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This work came out of an improvisation in a hotel room in Palo Alto, CA on the evening of 8/27/13. It is unlike my other recent works in that it involves more than one dynamic level, in this case pp, mf, ppp. It is scored for solo piano. This recording was realized with Reason 7.0.1.
Why “unfinished?” Years ago, my wife and I attended a large exhibition of the works of Keith Haring in NYC, and one of his paintings was purposely unfinished in one of the corners. That always struck me as an interesting idea, that one’s creative work is really never truly completed. The question in this work is which portion was not really completed. I’m not sure I have answered that for myself.
I’m pretty excited by this one. Details to follow, but I improvised something I liked a few weeks ago in Palo Alto and started to mold it into an actual composition earlier this week when I was back out West. I also picked up Reason 7.0.1 and when the work is completed sometime next month, hope to record it in Reason rather than Finale. The piano sound in Finale is good enough, but has some harmonics that are readily apparent and often distracting. I originally improvised this piece in Reason 4.0.1 and the piano sounded very nice. Unfortunately, Reason 4.0.1, I came to find, was incompatible with the new version of OS X I’m testing so I had to upgrade. Which is all fine.40.088859 -75.142588
I had had some ideas about writing a choral piece, but as I improvised something in a hotel room across from Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, it became clear that this would not be well-suited for anything but piano. So this work completely came into being from a 31-minute improvisation that was reworked into a solo piano piece lasting 45-50 minutes.
The piece is largely based on two notes (d-f) as well as a two-chord sequence that I came up with while visiting the NAMM museum in Carlsbad, CA on vacation and playing one of their synthesizers. I wasn’t sure what to call the piece and gave it the provisional title tbd as a placeholder, but the name stuck.
Between 1996 and 1997, I composed a long work for brass sextet called brass piece for arielle victoria. I was pretty fond of it, but wrote it with the idea that, because so much of it required fairly continuous playing, the performers would have to be adept at circular breathing. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it turns out that it was, and I’ve since come to realize that there was very little chance that it would ever be heard other than in a suboptimal MIDI performance with sampled instruments. And that’s where things have stood since 1997, except for the last section that was arranged for string quartet and can be heard in an excellent performance by the Rangzen Quartet.
I had long toyed with the idea of scoring the entire piece for strings to circumvent the performance challenges, and this has now resulted in this arrangement for string quartet and contrabass. Other than some minor tweaks in a few sections, it is identical to the original brass work, but should pose no significant challenges in terms of performance. The audio file is not idea, of course, since strings are harder to convincingly sample compared with piano and a few other instruments, but overall it works
At least the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention that gynecologist by the same name (see question #5)40.088156 -75.141043
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.
In late November, I had some time to improvise and managed to come up with the raw elements for two different pieces. One of these turned into two voices. The other improvisation was slow and quiet, basically just half notes followed by an eighth note rest. This was restructured into a new piece called for four. There are a maximum of four voices at any given time, so it could be performed by four instruments (eg, two violins and two celli) or for piano. The score includes a piano reduction along with the same notes displayed on four individual staves. It’s ppp throughout, and the tempo can be a low of quarter = 20 to a max of quarter = 40. Thus, depending on the tempo chosen, the piece can take as little as 23 minutes or up to 46 minutes to play.
By coincidence, the composition of the work overlapped with the horrific deaths of children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I mention this, because it struck me that the slow final section of the piece flutes and trombone was composed around the same time as a similarly terrible gun-related massacre in Aurora, CO.
for four was originally improvised in Palo Alto, CA in late November, 2012 and restructured into a composition in Wyncote, PA and Palo Alto between 12/13 and 12/18/12.
I will release it soon, but last night I finished (I think) a work called two voices, for keyboard or any two instruments. It started as an experiment I was playing with three nights ago, in which one voice plays all the black keys and the other plays all the white keys. There are five black keys and seven white keys, so one has all 12 tones to play with. I wanted to see, just out of curiosity, if I could take some very banal themes and make them at least somewhat interesting. I was also curious how long this nonsense could go on.
I imposed another constraint: each measure had to have each voice play all of its assigned notes. And no chords.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I was really unsure of this approach, since it doesn’t seem entirely conducive to improvisation, which is how I generally compose and thus manage to avoid systems and processes, which are the bane of folks like me who hate academic and mechanical methods to write music. Surprisingly, one can actually manage to improvise within these constraints, and even make what I think is a pretty good piece of music.
To balance all these formal requirements, I wanted to provide a lot of choice for the performer, so that each performance would be unique. There are no dynamics, nor is there any tempo indicated. Each measure gets repeated a minimum of eight times, so that if one really likes a particular measure, knock yourself out and repeat it even more times.
There are a few measures in which both instruments (or hands on the keyboard) are in different tempi, since the upper voice is playing five notes in the same time as the lower voice plays seven. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.37.612952 -122.383920
I’ve been using my wife’s former iPad (first generation) for many months now, in addition to my iPhone 4S. The iPhone has a retina display and is pretty fast, with an A5 processor, so it is still very useful and I have not jumped on the iPhone 5. Which is good, since I don’t have a lot of disposable income and am not sure I want to get sucked into another two-year contract with AT&T, given its disdain for its customers (eg: charging for using the iPhone as a hotspot).
The original iPad: not very fast and the display is often very pixellated, especially if dealing with iPhone apps that have not been redesigned with the iPad’s display specs in mind. But it’s been usable, even as a laptop replacement for short trips to the EU. Still, watching apps like FaceBook take 30 seconds or more to load, and having each tab in Safari load content when selected due to a lack of RAM, makes it clear that the iPad’s limitations are a daily reality. For reading Kindle books and watching videos, it’s great. For most other things, it is often slow. And forget even thinking of running iOS 6, since it isn’t supported on that iPad.
So I have been very interested in the (then-rumored) iPad Mini for some time, since while smaller, it would run iOS 6, be less expensive than a 9.7″ iPad, be more portable, and would have to be much faster than the original iPad. When it was announced earlier this week, I was very keen on preordering the 32 GB model with cellular coverage (Verizon) tomorrow on the 26th. It’s light, has the same A5 processor as my iPhone 4S, the smaller non-retina display screen would probably be good enough (it has a bit higher pixel density than the same display on the iPad 2), and typing probably would be reasonable, at least with thumbs.
But then I started comparing prices with the iPad 4. Yes, the iPad 4 is more expensive, but there is some overlap with iPad Mini prices. At first, I was pleased to realize I could get a 32 GB Mini with 4G for a bit less than an iPad 4 without 4G ($559 vs $599). While I don’t use my 3G very much on my current iPad, since I’m usually within range of WiFi or else am in Europe where I have a data plan for my iPhone and don’t need a redundant one for my iPad, I could see scenarios where having 4G would be useful, especially if it were a Verizon iPad Mini and I set it up as a hotspot for my MacBook Pro on a train without WiFi.
And then I started realizing that while the iPad Mini isn’t a smaller iPad or a larger iPad Touch, other than the form factor and the addition of 4G, it is basically a larger iPhone 4S, the same iPhone I bought over a year ago. And that’s where it starts to fall down. Yes, the iPad Mini has more robust WiFi (it can connect to a 5 GHz WiFi network whereas my iPhone 4S can’t), but for common use, that is not going to be a deal-breaker. But at $559 for innards that are largely last year’s iPhone, I’d rather spend the extra $170 and get an iPad 4 (32 GB, 4G) with a retina display, a very fast processor (faster than the iPhone 5), and a larger screen that is more usable when I want the iPad to serve as a laptop replacement. And more and more, it will serve as a standalone computer, not just as a content reader.
I know the iPad Mini is more portable and would probably make something like Modern Combat 2’s multiplayer mode usable on a device larger than my iPhone (it is not very usable on the full-sized iPad, at least for my hands). But I was really hoping it would have been priced around $250 to start. This time next year (or earlier), when Apple comes out with an iPad Mini that has a retina display and a faster processor, I’ll be stuck with a $559 device that might not hold its own with more recent apps that require higher CPU capabilities. If a 2-year-old+ iPad is now so obsolete as to not even load the latest version of iOS, what will happen to the iPad Mini when it is one or two years down the line?
If I’m going to spend over $500 for a tablet, I’d rather it not have a CPU that is the same as the phone I bought a year ago and a worse display to boot. As an investment that I’d want to use for 2-3 years, I’m not seeing the iPad Mini as a smart purchase, at least for my needs. For an entry level device, it is a beautiful thing from what I’ve seen on the Web, and wil serve a lot of people very well as an e-book reader and as a way to watch videos. But for gradually serving as a device that is easier to write with on a regular basis, this is not that device. Had it been either less expensive or had a more compelling processor (such as an A6) and a better display, that would be a very different value equation. But consider the iPhone: while it is very usable and preferable to maintain an iPhone for two years, we’re also talking about a device that is also generally under $300 for most folks (even under $200). For nearly double that cost, I’d want something that I know will not feel very underpowered in a year. And the iPad Mini is somewhat underpowered for 2012. When an iPod Touch has a retina display but Apple’s new small tablet computer doesn’t, that just seems odd.
So in the end, I’m likely going to grab the iPad 4 tomorrow as a preorder. If someone thinks I’m misjudging the iPad Mini, please let me know in the comments. I’m not saying the iPad Mini is a bad thing; it’s not. If it were, this would not be a tough decision. But for my needs, I’m not sure at that price point it makes much sense to not spend a bit more on a comparable iPad with better overall specs.