Saturday, May 28, 2011

research credits

Interview with me on the Atlanta Composers Blog: here.

To keep my fellowship money from UF rolling in over the summer, I have to teach as well as take courses. Graduate summer courses are few and far between, so I'm taking "research credits." While this is basically the most lax independent study ever conceived, I am indeed researching/working.

First, I transcribed/revised two older pieces, writing for more, shall we say, plausible ensembles. Promenade de minuit for alto sax and harp now has an alternate version with piano instead of harp. Gallery was originally for flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin, viola, and double bass - a strange expanded version of Stravinsky's L'histoire ensemble. There are now 3 versions of Gallery, this latest being for small (12 member) wind ensemble: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, horn, trumpet, trombone, and two percussionists.

Next project was revising Ghazal, a piece for quarter tone alto flute and stereo playback [mp3 mockup of old version]. I was never really satisfied with the flute part, so I pulled out the few ideas I found interesting and started over. The old version was like many bad pieces you hear, where the composer tries to fit in as many "effects" as possible, while giving the player some flowing, lyrical lines that aren't as interesting as he/she thinks. The ideas that excited me were the juxtaposition of pitch bends and discrete scales and the differences between quarter-tone, and semitone, and whole tone scales and trills. So the new version is much simpler, using far less types of ideas, and cramming less in during the 6-minute duration.

A big background project is learning about Linux and Linux-based audio tools. My ca. 2005 Dell laptop died last year, so with extremely limited funds I got an ASUS EeePC 1005HAB netbook. I love that thing, but I really needed something more powerful. I had been exploring Ubuntu on the netbook (dual boot with XP) for most of this school year, so after a lot of research and pacing I decided to invest in a System76 Gazelle. Other than an issue with the proprietary Nvidia driver (I did a fresh install of Natty Narwhal and am using the open source Nouveau driver to good results), it has been great.

Most programs install and work with ease. The only one that doesn't is SuperCollider, which I'm also working on learning. Windows and Mac have IDEs for SuperCollider, but Linux just has plugins for text editors. No problem, just different. I'll probably be posting things I've found out as we go along. Here are a few things, for anyone stumbling upon this trying to get SC to work in Ubuntu:

This page is very helpful for setting up SC in Ubuntu. On the "sources.list" part, change "hardy" to whatever version you're using, e.g. natty

I found SCVim and Emacs very confusing, personally, so I am sticking with the Gedit plugin.

Using SuperCollider in Gedit is fairly straightforward. I never tried recording with it until today, and I got an error basically saying that it couldn't write to /share/SuperCollider/Recordings. You will need to make a Recordings directory, then set the permissions (i did chmod 777 just to make sure). After that, it should work like a charm.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Here is a video of my group FLIP performing at The Laboratory in Gainesville, FL on 4/30/11.

This was our second performance ever

Thursday, May 12, 2011

evolution of "Etude in Metal"

In earlier entries I mentioned that I was working on a percussion solo featuring extended-range glockenspiel. I finally finished it.

It went through a few very different incarnations. The only idea that remained throughout was that the glock part would be based on the harmonics of the other instruments. So the process of writing this was boiling the piece down to that idea, essentially.

It took me awhile to get started on it this semester, but during spring break (first week of march) I had time to get out the first draft [pdf here]. I started this one by imagining a lot of different sounds using my chosen instruments, sketching these out on small pieces of paper, then categorizing them and laying them out in orders that seemed to make some kind of logical flow. After several different orders of ideas (I think I did four), I sketched out the draft seen above.

After bringing it to my teacher, we agreed that it was a bit plodding rhythmically and that it explored "linear" gestures rather than the glock-vs-gongs ideas that were what I really wanted to highlight. I then started on a second draft that featured only "chords" and spiced up the rhythm a bit. I used a rhythmic scheme based on Babbitt/Wuorinen's timepoint system, crossed with Ferneyhough's subdivisions. There are a series of 2/4 measures divided into various tuplets; the "row" if you will was 7 8 4 9 5 3 6. I used derivations of the same "row" of tuplets for the timepoints/attacks. Whereas Babbitt and Wuorinen would count just even sixteenths, I would count the same number of subdivisions and the next attack would fall on that timepoint number, regardless of its actual duration. [pdf here]

This take looks a little cooler by modernist-composer standards, but it still wasn't highlighting the idea behind the piece. The rhythm was actually distracting. So I started yet another version, doing away with traditional rhythm altogether, focusing solely on the sounds of the instruments and their combinations. The final result is very introspective, and, dare I say, pretty (I made a mockup recording for my jury, but it does not reflect all the articulation called for in the score - I'll post something when Trevor plays it for real). The final score is here [pdf].

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Full Circle project on SoundCloud

I am trying out SoundCloud, and have uploaded two tracks from A Sharp and Friends: Full Circle. Below is "Possibility":

Possibility by adamscottneal