Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fugal Science, Vol. 1, No. 3: Four Voice Fugue

Big month for me, as I have finished both the four- and five-part fugues for volume one of Fugal Science. This has been over twenty years in the making! So much has come into focus.

I have worked out the orchestration for both volumes (Volume 2 was completed last year), which will be; solo guitar for the two-part fugues, string trio for the three-part fugues, string choir minus contrabasses for the four-part fugues, and symphony orchestra for the five-part Grand Fugue of volume one, and also for the Ricercare of volume two.

The keys for both volumes will be A minor, G minor, F-sharp minor, and A minor.

These will be realized on the Synclavier, of course, and I have ordered a 64 voice FM/Additive system just for these projects (Fuga Electronica and Sonatae as well). Turns out that it is not practicable to link two 32 voice systems together to get 64 voices, because the Dynamic Voice Allocation makes it impossible to predict which of the two stereo pairs of outputs a voice will appear in. Because of the Synclavier's programmed-in compression effects, that makes level matching impossible. So I'll now have a single 64 voice FM/Additive system, which was always the ultimate dream setup for me, since the 80's. Plus, I'll be able to make one of the 32 voice systems a slave via MIDI Sync, which will give me a separate system dedicated to nothing but sound effects and percussion. Obviously, this will aid mixing.

Both of these volumes of four fugues each will be made into separate dissertations - or treatises, if you prefer - in addition to being made into albums. In this way, I'll finish up my doctoral studies simply for my own satisfaction. Nobody is qualified to award me a DMA or PhD anyway.

I was planning on presenting the piece today, but I did not get the audio recording done in time, so that will have to wait for next month.

I did get the JPG's done though, so here is the exposition.

The simple counter-answer, which has the came central body as the counter-subject, was the last piece of the puzzle to be revealed to me.

It is still in G minor, so I have to transpose it yet as well.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: Beethoven, Second Edition, by William Kinderman

Possibly the worst cover photo in all the history of Beethoven biographies.

This book is excellent in terms of scholarship, but I found it a slog to get through. Musicologists discussing composers and their compositions does that to me. Lots of eye rolling. To his merit, Kinderman is reputedly a virtuoso pianist, so when he gets on the topic of things to be aware of in interpretations of Beethoven, it does get interesting. Still, if you want fascinating Beethoven lore, Beethoven as I Knew Him by Beethoven's friend and secretary Anton Schindler - which I'm reading now - is a much more delightful read (I'll save criticisms of Schindler for when I review him).

Still, no one who is a Beethoven fan - and has some musical education - should skip this book. I'm atypical insofar as not being the target audience for it. And one amazing insight I got from it was in his discussion of the Op. 131 String Quartet in C-sharp Minor. That quartet starts out with a fugue, and it's got one lone sixteenth note in it - a setup for the scherzo to follow - otherwise it's mostly quarter notes with passages of eighths. I have wanted to analyze a late Beethoven piece, but most of his individual movements are way too long (I tried the first movement of the Ninth, from the Liszt transcription, near the beginning of this weblog, but it was actually too long to fit in my music printing program!). At 122 measures of 4/4 and with an adagio tempo, this will be perfect. Also, because it is Beethoven's late third period, it contains some of the deepest musical rhetoric of all time.

When I was a doctoral candidate at UNT back in the '90's, I did a highly detailed objectivist analysis of Contrapunctus 1 from Art of Fugue. In it, I analyzed all six intervalic relationships - S/A, S/T, A/T, A/B, T/B, and S/B - and every vertical sonority to the resolution of a sixteenth note, actually naming the chords, as a jazz analyst would do (I'm thankful every day that I got my BM at Berklee). Plus the functional analysis (Which turned out to be the easiest part). That was the key endeavor that allowed me to cop that style, and I've been riding that wave for twenty years now. Since I've outlived Beethoven at this point in my life, it's time to allow myself to be more technically influenced by him. Also, I've recently had some breakthroughs with Fuga Scientifica - The five-voice exposition and recap/coda are done for Volume 1, and Volume 2 is essentially finished - so I'm coming to the end of my Bach-inspired journey. Now that I've boiled fugue writing down to it's irreducible essence, it's time to cut the chromaticist in me loose - something I've purposefully held in check - and get more expressive with fugue. I happen to already have the perfect fugue subject for this.

Unbelievably, I already have the fugue entered into Encore, so I'm ready to start the analysis. Moments of inspiration with Fuga Scientifica are the only things holding up the analysis, and since that is tantalizingly close to completion - 2, 3, 4, and 5 voice fugues on two different five measure subjects that make five-part canons with themselves - that is my primary focus at this point. Perhaps I'll have one or the other done by the end of next month.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Anachron: Syns of My Youth, for Synth Band

So, I've had a working Synclavier again for just two months, and I already have an album ready (These are 32 voice sequences, so I'm just using one system for this EP). It's entitled, Anachron: Syns of My Youth, for Synth Band since all of these sequences were created from the end of 1984 through the beginning of 1988. I have changed absolutely nothing - no tweaks at all - and all of these sequences are just the Synclavier, with no effects: No reverb, no EQ, no compression; nothing.

As I mentioned previously, these are songs I played with the band I was in at the time, which was called B-Rock, after the drummer/vocalist, whose first name is Brock. We didn't play to these sequences, I just did them for myself to jam to, in order that I might get ideas for guitar solos, &c. Plus, I figured if we did an album, they would give the producer some ideas. Back in the day, I had the Synclavier synched to an E-Mu Drumulator, but I've decided to release them just as they are, with no percussion, electric guitar, or vocals. The main synth parts are the Synclavier Guitar parts that I performed live, and the bass parts are my transcriptions of what Jimmy played (We were a power trio). I was playing a stereo MESA/Boogie rig with a pair of Mk II combos at the time, so the missing electric guitar would have doubled the synth part with a sweet and smooth Boogie Simul-Class overdrive sound. The sound effects are my ideas and timbre programs, with a few exceptions.

I have some alternate versions - there are dozens of disks with various versions - so this probably won't be the absolute last word, but the the nine tracks are there, and in the final order. These are CD quality AIFF files, so you'll need to have QuickTime activated in your browser.

1) Landing

2) Present Time

3) You Can Find Me

4) Because

5) In Search

6) Only Asking

7) What We Say

8) Look Up

9) Liftoff

There has been a big void in my life without a Synclavier.

This little EP project will allow me to learn what I need to distribute my music in today's world with the new services, like Distro Kid, that can get your music everywhere. Then I'll be able to get on with two other albums I have all of the music composed for, which are Fuga Electronica, for Synth Orchestra and Sonatae, for Synth Guitar. Plus, I have Fuga Scientifica, for Synth Ensembles, and Duas, for Synth Guitars both over 75% done. So wonderful to finally be able to realize my compositions the way I've always wanted to.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Always Save Your Work

I've always saved everything. I have a big box of musical sketches dating all the way back to 1980, when I wrote the first thing that was in the zone (A Bossa Nova, now entitled Aria Nova). Well, another thing I kept around was my Synclavier work. Many boxes of 5.25" floppies. So naturally, once I got a working Synclavier again, I got them out. Wow. Almost all of them are still good! Included in those files are sequences I did of the songs my old band, B-Rock, played. So that's an EP right there, as there are eleven sequences, of which I'm only going to share nine.

There is also all of the classical stuff I did during my masters and doctoral studies! I did a Synclavier sequence of Bach's Contrapunctus 1 from Art of Fugue when I was at UNT. It is very compelling, IMHO.

It's amazing that I have recovered all of this, but I want to share some of the B-Rock stuff first, because there was no written record of it,and only a few recorded things, none of which included these sequences, since I wrote them for myself. If I hadn't saved those disks, and they hadn't lasted these thirty years, this thousand hours or so of my work would have been lost forever. Almost all of these timbre programs are mine, so I'm talking about that programming time time too.

Here are tracks two through six of nine. One and nine are a landing and takeoff, since we're from another planet (!) - essentially a craven effort to show off my sound effects programming skills - and so there are seven actual songs. The two I discarded were not really songs we jammed on, but extra curricular stuff I did with the band in mind.

You Can Find Me

In Search

The intro/exit was improvised by my friend Kate, who is an amazing musician.

Only Asking

Present Time (4495)

What We Say

BTW, this is just a raw recording of the Synclavier's outputs, overdriving a Lexicon FW810s in order to get the tape saturation compression emulation. By the end of next month, I should have all of them mastered, ordered, and burned to a CD.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Synclavier Sorted Out

Hard to believe this has taken since August of 2013 to work out (Much time just waiting), but there it is. I'm still going to be buying more Synclavier gear as backups - another Guitar Interface Module, a backup Velocity/Pressure Keyboard, and a third 32 voice mainframe - but 64 Additive/FM voices is enough to begin work on Fuga Electronica: A Synthesizer Suite and Sonatae for Synth Guitar, so I'm pretty stoked.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Second Synclavier has Arrived

After a yearlong wait - I gave John all the time he needed for other projects - I now have a second Synclavier. I can now link them together for 64 voices of Additive/FM synthesis. Plus, the new system has a second bin of control cards, a second set of floppy drives, and a second HD, so I now have enough spares to keep at least one system working regardless of any failures.

Sixty-four voices might sound like a lot, but it takes two voices to make a stereo patch, so that's actually thirty-two voices, and only sixteen if you want the decays to overlap, which I do. I need at least sixteen stereo voices that dovetail to realize Fuga Electronica, so I'm in beeswax.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Exterior House Remodel Finished

Since last spring, I've removed four Arizona ash trees I hated (Because they're ugly and dump leaves every fall), had the stumps ground, replaced the overgrown flower beds with white chert rock beds, replaced the chain link fence with a privacy fence, put a metal roof on, had the house repainted, and got a new 16x8 shed. Very happy with the results.