Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Archive for August, 2009

Unnecessary notification

I don’t know exactly why, but I found this one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while when I logged on to Facebook today:

no classmates

Thanks, random Facebook application, for demonstrating your complete inability to do anything useful and then telling me about it!


Music Page now operational!

conduct

After who knows how long, I have finally updated the music page on this blog, and wow, is it an update! I’ve got several songs from every year basically since I started writing songs up to the present; overall, around 75 songs are listed there now. Please go check them out, and give feedback!


Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Took two different versions of this test, with two interesting outcomes. One said I was ISTP (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perception), while the other said I was ISFP (the same, but Feeling instead of Thinking), but only with a slight preference for Feeling and a moderate preference for the other traits. According to the Myers-Briggs website, the two types go down like this:

ISTP
Tolerant and flexible, quiet observers until a problem appears, then act quickly to find workable solutions. Analyze what makes things work and readily get through large amounts of data to isolate the core of practical problems. Interested in cause and effect, organize facts using logical principles, value efficiency.

Famous ISTP:

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

ISFP
Quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoy the present moment, what’s going on around them. Like to have their own space and to work within their own time frame. Loyal and committed to their values and to people who are important to them. Dislike disagreements and conflicts, do not force their opinions or values on others.

Famous ISFP:

Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin

And hey, I’m actually both of these, depending on the situation and what mood I’m in. I’d analyze this further, but right now I’m in more of an ISFP mood, and don’t want to force my opinions or values on others. Maybe later I’ll be in an ISTP mood and will analyze what makes this work and readily get through large amounts of data to isolate the core of the practical problem. You know, I’ll be interested in cause and effect, yadda yadda yadda. Also, I want to go to bed.

EDIT: According to another website, an ISTP is known as “The Mechanic,” while the ISFP is known as “The Artist.” Fitting since my strengths lie in tech theatre and computer-assisted music composition. One thing’s for sure: I’m definitely an introvert, as evidenced by all these blog posts trying to figure out who I am and what my role is in life.


Why do people listen to the music they listen to?

Green Sound Wave

(I originally wrote this post for the Poison Ivy Mysteries blog, but I wanted to post it here, too. Also, I edited the earlier SONAR post so the music is working again, too, since the two later examples I use in this post are indeed those songs.)

This is my third time trying to make a coherent blog post on this subject. I find that the qualities I most enjoy in music and the qualities that most people I associate with enjoy in music are often not only different, but quite at odds. For example, let’s take this remix of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. This was created using the same hardware that powers the sound system of the Atari 8-bit line of computers (comparable to the sound of the original Nintendo Entertainment System). I would imagine that even those people who kind of like the sound of this remix would consider it obviously inferior to the song as performed by Nirvana. Why?

Some people would say because it was the original, and therefore remixes aren’t as original. Fine. If Nirvana or some other well-known band remixed this piece (an original tune using the same hardware), however, I would venture that most people would prefer the band version over the Atari version. So that’s it, then? Other things being equal, live instruments always beat synthesized sounds, right?

Not for me.

Quite frankly, I really enjoy that original Atari piece, and any attempt to recreate it wouldn’t be able to capture the essence that makes it what it is, just like that 8-bit remix of Smells Like Teen Spirit fails to capture the spirit (no pun intended) of the original. Now, I admit, I may be influenced by the fact that I grew up with and spent a lot of time on our old Atari, and I have a certain affinity for the sound. Your mileage may vary if not affected by the nostalgia I feel.

I think the problem many composers have with not being able to enjoy many forms of synthesized music is this: they make the mistake of trying to compare it to previous kinds of music, or components of music, as a reference point. Therefore composers may try to make their synth music sound as close to live music as possible, creating an uncanny valley sort of effect where people know it’s supposed to sound like a violin but it doesn’t quite get there. Consider this, which is a song that my brother wrote a while back in high school. It was supposed to be performed by an actual band but never was, and as a result the song itself sounds cheesy and synthetic, in all the wrong ways. People listening would say, “Hey, I know what a trumpet sounds like, and that ain’t no trumpet. Therefore, it’s crap.” Now, consider this. Same exact song. The only things I have changed are the sounds. Instead of sounding like a trumpet, that same part is its own unique sound (a processed square wave with built-in delay, for anyone keeping score). Is it better? I would venture that most people would say that it is. Would it be better than a live band playing the same song? I would still venture that it would be.

But wait. Didn’t we decide earlier with the Teen Spirit and Atari song examples that, other things being equal, live instruments trump synth? Is music played by, or simulating, live instruments, the only good “real” music? For some people, that answer will always be yes, it does, but I don’t believe it to be the case.

What’s better, a Beatles song, or an orchestra playing a suite of Beatles songs? A child singing a hymn quietly to him or herself, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing it, backed up by the Utah Symphony? A Bach piece played by a rock band, or a rock song played on the organ? On a broader note, who are we to define what good music is and isn’t? Who are we to tell people that the music they like or they music they don’t is inferior or superior to any other kind? What defines “real music?” I read once that the definition of noise is “unwanted sound.” Well, I would venture to define music as “wanted sound.” It’s all subjective. No music is more real than any other kind. And in this day and age, with globalization and the Internet, there will be a market for nearly any type of music, whether it be live, synth, singing, non-singing, produced with millions of dollars of equipment or with a guy playing a guitar in his garage into a mic.

I do think I have one thing that may globally separate good music from bad, and that is simply this: how much heart did the composer/performer put into it? And, more importantly, how much heart is the listener willing to put into it? I’ve redone this blog post three times now and I still don’t think I’ve put across the message I want as clearly as I want to, but I guess it comes down to urging people to step out of their comfort zones when it comes to music. Listen to thing you never thought you’d like. You may be surprised that the qualities you thought defined good music for you were, in fact, off-base, and you may grow to love something you never thought you’d touch with a ten-foot pole. That’s all I’m trying to say.

(All Atari songs came from the Atari SAP Music Archive)


Nixon and Travels

travelsnixon

Well, this is the result of a few hours of free time, a search for a vocoder, and a dash of insanity.

Richard Nixon’s resignation, vocoded through the finale of Travels.

I actually thought it fit kind of well with the mood. Interestingly, the NBC reporter is Steve Porter.