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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.2

It seems the explosion of creative progress on Fugal Science has reached an ebb tide for the moment, though I am highly satisfied with the progress thus far: Three of the four fugues for Volume 2 are completed - No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 - and the fourth - No. 3 - is in a completed form that I would consider a v0.0 Beta. Meanwhile, for Volume 1, I have No. 1 and No. 2 completed, with the 1994 fugue as a current stand-in for No. 3. Volume 1, Number 4 is the only piece in the two volumes that does not have a completed version now. Not bad.

I have, however, gotten the grand design for the five-voice exposition of Volume 1, Number 4 conceptualized: It will be a double-canon; one between the two subject statements, and the other between the two answer statements, with the fifth thematic entry of the subject in the contrabass while the canon proves itself. This turns out to be a straight-ahead formula: Subject 1 goes into counter-answer 1, Answer 1 goes into countersubject 1, counter-answer 1 goes into countersubject 2, and countersubject 1 goes into counter-answer 2. The subsequent subjects and answers just follow the same progression. Only with five entries can you prove such a double-canonic exposition, so it's a vanishingly rare opportunity. I've sketched the expo, but want to let it stew for a while before I flesh it out.

Today I just want to present the latest version of Volume 1, Number 2, in which I found an error. As usual, finding the error was an opportunity, and the fix improved the piece measurably. I have the new audio, but I'm only going to present the page with the fix on it, as the previous post has all of the other unchanged pages.

Here is the audio: Volume 1, Number 2, v1.2

As is usual now, it's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated in your browser.

The fix comes in measure sixty-six, where I had b-flat descending to a-natural in the viola part, which created a parallel octave with the violin - whoops! - and the solution was to rejoin countersubject two with the f-sharp. The interval there, then, is a diminished fourth, and it wants to rise, being a leading tone. A very cool effect. I end up finding a few parallel octaves and fifths in early versions, because my first instinct is to go with straight lines, which are contrapuntally more powerful, most of the time.

I'm nearing completion on the exterior of my house, so it isn't as if I have nothing to occupy my time.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.1

I've had a major breakthrough, and now this piece and the two-voice solo guitar fugue are finished! The breakthrough came in the form of a rhythmic subtlety that actually lead me to modify the subject, which is proof that constantly working with thematic materials one develops over the course of years leads to ever greater perfection. After all, I devised this fugue subject all the way back in 1993, so it was in the same form for over twenty-two years!

Here is the audio for today's Fugue for String Trio

It's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated, and opening it in another tab will allow you to listen and follow the score.

The modification to the subject appears in measure four, where the half-note is now tied to an eighth note, followed by another eighth note, instead of the former dotted-eighth-note and sixteenth. This provides another level of resistance, and it's just super tight. I hit upon this minor masterstroke when a cross-rhythmic clash occurred, which left me with the choice of modifying the accompaniment, allowing the cross-rhythms, or... modifying the subject. It was a deeply satisfying moment, and I'll point out how this rhythm first appeared, and how it became viral, infecting the entire piece, when we get to those points.

This rhythm mod is also applied to the tonal answer, obviously, and otherwise, all the music on this page is the same as before, so no additional commentary is necessary.

Our new rhythm is also in the bass in measures nineteen and twenty, but it was there already in the previous version. This is not, however the point of origin. That comes in the next episode. Aside from the modified thematic statements, all of the music on this page is as it was before too.

We also get the new rhythm in the bass of thirty-four and thirty-five, but it was this way before. Measure thirty-five is the point of origin, though: In the two-part fugue for solo guitar, the dotted-eighth/sixteenth versus the sixteenth-note sextuplet was way too hard to play, so I made the eighth notes straight. The eight-note triplet against the straight sixteenth note will be played as a descending flam, which sounds cool and is not hard to execute.

At measure forty-seven, we get the new rhythm in the subject in parallel with the same rhythm in the bass, but this is just an infection point I went back and changed, not the point where I decided to modify the subject. Again, the music is otherwise the same.

Measure fifty-eight is also another infection point I changed after the fact, and it's amazing how profoundly this seemingly minor modification changes things. The effect is much better this way. Other than our new rhythmic elements, The Song Remains the Same.

It was at measure seventy-two that I hit upon the conundrum that lead me to modify the subject. In all previous iterations of the episode/interlude, the mod appeared, but it rhythmically clashed with the subject if I did it here, so I avoided it at first. Not satisfied with that, I tried the cross-rhythmic clash, but that was no good either. Finally, I decided to modify the subject, and Eureka! The music on this page is otherwise the same, but wow, what a difference this seemingly insignificant modification makes. This is the kind of thing that makes being a mature composer so fun and rewarding.

I did add a dotted-eighth-rest in the lead at measure seventy-six, but that was to get rid of the unison, which due to phase amplification, was way too loud with the soundfonts.

The final infection points are in measures eighty-six, where I used the modification as the pickup into the coda/hyper-stretto, and then in ninety-four, where I used the mod to lead into the conclusion. This creates a very interesting rhythmic canon in diminution with the modification of the augmented subject in the bass, which is like the cherry on top of this piece. Finally, I've obviously decided to let the viola play only accompaniment for most of the piece, as it gets the first thematic statement in the exposition, and also the first one in the recapitulation/three-part canon. The piece is perfectly balanced by this.

Now I'm going to finally, after twenty-one years, start working on the rewrite of the string quartet, v1.0 of which I handed in for a graduate level Invertible Counterpoint and Fugue class all the way back in 1994, when I was doing doctoral work at UNT.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.0

As I continue to rush through these pieces, I'm finding some minor errors, which is typical for me. But there is a goal in my barging into these two collections, as I'm anxious to form a more perfect big-picture of the series, by getting all of the initial versions finished. At that point, I'll be able to more properly edit the constituent pieces to their perfect versions, and then the collections will be completed.

Today's piece has an earlier date range in the copyright notice, as you can see. The first unsuccessful version of this one was clear back in January of 2012, basically four years ago. I had no idea then, but I was very close to the correct solution, which was to have three-voices continuously. The form and content were so close, all I had to do was rewrite the two-part sections in three voices, rearrange which instruments got what in the thematic entrances, and I was done. Every measure still has the same content, just rearranged.

Here is the audio: Three-Part Fugue in G Minor

AIFF file, so you'll need to have QuickTime activated in your browser, and opening in another tab will allow you to listen and follow the score.

This one is in G minor instead of A minor, as the rest of them have been so far, as I had made that decision by 2013, which is the last time I worked on it. Also, it is numbered four, instead of two, because I had a more elaborate scheme in mind back then. As is almost always the case, simpler is better.

The exposition is untouched from the 2012 version, as I knew even back then that I had that much right. The answer is tonal here, as you can see, and the counter-answer is a new element after the two-part solo guitar version. Then, the countersubject in the lead at eleven is the same as the guitar version, only with a diminished-scale lick added. With the faster dotted rhythms in measure six, the exposition flagged with only quarter notes in twelve.

At sixteen is the first episode/interlude - it serves both functions - and this is where I went down to two voices previously. Now it is exactly like the corresponding episode in the upcoming string quartet.

The first version of the episode/interlude is non-modulatory, and at twenty-two the first middle entries start with a four-measure delay/one measure of overlap stretto that is also a perfect dovetail between the subject and countersubject one. Countersubject two just fills in the harmonies, and only a minor adjustment was necessary to make it work with the stretto.

The second episode then starts at thirty-one.

This episode is only five measures, versus the previous six, and this time we modulate to the dominant. The middle entries on this level are a stretto of three measures of delay/two measures of overlap. This is just like the organizational plan of the guitar version, so far. Likewise, the combination of episode and subject at forty-four is from the guitar version, but here with three parts it reveals how closely related the subject and episode are. It still modulates to the relative major at the end.

The major middle entries are the expected closer stretto of two measures of delay/three measures of overlap, but now filled in with a third voice. Note that the outer voices are getting all of the thematic materials, with the viola only performing accompaniment. Not sure if this will stand the test of time, but we'll see.

The episodes have been six measures, five measures, and five measures so far, but the episode at fifty-six is only four measures, and it modulates to the subdominant, where we get a three-part version of the dovetail stretto that remodulates back to the tonic.

After the remodulation we get the final version of the episode at sixty-nine, now with a full tonic subject statement in the bass, and extended by a resistance arrival into a nine measure interlude to set up the final three-voice canonic stretto, which begins at seventy-eight. The combination of episode and subject does not appear in the upcoming string quartet version, by the way, as I didn't discover that possibility until I composed the earlier versions of this piece.

After the canonic stretto concludes, we get the coda at eighty-seven, and it's the expected hyper-stretto that has the subject and augmented subject starting simultaneously, but with the third voice, the effect of the minor ninth in eighty-eight is much less jarring. Something gained and something lost, in my estimation. The canonic stretto and hyper-stretto are also unchanged from 2012.

Now I'm free to do a revision of the string quartet arrangement, which I've been anxious to get to for a while now.

Merry Christmas!