are legitimate avenues to follow to bring
about change. Circumventing constitutional law and adopting rule based on religious dogma or extremist
actions is not how you do it. Those of us who were around in the sixties learned this valuable lesson.
I find it interesting that many of the people who took extreme action in those days eventually became part of the system
they wanted to change. If you can’t beat them, join them.
My hope is that the American people will, when
all is said and done, continue to support those politicians who will abide by the law and petition for change though the system
they’re trying to become a part of. You can’t shortcut that process. When
you look back on world history where people gained power through force, we see that inevitably they failed. Governments
based on tyrannical rule ultimately fall. People will not endure such tyranny for very long before they
take steps to return their countries to peaceful, lawful rule.
Most people want to do the right thing. They
don’t want to do anything that will bring harm to themselves, their families or their fellow man. They
are inherently decent and don’t necessarily need to follow any religious beliefs to be that way. As
a composer, and part of the art and music community, freedom to express myself as I choose is essential. In
America, we are free. This is something not enjoyed by many people in a lot of other countries.
It’s a way of life worth protecting and certainly sustaining.
We can’t compromise
any of the precepts this freedom is based on. While the Tea Party outwardly seems to advocate a return
to basics, their rhetoric seems to advocate just the opposite. My only caution is to listen carefully to
what is said and decide if what their supported candidates advocate is the righteous thing. We have to
look out for each other.
Some of the things said or on billboards posted about President
Obama go way beyond healthy descent and are racist and hateful. The people who go along with this need
to realize what it says about them. What purpose does it have other than to enrage people?
They don’t present an alternative position, they just spew hatred and fear. Now that they’ve
taken that stand, what’s next? How do they propose to remedy the situation?
fear is that what follows will be violence. Dude, that doesn’t work! Look at the
Weathermen from the sixties. What changed because of all the bombs? Nothing.
Give it up! Chill! Have a brew and kick back. It’s cool.
Look past everyone’s typical election time bullcrap and determine where they stand on the issues important to
you and yours. Ignore the mud-slinging, name-calling, out-and-out lies they barrage you with in the ads
and take a look at how they voted on the issues.
That’s the real deal. The
rest is juvenile garbage and is insulting to the average voter. We shouldn’t have to weed through
the sea of crap to find the truth. This is one of the things that needs to be changed about the system because it just doesn’t
work. Be straight with us. We might give you more credit than you think we will.
We may even vote for you!
Something else came to mind that I want to share with you. Let me preface it by saying
I’m economy challenged. I readily admit not knowing the ins and outs of what makes an economy robust
and prosperous. I know that people need jobs to support their families and those jobs need to be essential
to producing goods and services we sell to each other and to other countries, so that as long as there is a demand, we will
I also know that businesses are reluctant to hire people and spend money if they think the economy is in trouble.
They don’t want to extend themselves only to get caught short. They lack the confidence that
the economy will regain strength for a variety of reasons like government policies and other circumstances that can influence
It occurred to me that the net effect of all the descent against the current administration contributes to this lack
of confidence. Aren’t the descenters making the problem worse by continuing to shout The sky
is falling? It seems to me they’re adding to the fear instead of trying to calm things down.
would think proposing alternatives to current policies, in a way that business could see how that would help, could help them
choose who they think will best help them. If such alternatives are being offered, I’m missing it.
But, as I said, I’m economically challenged and need a plain English explanation. Music I
know, the economy not so much.
Peace, love and tolerance,
Saturday, October 17th, marked the
8th anniversary of the passing of my best friend, Chuck Domanico. Chuck and I became
friends in high school in 1958 when he was 15 and I was 16. We grew up musically together, joined in 1960
by our friend Byron Olson. Together we listened to and explored the music of Debussy, Ravel,
Stravinsky, Bartok and many others. Chuck and I heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for
the first time together. It was the beginning of our musical maturation. But I was always
the one who introduced the other guys to newer music, like Boulez, Stockhausen and even the early electronic
music of Xenakis and others.
Chuck and Byron left for the west coast in 1963 while I stayed behind. I got married
in 1964 and pursued a career in another field altogether. Chuck and Byron pursued careers in the music
business, Chuck eventually being part of the Hollywood film and television music world as a first class bassist, Byron as
a composer and arranger in a career working with some of most renown names in the music business, with many, many recordings
to his credit.
I pursued a career in the manufacturing world, making a living to provide for my family.
All the while I continued composing but not as intently as I eventually did when I retired in 2007. Byron,
Chuck and I lost touch with each other for several years as we all pursued our different paths. But in
2001, I decided to reach out and find my old friends and reconnected with them. However, in 2002, I found
out that Chuck had terminal cancer. My wife and I went out to West Hollywood to see Chuck and essentially
But Byron and I have stayed in touch and still talk by phone every few weeks, as time permits. I
frequently share my work with him, and he with me. We’ve come to know and appreciate each other’s
music a great deal since then, and have even worked together, me doing some copyist work for some of his projects.
I think doing that further tightened the bond we have. We are still planning on working together
again. It’s great that after more than 50 years, we’re still connected, both musically
and as friends.
We’ve developed a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Byron is not well versed
in computer technology as it applies to music creation. I am. Rather than Byron making
the difficult leap and learning this technology at this point in his career, he turns to me to help him with things like score
preparation and creating virtual performances on CD for audition purposes. These are things commonplace
in the music business today and, with my help, Byron can offer these things to prospective clients as he continues to work
in the business. In a sense, I help him to stay competitive, while he expands my knowledge through working
with his wonderful scores, learning a lot about technique and especially orchestration. We help each other,
and that’s a wonderful thing.
Very often, when we talk, we speak of Chuck. Byron tells me about their days in Hollywood and I share
with him about our days in high school learning our craft. Chuck is a common denominator for us.
Both of us enjoyed an up and down relationship with him that, ultimately, made all of us better people.
I miss being able to share my music with Chuck, as I do with Byron. We had a short time to do exactly
that before he became ill and I’m grateful to have been able to share what I did.
So, as long as I author this blog, I will mention
Chuck on the anniversary of his passing so that I keep his memory alive. He was one of many influences
in my life that shaped who I am musically and as a person. One thing that made for a strong bond was that
we are both of Italian descent. We shared being Italian and it defined much of who we were.
It still does.
I’m continuing to add to my String Quartet No. 5 and will most likely leave it as a single
movement piece. It doesn’t feel like it wants to be a three or four movement work, so I’m letting
it tell me what it wants to be. Thus far, it’s a single movement with no discernable logic or pattern,
as I said last time. It’s a linear journey in sound through time. That feels most
comfortable for me.
I’ve been reading about Luigi Russolo and his futurist manifesto The Art of Noise.
It reminded me of back in 1963-64 when Byron and I experimented with this futurist approach. For
us, it was an effort to explore the use of more percussive sounds created by playing large cluster chords on the piano.
There was one time I played a huge cluster by throwing myself on the piano.
was awesome, even though I think I broke something as I came down on the keyboard full force. I believe
it scared Byron and we didn’t do too much more after that. My reputation as the weird one was firmly
established after that. I haven’t lost that reputation. Actually, I see it as
an asset rather than something to hide, but that’s me. Celebrate your weirdness!
days will be ending soon as my wife is on her way back home from visiting her sisters. It’ll be good
to have her back home. Admittedly, I don’t do too well by myself although I can get through just
fine. I just prefer to live my life with my wife as I’ve been doing for nearly 47 years.
I think our cats will be glad to have her back home as well. They like things to be predictable
and consistent, no surprises, not unlike a lot of people I know.
From the articles I’ve been reading by John Cage, Edgard
Varese and Morton Feldman, that are part of this book I mentioned last time, had they lived into the age of
computers and the music technology it spawned, they would have been delighted as can be. Each had envisioned
something like a computer to realize the new sounds they foresaw. I can only imagine what their output
would’ve been like if they had these tools. It prompts me to reflect on this, seeing myself and others
of my generation taking their concepts to the next level.
As I’ve been writing this, I got a call from Byron
asking me to do some copyist work for a project he’s working on with opera singer, Tonia Tecce, giving a live
performance in New York next March. It will involve a chamber group, smaller than the orchestra he used
when he worked on the recording of these pieces a few years ago.
The concert is for the same music but in an updated
version of the scores. Tonia has been rehearsing with the piano reductions he made from the original scores.
The big advantage this time will be my ability to provide CD recordings of virtual performances they can use for auditioning
and rehearsing purposes. I’m excited about working with Byron again and look forward to other projects
I will suspend work on my String Quartet No. 5 when I get started on the project as I like to focus just
on Byron’s project because others are depending on me getting my work done to get their work done. It’s
also a departure from what I usually write and that’s a nice challenge. I usually end up using features
of Sibelius I don’t normally use, so it broadens my working knowledge of the software.
I’m all but
past this infection that put me down these last few days, and am feeling much better. The only upside is
that, while dealing with this, my appetite wasn’t very good and I managed to lose more weight. However,
I would not recommend this approach to shedding pounds. Better to call Jennie!
As we approach our mid-term elections here in
the United States, the negative, sometimes vicious, almost always deceptive ads by the politicians and other groups making
a point, are flooding our television screens. Even if you have cable, as I do, or any of the satellite services, you’re
still barraged with these ads, the big difference being that you’re paying to see them. It is apparent
that those behind these ads understand the psychological warfare aspects of the water-torture like technique of drip, drip,
drip, ad nauseum.
I don’t know about you but I’ve learned nothing factual about any candidate from these ads.
The allegations these ads make are presumably substantiated, but the sources cited are in a font size suitable for
those wearing magnifying glasses. And, of course, they flash by in an instant. So, you’re
left with the images of the candidates in varying degrees of grimace or smiles, depending on the good or bad image being portrayed.
election day, I will go to the voting booth with no more knowledge of who the candidates are then I started with, if I depended
solely on these ads. At that point, I’m left with the simple choice, democrat or republican (independents
not withstanding). But their collective positions are steeped in obfuscation and so much rhetoric that
I still may not be clear on where they stand on anything.
I believe the candidates don’t have a position
of their own. They have the position they’re supposed to have according to the forces interested
in mounting them in the office they’re running for. They may start with their own viewpoint but it’s
probably not going to the one that guides their actions as elected officials. This is, of course, my own
opinion and, like that often referred to body part, everyone has one and they’re all different. I
also believe this kind of thing is one reason people don’t trust the political system or the government.
I’ve learned as a composer, offering my work to the public to listen to and experience, people are not stupid.
They know what they like and what they don’t like. They’re intelligent and capable of
compassion and understanding. They’re also capable of getting angry if they’re treated wrong
and can react in a very negative manner. In short, they’re human. They have the
capacity to decide for themselves what’s right or wrong, good or bad, and what they want.
That the political
machines find it necessary to stoop to psychological warfare tactics means that their agendas are suspicious and should be
carefully scrutinized. Someone, somewhere stands to profit in some way. And it’s
a fair assumption that the people’s welfare is not being considered. By appealing to people’s
base instincts, to that part of their psyche that is more emotional than intelligent, is the most dangerous form of manipulation.
Personally, I look to see how a candidate has treated people and voted on social issues.
Have they looked after their fellow man? When people have suffered the consequences of this economic
downturn, in most cases through no fault of their own, did they lend a helping hand, provide for some relief,
allow them their due compensation if they’ve lost their jobs, did they show some compassion, or did
they hide behind their party’s rhetoric?
That’s the yardstick I use to gage if a candidate is worthy
of my vote. But that’s me. You may have a different view. You’re
entitled to that view and have the right to decide based upon it. That’s what America is all about
and that’s what I love about this country. This is also the best country on the planet in which to
be an artist.
There is a prevailing sensitivity among people for all things art, including
music. It’s that quality in people I find the most encouraging. People are inherently
compassionate. Show someone images of abused or mistreated animals and you’ll see that compassion
come to the forefront in a hurry. That’s who we really are.
I’ve finished reading Give My Regards
to Eighth Street and have closed the book on Morton Feldman. He died in 1987 and, because most of
his views were pertinent to his own day, they don’t always hold up in 2010. Some do, but most don’t.
I’ve taken from Morty what I felt was pertinent to me as a composer today. He gave me permission
to be unique, to not care about the how and focus on the what in music. That’s a good lesson to learn.
started reading another book titled Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and
Daniel Warner, published by Continuum in 2007. It is an anthology of essential readings
for anyone interested in the histories of experimental music and sound art. It represents a more contemporary
view of 21st century music and covers all aspects including the DJ culture, something that’s not always part
of most music discussions. It goes beyond Cage et al and brings us into the here and now with respect to
how music has evolved and affected our culture.
I’m also doing some selective reading from Theresa Sauer’s
Notations 21 book which deals with graphical scores. There are some literary contributions from
various people that address some of the issues surrounding how these scores are used to interpret and perform the music they
represent. This, as readers of my blog may know, is something that interests me. I will,
as always, share some of what I read with all of you. Because I have a renewed appreciation for how these
scores are developed, I believe a better understanding of them by everyone is essential to a better understanding of the music
I am continuing to add more to my String Quartet No. 5 but have abandoned any precepts of an
overall plan or structure. Instead, I’m allowing the piece to unfold intuitively, taking a micro
view and letting the macro view develop itself. When I go back to a score after being away from it for
a day or so, I play it back from the beginning to determine if what I’m about to add to it is consistent with what I’ve
already written. I try to tie it all together motivically.
This time I’m going to do what Satie
always did and just let it flow, not trying to tie anything to anything else. This is a leap of faith in
myself and my ability to be intuitive enough to make this work. If it doesn’t work, well it doesn’t
work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I can always go back and change things.
But I think it should work out. It’s a lesson learned from the early experimentalists.
Don’t agonize over it, just do it.
I haven’t started on Stone 2 as yet, but will in due
time. I’m particularly interested in putting this piece together as it’s a return to pure electronic
source material for me, something I haven’t done for quite awhile. I’m digging deeper into
the capabilities of HighC to help me create sounds over a given time frame. So far, I’ve
determined which sounds work and which do not, and this will guide me in choosing what to include in these pieces.
still looking at this as six separate statements to be related in some way to each other. I haven’t determined how just
yet. It’s how the idea came to me, so I’m trying to maintain that thought. I
may change my thinking about this as the piece develops, but that too will be an intuitive choice, not part of a predetermined
plan. The closest thing to a plan is that there’ll be six sections and they will somehow be related.
That’s the extent of my plan. Yes, it looks like I’m in free fall here.
It may seem reckless but it’s a rush. Look out below!
I see from the stats my host publishes that some
of you are still searching for articles and papers I published but have since pulled back. I apologize.
I wasn’t aware before this that there was still some interest. I will again create a My
Writings page and list these for you to read and download. They will all be in PDF format,
so you’ll need the free Adobe Acrobat reader (www.adobe.com).
I’m a bachelor these next couple of days as my wife has traveled to northern Wisconsin to see
her two sisters. This was a very necessary trip for Donna to take as her relationship with her sisters,
Vicky and Dolly, is so important to her. I’m staying back and keeping the home fires burning and
taking care of our three cats. Of course I miss my wife being home with me. After nearly
47 years together, we still enjoy each other’s company and like doing things together. But I completely
support her taking this trip as it’s clear to me how much it means to her.
Since both of her sisters are divorced,
my being there can be a little awkward for a number of reasons. When I visited this past August, some of
that awkwardness was evident at least to me, so this trip needed to be sisters only. That’s as it
I enjoy going up north as well, and I love both my sisters-in-law very much. They
were ages 11 and 8 when I first met them so I’ve been around for awhile. I’m more like a big
brother and sometimes brothers can be a pain in the ass, as can sisters. That’s all part of the family
experience, I guess.
Peace, love and tolerance,
Now that I’m feeling better, I’ve
worked a little more on my String Quartet No. 5 and have just posted an updated sample on my What’s New
page. It’s going rather slowly, more because I’ve not been as focused as I usually am, but
that should slowly improve now. I have been continuing to read Give My Regards to Eighth Street,
a collection of writings by Morton Feldman. What’s interesting is when he writes about paintings
or oriental rugs, he shines. But when he writes about music, not so much.
I think he associated himself more with the Abstract
Expressionist painters in New York than he did with any other composer who would be his contemporary, even John Cage.
He did have very laudatory words for Edgard Varese, who he likened himself to more than anyone else, mostly
because Varese didn’t follow any system either. I’ve also gleaned that Milton Babbitt
was indirectly involved in his music education through one of his teachers and Feldman had more of a contentious feeling toward
It’s almost like he resented Babbitt like you would a teacher that busted your chops once too often.
In fact, he studied with Wallingford Riegger and Stefan Wolpe early on and not too long with either
one. I don’t think he took to authority all that well and it seems he resisted being subjected to
any kind of discipline or regimen. I can relate to that, but did submit to the discipline because I wanted
to learn. For me, it was a starting point that I soon departed from.
about him tempers my overall view of Feldman. It’s not that I respect him any less, but it puts what
he’s said in perspective for me. It’s good to know where someone comes from to better understand
what they’re saying, especially when they’re speaking from a position of authority or prominence in their respective
field. As far as I’m concerned, even when someone is in such a lofty position, I never hang on their
every word. Regardless of who you are, you need to convince me of your logic and relate your meaning in
terms I can understand.
This is my biggest complaint about Milton Babbitt. I’ve learned more about
the techniques and methods he’s developed through other’s interpretation of them. I attempt
to read his own writings on these subjects and eventually throw the damn book against a wall, which scares the hell out of
my cats. It’s kind of like preparing to take a trip to a destination you’ve always wanted to
go to and finding the map is complicated, in a different language and only showing the satellite view. Frustrating!
I guess in that regard, I can understand Feldman’s feelings. Babbitt can drive you crazy.
But I celebrate
his uniqueness. It’s so typically human to want to be different than everyone else, and Morty was
different. He was a big man, nearly 300 pounds, and terribly near-sighted. He used to
have his face so close to the score paper when he was writing, it almost looked like he used his eyes to write instead of
his hand. Maybe he did. Most of his music was extremely quiet, almost inaudible at times.
He forced you to really focus on what he was saying. You needed to adjust your sense of hearing
to a quietude that you probably weren’t accustomed to.
I find that interesting. Instead of getting
your attention by being louder than the ambient sounds around you, he chose to get softer so you had to shut everything else
off to concentrate on the music. In its quietness, it had the same effect as knocking you out of your chair
with a quadruple forte blast. I’ll have to try that sometime. I usually like to
mix up the dynamics within a piece so that there are loud and soft sections. I do this intentionally to
create some interest, even though it may or may not evoke that response from the listener.
In going back through the words and music of
the experimentalists, I have a new understanding of the balance of sound and silence. I also can better
understand why creating sounds for their own sake is perfectly alright to do. Every piece of music doesn’t
necessarily have to have some significance or deeper meaning. It could exist for its own sake, to be experienced
for what it is. That does take some of the burden off of the composer to always have to lead the listener
in a certain direction by establishing an image or concept the music is supposed to represent.
Sometimes the music flows
from the composer’s mind of its own volition. It’s not always inspired by any particular person or event.
It just evolves on its own, and the composer, as Stravinsky said of Le Sacre, becomes the vehicle through
which it passes. Up to now, I felt the need to provide significance to a work’s title, to dedicate
it to someone or something I considered important. I did this primarily to help the listener attach some
significance to the music, to suggest an image or idea to associate with it. I always took exception to
any work of art presented as “untitled” because it failed to do exactly that.
Now I’m looking at that differently.
Does a listener really need a nudge in a particular direction to better appreciate a piece of music? If
a composer feels compelled to title a work and associate a person or event with it, that’s fine. It
comes from the heart and is a sincere dedication. I feel all the works I’ve composed with a dedication
were a sincere reflection of an emotion that led me to the music. But it doesn’t always have to be
that way. It could be sounds for their own sake, presenting their sonority for the listener to respond
to however they do.
I care if you listen. I don’t really care how you listen, or in whatever environment
you are listening in. You can listen quietly with minimal distractions, you can listen in your car with
the windows down and traffic noise overpowering everything, you can listen while doing other things. It
really doesn’t make as much difference as I’ve always thought it should. I now believe that
people are more than capable of experiencing music in a way that works for them without me needing to point them in a particular
Of course, where a dedication is important to me, I will make that clear in a work’s title. That
says these were my thoughts as I was composing the piece, not necessarily where I want your thoughts to be when listening
to it. If the title influences how you hear the piece, that’s okay too. If it
doesn’t, I’m okay with that. I just want you to listen on whatever terms you’re comfortable
with. I measure my success on whether a piece is received in a positive or negative way, not on how well
you were able to take my lead and see my vision.
But I would ask that you give it more than one listen before
you kick it to the curb. Remember, you bring some of your own baggage with you when you listen to music.
I may have to earn your listening but I expect you to at least give it a fair shake. If you feel
crappy or are in a crappy situation, don’t listen to anything. At least make some effort to remove
yourself from that place so you’re more receptive.
It isn’t just about listening to my music,
it’s also about listening to anything or anyone. When you’re in a crappy mood, you’ll
most likely turn everything and everyone off unless what they’re saying is urgent like “Dude, your underwear
is on fire!” You should pay attention to that regardless of how you’re feeling.
It could be important. Otherwise, the point is when you’re not anywhere near focused, music
will not impact you the same way.
The other point is when you’re feeling out of it, you may want to turn to “comfort”
music. That’s usually your favorite band, composer, style, whatever brings you an inner comfort,
maybe reminding you of something pleasant or satisfying. Debussy is typically someone’s
comfort music. Stockhausen is not, nor is Boulez. On a scale of Debussy
being a one and Stockhausen being a ten, I’m about a seven on the irritation scale. You may like
half of my stuff and be indifferent to the other half. That’s cool. I still love
you, you’re still welcome here anytime.
Essentially, I’ve questioned my thinking with regards to expecting
any significance in music, realizing instead that the music can be just music, sounds without borders. I
no longer expect significance in other’s music nor intend to always impose it in my own. Music for
music’s sake is perfectly acceptable. If asked, as I’ve been in the past, “What am
I supposed to feel when I hear this?”, I will now answer “Whatever you feel is how you should feel.
There’s no matrix chart that you can follow X and Y coordinates to find the appropriate emotion.
Feel what you feel and don’t analyze it.”
What I find interesting is that, early in my
musical education, I engrossed myself in all the muck and mire of technique and method, absorbing as much as I could, expecting
it to make me a good composer. As I get older, I find I’m unburdening myself of all this and moving
closer to where I was when I began studying music. I realize that only I can make myself be a better composer,
not any method, technique or school of thought. I guess that’s the best lesson I’ve learned
from John Cage and Morty Feldman. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Peace, love and tolerance,
When you can, please visit my What’s
New page. I have a couple of new things to share with you. The first is an updated
sample of my String Quartet No. 5, as of October 10. The second is Stone 1, the first
in a series of six “stones” which are segments of electronic-based pieces that I’m thinking of linking together
in some fashion. There’s also a basic graphic showing the six stones linked. I’m
using stones as a working title for now. That title has no real significance as of yet, but may
later as the work develops.
I wanted to further explore working with pure sound as a musical element without much thought to any
conventional structure. The stones will occur in time but with no definite tempo or rhythm. The
first stone starts with a basic passage of sounds echoed in various metamorphic forms, layering and juxtapositioning over
each other. It lasts about 4 to 5 minutes. A pattern is recognizable and repeats in
different shapes throughout the segment. The remaining five stones will be developed in a similar manner.
The one element
of music that cannot really be altered is that it will unfold in linear time. It cannot go anywhere but
forward. Even when you conceive of a piece in a circular shape, it still unfolds linearly.
It has a start point and an end point. But most everything else can be modified as the composer
sees fit. With an increasingly advanced technology available to a composers in terms of sound creation
and modification, imagination is the only limiting factor.
My friend Byron and I had a conversation not that long ago where
we discussed the role of the sound designer. The function is most often noted in the same context as composer
when describing what someone does. I believe it attempts to describe a musician’s ability to creatively
and effectively select, mix and blend various sound sources into a musical event. These are most often
used in film scores and even in some gaming applications. It implies that the skills required to successfully
blend sounds into a sonoric entity constitute an ability akin to composer.
Byron tended to reject this, claiming that the
skill set required wasn’t the result of any focused study, as is the case with a composer. This was
compounded by the fact that, in many cases, the sound designer works with sounds created by someone else, and he or she simply
mixes and blends them. It would only be legitimately in the same category of composer if the sound designer
actually created their own sounds as a composer creates their own music.
That posed an interesting question.
I’ve talked a lot about what constitutes original music when it comes to what a composer creates.
There is nothing really new. We all use the same series of notes in the well tempered chromatic
scale. Some even use a variety of microtonal arrangements of tones forming some other pattern.
But these are the known spectrum of sounds from which to choose. Beyond that, there are the infinitely
scalable sounds generated by electronic devices. If we use any of these as the sonoric materials for a
composition, we have something in common with every other composer from anytime in musical history.
What gives us individuality
is how creatively we use these sounds to say what we want to say. But to take sounds created by others
and simply mix these with other sounds, does not constitute being a composer, at least in my view. There
is a difference between being a sound designer and a composer.
A pre-composed sound is already a blend and,
although these loops are readily available and easy to use, they are in fact someone else’s material.
I’ve created a set of club mixes that one would hear in most dance clubs that sound pretty good.
I put those together using a mix of my own sounds and available loops. I considered them my songs
but, essentially, they’re only partially mine. I designed them, not composed them.
designers make them available with no intention of being acknowledged or receiving any royalties. They
are sold with no restrictions on usage other than not to be resold as a loop collection. They’re
intended to be used in creating music by someone else. Even though I tried some of these in creating these
songs, I felt that I was cheating by using them. I realize this is perhaps a bit foolish of me, but I can’t
shake that feeling of plagiarizing. I never used loops again and don’t plan on it in the future.
Is this more a case of
my own philosophy prevailing and not necessarily representative of what others in the music creation community routinely do?
Am I the purist and they’re the sell-outs? For one thing, I can never accuse anyone of being
a sell-out. I’m not qualified. I’m one voice among many. It
would be pretentious of me and arrogant to position myself in judgment of anyone trying to make a living in the music business.
Am I a purist? Not really. Assuming that would also be an act of arrogance and
that’s not what I’m all about.
I think this is more of an observation than anything else.
I’m taking note of the fact that there are varying levels of music creation and not all are defined by the same
rules. If a loop designer is willing to sell his or her work for use by someone else, and that someone
sees enough merit in those loops to complement what he or she is creating, than it’s more than okay to incorporate them
into whatever their doing.
If it’s a commercial gig supplying a soundtrack to
a film or video game, there’s usually some tight schedules with deadlines to be met. If using loops
gets the sound designer to the finish line faster and this means getting paid on time, that’s more than okay with me.
It’s an individual choice, a personal decision, and dependent on a lot of factors.
So I have
to disagree with Byron and believe that sound designer is a legitimate profession that does indeed require a unique skill
set. Becoming proficient at using any of the major DAW packages requires a lot of time and effort.
There’s much to learn and, like anything else, you get the gig if you know how to use it to satisfy the client’s
needs. It’s no place for wimps. I barely scratch the surface of the DAW I use
and can’t believe how much more there is to learn. Fortunately, I use it for my own work and, therefore,
am not constrained by schedules and due dates I would face using it for a client’s project.
However, I remain a composer.
I’m not a sound designer. I don’t judge those who are, but I don’t count myself
among them. Likewise, I object to them calling themselves composers. They are not composers,
not in the same way Byron or I are or anyone else I know who calls themselves composers. These are two
separate functions with sound creation being the common denominator. I make mine from scratch, the sound
designer makes it from a box mix. To the hungry, they both taste similar enough not to notice the difference.
So what! Bon Appetite! There’s room for everyone.
Peace, love and tolerance,
p.s., Solomon Burke recently passed away.
He was the king of rock and rhythm. To me, his most memorable piece was None of us are free.
He will be missed.
I’m continuing my road to recovery from
this health set back and am slowly but surely coming back. I’m by no means all the way back yet.
I know now that’s going to take a lot longer than I want but you don’t always get what you want, you usually
get what you need, as the Stones wisely said. So I must again learn patience and flexibility.
Be a shape-shifter. Re-orient to the moment.
I’ve been continuing my reading of Morton
Feldman’s collected writings Give My Regards to Eight Street and am finding that, once I filter Morty’s
tendency to be polemic, seemingly about anything and everything, I can see underneath that. I get glimpses
of who he really was behind his intellectual sarcasm and sometimes combative personality. There are a number
of things he said that are worth sharing with all of you, more because they have deeper and more universal meaning than the
context he said them in.
Commenting on Bob Friedman’s telling of a story when artist Jackson Pollock called
him about one in the morning crying after he had received a letter from Clyfford Still. Still
had written that he didn’t know why he hadn’t been invited to the opening of the “Fifteen Years of Pollock”
show and asked if Jackson was ashamed of his work or maybe of the people using him and insulting him as an artist.
Sobbing still, after half an hour, Jackson finished, “I’m in a terrible state” and hung
up. Feldman said “Our enemies can’t hurt us, but our friends who love us for the wrong
Painter Paul Brach said “I used to go out with Morty and a girlfriend of his
who would sit there with a pad and pencil recording his words. The only time she stopped writing was when
At a party, painter Larry Rivers complained of the heat. Feldman said “You’re
a painter – break a window.”
There are quotes that don’t need to be put in context
to understand. Here are a few. 1) “Sound is all our dreams of music. Noise
is music’s dreams of us.” 2) “Art teaches nothing about life, just as life teaches us
nothing about Art.” 3) “In music, when you do something new, something original, you’re an amateur.
Your imitators – these are the professionals.”
I know I seem to dwell on Morton Feldman
quite a lot but only because much of what he says resonates with me, at least in a way that I can relate to today.
His words are not just captured moments from his past but stand-alone thoughts that are relevant anytime.
I try and relate them to myself and to my approach to creating music. Morty’s right when he
says it’s not about the technique or methodology. It’s about the spirit behind it.
This begs the questions Why am I doing this? What am I trying to accomplish and for whom?
you come to terms with all of that, systems and methods are all incidental, simply a means toward an end. It
makes no difference what system you use or even if you use a system at all. It also makes no difference
if your music looks back into history or attempts to be history. The ultimate arbitrator will always be
how it sounds to you and to those you want to share it with.
First and foremost is write to satisfy yourself.
All else will follow as it inevitably will. Don’t try to change the rotation of your world.
Trust and accept its natural rotation as part of the universe’s way of taking you along on its evolutionary ride.
I ponder these things to continue my own personal liberation, to clear out the clutter that may be preventing me from
writing my own music, and to free my mind of anything that inhibits doing that.
If some of this rhetoric reminds you of the mantras
of the 60s, there’s probably good reason. Weren’t we, after all, trying to do exactly the same
thing? Do you remember or maybe reading about the tremendous resistance we encountered along the way?
That’s because we essentially tried to impose a public solution to what is really a personal problem.
You can’t influence anyone’s viewpoint until you’ve truly formed, understood and accepted your own.
It all starts in your head.
Another thing Feldman talked about, that I’d never really given much thought to before,
was how music is a public art. What does that mean anyway? Well, with visual art (paintings,
sculptures), its creator finishes the work and presents it for viewing. The next thing to happen is for
you to look at it. No intermediate event has to occur to make that happen.
with music (and dance for that matter), when a composer finishes a work, something has to happen before you can hear it.
It has to be played, either by live performance, a recording of a live performance or a virtual performance (the way
I do things). Since most dance is accompanied by music, the same thing applies. Even
if there was no music, only movement, someone has to begin the dance before you can experience it. But
with the visual arts, when you view it or touch it, the experience begins in a personal, intimate way.
interesting to me about this has more to do with how the arts are experienced and how personal that experience is.
It could be that with an extra step needed and in a public way, people put up a barrier because they’re not truly
alone when they want to enjoy music or dance. They have to experience that moment in the presence of others,
actual or perceived. In a public venue with others in attendance, it’s actual. At
home watching a video recording of the performance, it’s perceived. But you are always cognizant
of others, either performing or watching with you. It is a public experience in that regard.
visual arts, it’s you and the artwork. Your mind initiates the experience and not necessarily with
any external indications you’re doing it. When you walk the halls of a venue like the Art Institute,
what you see are people looking at the art. You don’t usually hear anything or anyone unless there’s
audio as part of the art piece installation. You can study their faces and maybe get a clue that they’re experiencing
the art. But you’ll never know to what extent, to what depth. It’s all going
on in the person’s head. There’s no other sensory stimulation except sight, a very intimate
way of perception.
Do these distinctions have anything to do with why art is presumably enjoyed more than music,
if in fact it is? Are people more self-conscious about being seen listening to music than they are about
being seen looking at a painting? I’ve seen young people, ear buds in place, listening to their iPods
or portable music players, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Their bodies are in motion, in sync
to the music they’re listening to. They give a damn if anyone is watching!
ignored these people so much, for so long, they’ve already tuned us out. But they’ve seemed
to overcome the perceived obstacles to public art and just enjoy the hell out of the music they’re listening to.
Before you write them off as “just kids”, think about that. There’s something
for us to learn here, if we’re comfortable enough with who we are to be able to do that.
For me, reading the writings
of someone like Morton Feldman tends to prompt these questions. It inspires me to dig deeper into what’s
behind the obvious. To see how these thoughts relate to my music and how I create it. It
sometimes validates it, and sometimes it voids it, but it doesn’t leave it or me alone. That’s
good. Even though Morty’s been dead since 1987, it’s good to know he’s still able to
kick my ass.
Peace, love and tolerance,
It’s been a few days since I’ve posted
a new entry to this blog, mostly because I’ve been out of it with what I thought was the flu. It
turns out that I have an internal infection that manifested itself in flu-like systems. Since reading an
article several years ago by a medical professional that said, on average, 80% of the medical conditions you develop tend
to self-correct with time, while the remaining 20% require more immediate attention, I felt I’d give the “flu”
a few days to run its course.
After about four days into this and not feeling any better, I decided to go see my doctor for some help.
She went over all the symptoms I described and felt there was something other than flu going on. A
urinalysis showed the presence of an infection that’s probably been there for awhile and had gotten worse and may have
been spreading. She prescribed a two week course of strong antibiotics to rid my system of this infection.
I started taking them yesterday, so I hope to get back to normal in a few days.
I gave some more thought to the 80/20 article
I based my thinking on and realized there were two factors not considered. First, severity of even a common
condition can be made worse with repeated occurrences. It’s less likely to run its course in just
a few days. Second, statistically the 80/20 conclusion is dramatically affected by age and, in fact, tends
to reverse the distribution as we get older. At some point, it becomes 20% being self-correcting and 80%
needing medical help.
In a time of malpractice suits being commonplace and defensive medicine now something doctors practice
more as self-protection, it’s not unreasonable to be somewhat proactive in early self-diagnosis of a condition, based
on what we’ve learned of cause and effect throughout our lives. But it’s also important to
recognize when we don’t know what’s wrong with us and shouldn’t assume anything based on speculation.
Then it’s time to get help.
I did exactly that and I’m glad I did. If continued
untreated, my infection would have worsened, maybe to a point where reversing it would have been very difficult or impossible
to do. So with what I’ve learned from all this, the next time I’m not well, a much earlier
intervention by a medical professional is in order. A simple cost-benefit analysis supports that decision.
It’s always a good thing to get smarter before it’s gets too late.
I’ve begun reading Give My Regards
to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman, edited by Bob Friedman, published by Exact Change.
Actually, I owned this book earlier but gave my copy as a gift to my friend Byron Olson, and acquired a second copy
a year or two later. I got my copy from Amazon Books, but am sure it’s available elsewhere.
I’m not going to share a great deal of Morty’s writings with you as I’d rather urge you to get the
book yourselves, if you’d like to get into it deeper. It’s under $20 in paperback, so it’s
not a bank-breaker.
What I did want to talk about is Feldman’s resistance to be compared to anything or anyone.
He felt he was very unique, so much so that there wasn’t adequate criteria to compare him to any other composer
nor any other genre of music. It’s true that this criteria can be nebulous at best and influenced
by whatever philosophy you favor at the moment. But because Feldman did not make use of any kind of system
or methodology when creating his music, relying instead on pure intuition, he felt that to be compared to anyone who did was
unjustifiable and totally inappropriate.
This prompted me to take another look at some elements of that criteria and
decide for myself what’s justified and what’s not. In looking at the prevailing thinking, I
see what is basically two extremes of thought, the narrow and the wide. The narrow view categorizes each
genre to very specific requirements which usually includes style (classical, modern, jazz), methodology
(tonal, serial, experimental, atonal, electronic) and time period (nineteenth century, early, mid or late twentieth
century, twenty first century).
The wider view tends to blur more of these distinctions, and even blurs some of the distinction between
visual and aural experiences. For example, Feldman was very much involved in the art scene in New York
in the 50’s and 60s, befriending many of the Abstract Expressionists. He considered painter Philip
Guston his closest friend. He often spoke of music and art in the same terms but more metaphorically.
In that context, he compared his music to their art. Many of today’s composers, who work with
graphical scores, see these scores as visual art more than a representation of the music. They further
blur the line between the visual and aural experiences.
Also in the wider view, there is less of a distinction made between
genres, styles and time periods. This is a good thing, in my view. I see nothing wrong
with comparing a great aural experience listening, say, to a jazz performance with, say, a not-so-thrilling performance of
an eighteenth century classical piece. One apparently provided you with a better listening experience than
the other. It’s a fair comparison and one that removes the genre, style and time period factors from
the equation. This doesn’t tend to lead you to a judgmental position where you need to say that one
is better than the other, only if you enjoyed one more than the other.
But I still believe that a distinction needs
to be made between what type of art we’re talking about. Is it visual or aural? Music
is aural and cerebral. Music is something you make with your mind. Visual art, like painting and sculpture,
is cerebral but also tactile. You experience it with your eyes, sometimes with your touch.
Unlike music, which enters your mind through your sense of hearing, visual art enters your mind through multiple streams
of sensory stimulation. When you view a graphical score and see it as visual, than it’s visual.
When you view it as a document, recording the composed music, than it’s a score. It can be
both but one at a time.
Having said all of this, I’m inclined to define music as an arrangement of a mix of sound and
silence within a given time period moving at varying rates across that time period. It tends to be a snapshot
in time and space. Even though the music may be notated as precisely as is feasible, given the language’s
ability to do so, each performance will be different. Certainly humans who may be performing this music
will bring an inherent variation to it. Computers, while more consistent than humans, will also bring their
own unique set of variations to each performance, making them different as well.
In looking back on the experimentalists preoccupation
with indeterminacy, I now see it more as a manifestation of the philosophical differences between them and the European Avant
Garde. It was greatly influenced by John Cage’s philosophy and not so much a logical advancement
in music creation. There’s a point at which a composer looses the identity of his composition when
so much of it is determined by the performer. It stops being his composition and becomes an improvisation
around an idea or concept with very vague guidelines.
The experimentalists somehow made it seem egotistical for
a composer to want to have control over what is being played and how. They seemed to suggest that, philosophically,
we were to relinquish that control and make a performance more of a communal experience. Actually, this
reflects, to a degree, the political views of the time among many musicians. Cornelius Cardew, whose Treatise
is among the most involved graphical scores, eventually went completely left-wing. Copland leaned to the
left politically as well and it got him in trouble with McCarthy and his infamous hearings.
you look at a jazz performance, it’s basically a bunch of improvising around a set of changes, usually embedded in some
sort of tune. The tune with its chord changes provides the structure around which each player weaves an
improvised solo, adding to the whole. Typically, you usually don’t buy the recording of Cherokee
because you like the tune. You buy it to experience Bird’s brilliant playing.
But jazz doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.
Musicians who write jazz
tunes (and that includes me) are really trying to establish a melodic line that inventively works through a series of chord
changes, mostly complex and harmonically dense, that provides the basis for improvising equally rich and interesting lines
that make full use of the changes. The more complex the changes, the better the improvisations tend to
get. It’s probably the only genre of music that’s intentionally indeterminate.
That’s its essence. The skill with which the jazz player improvises is usually a strong indication
of his or her musicianship.
But, for everything else, indeterminacy is not necessarily something most composers embrace, and that
includes me. Part of the joy of creating a piece of music is to share it with the world. Yet
at the same time, you want it to be associated with you, to be indicative of who you are as a composer with your signature
sound and style. Yes, that’s somewhat egotistical but no more so than any artist who titles and signs
their work. It’s a sense of self-accomplishment that’s part of the reward you get for producing
a musical work that gets noticed and listened to.
That is something I never want to feel I have to apologize for.
It’s something I can be proud of and have no problem allowing myself that pride. My objective
with this whole revisiting the experimental philosophy was to better understand it and determine if was applicable to me today.
I’ve done that.
I now better understand the factors behind the philosophy and have
gleaned certain aspects of it to be incorporated into my own approach to music. I’ve also dismissed
much of it as inapplicable and inconsistent with who I am as a composer. It was well worth the effort to
do this and I would highly recommend doing something similar to anyone interested in reassessing their position in the space-time
continuum. Sometimes a GPS unit is nice to use to find out where you are, but sometimes it’s nice
to dig out the old map and trace your path.
Peace, love and tolerance,