Saturday, June 30, 2007

I Just Spent About $800.00 on a... Telephone

I must be out of my mind (OK, a "duh" moment for those who frequent this blog).

Got up this morning, sat down with my morning coffee, logged onto, and ordered an iPhone. The plan was - since I'm sure an upgraded model will appear sooner than you can sneeze - to order the $100.00 less expensive 4GB model, but when the moment of truth arrived, I found it impossible not to click on the 8GB model. It was also part of the plan not to load up on accessories, but I simply had to have a car charger... right? Availability - according to the site - was "2-4 Weeks" so no hurry on the shipping. Why then did I pay an extra $11.00 for 2-3 day shipping? I already have Cingular/AT&T, but there was no information about how to merge the iPhone into my existing plan, or how to set it up with my existing cellular phone number. I didn't care, for some reason, even though I've been sweating this for months. I just pressed the one-click checkout button and ordered it. I did all of this with a big, broad grin on my face. Not the usual expression on my countenance when I part with eight Franklins. Why? (That's a rhetorical question, as all of the aforementioned have been, since I don't think there are any logical answers).


Interestingly - or not - what made me switch from PC's to Macs all those many years ago now was Apple's old Newton PDA. I had a part-time job at a music store in Denton when I was a doctoral candidate at UNT, and the store owner had gotten a Newton 110 in some sort of promo deal. He had no clue what it was or how to use it, so I picked it up for a song. I became instantly addicted to the thing. I took all of my notes in class on it, I balanced my checkbook on it, and in no time I had to get a PowerBook to sync it up to: It's been all Macs all the time for me ever since.

Also interestingly - or not - when Apple dropped the Newton, I never got another PDA. The Palm and Blackberry devices didn't interest me at all: I didn't want something I could TYPE on, I wanted sometning I could WRITE on, like the Newton (And, the Newton 120-130 handwriting recognition software was awesome). Sure, I won't be able to write on the iPhone, but the interface looks amazing nonetheless. Since I'm not exactly a chatty guy - my mom will tell you I'm no "Great Communicator - It wasn't until 2003 that I got my first real cellular phone (I had a government issued one for a while before that, though).

So, why am I so jazzed about the iPhone?

Well, I'm an iPod addict, and it is an iPod (A widescreen video iPod, at that); I do need a cellular phone and it is... um... an iPhone; I have gotten pretty attached to eMail and it will sync with my Mac Mail account; and surfing on the web - even if the space is a little cramped - is something I always hoped my old Newton would be able to do. But that can't be all, can it? It isn't. The iPhone is simply the sexiest little techno-bauble in history, and I lust for techno-bling.


Now all I have to do is wait... and figure out who to call first.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What Makes a "Musical Masterpiece"?

In the comments to a post entitled Sir Mad Max over at Sequenza21 an interesting sup-plot developed (OK, I thought it was interesting) concerning the definition of what is - and is not - a musical masterpiece. So, I looked it up. The dictionary in Mac OS X gave me this:

masterpiece |ˈmastərˌpēs| noun

a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship : a great literary masterpiece | the car was a masterpiece of space-age technology.
• an artist's or craftsman's best piece of work : the painting is arguably Picasso's masterpiece.

• historical

a piece of work by a craftsman accepted as qualification for membership of a guild as an acknowledged master.

Further, the thesaurus provided:

masterpiece | noun

Vivaldi's masterpiece pièce de résistance, chef-d'œuvre, masterwork, magnum opus, finest/best work, tour de force.

I find the concept fascinating on many levels, but the term masterpiece is often applied strictly to transcendent works of sublimity, which seems too restrictive to me. Sure, we can probably all agree that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a masterpiece, but so is the Eroica (In B's estimation his finest) and, of course, all of the late string quartets. I would go further and say that everything Beethoven wrote after his Opus 18 string quartets qualifies as a masterpiece.

Where to begin with JS Bach? Of course we could agree that A Musical Offering and Die Kunst der Fuge are musical masterpieces, but what of the Lute Suites, Cello Suites, and the Violin Sonatas and Partitas? Those are masterpieces too as far as I'm concerned because - despite the brevity of some of the individual tunes - the collections as a whole display supreme mastery of those varied idioms.

I prefer the term be used as something beyond a journeyman effort:

journeyman |ˈjərnēmən| noun ( pl. -men)

a trained worker who is employed by someone else.

• a worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding : [as adj. ] a solid journeyman professional.

I posted the definition of masterpiece in the comments to the Sequenza21 thread and posited that any mature composer (Assuming the presence of innate and intuitive musical talent) has written at least one musical masterpiece.

Now, obviously again, there will always be some subjectivity intruding on these kinds of evaluations, but I believe that if one applies all of the objectivity that one can muster, reasonable conclusions may be reached. For example, I really can't stand the big, bombastic symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler - they are great for relieving my bouts with insomnia - but I can nonetheless recognize that they are musical masterpieces. Sibelius? Now him I "like" but at the same time, I can see where many might judge Mahler the better composer. Point is, "like" has nothing to do with it. Point is, the display of mastery does.

So, I am a proponent of thinking of musical masterpieces more in line with the display of mastery which would qualify one for membership in a guild, but perhaps slightly more than that. Certainly less than the "once in a lifetime" definition that many bandy about, as in "the Sistine Chapel ceiling was Michelangelo's masterpiece" (A dubious claim, in my opinion, as his output was so vast and filled with masterpieces).

To put my money where my pixelating is, what would I judge to be a masterpiece that I have written? Well, the first one I have no doubt about would be my Fugue in F Minor for string quartet (I wrote that about thirteen years ago), but I could see where some might consider that a journeyman effort since its style is so derivative of Bach's late work. What I have no doubt about, however, is that the Axial Fugue in E Minor for solo classic guitar that I wrote last year and finished up a couple of weeks ago is definitely a musical masterpiece. Furthermore, I'm convinced that it is the best fugue ever written for the solo guitar (Not that there is a lot of competition in that genera, and please note that I am excluding transcriptions of Bach's lute works). To put a finer point on that, I'd say that the Axial Fugue will remain in a virtually unassailable position for some time to come.

You can judge for yourself, of course, as the score and MP3 are available for download from my .Mac Download Page. The string quartet fugue is there as well, if you scroll down far enough.

This post is too long already, so I won't offer a defense of my position on that fugue unless someone would like me to, but the point is not to brag about the thing, it's to note that I find some of the works of others to be masterful enough to qualify as musical masterpieces as well. Yes, even some composers who I can't stand and with whom I agree on just about nothing.

Like I said, "like" has nothing to do with it.

Now that is a masterpiece.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Cool Science and Space Stuff

Some cool pix I've collected recently:

A new scientific field is emerging: Paleo-astronomy. I find the term somewhat ironic because any and all astronomy is in essence "paleo" because the distances are so vast that the light we see is often so ancient as to have been emmitted before the human species even appeared, but what they mean is, the study of how our galaxy evolved, and what it might have looked like in the distant past.

The artist's impression above shows a view of our Milky Way galaxy and some recently discovered star streams that are associated with it. These star streams are the remnants of ancient collisions between our galaxy and others, so there have been at least three, and probably more. Eventually, these paleo-astronomers hope to piece together a chronology of these collisions and will presumably give us a graphic vision of how the Milky Way evolved.

That will be cool, but not quite as cool as this.

A European company is planning to build a space plane just to take tourists up. It will use conventional turbofan jet engines to take off and land, but a rocket engine to boost it up to sub-orbital altitudes, giving passengers about three minutes or so of weightlessness. and a view of outer space.

Sign me up. I'd borrow money if I had to for that experience.

But this is my favorite, just because I enjoy thinking about this sort of thing.

A group of scientists has proposed a new solution for the problem of black holes, which are predicted by general relativity (Einstein) but deemed impossible by quantum mechanics. According to general relativity, a black hole is a singularity of infinite density and inescapable gravity: Even light can't escape once passing the event horizon (Point of no return). Eienstein himself doubted the possibility of black holes, recognizing the fact that general relativity was incomplete. He never finished work on a Grand Unified Theory, and that has escaped all physicists since as well.

Hawking proposed "Hawking Radiation" as a solution for how black holes starved of new material would eventually evaporate away, presumably exploding violently once the gravity became too weak to sustain infinite density. The new theory says an event horizon never forms because radiated material keeps the "black star" (The new name) from ever actually becomming a singularity.

Personally, I have always thought there must be a further resistive force beyond a collapsed nutron star that simply prevents a singularity. The whole concept of infinite density strikes me as something the universe would not allow. With a further resistive force beyond the collapse of a neutron star, there could be an event horizon AND a surface. In fact, the two could be the same. But hey, I'm a musician, right?

Black holes don't irritate me as much as the concept of dark matter though. The idea that there is a whole lot of stuff in the universe that is invisible and doesn't interact with normal matter except gravitationally strikes me as a Deus ex Machina solution for physicists who can't get a proper handle on the weak force. I ain't a buyin' it.

Ballentyne's sketchbook pages look suspiciously like my imagination.

Bill and Hillary Soprano

This is just too good NOT to post.

It's not quite as good as the 1984 political parody for Obama, but almost.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

To Kill an iBook

I hate computers. Seriously. Absolutely detest them. Why are they not like TV sets? You turn them on, and they are on. Why do we have to wait for them to get ready for us to use them? There is no excuse as far as I'm concerned. They should behave like the appliances that they are and they sould be ready instantly whenever we want. They should also never f#¢* up.

I use Macs because they suck marginally less than PC's do. They still suck, but they suck a little less. I've destroyed several PC's over the years... OK, quite a few, actually... but tonight I had to euthanize my first Mac. Actually, I terminated it with extreme prejudice.

I have absolutely zero tolerance for s#!+ that doesn't work.

Today's drama started with my upgrading my old G3 500 iBook (The very first "iceBook" model - I was the first kid on the block with a white iBook) to OS X 10.4 tiger. I had upgraded my even older tiBook G4 400MHz and my Mac Mini G4 1.25GHz with no problem, and so this was totally unexpected. I started the proceedure this afternoon while I was practicing, and then I forgot about it. When I came back to the computer there was an error message telling me to do the installation over again.

Did I mention there were tons of files on this iBook that were not backed up on any of my other Macs? Well, now I have.

So, I reinstalled the OS. It f#¢*@& up again. So I tried a custom install.

When it finally came up, all of my files were lost and it was like a brand new computer.


So I rebooted, to the Apple version of "the blue screen of death"... nothing... nada...

Well, it just so happens that I inherited an unabridged set of tools from my step-dad, and among those tools was the perfect weapon with which to vent my spleen: A real, honest-to-God, carpenter's hammer.

Ten whacks - no more, no less (More than ten would have been gratuitous) - problem "solved."

And, here it is in the dumpster on the way to the landfill... where it belongs.

Yeah, sure; I could have saved it, but why? Things that f#¢* up deserve to die.

Besides, those ten whacks felt very good.

One of these days, someone with exactly half of a brain is going to invent a computer that is as reliable as the Zenith TV I had for twenty years, and then both Microsoft and Apple will be out of bee's wax. Good riddance/Can't happen soon enough.

Can't anybody here play this game? Isn't it obvious that the current computer paradigm needs to be flushed down the toilet with our daily craps?

At least I didn't hit my thumb with the hammer.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Paul Potts sings Nessun Dorma: Yeah, I cried too.

Here's an average Joe, living an annonamous life, who knows he's been blessed with a singularly great talent. So what does he do? He throws caution to the wind, summons up all of his courage, and proceeds to hit a home run that would make Babe Ruth's jaw hit the floor.

I hate opera, but I absolutely love this humble, plain guy and the awesome talent that God gave him.

Break out the Kleenex:

No cheesecake for this post.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back at Work

Don't think I did a blog entry about what I have been calling "The Plumbing Disaster" for several months now, which is strange because it completely shattered a great routine I had developed. Anyway, the twenty-five year old plumbing in my townhouse was nickel and diming us to death, so the property manager and owner decided to just replace it... all of it.

It was supposed to be a one day job last January, but there were a couple of things left undone. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had to move everything out from under all of the sinks, out of the laundry room, and out of all of the closets into my studio, didn't I? Doing this turned it instantly into a "junk room." This sucked in a major way.

So, of course, the work was done on a Friday, and it snowed on the Monday they were supposed to finish up. Days turned into weeks, and then they showed up unannounced on an afternoon I had a gig, and I didn't let them in. Weeks turned into months, and I finally got a call from the manager of the plumbing company. I was hot, but we worked out a time and got the guys to finish up... last month.

By this time, I had moved all of my stuff into the livingroom and had settled into a new routine. Well, I finally reached the "had it up to here" point last week, and so I cleaned out the "junk room" and returned it back to it's rightfull place as my Sanctum Sanctorum.

Here's just a peek:

The livingroom looks much better now as well, but I have to re-do my recording setup there.

That's OK, I got it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ricercare in F Major for Wind Quartet v3.2

I have utilized my downtime from practicing (Due to the cut fingertip) to make some serious headway on the Ricercare. It's now in F Major versus the previous C Minor, and what I did was to basically add a major key exposition and episode to the relative minor, and I re-wrote the final episode to get back to the major for the final double canonic stretto. Then, I added a coda that presents a three voice hyper-stretto: The subject, inverted subject, and augmented subject all starting simultaneously. After that, I transposed the entire piece up a whole step to eliminate some range issues with the piccolo/flute and oboe parts.

The first sixty-one measures is now exactly as I want it, as are the last thirty-five measures. I have not modified the original middle entries an any significant way, so the final major revision will be to re-write those to present the ever increasing possibilities I'm discovering. As it stands now, the piece is at 119 measures, and that could well nigh double before it's all said and done. It will probably be some time before I tackle that, however, so I made a MIDI to MP3 conversion of the piece and put it into my iPod so that I can listen to it on my daily two hour walks in context with the rest of the Fuga da Camera collection.

So the total Fuga da Camera cycle now consists of a three-part invention for string trio in D minor (Accompanied initial subject statement, with the answer in inversion on the subdominant level), a fugue "in" A minor for wind trio (With the subject being a twelve-tone row and the answer being real and on the dominant level), a very traditional fugue for string quartet in F minor, this ricercare in F major, a five-voice perpetual canon for string choir in A minor, a five-voice invertible canon for wind choir in C-sharp minor (Which I'm thinking of putting in C minor by using an alto clarinet in E-flat so that it fits into the scheme better), and then the fugato for chamber orchestra back in D minor. If I transpose the invertible canon, the seven keys will be, D minor, A minor, F minor, F major, A minor C minor and then the return to D minor, which makes a modicum of sense.

BTW: I discovered a parallel minor seventh in the invertible canon, but I think I'm going to leave it because it is in the exiting dovetail section, and the entering dovetails all work perfectly: The final fugue and ricercare for full symphony orchestra will only use the forward dovetails anyway (Yes, there will be nine pieces total by the end of the cycle: A quadruple four-voice fugue for orchestra with four dovetailing canonic subjects, and a quintuple five-voice ricercare with five dovetailing canonic subjects).


Here's the new exposition:

One of the things that made me decide to have a major key exposition and a relative minor counterexposition is that the major and minor forms of the subject and answer are so significantly different. The last measure of the major form of the subject has on the first two beats do, re, do, ti while in the minor that is replaced by the descending chromatic tetrachord beginning do, ti, te, la. And then, of course, the major form has the minor seventh ti, la in measure two, while the minor form uses the diminished seventh ti, le at that point.

The other reason for putting the piece in major is that the recapitulation - the double canonic stretto - is simply more effective to my ears in the major mode: The minor version is a bit brash in its level of dissonance (Even for me).

Note again that the main counter-subject and counter-answer are exactly the same line with the exception of the accidentals to accomodate the answer's transposition: This is a form of the verticle shifting complex counterpoint that Taneiev writes about, but I figured it out simply and directly by using the mechanical process of just writing it out in music notation. As I've said before, I'm sure Palestrina, Zarlino, and Bach did this mechanically as well, either on paper or in their noggins.

In measure fourteen over the subject, the countersubject leaps into a minor seventh relationship with the subject, which is something a sixteenth century or eighteenth century counterpoint teacher would probably bust a student for, but it is quite a nice effect, and nothing implied by the overtone series forbids this. Palestrina and Bach didn't do this because of the dictates of their personal esthetic taste. After decades of writing jazz music, I like these kinds of sounds.

By merging the answer and counter-answer into a unison at measure eleven, I am able to pass the counter-answer/counter-subject line off to the flute, which continues with it for another two octaves to the end of the exposition. I wouldn't do anything like that in a work I called a fugue, but the ricercare implies a greater latitude with respect to technical details as well as potential key regions. Traditional fugues use only closely related keys in the overwhelming preponderance of cases.

So. starting with the note F that the clarinet plays in measure six to the note F that the piccolo will resolve to in measure twenty-one, this counter-subject/counter-answer line rises three octaves. In the counter-exposition, I'll have the opportunity to make that four octaves by starting the initial statement of the subject out with accompaniment.

At measure twenty-one the first episode starts with the piccolo fairly high in the stratosphere (That is an 8va clef, remember), and I went through literally hundreds of versions of this before I came to the "Eureka!" moment. The bassoon and oboe basically travel upward in parallel tenths (plus an octave), but the bassoon is rising chromatically. This gives the oportunity for the oboe to alternate approaching the compound tenth alternately by descending into it when the bassoon is making a chromatic movement across the bar line, and in parallel when the bassoon is moving in a diatonic way across the bar line. I love this episode.

Meanwhile, the piccolo is descending diatonically using the tail figure of the subject/answer theme, which holds the phrase together nicely and makes it organically related to the exposition. In measure twenty-four the piccolo's patern is modified to present a diminished arpeggio, which is a tasty conclusion to that part of the phrase. That little eighth note anticipation at the end of measure twenty-four? That took forever to come up with, but it added exactly what was required for the merge into the elongated half-cadence that begins in measure twenty-five.

Note the four measure to three measure ratio between the first part of the episode and the second: That is the 4:3 ratio of the perfect fifth in the series. I plan to use that again, and in fact I already have, as you'll see later. Becoming more and more aware of these proportional ratios of the series as reflected in formal proportions has really helped my architectural planning. The half cadence broadens out and introduces the counter-exposition quite effectively.

At measure twenty-eight the counter-exposition begins in the relative key, D minor. I have the counter-subject below the subject here for the first time, and that leads to the interval of a major ninth at the beginning of measure thirty-one. Again, a traditional counterpoint teacher might suffer fart hailure at this, but there is nothing technically wrong with it vis-a-vis what the series implies is acceptable, and in a freer ricercare I really have no problem with it. It sounds cool to my ears. Again, the counter-subject and the subject close on a unison at measure thirty-three, which allows the line to be passed off to the clarinet for the counter-answer version of the line.

Here at measure thirty eight the clarinet and the piccolo meet at a unison, which sets up the piccolo having the counter-subject/counter-answer line for the final two octave rise. This counter-exposition is the same as the original minor key exposition with the exception of one minor, but significant, detail. In the original exposition there was a C natural on the final eighth note of the clarinet part, which made a major second with the piccolo part. This major second sounded rather heated in the minor key version of the exposition, but it was positively searing as a minor second in the major, so I eliminated it. I had been going back and forth on the issue, but when I heard how dissonant it was in the major, I was able to make the decision to drop it in this instance. Another reason why it is good to write both major and minor mode versions of everything and audition them. I did keep the major second back at the end of measure thirty-three, however, because that is between the main counter-answer and the secondary one: That works out as a major second (Or major ninth) in the major mode, which is fine.

The second episode starting at forty-eight is different: The piccolo gets the chromatic tail figure of the minor mode version of the subject/answer over a chromaticised and foreshortened version of the counter-subject/counter-answer in the bass. It's almost sinister sounding at first - which I love, of course - but when it breaks into the major mode setup it is a real tension releaser, which is quite effective.

The middle entries start out at measure fifty-two, and as I said, those haven't changed since v1.0: The presentation is that of a stretto between the subject and tonal answer after three measures of delay.

I want to draw you attention to the note F-natural that the piccolo has at the beginning of measure fifty-six. For this to be the "real" tonal version of the answer, that would have to be F-sharp. I didn't like the sound of that, and after thinking about it, I had a Eureka moment: There are really three possibilities for fugal answers: Real, tonal, and modal. That might sound like a "Well yeah, sure" kind of thing, but as I progress from writing stretti and canons at the octave to those at the fifth, fourth and other intervals it becomes significant. I'm glad that I internalized it, in any event.

The subject reappears beneath the answer in measure fifty-seven as a stretto after two measures of delay, and I am sure the final ricercare will be just like it is here until measure sixty-one/sixty-two: Instead of using the present series of deceptive motions, I'll probably start introducing episodes and inverted forms of the various stretto possibilities, and at least one partial statement in diminution. The reason for this will become clear when we get to the end.

Everything on this page is going to change and/or become greatly elaborated upon, so there isn't much point in analyzing it: These are just other and closer stretti with minor mode statements as transitions.

This page will survive intact, however. The opening statement is a four-voice contrapuntal statement of the subject, which has not been heard to this point. It is in E minor, which is on the leading tone of the piece, and so it's "out of bounds" for a fugue, technically speaking, but this is a ricercare so no problem.

This relationship enabled me to compose a variant of the original episode that went from the major to the relative minor. Here, it goes from the leading tone to the tonic. How cool is that?! I again travailed through well over a hundred versions of this before the perfect solution appeared, but it was more than worth it. Through the chromatic rising figures in the bass the tension builds and builds to an almost unbearable level until the major mode version of the elongated half cadence is reached. The arrival at measure ninety-five is truly sublime. Again, that little eighth-note anticipation in the piccolo part at the end of ninety-two is the detail that makes it happen.

The two parts of the original version of this episode were 4:3 (The perfect fourth's ratio) but here they move up the series to 5:4 (The major third's ratio. Now that I have this in my noodle, I'll use these and/or other related ratios in the middle entries.

The introduction of the recapitulation - the double canonic stretto - at ninety-nine is positively dramatic. Notice again that I am aoviding the secondary leading tones in the answers, so they are modal instead of strictly tonal. In fact, real, tonal, and modal elements can be combined in answer statements, as they are here, on pretty much any immitative interval. Like I said, I'm glad I've internalized this little nugget of information.

The concluding canonic stretto ends in measure one-hundred-seven in a false ending, and then the hyper-stretto coda begins in measure one-hundred-eight: The piccolo has the rectus form of the subject, the clarinet gets the inversus form, and the bassoon gets the augmented form. I had to make a tonal adjustment to the inversus in measure "eleventy-one" (one-hundred-eleven) to make it work, but hey, it's a ricercare.

After the piccolo finishes its statement, it gets a diatonic form of the figure from the last episode's bass line which leads into a final extended trill. The clarinet moves to a free line, and the oboe has been free all along. With a touch of ritardando the piece ends convincingly.

If you want to hear this, I have posted an MP3 of it on my .Mac Downloads Page along with a PDF version of the score as it stands. I must warn you that the MP3 is 9.4MB.


My putzing around on lead to my meeting a distant cousin! My great-great grandfather Parker Pepper moved from West Virginia to Kansas along with some of his family, so that's where she's from and we share the same great-great-grandfather. She sent me this amazing photograph of my great-grandfather Lorenzo Dow Pepper and his brothers that must have been taken in West Virginia around the turn of the last century.

My great-grandfather Lorenzo Dow Pepper is on the left. Is that cool, or what? Three weeks ago I wasn't even sure what his first name was, and now I have a photo of him!!!


Marilyn Monroe through the eyes of Baz.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Addition to My "Movies I Absolutely Detest" List: Pan's Labyrinth

begin rant/

As a matter of fact, this is the new number one, replacing Eraserhead, which I saw in a theatre in 1977 on its first run. That's right, Pan's Labyrinth has replaced the movie I most detested for thirty years!

This piece of garbage won three Academy Awards?!

First of all, it would probably have helped if I had known it was in Spanish with English subtitles. I kept trying to get the English track on the settings for the first few minutes until I saw that the dialog did indeed match the picture. It might also have helped if it had been promoted as a war movie with a little fantasy thrown in... for no apparent reason... rather than as a fantasy movie with a little war thrown in... again, for no apparent reason. And really, is there a more boring war in history than the Spanish Civil War? That's a rhetorical question: Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is STILL dead!!!

But the aforementioned knowledge could not possibly have saved me the constant nodding off to the glacial rhythm of this idiotic... "movie." In less than fifteen minutes I had exited full-screen mode and was surfing the internet with the movie minimized on the right hand side. At exactly 1:15 into the thing - where the talentless, leaden "actor" who played the captain is about to torture the poor stuttering imbecile who won't smoke - I put it out of my misery and ejected it. No mas! The last performance I abandoned before the end was an orchestral performance of Ignor Satanski's The Smell of Shit The Right of Spring... over twenty years ago!!! I have to reeeeeealy hate a DVD I paid a Jackson for not to even finish watching it. In fact, that has never happened before. I even sat through all of Eraserhead.

I also find those lispy Castilian accents extremely annoying. They're cute in little kids, I guess, but in adults they just sound so... well... gay. Do you know the story? The King had a lisp so everybody was commanded to speak that way?

If you want a free widescreen DVD of this worthless flic - brand new and watched only one-half of a time - send me your snail mail addy. I will pay the postage just to get this maliciously bad craptacular out of my house!


Now, on to Apocalypto. I understand that is subtitled too.

UPDATE: Now Apocalypto, that is a cinematic masterpiece. Exotic in the extreme with a glorious introduction that leads to an extreme crisis, and then an inexorable buildup to a never-ending chase through the jungle. Not all of the bad guys die, but the ones who really need to die get theirs. Copious subtext messages.

The more I think about Pan's labyrinth though, the worse it gets. I mean, what is a labyrinth? It's supposed to be a maze, isn't it? Well, once you're in a maze, you can't get out until you correctly figure out how to reach the exit, right? So, what's with all of these Deus ex Chalkina escapes back to reality? Imagine if Dorothy had been able to go back to Kansas for a time out every time the flying monkeys scared her, or if Frodo had been able to have time enough for an ale in the Shire when it got a little too hot on Mount Doom. Better yet, let's just beam the crew of the Nostromo home whenever the xenomorph starts opening his mouth and slobbering all over them.

I can't believe anybody who says they like this movie isn't a liar. It's militantly stupid.

/end rant

That would be much better than the film I was just watching.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Convertible Counterpoint IX

It has been over a year since my last post on this subject, and this is simply an end note for the series which I will post a link to in the sidebar section that deals with Sergi Taneiev.

I abandoned this project because I reached a critical mass point with my understanding of contrapuntal laws as defined by the implications present in the harmonic overtone series. You will find those defined in the Musical Relativity series Chapter VII, but briefly:

The series defines for itself what are perfect and imperfect consonances through the octave inversion principle. Perfect consonances remain super-particular ratios when inverted (In a super-particular ratio the terms differ by one). So, since the 2:1 octave remains a 2:1 octave when the voices are inverted, it is a perfect consonance. Likewise, the perfect fifth at 3:2 inverts to a perfect fourth at 4:3: Both ratios are super-particulars.

Imperfect consonances are only super-particulars in one orientation: The 5:4 major third inverts to an 8:5 minor sixth, and the 6:5 minor third inverts to a 5:3 major sixth.

Once I understood this, Taneiev's system totally collapsed, since he treats the fourth as a dissonance. There are acoustic reasons for this peculiarity which I won't go into here, but the best discussion of the fourth ever is in James Tenney's book A History of Consonance and Dissonance.

Then, I realized that almost all of the other restrictions in counterpoint were rules based upon the styles of a particular school, and not laws based on what the overtone series suggests is possible. Most of those rules were simply based on personal or group taste.

You'll have to follow the link above to get the full rationale, but basically there is one supreme law of counterpoint:


Note that this law is permissive: It tells you what you may do. From this, we can deduce the the two secondary prohibitive laws:




Finally, from this triumvirate of immutable contrapuntal laws, we can deduce the final exceptional law:


So, for example, the progression P5, d5, P5 is allowed, as is the progression m3, d3, m3, and all other variations on that scheme.

When you view counterpoint in the light of this level of understanding, there are so few restrictions that the possibilities increase exponentially over what Taneiev defines as "The Rules of Simple Counterpoint." Since all further convertible technology is based on those rules, I'm no longer interested in his system. It might seem a bit brash to say that I've outgrown the need for it, but I have.

If you wish to write an original combination that yeilds derivatives, all you have to do is go through the process mechanically on musical staves where you can present all of the possibilities you want simultaneously. This is how I work when I write counter-subjects to fugue subjects, for example. And the subjects themselves I compose in canon mechanically as well. I'm absolutely certain that this is how Palestrina, Zarlino, and Bach came up with their derivatives that Taneiev uses as examples (Though some of this stuff can be done in one's head after a certain amount of experience, obviously).

So, there really is no need for formulas in music at all. Ever.

Now, it could be possible to take Taneiev's system and modify it starting off with different basic rules for simple counterpoint, but, in my personal opinion, that would be an exercise in futility.

I love Taneiev's music, by the way - his Fourth Symphony I put on par with any by Brahms - and I have read quite a bit about the man, who was by all accounts a broadly talented genius: He spoke Esperanto, for example. However, by all accounts I've found, when he composed, he started by writing out canons... mechanically.

Mechanically wrong, on so many levels.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Kitchen Klutz

This is going to cost me. Literally. Time and money.

I'm no Emeril in the kitchen, but that was definately a BAM! moment. The stew came out well though.

Upside - there's always an upside - is that, while I won't be able to pick up a guitar for a few days, I will be able to work on a few compositions I've wanted to tackle, but haven't because I put so much emphasis on my playing these days. Today, for instance, I created v2.0 of my Ricercare for Wind Quartet in a several hour marathon, and did the final v3.2.7 of the Axial Fugue for solo guitar.

Not a bad day's worth of work.

That's what I need. Right there.