August 19, 2012
April 22, 2012
So, yes. We are going to talk about improvisation here in this blog. And also some other things. But mainly, if you are looking to improve your improvisational skills, whether you’re an instrumentalist, composer or academic then you will find insight here.
I’ll start with a bit of background. I’m a computer programmer by day and practicing composer by night. I aspire to create music for television, film and video-games using software to compose scores and synthesize sounds.
I have been studying music for almost 15 years, including my higher education at Webster University, culminating in a bachelor of arts in music. Additionally, I have racked up a number of credit hours in computer science.
Computers have provided a direction for my work. Not only my livelihood during the day, but it is the way of the future when it comes to music. However, this blog will only partially focus on synthesizing sounds with a computer while a great deal of focus will be on the more universal topic of functional harmony, melody and rhythm.
Apart from other topics we might touch on why there are so many programming musicians, the important role that music plays in this digital age, and why hipsters have evolved to what they are (I am a self proclaiming and proud hipster).
So, some tools. There are lots of tools out there. Books are good, internet resources, blogs, social networks and the list goes on. My personal favorite are the Real Books with it’s various editions. Pretty much everything you need to know about improvisation is encoded in those books. Then I like using lilypond to input scores into the computer and I currently play them back with Mac’s Logic Pro 9, though I hope to move in the direction of using csound as my default synthesizer (just as soon as my understanding and facility of it mature to the point where it allows me to give up Logic).
My writing style will err on the side of technical seeing as this is a technical blog. Though, there is the possibility (and I encourage it) that discourse will emerge from resulting topics and trends. This blog should be a platform for social education and hopefully we can cultivate an environment that encourages creativity. I look forward to it.
March 17, 2012
Here we go! The majority of this site will be devoted to discussions about the ongoing process of developing musical improvisational skills. What that means: I’ll be submitting examples of sheet music, commentary, and approaches and methods that I feel aid the cultivation of a musical language.
October 22, 2011
Hey Folks, I’ve got some new topics in the mix. I’ll give you a list to run down.
Just let me know what you want to hear more of so I can figure out who is reading this blog. This is a pretty exhaustive list of things that I’ve got insight on, so leave a comment describing why you want to hear more about any of these topics. I will be working through the list in a timely manner so stop back or subscribe via RSS or send me an email.
May 8, 2011
They say fear of loud noises is one of the most innate. Just take fireworks for example. How many infants do you see out at the 4th of July festivities, and of those few how many aren’t screaming their heads off. Take another example, thunderstorms. Even our pets will cower in fear during a storm, let alone one with big thunder boomers. I for one get nervous on occasion but am not saying that we are in any direct relation or descendance to or from K-9′s. I’m emphasizing that, yes loud noises affect us on some primal level.
Let’s look at another example; tornado sirens. Now, I know you midwesterns are with me on this one. It’s tornado season, and when the conditions are right and you hear those sirens it’s not a pleasant event. But what do we do when we hear those sirens? We duck for cover. And, considering recent cases in the midwest this has proven to be a life saving reaction. Yes, taking cues from an emergency audio signal can be life saving in more ways than one.
“In more ways than one? How so?” you ask. Good question. Here is an ellaboration.
Let’s take the siren example. Sirens are loud. They are loud as hell and rightly so. They have to alert people at great distances that some shit is about to go down and that they better get out of the way or be ready to face the consequences. What do we do when we hear a fire truck? We pull over to the side of the road, and hopefully we also plug our ears with our fingers when the truck goes past so that we don’t incur hearing damage, but that’s another story.
What’s more curious is that we now include sirens in our music. And not just wimpy sirens, but sirens loud and noisy enough to provoke fear in the listener. Strange, why would anyone enjoy a piece that provokes fear? What is the purpose of provoking fear in an audience? Steve Reich includes sirens in his piece Different Trains. As the child of divorced parents living on opposite coasts, Reich spent many hours, days even on cross country train trips with his nanny. His inspiration coming from the juxtaposition of what a train ride would have been like had he, being jewish, spent those days on a train at the same time only located across the globe in Germany. The passages including sirens in the piece paint a fearful portrait of a train ride, that when compared to a less oppressive ride, sans sirens, evokes sympathy, confusion, anger and fear amongst other powerful emotions within the listener.
Are these reactions as life saving as those elicited by a tornado siren or a fire truck? What Reich has done is remove the siren from it’s practical application as a warning device to a more theoretical or symbolic application, and the question that I am posing is, has the siren lost any of it’s meaning in translation? The answer I propose, no it has not lost it’s meaning, is my explaination of why modern works such as Reich’s Different Trains are relevant and life giving and life preserving.