Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fuga Electronica: First Test Recordings

Once I got the recording stations repurposed, I decided to use the FS1R's to record test tracks of the entire Fuga Electronica album. These are just using Yamaha factory presets, and I only needed to use four different sounds to test the recording system, so there isn't a lot of variety, but they sure are light-years better than the MIDI-to-MP3 conversions I did with soundfonts. These are uncompressed CD-quality AIFF files, so enjoy!

1] Allegro

This is a sonata-process piece, and also a scherzo. It is based on the humorous musical phenomenon that if you take a two-measure fugue subject in 6/8 and double the note values, it ends up a four-measure subject in 3/4. So, the opening fugato is in 6/8, and the second theme is in 3/4, but it is just the first theme in augmentation. In the development section, the piece starts out with the same fugato, but now in 3/4 and augmentation, and in the relative major. The augmented subject and tonal answer also make a canon with two measures of delay and overlap, and the development section explores this possibility, with the "repeat" in the development exposing the full subject/subject/subject/answer four-part canon. This piece dates from 2011, so it is relatively new


2] Lament

Here we have the oldest piece in the set, which dates from 1990 when I was working on my MM degree. The subject is unusual in that it begins on the third degree, so it has to be accompanied at the beginning to establish the tonality. For this reason, it's what Bach would have called a Sinfonia, or a three-part invention, in modern terms. The answer is in inversion, which makes for a unique exposition and middle-entry series. It's quite emotional and dramatic.


3] Valse Macabre

This waltz is the only 3/4 piece in the set, and it is quite bizarre because the subject begins with a tritone and is a twelve-tone row: Do, Fi, Sol, Mi, Fa, Me, Le, La, Te, Ti, Re, Ra, (Do). The subject and real answer also make a canon at one measure of delay/three measures of overlap, which is at the very end, with the answer in the bass. Very gnarly. I composed this on back in 1995.

Valse Macabre

4] Andante

Originally for string quartet, this is the closest to Bach's late Musical Offering/Art of Fugue style that I ever got, and then I went off in another direction. The five measure subject makes a four-part canon at the octave, which is the recap, and a three part hyper-stretto where the rectus, inversus, and augmentationem versions all start simultaneously, which is the coda. It's from 1994 when I was working on a DMA at UNT.


5] Jubilate

This is a twelve-years-later take on the same type of approach as the Andante, - 2006 - but the canon here is between the subject and the answers. The answers in the canon aren't real or tonal, however, they're modal, as I didn't inflect what would be the secondary leading tone. This was a very valuable discovery, as it lead to some very nice dialog in the middle entries. There is again a hyper-stretto to end the piece.


6] Scherzo Comico

At exactly sixty seconds - I called it The Minute Fugue for a while - this piece from 2005 is the shortest duration of the set. It was originally for chamber orchestra, but there was a long and boring version for string trio from 1993 that I scrapped, so the subject goes way back. The concluding stretto between the subject and the tonal answer is the most difficult of all to compose: It's at a single beat of delay.

Scherzo Comico

7] Allegretto

This piece, also from 2005 - that was a good year for composing for me - was originally for solo guitar. There is a concluding stretto, but what makes this subject work for the guitar is that it lends itself to the use of suspension chains, which you'll hear throughout the middle entries: 4-3's, 7-6's, and 2-3's. The concluding stretto is unique as all voices enter on the same pitch - the open E-string of the guitar - and so the first voice ends up as the bass, the second in the middle, and the final voice on top.


8] Adagio

At 9:55, this is the big enchilada; a five-voice fugue with a five-measure subject that makes a five-part canon at the octave, so that, at the fifth entry, you hear all five measures of the subject simultaneously. Not only that, but it dovetails with itself in augmentation in three voices, and with a modified augmented form in five... and back again, so that there are three-voice and five-voice perpetual canons in the piece, with the five-voice canon at the end. I could do a full Art of Fugue style treatment with this subject, which I may do in my old age (I didn't even use any inverted forms, because they create too many possibilities!). I finished this in 2013, just last year, but the five-voice perpetual canon dates back to 2006, and I came up with the subject in 2003, so it took ten years for me to get to the bottom of this subject.


9] Finale

This is the most epic ricercare I've ever written, at 405 measures, but it's "only" 5:40 in duration due to it being in 2/4 and at 144 BPM. It's a free-voiced piece that was originally for solo guitar, believe it or not, but it would take a Yamashita to play it. It is based on the Sergi Taneiev concept of vertical-shifting counterpoint: Since there is only contrary and oblique motion between the subject and countersubject - no parallel motion at all - both melodic trajectories can be doubled in thirds (Or sixths, but not on guitar). I expose the full combination in the recap.


I was going to make quick-and-dirty Synclavier recording next, but the old floppy drives decided not to write, so I have to get that dealt with (I'll soon have spares to keep from getting sidetracked like this). So, I'm going to go ahead and start programming custom FS1R sounds, which was supposed to be the third thing on my to-do list. If I get far enough along with that, I may post some more "orchestrated" FS1R versions before the Synclavier stuff. In the final product, the Synclavier, 2xFS1R's, and the percussion in Logic Pro X will be combined into a digital orchestra. It's a long term production project, but I've been working on this since 1990 - twenty-four years! - so I'm not in a hurry.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Main Recording Station Finished

Getting the Synclavier sorted out has been like a champaign cork being popped. Finally, I had some incentive to get the main workstation repurposed. Previously, it had a guitar synth system with an Axon and an FS1R. Now, there is no guitar, but two FS1R's and a MOTU MIDI Express 128 interface. I can finally make recordings of the Fuga Electronica pieces with the FS1R's instead of those horrible soundfonts (And I had a great collection of sondfonts). I actually have all nine pieces realized with just the first bank of FS1R presets, and I'll start posting those next month.

Here's the upgraded workstation: It's a 2011 Mac Pro running two 27" Apple LED Cinema Displays (2560p), plus a Panasonic 42" 1080p Plasma TV up top. So, I can have the Lexicon FW810s mixer on the top, Encore on the right, and Logic Pro X on the left. It's by far the best configuration I've ever come up with, and I already can't stop playing with it.

Pretty decadent. lol.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Synclavier Finally Sorted Out

It took thirteen months, but the Synclavier is finally 100% operational. Unfortunately, the Mac Mini that I use to record it - a 2010 version with a Superdrive, which I need - decided it was a good time to die. lol. So, I have one last series of tests to do for John, but it will have to wait for the replacement to show up. Fortunately, 2010 Superdrive Mac Minis are common and inexpensive on eBay these days, so no problem.

I wish the cooler Pericom terminal had worked, but at least VT-640's are more common.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

1985 Steinberger GL2T

The only steel string electric guitar I regret selling was a 1985 Steinberger GL2T-GR, which I bought from Ned Steinberger himself when I worked at Manny's Music on 48th St. (1984-1986). The GR was for the Roland GR Guitar Synth pickup that was on it, which I used with my Synclavier back then. Well, GL2T-GR's are very, very rare, so it will probably take me a couple of years to find on in acceptable condition. Meanwhile, I jumped on the first 1985 GL2T that came up on eBay that was in 90%+ condition, since I want to get back into playing steel string electric again. To be honest, every guitar made of wood feels primitive to me now, after playing the Steinberger back in the day, not to mention the carbon fiber Blackbird Rider classicals I've been playing for the past five years. So there was really no choice, since, sadly, Steinbergers like this are no longer manufactured.

There has never been a higher tech steel string electric than the Steinberger.

The Blackbird Riders look like acoustic versions of the Steinberger.

I was going to do a final Synclavier test today, but my AT&T service cannot connect to my site right now. It is hosted by Lunarpages, and they say other providers can connect just fine, so it's an AT&T problem. Hope it gets sorted out soon, because it's very frustrating.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sorting out the Synclavier 5

Just a short post this month. Tested the other remanufactured SS1 card John sent, which I had to put together, and it functioned perfectly.

Used the same methodology - GarageBand, no effects - and here are the new tracks, with fadeouts this time.

Reference Track (Old SS1)

Test Track (New SS1)

Did not know GarageBand played tracks to the end of the recording, even with a fadeout, so sorry for all the dead air at the end of the Reference Track. The Test Track is much better. This does tell me, however, that I can record the entirety of the Fuga Electronica Synclavier tracks in GarageBand before doing the orchestrations in Logic Pro. Good to know.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sorting Out the Synclavier 4

This is a good news/bad news post. The good news is great, so let's start with that.

The good news is, John has begun to remanufacture some of the Synclavier cards, and he sent me a couple to test! Now that I have all of my voices sorted out, no problem. In fact, this sort of thing is big time fun for me.

The two cards he sent me to test test are new SS1's, which is the first card in a voice card set for 8 FM/Additive voices.

The new SS1's are vintage 2013, and the old SS1's are vintage circa 1980, so there are over thirty years between these cards in age! Long story short, the new card functioned perfectly, so that is great news. So John could listen for himself, I recorded two test tracks; a Reference with the original SS1, and a Test with the new one.

I just recorded the stereo outputs of the Synclavier directly into a Lexicon FW810s, and used a single stereo track in GarageBand to record it: The very simplest possible solution. There is no EQ, compression, reverb or anything; the tracks are totally dry. I rendered the tracks as uncompressed AIF files, so they are large, but they are also CD quality resolution (Which is better than the Synclavier!). Here they are:



My 56 year-old ears can't tell any difference. Oh, and sorry for no fadeout: These are test tracks.

So, this first test being successful sure is a good feeling! I've only ever been a virtuoso on one instrument, and that's the Synclavier, not the guitar, so it's awesome for me to see new life being breathed into it. This sequence is vintage 1986, by the way, from when I was a guitarist in a techno-rock band called B-Rock. I prepared it for a studio album that never happened.

Okay, now for the bad news part.

After many months of wrestling with a Mac interface and getting the voice cards sorted out, I decided to return to my original setup with a Pericom dumb terminal - basically a VT-100/640 with a bigger screen - and when it finally arrived - the last piece in the puzzle before I could start recording Fuga Electronica - it was damaged in shipping (Note the broken base). What a letdown. So, there are only two other Pericoms known (!) and I'll try with another. But I'll also go ahead and get a VT-100/640 as they are more common.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sorting Out the Synclavier 3

John finally got time enough to send me a replacement SS2 card, so I got the Synclavier back up to 32 stereo voices, and for the first time since I got the machine last August, it's working 100% correctly.

I used hockey pucks to raise the keyboard up so I can program it standing.

Here's the replacement SS2. It's vintage 80's.

Finally, 32 happy stereo FM/Additive voices.

For the first time in ten years, I can listen to all my old sequences.

Next month I'll get the Pericom terminal, and then I should be in beeswax for Fuga Electronica.