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.


Anonymous said...

Can't tell without hearing Ghazal mk. II, but the second boringest title would be a self-descriptor, yeah? Chastened.

Adam Scott Neal said...

ha! here's a funny blog i found about titles (just skip halfway down to where he lists types of classical titles - I usually use #5 & 6)

Listening to it, I thought of wind and/or sandstorms. I'm calling it 'Simoom' for now (Arabic for 'poison wind' and a specific type of wind). I thought about calling it 'Pazuzu' - the Babylonian wind demon (and the antagonist from The Exorcist), but I though something less, uh, controversial would be better.