Archive for April, 2016
Another snippet from Curtis Roads' book Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic, on the topic of the conventionality of Western melodic forms:
Conventional classical and popular styles exhibit a great deal of redundancy in melodic patterns (i.e., parts of many melodies are identical). The tendency of composers to borrow or reinvent an existing tune has been long studied by musicologists. As Thomas Alva Edison (1917) once observed: "I had an examination made of the themes of 2700 waltzes. In the final analysis, they consisted of 43 themes, worked over in various ways." [citations omitted]
You gotta love that hubris of the dilettante one-percenter: "I had an examination made..." What are servants for, after all. If only Bill Gates would examine 2700 waltzes instead of mucking about in charter schools; the world might be a better place. He could even have interns doing it.
Am continuing to read Curtis Roads' book Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic. He has this to say about conventional Western harmony:
A formidable advantage of 12-note ET [equal temperament] over its predecessors was the equality of its intervals. For example, an ET “perfect” fifth interval will sound equivalent no matter which pitches are used to form it; this is not generally true of non-ET tuning systems. Such flexibility means that a composer can write functionally equivalent melodies and chord progressions in any key. It also enables harmonic modulation (i.e., a transition from one key to another by means of a chord common to both). The same flexibility fostered the rise of atonal and serial music and the promulgation of increasingly abstract operations on pitch class sets.
The mother lode of 12-note ET has been mined for 500 years by millions of musicians in innumerable compositions. The tuning is so ingrained that it is virtually impossible to musically express anything new about it. Consider a work for piano; it is constrained by its tuning and timbre from the start. If it is to find novelty, it must seek them not in tuning or timbre, but in other aspects of the composition. This is not to say that it is impossible to express anything new with 12-note ET. However, the new thing is not about the tuning. Rather, the novelty lies elsewhere, for example, in a new interpolation between existing genres, an unusual rhythmic organization, an atypical formal structure, a fresh combination of timbres, a philosophical message, etc.
The pop music industry sometimes manufactures songs that are attractive despite the use of 12-note ET in worn-out harmonic and rhythmic formulas. Yet some combination of elements in the voice, lyrics, audio production, fashion, face, camera angle, lens, setting, hairstyle, body language, stage show, animation, or attitude spawns mass fascination. The familiar melodic and harmonic formula—like the formulaic beat—serves as a comfortable backdrop.
"Bjarney" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]
Continuing with the house tempo. Sound sources include sliced and rearranged '70s e-piano (from vinyl) and analog synth chords and a bass line from a non-house tune I did. This needs speakers that can play bass to be heard "as intended."
"plEBE" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]
"Respiration 1-2" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]
Started re-listening to house records from about 15 years ago and decided to work some of my current ideas into that format. "plEBE" is the more conventionally structured of this pair, "Respiration 1-2" is the avant garde B-side.
drawn with Linux MyPaint
hat tip reneabythe for zuk photo
A fine post by British actor/comedian Stephen Fry on "going off the grid" in the Facebook era deserves a moment of your time. This is a man who has paid some dues to say "get off my lawn" -- he has a million Twitter ex-followers. He also uses Linux Ubuntu as his desktop OS, per Wikipedia, so he's taking some steps towards that unwired wired state he is describing. His intended audience is "young people" but everyone should be thinking about this.
But first, what would motivate any young person today to pull the plug?
Well maybe they should consider this for a moment. Who most wants you to stay on the grid? The advertisers. Your boss. Human Resources. The advertisers. Your parents (irony of ironies – once they distrusted it, now they need to tag you electronically, share your Facebook photos and message you to death). The advertisers. The government. Your local authority. Your school. Advertisers.
Well, if you’re young and have an ounce of pride, doesn’t that list say it all? So fuck you, I’m Going Off The Grid.
More stating the obvious but fun to read:
I and millions of other early ‘netizens’ as we embarrassingly called ourselves, joined an online world that seemed to offer an alternative human space, to welcome in a friendly way (the word netiquette was used) all kinds of people with all kinds of views. We were outside the world of power and control. Politicians, advertisers, broadcasters, media moguls, corporates and journalists had absolutely zero understanding of the net and zero belief that it mattered. So we felt like an alternative culture; we were outsiders.
Those very politicians, advertisers, media moguls, corporates and journalists who thought the internet a passing fad have moved in and grabbed the land. They have all the reach, scope, power and ‘social bandwidth’ there is. Everyone else is squeezed out — given little hutches, plastic megaphones and a pretence of autonomy and connectivity. No wonder so many have become so rude, resentful, threatening and unkind.
"Toy Piano" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]
See notes to "Cumulative Beats," below. Other ingredients used here are some riffs composed in Mulab, a sequencer program I've been enjoying (while I still have Windows).
Am thinking of this song is an unofficial tribute to Charles Ives -- no, really.
"Cumulative Beats" [mp3 removed -- a revised version is on Bandcamp]
The white noise leaking all over this is a feature. Lo-fi beats are triggered in Eurorack digital modules (e.g., ADDAC 111 wav player, Qu-Bit Nebulae), then assembled in Ableton. In this tune and "Toy Piano," am using Ableton's audio-clip-to-MIDI conversion programs to play around with tunes that are already recorded (and the hardware settings would be a pain to duplicate). Ultimately MIDI is used twice, once to trigger the hardware, once to edit notes in the resulting recording. Fun!
The new, alien-spaceship transit hub at the World Trade Center is called "the Oculus." The classical oculus dome is rounded in shape and has a human-like "pupil" opening at the top to admit light. The WTC's oculus has a long, narrow slit opening, kind of like a crocodile's eye. Given all the suppositions about 9/11, conspiracies, and possible reptilian influence, this is a bit spooky. Is the starchitect Santiago Calatrava ... one of them?
images from the internet