Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SuperCollider Project

I have been learning SuperCollider this semester, and just finished up my final project. It is an algorithmic piece and uses some basic additive and subtractive synthesis to make bell and percussive sounds.

The main idea is that some large bells will play notes chosen randomly from a set, and when certain notes are played, other sounds will be triggered and play short segments.

The pitch material is all based on ratios for synth bells that I found in a SuperCollider tutorial: 0.5, 1, 1.19, 1.56, 2, 2.51, 2.66, 3.01, 4.1. In other words, if your bell plays 100Hz, the harmonics will be 50, 100, 119, 156, 200, 251, 266, 301, and 410 Hz.

I made a set of frequencies - a scale if you will - based on these ratios, starting at 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200 Hz. The harmonics of each overlap, so when the bells play, their harmonics won't have these exact ratios anymore, but they still sound very bell-like. Each time through the algorithm, the bells will be chosen from a subset of this main scale, so there are slight modulations. Also, since the notes are chosen randomly, they will trigger the other sounds differently each time.

For those interested, I have uploaded the code (in HTML).

I recorded a few versions of the piece. This is the one I liked best:

You can listen to some alternate takes here, here, and here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jury Pieces

Next Monday I will have my first composition jury at UF. I am not sweating it, having done composition juries at GSU for several years. These are apparently more low-key - one-on-one (one-on-three?) with the faculty, as opposed to a public reading of the new works.

Sounds fine, except one thing: everyone keeps using the term "jury piece." Surely I'm not the only one who wrote pieces for the sake of writing pieces. Surely people aren't composing just to get a grade.

Anyway, I will present Ghazal and Wedge Issue. You can peruse them below:

Ghazal score
Ghazal mp3 - tape part with MIDI flute

Wedge Issue score
Wedge Issue mp3 - MIDI rendition

Friday, December 3, 2010

still alive!

I made a promise to myself to keep up with this blog when I started back to school, but it looks like I've been up to my usual rarely-updating tricks.

Major projects of late:

Saxophone quartet - now officially titled "Wedge Issue." I am hoping to get some saxophonists here at UF to read through it before the end of term. Will post if that happens!

"Full Circle" hip-hop-ish project. I got pretty close to done, then decided I would never be really happy with it if I didn't go back and redo the backing tracks. So I denoised and quantized a little. Really hoping to get this done by the new year, which essentially means by the end of this semester. Hmmm....

SuperCollider etude. Originally I was calling this "Phony Morricone" and using instrument samples to evoke a Leone western. Due to various factors (processing speed, not-too-great samples from freesound.org, etc.), I decided to go an all-synth route.

So now I have some bell, organ, and percussion sounds. It's pretty "moody" and "dark." I'm still very much a SuperCollider novice, but I'm getting better with programming and general knowledge of its capabilities. Will post this when I'm done, as well - even the code, because I'm sure you're very interested in that part!

ok, back to it...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unbalanced Connection concert - thoughts on diffusion

Last night at the University of Florida, we presented Unbalanced Connection 46 - yes, the 46th concert in a series dating back 14 years. You can see all of the old programs here.

We decided that this concert would focus on diffusing fixed media works (though it also included two live-electronics works). For those who may not know, sound diffusion is a performance practice in electroacoustic music, where a "sound projectionist" (usually, but not always the composer) will move a stereo piece to different speakers in the concert hall. This is different than works mixed in the studio for surround presentation (5.1, octophonic, etc.). Diffusion and "multi-channel" works both have their advantages. I prefer diffusion myself because I enjoy the performance aspect and the fact that I can more readily adapt a piece to fit a given space.

Last night I presented my 2008 piece Obedience School. This is a stereo fixed-media piece, which I have diffused twice before - once at SARC and once for the Electronic Music Midwest festival. Each place had a completely different speaker configuration, so it is always a new challenge to determine where sounds should go at what times.

Last night, the GATOR system (Great And Thunderous Octophonic Resonator) was expanded to 16 channels, plus subwoofers. We had two pairs of speakers ("narrow" and "wide") on stands on the stage, plus a pair of wedges on the floor. Additionally, we had a pair of speakers backstage. We had pairs of subwoofers and a stereo pair on the sides, and two pairs ("narrow" and "wide" again) in the back.

My diffusion was largely improvised, though I did have some ideas from my previous performances. For instance, at EMM I played one part about 3/4 through the piece where the original dog sample is most apparent through the single speaker in front. Last night I played this through the front-narrow only. Much of the rest of the piece has some sound going through most of the speakers, so hopefully the change was dramatic. Due to the stadium seating of the room, the rears were very high compared to the stage speakers. However, this was very effective for some of the high-frequency clicking and "bird sounds" in the piece. I also liked the "distance" provided by the backstage speakers and used them in several points, using them exclusively for the very end. I used the wedges (nearly) alone for a portion of the piece where I had low buzzing noises, attempting to emphasize the vertical aspects of the room again.

Being so focused in the performance, I don't know if all of the strategies worked as well as I hoped, but I felt happy with them. If only I had a binaural microphone so I could listen back!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

sax quartet beginnings

As mentioned previously, I had been toying with the idea of writing a sax quartet. Now I'm not just toying with it, I'm actually working on it.

Unfortunately, I keep "flip-flopping" on whether I like my ideas or not. This piece is basically a process piece, where short ideas wedge themselves in the middle of other short ideas, creating ever-longer, palendromic phrases. I like the idea in general, and I think "Wedge Issue" would be a great title.

Somehow, though, there just doesn't seem to be "enough to it." Now I'm thinking through what I've drafted so far (about 3 minutes of a 5-6 minute piece) and pondering what I can alter to keep the interest up. Pondering what I can do to subvert the process just enough that it is still perceptible but not so damned obvious.

As I brought up in my composition lesson today, there is kind of a pressure (98% internal) that I make each work "the greatest thing I've done so far." I mean, I'm a PhD student now. But in any field of research there has to be some trial, and with it, some error. As long as I don't parade this piece around like it really is "the greatest thing I've done so far," I guess it won't hurt anyone if I work on it and see what happens!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mare Serenitatis at UF's Baughman Center

Last night some of my colleagues (Sean Peuquet, Thomas Royal, and Jorge Variego) put on a concert at UF's Baughman Meditation Center. It is a beautiful building right on Lake Alice. They invited the other composers to compose pieces for the space, which is very interesting acoustically. It is very reverberant and has fairly pronounced standing waves at certain frequencies.

I adapted an old piece, Mare Serenitatis. I wrote this piece in 2008 for submission to Concordia University's Harvest Moon festival. One of the festival's categories was "Pianissimo Highs," which stipulated quiet pieces that never fall below 2kHz. I created this piece by using part of the Max/MSP interface for Baffin Bay, improvising with high frequencies in 8 channels. Pretty simple but I think it sounds neat. Listen here.

The Baughman center has resonances at 26.8 Hz and its multiples. For this version, I decided to play two tones at a time, targeting frequencies that would create difference tones that matched the resonances of the space. I made a little filtered pulse with delay to articulate the same frequency.

What I played was essentially an improv, though I did have a rough plan in mind. Since 26.8 Hz is close to a very low A (27.5 Hz), I thought of things that way. I started both of my pulsating sine notes (actually 4 pulsating sines for each note) on high (detuned) A's. I started moving one down little by little, down to a D, playing the delayed pulse on occasion. Then I started moving both of the notes down until I had roughly an E6 and an A5, which made a difference tone of ~A4. I played that pulse a few times and faded everything out.

I wasn't paying too much attention to time but I didn't want it to last too long (though it's fun for me to listen and play - I could have gone on for half an hour). I'm guessing it was about 3-4 minutes. No recording this time but hopefully I'll have a chance to adapt it to another venue sometime!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

work, sonnet, concerts, and stuff

I'm the type who never considers a composition "done" (I'm not at all a perfectionist though), but my flute piece is basically finished. This week I finally got back to work on the "Full Circle" hip-hop-ish project. It's been fun to hear stuff start to come together. I am also thinking up ideas for my final project in my DSP seminar, and toying with the idea of writing a saxophone quartet.

Also, if you missed my Twitter post, I do have a recording of my 48-hour piece: http://www.adamscottneal.com/instant_sonnet.mp3

This next week or so will be busy - a concert by the Sonic Computing Organization on Thursday in UF's Baughman Center. I am presenting a version of Mare Serenitatis, altered to match the resonances of the space... The following Friday will be the 46th Unbalanced Connection concert of electroacoustic music at UF. I will be diffusing Obedience School on the 16-channel GATOR system.

I am supposed to pick my cognate area (aka doctoral minor) and my dissertation committee by the end of this school year. Had a good meeting with a professor in Film and Media studies, and am going to sit in on his Film Theory course. I had been thinking variously of doing the cognate in philosophy or digital media, but I think that film & media studies is closer in line to what I want to research.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

48, ubuntu, mac people, ghazal, mirror universes, free download

Well, this week has flown by. The 48-Hour show went well. I liked my piece a lot better when I heard humans perform it. Waiting for a recording...

For my DSP class, we are using SuperCollider and my prof's own PVC. The second one posed a problem, as it was written for Mac and I am a rare creative-type who uses Windows primarily. Fortunately, this program is run in the Terminal, so with a little reconfiguring it can also be run in Linux.

I installed Ubuntu on my little netbook - I used Wubi, which I highly recommend if you want to see how Linux works. You install it within Windows, without making a partition. So I have been exploring a little bit. Some things are easier to install than others (It's going to take me awhile to get SuperCollider running), but overall I like it quite a bit.

An added bonus to using Linux is the "respect" factor. Now, I think that all operating systems are usable, but "Mac people" have this thing about making fun of Windows. If I use Linux then "Mac people" will finally shut up (because Linux has this esoteric cache - "wow, you must be realllly good with computers!"). I really can't stand "Mac people." Please note that I am differentiating between Mac users and "Mac people."

Moving on...

Ghazal for alto flute is almost finished. I had my first session in the Florida Electroacoustic Music Studio the other day. I need to hang out there more. We have good speakers (Genelec). And a Mac. :P

I have essentially finished writing the Mirror Universes series, and now Caleb Herron and I are making plans to record all the pieces for a CD. I am really looking forward to that - I enjoyed his and Ariana's rendition (of No. 2), but I think that the pieces will work better listening at home than in a coffeeshop.

Speaking of CDs, I decided to put Late Frost and Parallel Lives up for free download on my site. I had broken even on them, and it's not like I'll be losing millions of dollars in revenue. They are still available for purchase on various sites, just in case someone stumbles upon me elsewhere.

I'm sure more happened this week, and I'll post it if it seems important. Cheers!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

48-Hour Show

I'll write a real blog later. I am going to upload screen shots of my work-in-progress to this entry.

Third section. It has unison melodies, and may be - dare I say - "pretty":

Second section now looks more like this: (finished around 2:00am, posting at 9:55 am)

Second section - too march-like, to overtly renaissance for my taste. Getting scrapped but here you go. (12:17am)

First section, done for now. 11:06pm

Thursday, October 7, 2010

48-Hour Show preview

This Sunday-Tuesday at UF we are embarking on a project known as the 48-Hour Show. Composers will randomly draw an ensemble and have 24 hours to compose. The ensembles will then have 24 hours to rehearse. I am very excited about participating, being a veteran of this type of show (I started Georgia State's Instant Music Series - which to my delight is still going - back in '06). 48 hours is too much time, if you ask me, but I'm the new guy here so no one did.

I will blog about the experience afterward, but I will be tweeting about it starting Sunday night.

In celebration and preparation, I would like to share my two "Instant" pieces from '06 and '07. I am happy with both of them:

April 1, 2006

For the first Instant Music, I randomly drew as my quartet 2 percussionists, classical guitar, and trumpet. Somehow, this made me imagine something Takemitsu-esque. I wrote a 12-tone piece, since I was using that technique a lot at the time and since I knew it would be helpful to churn out notes.

This piece later became the first movement of Three Haiku. Here are links and recordings of both for comparison's sake.

Score, Haiku for 4 Players

Score, Three Haiku

March 30, 2007

Compared to the second year, I had a luxurious amount of time to write Haiku. Due to my teaching schedule and a desire for a few hours of sleep, I have about 4 hours to compose my Instant piece.

This time I drew trumpet and baritone singer. We made an option that you could add yourself as a performer to your own piece, so I added piano. For the text, I chose a poem by Charles Bukowski. Note: not safe for work.

Score of You


Friday, October 1, 2010

flute piece draft

This week I continued knocking the flute part into shape, and I made a mockup with the MIDI rendition plus some of the electronic textures I've been making.

Next big task is to make the real electronic part, which will be based on these textures, but be more elaborate. At the same time, I am planning to make the changes in textures gradual enough that the soloist has room to play with the tempo and not worry too much about lining up exactly with the electronic part.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

flute melodies taking shape

This week I focused on writing the flute part. I am about halfway done with the draft. My initial sketch is just some rhythms and basic contours on blank paper, and I have been trying out different pitches and writing them in. After this I started putting the melodies in Sibelius to see how they sound (mainly for the microtonal stuff).

After trying to come up with some kind of quarter-tone pitch scheme, I decided that this piece will mainly focus on the usual 12 semitones, with quarter tone inflections. I am basing my pitches on a 2-octave 12-tone set, the same as what I used in my piano piece Through the Canopy.

Canopy's row begins on C#, and I transposed it up a fifth to G# for this piece. Despite being based on a row, the work is very centered around E, due to my drone idea. I chose E because the Kingma alto flute can easily do any kind of trill there (written A). B (written E) has the same ease-of-trilling property, but I wanted to be able to play some notes below the drone pitch, yet still have the drone pitch be low in the flute's range.

Here is an mp3 of the MIDI mockup I am making as I compose. It is about 3 minutes, so we're about halfway through. There are a lot of pitch-bends that you won't hear, and the trills are all semitone, but you can get a sense of what I'm going for.

Monday, September 20, 2010

flute piece - electronic beginnings

This week I spent most of my composition time working on materials for the 'tape'/'computer' part of my flute piece. Below is an mp3 of the best parts.

(Times approximate)
0:00-0:30 Flute and tambura samples, chopped up and shuffled around, then reverberated.
0:30-0:55 same thing, pitch-shifted down one octave
0:55-1:10 first attempt at editing, it was too sparse - not planning to use this but i kinda like the idea. maybe in another piece - to "funky" for this one.
1:10-1:35 chopping up a scale with a lot of air sounds. could maybe be something, especially when reverberated, but not sure at this point.
1:35-1:55 chopped up air sound, then reverberated. i like this texture a good bit - this and the pitch-shifted drone idea will probably be the main 'backdrops'.
1:55-2:30 convolved a flute chromatic scale with a recording of pigeons. works pretty nicely, I think.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Since I have been exploring Arabic music for my quarter-tone alto flute piece, I began thinking about other aspects of the piece - the form and the electronic accompaniment.

For the form, I am going back to an idea I have worked with in the past: using poetic forms as the basis for musical structure. I did this first with Three Haiku, then with Tanka, and with a couple abandoned pieces based on the cinquain, sonnet, and pantoum. Since I was looking to the Middle East, I found a few forms and chose the ghazal.

The ghazal form is a series of rhyming couplets. These couplets are generally only loosely related, but the second line always rhymes. Since I have been asked to write a 6-7 minute piece, I decided to create twelve roughly 30-second "couplets," where the final five-or-so seconds will be variations on the same motive.

I sketched out eight flute ideas I wanted to explore; each couplet will focus on one of these, though some of the ideas will crop up in other couplets. One idea explores trills - moving from timbral (one note, but played with different fingerings so there is a fluctuation in the timbre), to quarter tone, to semitone, to whole tone (probably not further, though I could...). Another explores the difference between pitch bends and discrete quarter-tone scales (i.e. play a pitch bend, then play a slurred scale between the same notes). Another involves very short, fast whole-tone, three-quarter-tone, and semitone scales.

I decided on an order for all these sections, but as I started conceiving the electronic accompaniment, I shuffled them around. Going against the unrelatedness of the ghazal couplets, mine will display overall gradual changes. There will be an opening melodic section, which I called "normal" even though it will have quarter-tones and other weirdness. After this comes the bend-scale section, followed by trills, then scales, then noisy sweeps, then slap tonguing. So there will be a general change from continuous "normal" melodies to more sparse and noise-based material.

The accompaniment (as I conceive it now, anyway) will also gradually progress. It will start with a low drone of some sort, then introduce some noisy sounds (I'm thinking something like a flock of birds taking off), then move to continuous, high, airy sounds, finally working back to the low drone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

mirror universes - pencil to computer

I have sketched out the last four entries in my Mirror Universes series. The process for each one is basically the same.

First, I write out the 'parallel techniques' I can think of for the instruments I am using in the piece. For example, MU3 involves vibraphone and trombone. Both can do pitch bends (the vibraphone is obviously more limited there). Both can have brighter timbres if played at the node or with a mute. Once I have a list of these type of ideas, I determine how many of each there will be (generally 3-4 per effect and 4-6 for "normal" melodic figures).

Then comes the pencil sketch. These are very rough and I write them quickly. It's almost an improvisation.

Once I have the pencil sketch, I sit on it for a few days, then start putting it in Sibelius, with corrections and additions.

Once they are all in Sibelius, I plan to send Caleb the scores as .pdfs for suggestions and revisions. Tentative plan is to record these sometime around the winter holidays.

Monday, September 6, 2010

drone ditty

For this alto flute piece I'm writing, I'm considering making a drone through the majority of the tape part. I made a quick test thing with triangle waves, and I made a quick quarter-tone tester thing (both are Max/MSP patches).

Below is an improv I did - will give you a sense of some of the ideas I'm playing with for this piece. I found some information about Arabic maqamat (scales), and am planning to use tetrachords from this system as a basis for my melodic figures (it won't be straight up scales, but I will be using some of the interval patterns.

The first part you will hear is a little passage on the Rast tetrachord - a whole step and two 3/4-steps. After this I played some scales to hear how they sound with the drone - quarter tone, chromatic, whole tone, then a 3/4-tone scale. Good times.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

more hip-hop project fun

I have been playing around with one of the tracks from my hip-hop project, working title "Octagon." For most of the tracks, I had 2 people record solos, but this track only had one. I tried recording some Hammond-ish organ solos, but since the backing track uses similar timbres, it tended to get lost.

Then I came up with an idea to go for the electronica cliché of sticking in some (public domain) movie quotes. I looked around and found some great dialogue from the Vincent Price film The Last Man on Earth, which is based on the novel I Am Legend. I am doing some processing on the quotes for word-painting purposes. Kinda rough, but here is what I have so far:

I really love Darren Nelsen's guitar contribution to this piece. I thought it would be fun to dissect and scramble the solo later in the track. Below is the original, then the reconstituted version:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mirror Universes series

Mirror Universes is a series of duets I am composing. Each piece features vibraphone or multipercussion with a melodic instrument. I composed the first one, for viola and vibraphone, for a now-defunct duo named String Gone Deaf. The second one, for clarinet and multipercussion, was written for the Devil May Care duo. They performed it in Boston, New York, and Duluth, GA.

These are open-score pieces. Both players read the same score, which consists of 30-40 disconnected cells of music. The players each choose their own path through the music. Some cells are straight-forward (consisting of short melodic gestures), while some have special effects. In the cells with special effects, I tried to find similar effects in both instruments. For example, in MU1, the cells in which the viola plays pizzicato direct the vibraphone to play without pedal in order to get a very staccato sound. In MU2, clarinet trills are reflected by bongo rolls and gongs, with their inharmonic partials, are reflected by multiphonics in the clarinet.

Listen to DMC's performance below and you will get a better idea. You can also look at [the score] and try to deduce their paths.

(Performance in Duluth, GA).

The next entries in the series will be for trombone and vibraphone; saxophone and multipercussion; classical guitar and multipercussion; and finally vibraphone and multipercussion. DMC percussionist Caleb Herron and I are planning to record the whole series for release sometime next year. While I'm not sure that playing the entire set in concert would be particularly compelling (they all have a similar character - mezzo-piano throughout with brief bursts of activity), I think they will work as a home listening experience.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


As mentioned in yesterday's post, one of my current projects is a CD of experimental ambient music. I call it ambient because the music is slow-paced, quiet, and expansive. It is not necessarily soothing, though!

Straphanger and Petrichor are both old pieces. Hard to believe that I made Straphanger four years ago!

Clip of Straphanger (full track available through iTunes, Amazon, etc.)
Recording of Petrichor, with Tadej Kenig, clarinet

Inspired by reading about the Atrium Sound Space at the College of Santa Fe, I began expanding some of the materials for these pieces for use in an installation. I made about thirty to forty tracks of materials that could either be played on shuffle by multiple CD players, or played on shuffle in a little Max/MSP program I made.

Excerpt of Straphanger installation
Excerpt of Petrichor installation

Although these pieces have not been 'installed' anywhere yet, I did use them as backdrops for an improv concert in Belfast. I called it "Rainy Commute." Here is an excerpt.

This summer I decided that I would like to release these installation versions, but I needed to put them in a form suitable for most listeners. The multiple-CD/Max version would not work, but a CD would. To create the new 'Ambient' versions, I used two different approaches.

For Straphanger, I used the proportions from the original piece to determine the lengths of sections (these were based on various Golden Section proportions to begin with). I simply multiplied the lengths by five to get a thirty minute piece instead of a six minute piece. From there, I started arranging tracks from the installation within these sections. In the original Straphanger, each section emphasizes a different sound - train door beeps, conductor announcements, track noises, etc. I did the same in this new version, except that I let other sounds emerge here and there for interest.

For Petrichor, I started with the same approach, but I felt that some of the sections were too long and too similar. Instead, I ran and recorded my Max/MSP patch four times, then stitched together the best moments from each "take."

I am still polishing these but hoping to release the disc sometime in September.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting back in gear

If you haven't been reading my Twitter updates, I have made it to Gainesville, Florida (and have been here three weeks tomorrow). I have settled into my apartment, though I have only had one week of school and one of my classes hasn't even met yet. So in that regard, I'm still settling in.

I have several projects in the works, which I will write more about soon:

1. Straphanger/Petrichor - these titles may be familiar to some, as I wrote them in '06 and '07. I also created extended installation version of the pieces. What I am working on now is a CD of ambient-ish versions, based on the files used in the installations, but on the formal structures of the originals. Both pieces are around 30 minutes. More details in a later post.

2. Mirror Universes series - two of these have been written so far, and the Devil May Care duo played No. 2 on their East Coast tour this year [video]. Each will feature Caleb Herron on percussion and a guest on various instruments (so far viola and clarinet, with pieces for trombone and sax sketched out). We are hoping to release a CD of the pieces sometime next year.

3. Full Circle project - my hip-hop hybrid project. For those new to this blog, I was documenting my progress in the spring, but then my laptop died and I lost a lot of my data. Finally I have time to recreate stuff and am stitching things together for a winter release.

4. Quarter-tone flute piece - this will be a 6-7 minute piece for quarter-tone flute and electronics of some sort. I have barely begun this but I promised to do it a long time ago, so I will do my best to finish it this semester. Writing it for Carla Rees in London.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Hello everyone -

My musical activities will basically be on hold the next two months as I prepare for my move to Florida. It's sad, but there's just no time! A big proportion of my 'free' time will be spent reviewing for my music theory and history placement exams. I have already found an apartment but obviously there are many little tasks that must be done when one moves to a new place.

Have a great summer and look for updates here in August!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

selling out?

Back in March, there was a discussion on Sequenza21 about copyright, self-publishing, giving away scores, etc. I've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot. I give away tons of free media on my site, but I also released two albums for sale last year. I had no grand delusions of making millions of dollars off of those recordings, but of course was looking for a little pocket change for my efforts. After an extremely difficult year financially, I have started thinking more about trying to turn my music-making into a profitable business (again, no grand delusions here).

Two of the more active posters in this discussion were Jonathan Newman and John Mackey, two composers who have found great success composing for wind band and who compose full-time. Mackey notes on his great blog that he received at least 72 performances of his piece Asphalt Cocktail last year. With the score for sale at $60 a pop and parts for rent at $350, he made about $29,520 from that piece alone.

I played trombone in wind bands for a long time, but I never had much inspiration to write for it. I like to write (and listen to) chamber music and electroacoustic music. The money and performances are obviously in the band arena, though.

A few years ago, I made wind band arrangements of two old pieces of mine: Aggressor (originally trombone quartet) and Redwoods (originally bass guitar and piano). I think they are about a grade 2.5 (if you know wind band grades well, please take a look and let me know where they would fall). [Aggressor score] [MIDI rendition] [Redwoods score] [MIDI rendition]. I made these with the intent of marketing them to high school bands, which obviously I have yet to do.

Last year I thought about digging out my infamous Three Experiments for Brass and MC and arranging them for wind ensemble. Haven't gotten around to that, either. More recently I came up with an idea of doing an album of compositions for vintage keyboards (Hammond, Rhodes, Minimoog, etc.) and being the musical recycler I am, thought about taking elements of that piece, as well as some other half-finished works.

Now I am torn. Part of me says "arrange them for band - I could get a lot of performances, plus high schoolers would probably have a blast playing these pieces." Another part of me says "I could have fun playing this myself, and putting all of my work within an electronic/chamber context would be closer to my aesthetic taste."

I guess the overall question is "what kind of composer will I be?" Will I be one with a niche, or one who is eclectic? Can I maintain an experimental side and a more commercial side? What if my band music somehow becomes popular and that's what I am known for, even if I don't take it as seriously as my other work? I welcome your thoughts...

Friday, April 23, 2010


Hello readers - hopefully you check the Twitter feed on the lower right and keep up to date. Since my last post I did buy a new laptop - an EeePC netbook. Sure, an iPad would have been more hip, but I am perfectly happy to run WindowsXP at a much faster speed than my old laptop. Plus I'm actually loving the small size. In other words, perfect for my purposes.

Big news is that I finally accepted a great fellowship to study for my PhD at the University of Florida. Will be moving there at the end of summer.

Otherwise, no musical work has been going on as I have been dealing with a ton of "life issues" that I won't bother you with here. Quite stressful right now and I can't wait for August! I think that things will cool down sooner than that and hopefully I can post some more things for your listening pleasure next month.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dead Laptop

My loyal Dell of nearly 6 years is finally dead. Corrupt hard drive. CD drive has been dead for sometime now, so I feel like it's time to upgrade.

I lost some of my most recent data, so hopefully I can recreate it while it is fresh on my mind. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full Circle: More assembly tests

In this episode I have two assembly jobs that you can listen to. The process right now is to take all the solos and put them in order, change things around in the backing track, etc.

ATL Funk (fka Bass Funk 1)

Here I have solos from Jason Passmore (sax), Margie Deeb (flute), and Darren Nelsen (guitar). Darren also played some rhythm guitar parts, adding some nice spice to the proceedings. This is not really a mix, just a test to hear how parts sound together and in succession.



Here I combined my primary track with Nicole Randall Chamberlain's flute solo and my fast version (electric piano solo to come!). To make the transition, I also sped up and repeated the opening wah sound, and made versions of the main drum loop at 2x, 1.75x, 1.5x, 1.25x, and 1.13x speeds. This way we have a nice deceleration back into the original beat.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Full Circle: First 'Possibility' edit

This is a quick update, but a longer sample. I have been stitching together various parts of various tracks. Below is what I have so far for 'Possibility.' It is a deliberately poor quality mp3, by the way.


The opening guitar theme, played by Darren Nelsen, is the part I wrote. He and Margie Deeb (flute) came up with the other solos. You can hear elements from earlier episodes, such as the brassage-flutes after the flute solo, and the breakbeatish drums after the guitar solo.

I feel that the succession of solos makes the piece too fast-paced compared to the laid-back groove it presents. Still, I don't want interest to wane...will have to think on it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Full Circle: Slowly taking shape

This week, I mainly worked on assembling solos with the tracks. Not as much experimentation, though I have some ideas.

In the clip below, you will here the following:

80s Action - the end of Jason Pellett's solo, followed by the main theme/chorus/hook, played by Jason Passmore. I thought it might sound cool to have a sax section instead of just a solo sax, so I did some studio trickery to see how it sounded. There are 4 tracks of saxophones - 2 at pitch, 2 an octave lower. I also detuned and delayed one track from each octave to make a thicker sound. Still a little tweaking to be done but I like the idea so far.

Crunkdafunkdafied - I had changed the tempo (preserving pitch) in an earlier example, and I liked the sound - sort of acid-jazzy. Here I pitch shifted the uptempo track by a semitone and a whole tone in each direction, giving me several more chords. Some sound very obviously pitch-shifted, but I kinda like that...I improvised an electric piano solo and I think it will work. I have really bad latency issues today, so I will look into that and do another solo later.

Enjoy! - Listen

Monday, February 15, 2010

More experiments for Full Circle

Hi readers and listeners!

I have done a little more thinking and experimenting, and have some new examples for you:


In the first part, you will hear a new wave-ish beat, with some pitch-shifted and distorted flutes. This may be part of "Crunkdafunkdafied" - I'm thinking of having a double-time section in the middle. I was hoping for the drums to be more punkish, but I'm using the same samples from the current track and they aren't quite right. Of course, this is the first try...

The drums were sequenced in Primate, a little drum machine I made in Max/MSP. I pitch shifted and distorted the flutes in CoolEdit.

In the second part, you will hear me messing around with the backing track from "Octagon." I opened it in the user interface for my laptop piece Morty's Mood. Just skipping around and changing speed/direction. I think a turntablish solo would be cool for this one, I'll just need to practice and revise the interface a bit.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Codename: Full Circle continues

The last few days haven't been as productive, but I have some new clips to share.

The first track has the working title "80s Action" because it originally sounded to me like something out of an 80s Action movie - the part where the two buddies are driving around the city at night, building tension before the final shootout...

So I have sax (Jason Passmore) and trumpet (Jason Pellett) for this one. After playing Pellett's trumpet theme, it reminded me of Ennio Morricone's western music. So I took a few notes from Passmore, stretched them a ton with the Csound phase vocoder (pvoc), and made a pretty effective "string" section. Coupled with Pellett's trumpet and a church bell I nabbed from the Freesound Project, it may make a fun intro. Listen below (Yes, I am aware I will need to fix some intonation issues):

80s Action tests

The second track I was working with is called "Possibility." Here I have guitar by Darren Nelsen and flute by his wife Margie Deeb. Darren sent me versions of the theme I wrote, played with different effects. I liked this one with overdrive the best. After this is a little experiment, taking Margie's version of the theme and granulating it.

Possibility tests

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Codename: Full Circle begins

So far this week, I have been listening to my soloists' tracks and formulating ideas about how to put these pieces together. As a brief appetizer, listen to this mp3 below:


As I wrote in the previous post, for this project I will take existing 'beats,' add solos and other goodies and make hopefully interesting tracks. So this mp3 contains excerpts from some of the processing I've been trying out. The processes are nothing new in and of themselves, but I should have an interesting stew when all is said and done.

Working Title: You - main beat, filtered to a g-minor triad. Wide spacing, based on the harmonic series, but with a B-flat instead of B-natural. Compiled in Csound - butterbp filters, 5Hz bands.

ATL Funk - main beat convolved with a flute playing E5 (played by Nicole Chamberlain from her solo for Crunkdafunkdafied!). Done in Csound with the convolve opcode.

Crunkdafunkdafied - sped up, with pitch preserved (in CoolEdit 96!). I repeated each bar so that the harmonic motion remains at the same rate.

Possibility - I wanted a jittery, grainy effect, so I did a little script in Mikel Keuhn's nGen to make a Csound score. It reads through the beat at about half-speed. Going to play with this idea a bit more.

Possibility - In this part I used the bbcut opcode in Csound to do some breakbeat stuff with the Possibility beat. I changed the parameters and generated 3 minutes of material; here is a taste. If I use this, it probably won't be as-is. I will take bits and pieces and put them in an order I prefer. A little too random at this point.

These experiments may show up in another piece instead, or not at all. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New old project

I am excited to resurrect a project that has been dormant for nearly three years!

I was originally asked to write a flute solo with hip-hop beats as accompaniment. I came up with eight different tracks, but the project stalled as the flutist and I became busy with many other things (and both moved away from Hotlanta). This project has been in the back of my mind for a long time, and finally around September last year I came up with an idea to revamp it.

I asked several of my Atlanta-based composer-performer pals to record themes that I wrote for each track, then compose and record two variations. Most tracks have contributions from two people, and I am now starting to stitch these together.

I also decided to 'remix' the tracks a little bit - make more sections, use more than two chords (!), etc. This will hopefully make the tracks into interesting compositions, instead of just a repetitive beat with two people soloing.

I am going to post little excerpts of the pieces as they progress. To start, here is part of Nicole Randall Chamberlain's recording, synced up to a track named 'Crunkdafunkdafied.' In another event of recycling/resurrecting old pieces, this track is based on a jam I wrote for my old band Chancellor Dugan.

Listen here.