Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

52 Weeks

52 Weeks of Music! For the third time!

I guess I hadn’t mentioned this on my actual personal blog, but over on my music site I’ve started up the 52 Weeks of Music project! Long-time readers of this blog may be aware of my previous two attempts (kind of; during the second one I didn’t actually write anything), but this time I’ve got both the equipment, time, and motivation to make it happen. Head on over and check it out; it begins in earnest the first week of January!

http://parkesmusic.wordpress.com/

and

http://parkesmusic.wordpress.com/about/

Warning: if you go look at my two older projects you’ll find a lot of broken links. The new one does not suffer that problem, however.


52 Weeks – Week 15 – “Action” Theme

I know I skipped a week, so sometime in the future I’ll do two in one week to make up for it.

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music:

“Action” Theme

I’ve actually already done a post on this piece, but it wasn’t all that in-depth. The first project in my 2008 film scoring class was to write a theme, then develop it into three versions that would be appropriate for scenes in a movie: the “main” theme over the titles, the “action” theme during an action sequence, and either a “love” theme or a “death” theme. This, of course, is the “action” theme. It sounds a bit like a car chase from some sort of ’70’s cop movie (complete with a jump over a raising bridge in the middle in slow motion) which is pretty cool.

This piece was also important in that it was the first time I’ve really been able to pull off an electric guitar without it sounding obviously fake, using just some sounds found in Logic Pro 8. Some members of the class even wondered if I recorded an actual guitar in this thing (which I didn’t). Since then I’ve written a lot more songs in that style (mostly for murder mystery shows), using the principles I first discovered while working on this little ditty, and it truly is one of the first professional-sounding pieces I’ve ever done that I wouldn’t be at least somewhat embarrassed to show to potential clients. Not bad for a 75-second music cue!

Coming up next week: the Battle Music from RR: The Game (a different RR game than before)!


52 Weeks – Week 14 – What’s Going On?

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music, presented in three forms:

“What’s Going On?” from Travels

CD Version

Live Version

MIDI Version

(For those not familiar with Travels, this may help.)

To quote from my Travels memoirs:

Another personal favorite. This one dispenses the washed-out feeling we’ve had since A Dangerous Sign and sinks its teeth right back into the meat of the story. Accompanied by a rock organ instead of a distortion guitar, this one has a much more low-key feel than ‘A Dangerous Sign.’ The beginning of this song is the happiest time for Marco during the entire show, and it’s a bit jarring to hear the beautiful string lines turn minor and sour right before the rock section. The oboe there also adds a bit of emotion. The MIDI file is a rockin’ one, as is the tape, but the CD loses a lot of the heavy bass that I love on this song.”

A funny thing happened when I orchestrated this show. The first five or six songs I really put a lot of effort into and tried to make sound awesome. Then the reality of having thirty-five or so songs left and only two months to do them in became quite apparent and a lot of the rest of the orchestrations didn’t have nearly the time and care put into them. This particular song, “What’s Going On?”, is one of those early pieces. There’s some counterpoint, some nice harmonies, a sax solo that didn’t actually work in real life — good times. The song is the first time we’re finally introduced to the core conflict of the show: Marco Polo’s idealism vs. the realities of the Mongol Empire. Since this is three songs before Act I ends, I’d say that’s a bit of a pacing problem, but once it’s introduced it makes for a compelling drama for the rest of the show, Marco’s whining notwithstanding. This is also the first piece I did where I gave the two main characters a distinctive instrument to represent them musically: an oboe for Mei Hwa, a clarinet for Marco. I used this same motif in a few other pieces, although sadly, by the end of the process I didn’t have the time to make it work throughout the entire show.

This piece is one of the four that actually sounds like a rock opera (not counting reprises, the other three are “Who Is This Stranger?”, “A Dangerous Sign”, and “Who Do You Think You Are?”), albeit a little more low-key than any of the others. Interestingly enough, this song showcases perfectly why I both really enjoy and bash the CD recording: the string part at the beginning is gorgeous, while the rock part doesn’t work at all. I guess that’s what happens when you record in a choir room instead of an actual studio, or at least when you don’t correctly mike the rhythm section, especially the drums. Ah, well, still a fun song.

Coming up next week: the “Action” theme from my film scoring class!


52 Weeks – Week 13 – The Sewer

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music:

The Sewer

The origin of this piece actually requires a bit of backstory. In 1999 I became a part of the online Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers community, with its main seat at the Acorn Cafe. It was a fun place to discuss random things about the TV show and collaborate with fellow Ranger enthusiasts (and it was completely PG-rated). After posting a MIDI file I did of the opening theme song to the show, a few people asked me to do some music for their various RR-related projects. One such project was an RPG starring the Rangers made by a fellow Cafe member named Hermes. It was called “Rescue Rangers The Game: The Future Will Never Be the Same,” and sadly, I don’t remember anything about the plot, or who some of those extra characters are on this poster for it:

The game itself never saw the light of day, but I did write a few short pieces for various locales in the game. Our subject today was one such piece, written for the sewer level. It doesn’t really have much music: it’s more of an ambience track than anything else, but it’s still kind of fun and creepy.

Coming up next week: “What’s Going On?” from Travels!


52 Weeks – Week 12 – Bens! (And a new child, and 8-Bit Mars!)

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

(For this week, instead of picking an image from flickr, I uploaded this one of Ben’s yet-unnamed firstborn child, who was born yesterday. I figured, since the piece is called “Bens!” it would be appropriate.)

Today’s piece of music:

Bens!

This isn’t really a song. It’s barely anything coherent. I guess it would be best to describe it as more of an experiment than anything else. Sometime in 1997, when SaXon Geat was still in its formative stages, Ben wrote a bassline and some ear-splitting guitar chords that lasted all of fifteen seconds, then later I added a melody. Then I added a bass solo. Then I added another sort of B section. Then I repeated the first part, slower and shifted down a whole step. It was basically just a meandering thing that never really ended, so it has no form whatsoever, but it still has some interesting parts.

You may note that the MP3 featured here sounds like Nintendo music. That’s because recently I’ve been having some fun with making chiptunes out of old MIDI files, such as “Lightning,” or, even better, Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War.” I did it with “Bens!” because the sound quality of the original MIDI was so horrifyingly bad that to listen to it one’s ears might bleed. (If you want to subject yourself to it, you can certainly do so. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because I did.)

Coming up next week: “The Sewer!”


52 Weeks – Week 11 – Endurance

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music: Mvmt. 2 of “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” entitled

Endurance

This was the second part of the strangely-titled “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” project from my freshman BYU year. The object of this particular part was to create something humorous, so I came up with this weird poem:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who could hold his breath for over thirteen minutes
Here now is his story.

This man had a brother, who, try as he might
Could not hold his breath as long
So instead he decided to give up that racket
And now he’s written this song:

The older one went to the younger one day
And saw that something was wrong
He asked “Little brother, what’s the matter with you?”
And in return he heard this song:

The older one laughed and smiled and laughed as he said,
“Young one, there’s no need to fear!
For you are a cello player, you see,
And can play a note for a year!”

The younger one thought he’d try it out,
And so one note did he play
He played it year in and he played it year out
And he’s playing it still to this day!

The conceits were: the older one (the baritone player) actually couldn’t hold his breath very long, which is why he suddenly stops playing and starts wheezing near the beginning. Everyone else stops and waits for him to catch his breath, then they begin again! Hilarious! Then, when the younger one’s plight is heard in “this song,” the main theme of the work is played at varying dissonances: first a tritone, then a minor second. So sad! Finally, on the line “one note did he play” the cellist plays a note and holds it for the rest of the piece! The note is even still being held when movement 3 starts (which I may get to someday as part of this whole thing)! Ha ha!

Anyway, this was a fun piece to do. We weren’t allowed to talk to the performers about the piece, so I have no idea what was going through their heads, but it must have been a bit disconcerting, as the violin enters early after the second stanza, which is why you hear some guy loudly singing the actual entrance. That was our illustrious teacher, Mr. Murray Boren, who conducted all these pieces. I got some fun compliments on the tune from the other students in the class. Apparently they thought I’d be a good kids’ songwriter. You know, for kids! That’s as well as maybe, and who knows? Maybe I’ll end up going that way some day.

Coming up next week: “Bens!” Obviously a collaboration!


52 Weeks – Week 10 – Prologue/Overture

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music, presented in three forms:

“Prologue/Overture” from Travels

CD Version

Live Version

MIDI Version

(For those not familiar with Travels, this may help.)

To quote from my Travels memoirs: “This was the first attempt at orchestration for the show. It was started mid-December of 1999 at Nate’s house when we were still trying to figure out how to work the whole process. This was even before it was decided that I do the orchestrations. It was mostly finished in December but touch-ups and other work were applied later before I printed it.”

And also from the overview in that same document: “When I first really started helping Nate in December of 1999 during my senior year of high school it was because I knew a lot more about Finale than he did. It had been decided for a while that I was to direct the pit orchestra, but the decision of who was doing the orchestrations wasn’t made until near the end of December. We had finally finished the first piano reduction for 1. Prologue/Overture at Nate’s house when I started playing with the orchestra parts to it. I asked Nate if I could also orchestrate the rest of the show, and he said something like, ‘Sure, whatever.’ Little did I know what I was getting myself into.”

Ah, the beginning of Travels. As was noted above, this piece I orchestrated at Nate’s house while he was still trying to figure out Finale. I’m not even sure that we had a firm instrumentation down at that point (for example, I wrote a guitar part for it before it became clear that we weren’t going to end up having a guitar player for the show).

Being the prologue, this piece was special for a number of reasons: it laid out the basic tenets of the plot, those being that the entire show was a flashback of Marco’s travels, that something horrible happened to Marco personally that he didn’t want recorded, and that now he’s been put in jail somewhere with a writer named Rustichello who’s writing everything down. Also this is one of only three pieces that has spoken dialogue in the entire show. In fact, according to Nate, all the spoken dialogue in the prologue comes directly from the actual book of Marco Polo’s travels itself. There’s not much to say about the music itself. It’s given a sort of regal, even martial feel with the staccato horns, snare drum, and steady beat, with a B section taken from a later piece in the show (“12. In These Mountain Tops”).

The overture is just a paraphrase of the main theme of the show (“6. Travels”) with a harp arpeggio at the end seguing into the second piece (“2. Day After Day”). This theme plays at various time skips or commencements during the show: here, when the show flashes back; during song #6, when Marco actually begins his travels; at the end of the first act, when Marco decides to change things (and we move to several months later when act 2 starts); at the end of the escape song before we return to the “present” Marco in jail, and finally to close out the entire show. That’s a lot of ground to cover for one theme. I’ll speak more about it if/when I talk about the song “Travels” itself.

Also one random note: this song let my brother Ben answer a Final Jeopardy! answer about a famous explorer who dictated his story to a prisoner in 1298. Ben was just playing along at home, but still, it was pretty neat.

Coming up next week: Mvmt. 2 of “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” entitled “Endurance”!


52 Weeks – Week 9 – New

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music is:

New

As I’ve mentioned before, I wrote a lot of songs for SaXon Geat. During high school it was the instrumentation I used for virtually every song I wrote before Travels. This particular one, while not one we ever performed , rehearsed, or even gave an official name to, is still one of my favorites. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it has a bit of that “factor X,” which I believe is related to the major 7th chord in the first measure of the main theme. In any case, it feels like it’s got a bit more feeling behind it than some of the other stuff I wrote around the same time.

At first I wrote up to 1:12, and then let it sit for a while. When I came back to it I ended stealing the melody of the bridge from the ending credits theme to Chrono Trigger: “To Far Away Times,” which is still one of the most sublime pieces of music I’ve ever heard, despite its SNES 16-bit sound-chip origin. Then I closed it up repeating the main theme.

I remember playing this for Nate back in the day, and he liked it so much he ended up incorporating the short line played at 0:54 into Travels, during the song “No Better Timing.” Oddly enough, “No Better Timing” was the one song I never even tried to orchestrate (well, besides “The Parade,” but Nate never even wrote that one down), but even so I suppose I had a little influence on it, which means I had a hand in every single song in that show, except “The Parade.” Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Coming up next week: the “Prologue/Overture” to Travels!


52 Weeks – Week 8 – Dun dun dun!

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music is:

Dun dun dun!

A funny thing happened after high school. During most of my high school career I had written for two basic formats: SaXon Geat, and Travels. Consequently, I had a good amount of experience writing for both a pit orchestra and a ska band minus guitar (yeah, yeah, I know). Now, all of the SaXon Geat stuff I’d done hadn’t been under a deadline or under any pressure or even really for a client (since none of my songs actually got performed by the band anyway). However, both Travels and the stuff I wrote for assignments during my first year of college were obviously under more constraints, both in terms of creativity and time. So somehow, whenever I wrote anything that wasn’t for a specific purpose (to blow off steam, to explore musical ideas, etc.) I defaulted to writing another SaXon Geat-type song, i.e. writing for a rhythm section (bass, drums, keyboard), and a brass section (trumpet, trombone, tenor and alto sax), even though the band itself had long since been disbanded.

“Dun dun dun!” was one such piece. It never really had an official title, and was just something I wrote for no particular reason during the summer of 2001. While not a particularly inspired piece, it still possessed a fair amount of energy driving it, even in this early MIDI incarnation. The bass was a better sample than usual, it had a synth lead, and some strings were used for a pad (which is something I actually do a lot, I’ve noticed; even in my most recent work.) The sounds had a certain fluidity that built upon each other and created a smooth, driving, groove experience. All except the brass sounds. Since I still always wrote a part for the brass, we’ve got one here, accenting the off-beats of beats three and four. However, since the brass sounds I had at the time were atrocious, they seem to interrupt the flow the music is trying to create rather than add to it. The result is a potentially awesome sound ruined by this “eeh-eeh” every measure. Hopefully, I learned my lesson. If memory serves, this was the very last piece I wrote with that instrumentation thrown in there as a throwback to SaXon Geat days. All the songs I’ve written since then that have a brass section have had one because I wanted that type of sound in the piece, not simply because they were there by default, and I think it’s improved my compositional techniques.

The piece is still fun to listen to, despite the horrible brass sounds (and the fact that it’s basically just a 50-second loop).

Coming up next week: “New,” yet another untitled SaXon Geat-esque work!


52 Weeks – Week 7 – Phrustration

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music is:

Phrustration!

Of all the more “serious” pieces I’ve written, this is definitely one of my top three or so. “Phrustration” was originally written for my final project in a music theory class, proving that I could write a modal piece: in this case, the Phrygian mode. It was just a piano piece, with a person saying, “Frustration!” every so often and screaming and breaking glass near the end. Phrygian mode + Frustration = Phrustration! I originally planned to do it with Casey coming in and breaking a bottle, but he bailed on me literally in the last minute, causing me to grab some random girl from the class to do it instead (with no bottle break), which didn’t work nearly as well, but whatever; I passed the class.

A year and a half or so later, I brought this piece back and orchestrated it to present at my junior recital. It was the first real project I worked on using Logic Pro, the program I’ve used nearly exclusively since then. For the recital I once again brought Casey back (this time he showed up, too!), and we worked out a whole routine where he was sitting at home trying to do homework or something, but increasingly frustrating things started happening: he broke his pencil, he spilled his drink all over his homework, he couldn’t find anything to watch on TV, he got his foot stuck in the wastebasket, he asked a girl out on the phone only to find out she got married, etc. etc. Near the end he was supposed to smash a picture frame against the desk and scream. Now, I had dubbed in the glass breaking sound on the track and taken out the glass from the frame to make sure Casey didn’t injure anything in the auditorium. However, he replaced the glass before the number and actually smashed it against the desk sending glass flying everywhere. Now, keep in mind that this was in the Maeser building on BYU campus, and the first row of audience members is maybe three feet away. Luckily nobody was hurt, but it kind of brought everyone out of the moment when suddenly they have to fear for their safety. And for the rest of the night Casey was trying to clean it up while I continued with the recital. So, in short, both times I’ve performed this in front of an audience it really has been frustrating.

In any case, I love the Phrygian mode. It’s extremely dark, the second darkest of all the church modes, but it’s not so dark as to lose a sense of finality, as the darkest mode, the Locrian, does. The Locrian mode may imply a sense of loss, spiraling into madness and uncertainty, a despair so deep that it is not understandable. The Phrygian, in contrast, portrays the same level of despair, but without any of the madness. It is a final hopeless loss, one that can be understood but from which there is no escape. The lowered second (which is the difference between the Phrygian mode and the plain ol’ minor key)is what really drives the despair home. In a minor key there can be victory: a villainous victory, but a victory nonetheless. But in the Phrygian mode there can be no victory, not for the protagonist anyway. The opposing forces have overcome him, and he is aware of it all, but unable to surmount any of it. In a way that makes this piece and the one I just wrote last week sort of companion pieces if you will. In this one he is driven to the depths, but in the other he finds redemption and can soar once again.

It was also with this piece that I learned a lot of tricks I hadn’t quite been able to master to make my pieces sound more realistic, especially with the cymbal rolls, orchestral swells, glockenspiel, and harp glissandos. I’m still working on the brass, but I think the rest of it sounds real enough that people don’t automatically say, “That sounds like a video game!”

Interestingly enough, this piece was featured on my last 52 weeks project as well (the one that only lasted four weeks).

Coming up next week: “Dun dun dun!” (And no, that’s not just a dramatic introduction of next week’s piece; it’s the actual name.)


Into the ether

All right, I’m sick of this. I’ve been doing these “52 weeks” posts for, what, seven weeks now, and not a single comment. Not. One. I already know these songs, people! I’m not doing this for myself! I want to get feedback! But since nobody’s said a word, I’m going to assume that either 1) people have stopped reading this blog, and it’s like the old Angelfire days again, where I can post personal things without fear of repercussion, or 2) nobody besides myself actually cares about my music. And I don’t mean in the “I care about you, Jeff, so I care about the things that you do” way, but in the “I am actively involved in the consumption of the product you produce” way. You see the difference? One shows a love (or obligation) toward the person, one shows an acceptance of the music itself. And only the second one will help me believe that I can make a living doing this. Since I’ve gotten no feedback, though, I guess I can’t. Because nobody cares about it. Let me reiterate: I’m not saying nobody cares about me, but that nobody cares about my music. At least not enough to add one little comment in nearly two months’ worth of posts on the subject, which, let’s face it, takes a minimal amount of effort.

This especially hurt with the piece I posted last Tuesday. I may not have entirely conveyed it, but that piece was my favorite I’ve done all year, and a true expression of the essence of what I’m trying to convey to the world through my music. Well, if the world doesn’t give a damn about the song that best expresses who I am, what does that say about me? If the song that means the most to me doesn’t even arouse a single person to make the smallest of comments, even when I post it on my Facebook page too, then what the hell am I doing here? Obviously I’m incapable of touching the chords of other people’s hearts, no matter how hard I try. And that’s the reason I got into music in the first place. And that just reiterates a point I’ve tried to make several times, with varying amounts of success: that I’m a different breed of person, and so hard to understand sometimes that most people have just given up trying, which is a major factor why I’m 27 and still single and haven’t been able to hold onto a girlfriend for more than a month.

Now, I fully expect to get a few, “No, it’s OK, Jeff, I still think you’re awesome” comments on this post. If I’m lucky a few of you may go back to those earlier posts and comment “Sounds good!” But I don’t need anyone’s pity. I don’t need this to be like when I was in elementary school with no friends and one day I burst into tears in front of the whole class and during the next recess a few people thought it was their duty to be nice to me, a duty which, once fulfilled for a recess, left me in the same place: friendless. If you’re not going to be sincere, I don’t need it. All the “You’re a good guy” comments would seem hollow. Actions speak louder than words. But if you are going to be sincere; if you are willing to take the time to listen to what I’ve got to say through what I write, and most importantly, stick with it because you like the music (or alternatively, you don’t like it and are willing to tell me why, which would be even more important), then I’ll keep making those posts. Otherwise I’m done posting music here. This blog will just become somewhere that I post funny Youtube videos once every six months or so. But that’s OK; it won’t be a big loss. One can’t disappoint an audience that doesn’t exist. (And hey, if the reason I’ve got no comments is actually that nobody’s reading this blog anymore anyway, then nobody will read this rant and nobody will feel guilty! It’s a win-win!)


52 Weeks – Week 6 – Ode to Spot

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Vic and Spot

Today’s piece of music is:

Ode to Spot

Felis Catus is your taxonomic nomenclature.
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
contribute to your hunting skills, and natural defenses.
I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
a singular development of cat communications
that obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
for a rhythmic stroking of your fur, to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
you would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aide in locomotion,
it often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.
O Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

Written by Data for his pet cat Spot (actually written by Brannon Braga for the ST:TNG episode “Schisms”), the Ode to Spot is one of the more memorable little pieces of Star Trek that fans enjoy. To quote the whole thing is a true sign of Trekkieness. But to set the whole thing to music — well! It just needed to happen! So, for my junior recital, I did just that, and sang it with three myselves (if that’s a word) three times. How, you may ask? Let this recording from my actual junior recital tell you (part 1/part 2).

Jaff, Joff, and Juff were drawings of myself on the chalkboard made by Johnathan Whiting, and at the end I erased their mouths, so that no more villainous characters could make me sing it again. This was one of the funnest parts of my recital, and although the song itself is nothing groundbreaking, it’s still a fun little tune set to a very memorable set of lyrics (memorable not in anybody’s ability to actually remember the words, but just remember that they heard something so ludicrous). This was also before I learned how to pronounce “hedonistic,” apparently.

Coming up next week: Phrustration!


52 Weeks – Week 5 – I’ve Got Rhythm

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

lando7wgr

Today’s piece of music is:

I’ve Got Rhythm

Pimp Lando is a series made by Casey Wayman, Billy Grant, and myself from 1998 until, well, we’re still going on it (we’re working on the tenth later this month). The seventh installment was made shortly after our respective missions, about four years after the sixth was finished, so we knew we needed to pick up the series with a bang. So we decided to make it a musical! Instead of writing original songs, however, we just rewrote lyrics from songs from famous musicals, particularly The Phantom of the Opera. This particular ditty closes out the show, where the story’s been wrapped up, Lando’s got the girl (who he loses in the epilogue), and everyone joins in a song-and-dance number. It makes a bit more sense after viewing the episode in its entirety, but not much.

I’m working on fixing Pimp Lando 7 in order to upload a video of the whole thing (there are a lot of timing issues to fix), but for now, I’ve at least got a video of this song up:

Coming up next week: Ode to Spot!

(Oddly enough, flickr gave me no response to the search term “Pimp Lando Rhythm” so I just got a screenshot from the episode.)


52 Weeks – Week 4 – Who is this Stranger?

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Stranger

Today’s piece of music, presented in three forms:

“Who is this Stranger?” from Travels!

(For those not familiar with Travels, this may help.)

I’m going to present all Travels songs in these three formats, as the differences can be striking and interesting. For example, with “Who is this Stranger?” the MIDI version has a lot more energy than the CD and live version, due to a faster tempo and a screwed-up keyboard in the other two (it was supposed to be a square wave, but due to some miscommunication it ended up being a Hammond organ, and the two sound nothing alike).

To quote from my Travels memoirs: “This is where the musical style of the show shifts from an old-fashioned musical to a rock opera. The energy level is high as the show gets rockin’. This is heightened in the MIDI file by the Square sound (the techno video-game sound) and on the tape by the slap bass line. Easily one of the songs that lost a bit on the CD, it still is a great entrance into China.”

“Who is this Stranger?” is one of the first songs I completed while orchestrating Travels, and I was really excited about the energy put into it. As time went on during the orchestration and rehearsal process, I discovered that what I put in the MIDI file and what the orchestra was capable of playing were often quite different, both in terms of skill level and just being real instruments, and as a result the CD suffers. The live version is a little more energetic, since the drums and bass were both killed on the CD.

“Who is this Stranger?” was also one of the only songs Nate asked for my lyrical help on. I think after I gave helpful suggestions like “I’ve never seen their kind or like, I kind of like their look, but look, they look just like Al Gore” and Annelise’s favorite, “Who are these strangers, strangers from Granger,” Nate turned elsewhere for lyrical help (although, in my defense, lines like “You will see it all as we push off my favorite pier/You’re gonna push your friend in the water?” stayed in the show).

Finally, the song should have been titled “Who are these Strangers?” since that’s what is actually sung, but oh well, whaddya gonna do?

Coming up next week: “I’ve Got Rhythm” from Pimp Lando 7!


52 Weeks – Week 3 – Decision

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

decisions

Today’s piece of music: Mvmt. 1 of “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” entitled

Decision!

The whole five-part quintet thing was composed as part of my Music 288 class (Composition 2) back in 2001, when I was still a music composition pre-major before I decided to jump ship and move to the media music department. Each assignment that semester was to write a piece for the same group of five instruments: flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and randomly, euphonium. Then we had what was termed a “real studio experience” where we’d go to Studio Y on campus and give our music to the players, where they would sight-read it and it would get recorded. We weren’t allowed to talk to them about performance notes or anything; we had to stay sequestered in the booth, so the performance was based strictly on whatever we had written on the score and parts.

This particular assignment was the first of five, and sadly, it was also the only one that I can’t remember now what the exact assignment was. It sounds ternary with repeating motives, so the assignment probably had something to do with that. Sadly, on this recording, the flute player didn’t show up for some reason, so the guy playing the flute was just one of the students in the composition class who played flute for a year or so in junior high, which is why the last note is kind of strained and stuff. Still, it’s kind of fun, and it’s one of the few pieces I have a live recording of, so that makes it special.

Coming up next week: “Who is this Stranger?” from Travels!


52 Weeks – Week 2 – Crystal

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

crystal

Today’s piece of music is…

Crystal!

This short MP3 is less a song and more an awakening of possibility. It was made when I was experimenting with sounds while I was trying to write some music for a Rescue Ranger RPG that an online friend was making. I did several songs for it, even though it never got made. This particular one was made when I was trying to make some sort of ambient sounds, and for some reason it spoke to me, so I decided to save it. It’s short, peaceful, and you can do a very quick Tai Chi move to it or something. It’s called “Crystal” because that was the image I got when I wrote it. That’s about all I got on this one.

Coming up next week: Mvmt. 1 of “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” entitled “Decision”!


52 Weeks…again! Week 1 – Presidential Clown

Longtime blogketeers may remember my old 52 Weeks of Music project that fizzled out after about week four or so. Well, I’m going to try to do a similar project again. This time, however, instead of doing 52 weeks of new music, every week I’m going to highlight a piece of music I’ve written (or orchestrated). I’m throwing basically everything I have on my hard drive into a playlist, and once a week I will randomly pick one and write a bit of background info about it, how I feel about it, and provide a link to listen to it. A lot of the music may already be featured on my music page, but I’ve written a lot that I haven’t uploaded there, so you will find some new stuff cropping up as well (such as other songs from Travels or what have you).

I also invite anyone reading to offer comments. I know nearly all of my past requests for comments on my music have fallen on deaf ears (no pun intended), but I hope that maybe if I do this every week I can get some feedback eventually. I don’t need detailed critiques; even simple comments from untrained people would be nice!

And, just for fun, I will also put the name of the song into flickr and whatever the first picture that comes up is, that will be the pic in the post!

So, with no further ado, let’s load up the ol’ random playlist and see what we come up with!

Today’s piece of music is. . .

Presidential Clown!

clowns rule the nation

The year was 1996. My brother Ben had just formed his first band, then known as Fried Green Friends of the Llama, which later changed names to Giardia. It was just him and his friend from Granite Youth, who was also a bass player, but they still needed some music to play. So Ben approached my thirteen-year-old self with a request: write us a rock song! Up to this point I had never written any sort of rock song, so it was a whole new thing for me. I started with bass, lead guitar, and vocal parts, and plunked something out, quite unaware that my guitar part didn’t in any way match how a real guitar would play, but whatever. Also, I knew nothing about how to write drum parts, so I just used the default “rock drums” setting on the Roland keyboard we had and put it in. Then Ben wrote lyrics to it that don’t make too much sense. He was just about to turn sixteen and I guess wanted to write some sort of “socially relevant” thing, but include references to two things he obsessed over in ninth grade for some reason: SPAM and the Beatles (“the kings” in the song), even though neither had to do with the subject matter.

The song never got performed by Giardia, as that band never really got past the “wouldn’t it be cool if we had a band” stage. It was a seminal work of mine, though, laying the groundwork for a lot of the work I’d later do in SaXon Geat and even into this decade. This recording was made almost twelve years later, in preparation for my junior recital, with added brass and flute parts, as well as a redone guitar part that actually sounded like a guitar. For anyone curious, the original sounded like this.

Well, that does it for week 1 of 52 weeks! Coming up next week…”Crystal”!