Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MMM Turns X

Ten years ago today I started this weblog, not really knowing what I wanted it to become, just knowing I wanted to talk about music. Turned out it became a public musical diary, and a place to work out my thoughts and hone my composing and guitar playing. Highlights for me are the Musical Implications of the Harmonic Series, and subsequent Why Music Works series (Which is about ripe for a final revision, BTW), the Ultimate Classic Guitar Arrangements series, and all of the compositions that have lead up to Fuga Electronica.

Over the next couple of years I intend to finish up Fuga Electronica (Some progress there, finally), write the final version of Why Music Works, and then there are a few more albums worth of music to record.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Still Waiting

I've developed the patience of Job by now. Here's a shot from my track day at Circuit of the Americas last month.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Keeping Myself Distracted

The second Synclavier is coming along, but John is a one man operation, so it's slow going. Since I'm dead in the water with Fuga Electronica until I get all that in place, I've been distracting myself with fun. Did a track day at Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Sunday.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

All OS Versions and MIDI Interfaces Upgraded

After the OS X 10.10 debacle - why do they have to break drivers every release now? - I returned the experimental machine to 10.9.5. Then, I had two older 2010 Superdrive Mac Minis that were still 10.6.8 machines, so I maxed the RAM out in them and moved to 10.9.5 there too. Now, for the first time in years, all of my Macs are running the same OS X version. Well, I still have a G4 450 Cube on 10.4.11, but that's just for nostalgia at this point.

Once I got all four Macs on the same release, I had to change MIDI interfaces, because the old EDIROL drivers were broken, and the product isn't supported anymore. I have MOTU MIDI Express 128 interfaces on all machines now, and everything works perfectly. All of the machines also have Encore 5.0.7 and Logic Pro 10. One of the systems - the one in the master bedroom - is primarily dedicated to programming the FS1R. I put it in an old Anthro desk that was originally designed for the early iMac - I put my Cube there - and came up with a nice solution for a dual monitor setup. The old 24" LED Cinema Display was the largest one that would fit - I still love the 1920x1200 aspect ratio - and for the top, I put an old 32" 720p Sony TV in the HTMI jack that I just had laying around. It works fantastically.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Mac OS X Yosemite: Skip This Release Entirely

I've been using OS X since OS X 10.0, which came on the first model G3 500 iBook - the white one - that I got when those came out in 2001. The machine booted into OS 9 from the factory, but it had the Boot Disk selector with OS X as the alternate OS. I loved it immediately, so I was one of the earliest adopters. Back then, getting drivers for OS X was the battle, so I made gear choices based on whether or not there was OS X support. Every release got better until OS X 10.4.11, which was the first truly great release: Stable, well supported, and very useful. I liked it so much, I still have a hotrod G4 Cube that runs it, but it has been retired to the guest room (Maxed RAM, TwinView video card, 23" lucite Cinema HD display). OS 10.5 was kind of a clunker, but 10.6.8 was another stellar release, and I still have - well, had - two 2011 superdrive Mac Minis running that OS.

Yesterday, I decided to upgrade one of those 10.6.8 machines to 10.10.1 Yosemite, figuring it ought to be usable by now. Big mistake. It broke everything all over again, just like 10.9 did. Even my Bose Companion 5 sound system would not work with it, and forget about MIDI device drivers; they were all toast. Well, I couldn't restore from Time Machine back to 10.6.8 (So what use is Time Machine, really? The first time I needed it, it failed), so I went to the App Store and Purchases and downloaded 10.9.5, which I have on another 2011 Mini and my 2011 Mac Pro, which is the most recent great release. No dice; the old installer won't write over 10.10 (Which is really and truly bullshit of the very highest possible order: You should be able to switch between OS X versions with a single click, whenever you want to). What I had to do was offload Mavericks to an external HD, and wipe the drive clean with a format thumb drive, losing years of data on that machine (I don't guess that's possible to get from Time Machine now either, but I'm not sure. I never tried to use Time Machine before yesterday). Then, I had Mavericks installed on the wiped computer (I could not do this myself, I had to take the computer to Mac TLC, which is in my neighborhood).

So, forget Yosemite. It is also ugly as sin: Flat, no character; might as well be Windows. Even the Aqua buttons are gone, replaced by flat, ugly, characterless versions in pastels.

Tim Cook has been a disaster. I don't like Apple anymore, and I've been an Apple user since the Newton 110 and System 7. I've toyed with the idea of UNIX before - 10.7 and 10.8 almost drove me to it - but I think it's time to get serious about a new OS. Mac OS X is complete crap now. Utter garbage. Filth.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

It's been a great year, despite the Synclavier woes. Should have a complete second system's worth of spare parts by summer.

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.