Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Archive for November, 2006

Randomness, and Remixing

This has been a weird week. For starters, my car finally died. It’s had transmission problems for nearly a year now, and it’s been in and out of the shop, but now it will barely even move. Well, actually, now it won’t move at all, because the engine won’t even start, so now it’s sitting on the curb in front of the apartment complex and likely will be for quite some time until I figure out how and where it’ll be moved. For now, I am driving my grandmother’s car, since she isn’t using it anymore. The ultimate goal is to somehow purchase it, but I certainly don’t have the money to go shopping at the moment, let alone pay for a car.

As a result of the car situation, I’ve missed a lot of classes this week, including the one film lecture I’ve been really excited to attend: that of the function of sound and music in movies. I think I may fail this film class. I would have dropped out long ago, but I decided to drop it about three days after the drop deadline. Since then I’ve been trying to keep caught up, but my heart hasn’t been in it. And we all know the capacity I have of following up on projects when my heart isn’t in them. This type of thing is what spoiled my last semester at BYU-I, when I failed a Spanish Lit class (which, fortunately, didn’t end up on my transcript when I transferred to Provo). Of course, if I fail this class it will definitely show up on my transcript and probably cause me to lose my Pell Grant. Thus, I am screwed unless a miracle occurs.

We’ve had over 1,000 cans of food in our living room for about three weeks now. It was originally part of a service project that our ward was conducting: collect cans, the guys vs. the girls. The guys won with the girls collecting only around 500 or so. But in another sense the girls won, because they turned their cans in on time to the BYU charity that was hosting a food bank (itself a competition against the University of Utah), whereas the guys’ cans sat in our living room for weeks, blocking any attempts by us to have a place in which to entertain guests, watch TV, do homework, or the other sorts of things done in a living room. Finally I got so fed up with it that I just started hauling them out to my grandmother’s car (mine was broken!) to drop them off at Smith’s, which acts as a Utah Food Bank drop-off point. I loaded probably about a good third of them before Steve finally got some others to help, and consequently I am in a lot of pain right now, since I’m not used to heavy lifting. But we finally have a workable living room again, and that’s all that matters. Well, and the homeless now have seven more grocery carts completely filled with cans to eat this holiday season. I guess that part’s important too.

On a happier note, I found out that this album got released: Project Chaos Project Chaos, a Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles Remix project (click on the picture for a link). The Sonic the Hedgehog series from the Sega Genesis has some of the best old-school music I’ve ever known. For a fast-paced sidescroller, it’s got some amazingly poignant tunes. The very first level in the very first game, the Green Hill Zone, somehow makes my heart melt. I don’t know why, really. It’s not anything nostalgic, really: I didn’t really get into the Sonic series until I was almost out of high school, and I can clearly remember that it’s had the same effect on me since then. Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles had some of the series’ best tunes, and hearing them remixed so the melodies can transcend the hardware on which they were originally composed is a great treat. That’s the reason I love the remixing movement so much: it takes some amazing tunes that people don’t appreciate due to the horrible limitations of old hardware, and redoes them in a way to help them appear in their full potency. Admittedly, it is true that many remixers do not do the tunes justice, and that many video game tunes don’t sound very good no matter how they’re remixed, but when a good tune is paired with an excellent remixer, the results can be astounding. I can’t tell you, the reader, which ones you will like the best, as many of the ones I like are admittedly influenced by nostalgia (though Sonic does not fall into that category), but check out the website I linked to earlier and see if you can’t find some amazing pieces of work to add to your collection.

Video game music comprises some of my earliest and most influential musical experiences in my childhood. In fact, it is due to such games as Pitfall II, Pogo Man, Necromancer , Ball Blaster, and even Snafu that I wanted to be a composer in the first place. (Note: I apologize for the poor quality of those MIDIs I linked to. On the original machines they sounded much better.) In fact, Necromancer inspired me to do a remix of my own a couple of years back.

Anyway, I had more to say, but in search of those MIDI files I got distracted and started reading web sites with old video game reviews. Consequently, now that I’ve returned to writing this blog, I’ve now forgotten what I was going to say. Maybe it’ll come to me in the future, but for now I will sign off.


The semi-annual Kim Isom post

Well, based on this past week’s experiment, I can come to the conclusion that either a)this blog is still pretty anonymous, or b)those who read it aren’t willing to comment, even when requested to. Either way, this is still a cozy corner o’ the web for me. It’s amazing how much personal stuff you can put on the web with little to no repercussions, mainly because most people don’t care, and the ones who do are people in whom you would probably confide anyway.

In any case, I got around to thinking this past week how life still scares the hell out of me, for the most part, which led, once again, to pondering Kim Isom. Since it’s been so long since I’ve had any sort of contact with her, she’s become more of a symbol, a catalyst if you will, of my current mindset and personality. You see, before all that stuff happened with her that’s described earlier on this blog, I prided myself on being reliable. From little things, such as helping a friend get home from school one day, to big things, like helping a friend write a 40+ song musical, orchestrate it, and direct the pit orchestra at the same time, I always considered myself a man of my word. Then that incident occurred, and when it did, my faith was shaken in my own reliability. I had given my word to accomplish a very important task for a person I greatly liked, and I let her down in every possible way. It has weighed heavily on my conscience every since, and there has always been, ever-present, in the back of my mind, the need to know whether she has forgiven me. Alas, I may never know, as she is harder to get ahold of than J.D. Salinger, and even if I could find her there’s no guarantee she’ll even want to talk to me, much less forgive me.

I still try to be a man of my word. But now I know that I am capable of violating that word, flagrantly and without cause, and I don’t like that. To minimize the chance of it happening again, the simple fact is that I don’t give my word out very often. Only for the most trivial things that I can easily accomplish, or for the most important things that I probably would have done anyway. Who gets let down that way? Nobody. It’s a risk-free way to live. Unfortunately, it can get stagnant, and many opportunities for growth, friendship, and even love pass by, and that’s also not a person I want to be. Thus, life is a bit frightening right now as I struggle between safety and growth. Perhaps if I could get a hold of Kim that wound could begin to heal, and I could more clearly make that decision, but as of now there’s still a lot of pain to go through.

Another reason life greatly scares me is a more universal, less personal reason: I’m running out of cash with no easy way out of the situation, and I’ve really got to get a job this week. This is mainly due to me quitting my job at Title One in August to go back to school here at BYU. When I worked at Title One I never had to worry about money. My income far outweighed my expenses, even with larger purchases such as a new transmission for my car, a Pocket PC, or even college tuition. Last year (’05-’06), I took a few classes both here in Provo and up at the Salt Lake Center (finishing off my generals with the exception of one English class), but retained my job in order to pay for it. I made a decent $9.00 an hour doing what I did, and I was 100% financially secure. My job wasn’t horrible; on the contrary: my boss was great, the hours were good, the atmosphere was fine, and the work wasn’t too difficult but wasn’t too mind-numbingly boring either. I probably could have continued where I was for a much longer period of time, maybe even studying to be a title examiner to make more money. But I didn’t. Why not? Why did I decide to give up financial security, and a decent life, to go back to college, live in increasing poverty in an apartment, studying a subject that is a far cry from future financial security?

I was secure. But I was stagnant. Doing other people’s title work is all well and good, but how does it improve me? Where do I derive the meaning out of life searching back properties and filing microfiche? Most people who work white-collar jobs such as the one I had at least have their own family to go home to. They don’t derive passion from the work specifically, but in the knowledge that the work they were doing was supporting financially the ones they most cared about. Me? Socially, I was stuck in a rut, going out with the same group of friends over and over again, a group that was stuck in the same type of rut I was. I love Casey and Josh and Nate a lot, but they are types of people with which it is difficult to have certain types of conversation. I can’t explain it very well, but if you know the parties involved you’ll know what I mean. Also, I couldn’t even think about a family when I wasn’t even meeting any new people. It is difficult, or quite selfish, to take joy in the fact that you’re only helping to support yourself. (Not quite as selfish as relying on someone else, like your parents, to support you when you’re in your twenties or beyond, but selfish nonetheless.)

I also am a music man. I derive a lot of my own personal joy from creating music. This is something I discussed a bit in the “Far Beyond the Stars” post a few posts ago, so I’m not going to heavily go in to it here. But making music makes me happy, because I know I can make others happy with it, too. Title work does not hold that appeal for me.

So I quit and moved to Provo. At least here, I would be in a more social atmosphere. When people have a problem, changing locations is often a key to solving the problem. If a person has a drinking problem, hanging out in bars is not going to help him overcome it. If a person has difficulty making friends and going on dates, living in his parents’ basement and going to work with people who are mostly married and/or much older isn’t going to help him overcome that problem either. And you know what? It’s actually worked. I may not be currently dating anybody, but I do have friends. People who like me, not for my musical skill, or based on my siblings’ high praise, but for who I am. The walks after midnight to the 7-11 to buy hot chocolate. The door decorations of random adjectives. The making of a birthday cake with a single matchstick in it because the girls involved didn’t have any birthday candles. The random card/board games every few nights. The notes that say things like, “Jeff, you play a mean [piano]. Too bad you have to die! (You don’t really have to die, you’re great!)” These are the things that make life worth living. These are the reasons I can get up in the morning and face life. This is why I can give up a secure financial future. In the scariness of life, there are a few things that make it a little less frightening, and these particular ones I couldn’t find at Title One. I am finding them here.

I don’t want to let any of these girls down, like I did with Kim. I can’t. I just can’t.

Week 2 – Smooth ‘n Smarmy

For Week 2, I wrote a smooth ‘n smarmy jazz number. It was actually written for my theory class using block chords, but I “jazzed” it up a little! Hah! Anyway, I hope you enjoy this selection for Week #2.

And for anybody who might be following my 52-week progress, please feel free to leave comments about these little dittys. (Even if you’re reading this in the middle of May or something and I’m several weeks past this, I’d still enjoy any feedback.)

Comment on this if you read it!

This is mostly a test with my new Facebook thing. Supposedly everybody on my friends list gets notified if I post something here, and I’d like to see how many people are paying attention. So, for everybody who reads this, leave a comment on this post. If you can’t think of anything clever, just post something unoriginal: Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” for example. In any case, let me leave you with an eerie resemblance between a relative of mine and an evil vizier:

Ben and Abdul

Facebook Link

Seems everybody else has got a Facebook doohickey, so I bit the bullet and got one myself. Here’s the “badge:”

Jeffery Krit Parkes' Facebook profile

Apparently I can set up an RSS feed so that Facebook is notified whenever I post here. We’ll see if readership increases or anything wacky like that.

Have fun wit’ it!

Directory of the Promenade

Just for some randomness, I found the directory of the promenade on Deep Space Nine, as seen on the actual show (although too small to really make out on the screen):

Most of these shops are in-jokes among the cast & crew of DS9, although some are references to other shows (such as the “Tom Servo’s Used Robots” shop).

Just something random for you.

Week 1 – Doepfer Jam

To start off this project, for the week of my birthday I have written a “Doepfer Jam.” This is not quite an industry standard term, but it’s what we call it in the BYU Media Music Program. Doepfer is a German company known for its analog modular audio hardware systems. These include audio devices such as waveform generators, low, hi, and band pass filters, and amplitude modifiers; as well as control devices such as envelope generators, portamento controls, LFO devices, and other audio technical jargon stuff.DoepferBasically, with the system that BYU possesses, you can create a basic waveshape(sine, square, sawtooth, triangle, etc.), or create white/pink noise, and play with a lot of patch cables and knobs to make it sound cool. Our Doepfer equipment also has an eight-event sequencer, which means I can loop eight events over and over again, whether they be notes, noise bursts that sound like percussion, or whatever. This demonstrates some of the basics of sound synthesis, which forms the backbone of my current study in the synth program, which in turn is the heart of the BYU Media Music program, which is my major. In other words, I gotta learn this stuff.

In any case, the MP3 of the work I did today can be found on my MySpace Artist Page. It’s pretty basic stuff, and the “melody” line above was actually created using a different MIDI device entirely, so it’s not a true pure Doepfer Jam, but then, with the equipment we have, it would just be those same eight beats over and over again until you are driven mad. MAD, do you hear me?!? Enjoy it!

I also need to find a place to host these songs as I get more, as unless I want to make them all MIDI files I can’t put them all on Angelfire with the limited space I have, and MySpace only lets you have four songs at a time. We’ll see what I can come up with.

The beginning of 52 weeks!

Well, I’m turning 24 next Sunday. And for this new year of 24-ness, I have resolved to write one song a week, to make 52 songs or so by the time I turn 25 in a year from now. Ron Simpson, the head of the Media Music department here at BYU, said that it’s dangerous for music studios to take on people who have written their first ten-twenty songs over ten years or so. Sure, the first album might be a hit, but when another album is due to be released two years later, how will the studio know that the artist can produce the same caliber of music with substantially less time? To see what quality of music I can come up with, I propose these simple rules:

1. I have to write a song every week from Nov. 12, 2006 to Nov. 12, 2007.

2. I do not have to start the song on Sunday and finish on Saturday; I can write it any time during the week.

3. If I do not finish a song by the end of Saturday, I will leave it as-is and start a new one the week following.

4. I can count assignments in my music classes as songs for this project, as long as they are original compositions and not some figured-bass exercise or dictation or something.

5. The song can be anything: from eight measures of piano to a full orchestral thing to a simple melody to a Doepfer Jam (which will be explained once I do one for my Synthesizer class so I can post the end result here). As long as I have made an effort, it will count.

6. No using older songs as a cop-out. That means I have to write new material, not remix “Lightning” again.

7. I am not required to post my songs anywhere, as long as they are saved on my hard drive. Some songs I am more proud of I may post here or on MySpace or something, but it is not necessary.

8. The songs don’t technically have to be songs, i.e. sung by somebody, but can be any sort of musical work.

I think that about covers it. Let’s see if I hold true to this! To get it started with “Week 0,” as it were, here is a piece I wrote for my Music 295 class, in which I had to modulate three times using “miscellaneous means.” Enjoy it!

Set a heading. . .for romance!

Just two things. First, this:

The Trekkie Test.

Not a surprise. Second, why do the really attractive girls I like who seem to like me as well end up going on a mission? This week is the second time it’s happened! I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence!

Wait. On second thought, maybe it is a coincidence. Or rotten luck. Oh, well. At least I’m a captain!