I love Deadmau5. I think it was his Masterclass that was the final tipping point to get me to sign up for classes this fall.

I want part of my LOT300W to include some EDM-inspired parts. I was wondering, well, how did Deadmau5 do it? What is the pattern of kick drum and snare, etc. I found this video

…which was amazingly well done. The graphics were funny and vivid, and it was packed with information. I let out a holler of delight when I found out that Joel used Strobe2 (my latest softsynth purchase). Also hilarious — Joel’s source of handclap sounds. He smacks himself on the ass with a microphone.

I did find all the terminology used to describe EDM very confusing and complex. I’d like to get the taxonomy straight. I would benefit from taking notes on this vid and listening to a few more.

Meanwhile I stumbled on this

…an orchestral mix.

and this…

“If you want me to stay

I need you to know

You can never ever leave me alone”

I love how the singer repeats the words with different inflections, bringing out different shades of meaning each time. The repetition reminds me of a prayer. The lyrics were heartrending to me because I know someone who just came out of a dysfunctional relationship where one partner was destructively dependent on the other. The lyrics are a cry from the heart — “don’t abandon me” — but is this a healthy state of mind? Or a form of obsession? I know that different species can live in symbiotic relationships and in fact that is the only way they can thrive (ex coral and algae). But what about humans? Is it bad (harmful, hurtful) for us to be dependent on each other? To want (demand?) fidelity and wholeheartedness from your partner? I’m not sure — because lately I’ve seen it go horribly wrong. When I hear this vocalist’s plea, I don’t know whether to empathize… or to recommend a good therapist.

I remember times when I was dependent on another’s deep focus and engagement, and how anguished I was when these times of connection ended. I can relate to these lyrics.

In this song the rhythm moves along, like a car down a highway or the minute hand of a clock, or a heartbeat, marking off the passage of time. Floating over that unchanging rhythm is a human voice, hesitant, changeable, at times anguished and at times angry. It is a compelling combination.

I remember talking to one of my profs last semester — I mentioned New Age music and she gave a look of mild disgust. She asked — why listen to something so boring and repetitive when there is music that is so much more varied and expressive?

Because for me, the repetition is…meditative? Like a form of transportation (worm hole, time warp) into a different mindset? The format is familiar and so my mind goes down familiar paths — I remember other times I have lived / worked to this music — ex. painting the aviary while listening to “I Remember” and wondering about how a friend was doing at that moment in time. The music is a familiar companion, a mood-altering substance, a way of centering. “I remember who I was the last time I listened to this”. Usually working and moving, sometimes even dancing.

I remember “house sitting” a beautiful, near-empty house (the owners were in the process of moving their things out to sell it). I had my boom box with me, and was playing this mix from Paul van Dyk. The sound echoed, and the hardwood floors made the open plan rooms like a dance studio. I had the lights out and danced, looking out the sliding glass doors into the dark, with distant lights from neighbors’ houses shining through the trees. This feeds a part of me, the wordless part that exists in the present. It gets me out of the hamster-wheel of my usual thoughts.





Recent Fun with Finale

Ah yes, Finale. Drag and drop notes while banging your head on the desk.

I did make some good progress while working on a project for church. The goal was to make a version of “Thanks for the Memory” that was created to honor our former choir director. I wanted to keep the tune and rhythm as close to the original as possible, but I did have to make some changes. I got stuck several places, but because the project was so important I actually RTFM’d and searched for the answers online. Here’s some notes.


Quick way to add measures, one at a time


Get rid of an extra page



I want it to start playback where I was working, rather than going all the way back to the beginning.

This dropdown menu also allowed me to vary the amount of swing. I wrote the melody with straight eighth notes, but it did not sound that way when sung by Bob Hope!



I wanted to use piano rather than the cheesy Vox setting they gave me when I set the staff up as “voice”.






“Skeleton pianos” by Klavins

There are several versions of unusual pianos made by this company. To me they look like the skeleton of a piano since all the “flesh” has been taken away. This video features a vertical grand piano. The company also makes smaller keyboards with exposed strings — only 1 string per note, and an electronic pick-up (on each string? not sure) so that the sound can be modified.




I found this bit of music used on a video about an egg hatching, and tracked it down here. (It’s an example of royalty-free music. Interesting — does the artist get paid for creating royalty-free music?)

What I like about this is that even though the melody / chords are sweet, there’s a sense of unease. I think it’s the texture of the violin bow scrapings that make things unsettling.


Adam Neely on Hocket

I love Adam Neely! I heard about him from one of my fellow music theory students and since then have been binge-watching his stuff. Here’s a video  I watched today while eating lunch.

At 5:14 Adam plays his own composition. I really like this and think I could use something like this in my planet composition. I want the Toxic world to be funny as well as weird, and passing a melody from instrument to instrument would be like watching a ball pass from alien to alien. In Adam’s cause the composition started out as a bassline which he then distributed to other instruments using his DAW, Ableton Live.

6 weeks between semesters

It’s been a while since I’ve written here! The semester is over and I’m starting to recover. The last 2 weeks of the semester felt like the final miles of a marathon. Then when I stopped “running” I stopped doing music, taking care of my health, playing with my dog, talking to friends. Now I’m starting to feel restless — I want to be studying something, I want to be exercising — and I’m tired of feeling queasy from feasting on unhealthy food! (And poor Bonnie the Dog feels restless, too.)

I’m hoping that I can do better next semester — pace myself instead of dashing from crisis to crisis. I figured out that if I read / take notes on 5 pg a day for the month of January, I can review the second half of last semester and read ahead through next semester! Of course the hardest part of the music theory text is not learning the terminology, but putting it into practice. But at least I’d have an idea of what was going on.

I also need to review what we did in Ear Training (I flamed out when we got to minor scales), and scan the second half of the textbook and print it out in magnified form. Having a large-print version of the text last semester was such a big help.

More about next semester: I did contact the prof. who teaches composition. I have mixed feelings about that — excitement (there’s so much I want to learn and work on) but also fear (can I balance that with my other classes?) I’m trying to get a head start on the composing project. On Saturday I drew a beautiful diagram that maps out where the composition will go and what its main sections are. There’s an intro; and mirroring it, a recap. There’s 3 main voyages, each separated by travel music (like the Promenade in “Pictures at an Exhibition”). Each voyage is made up of 3 scenes. What I can do over break is start generating and collecting material — theme bits, chord progressions, musical textures.

As a way of generating fresh music textures, I signed up for lectures on Coursera called “Creating Sounds for Electronic Music”. I made a first pass through the videos yesterday. The instructor is Loudon Stearns of Berklee College of Music. He is very clear and organized, but the course material is unfamiliar enough that I’ll have to go through the lectures again very slowly! Stearns is demonstrating the softsynth called “Strobe2” and you get to use a demo of the software for several weeks. I picture running the tutorial vids on my desktop while working with the software on my laptop.

I also need to get a DAW up and running if I’m going to be composing. I bought a copy of Reaper last summer and even bought the guide book (which is several inches thick!), but haven’t actually jumped in yet. I do have FL Studio, but I plan to be using a lot of mp3 clips (from my own recordings) and FL Studio handles them in a very clunky way. What I really wish I could have is a fusion of Audacity and my old sequencer software from the 90s called Cadenza.

So, to recap

  • Text review and reading ahead (notecards)
  • Ear training review and working ahead — make large print version
  • Composing
    generate bits to collage together later
    learn Strobe2 and start generating textures
    work on Reaper, start to get familiar with it

I had been planning on getting a used piano over break, and had planned on continuing with piano lessons next semester (though only 1 credit rather than 2). But, looking at my list, maybe it would be smart to postpone the piano purchase, and the lessons. I can certainly still work on scales and arpeggios on my own, and bought a series of 8 lesson books on sight reading (Christmas gift to myself!). I guess I can still change my mind on that, but Text / Ear / Composing is probably enough.

It would be great to go through the semester without my little bubble of drama following me everywhere.

Oh and did I mention I set up a blog for our music theory class? But no one (except for one student) has been willing to post on it, so I guess it’s not going to be a big energy sink?




Ayrton on illustration and music

After internalizing all of these separate qualities, the illustrator won’t draw any one particular mushroom, but the essence of that mushroom, and translate it into his or her interpretation, style, and even emotional response in a way that most people can understand.

You see what I’m getting to now: Isn’t this exactly what musicians do? Isn’t it why computer generated music will never replace the interpretation of a piece by flesh and blood musicians ? The tempo might not be as stable as one generated by a Macintosh, the pitch might vary slightly, but the result is not about ”photographic” rendering of a score. It’s about deconstructing and reimagining in real time the essence of what the composer was trying to express.




Good questions!

I talked to a friend last night whom I hadn’t seen for about 6 months. She was excited for me and wanted to know all about my experiences at school.
“I LOVE it but I keep running myself into the ground. Up til 2, then up at 7 — then taking a nap if I can when I get home.

Friend — “What would you like to do differently? What would your day look like?”

Me — “Oh, spend about 4 hrs on music a day. 2 hrs on textbook stuff, one hour voice, one hour piano, and a massive binge once a week.”

Friend — “When would these 4 hrs happen?”

Me — “After dinner. Like 7 to 11 or 12.”

Friend — “What’s stopping you from doing that?”

Me — “I mess around on Twitter til about 10 pm”

Friend — “Why?”

Me — “Well, I love to know the latest memes and news. But basically I’m too groggy to work yet, because I had a nap.”

She gave me a significant look.

That evening 7:00 came. Ugh, I don’t want to work yet. So I hung out on Twitter, then watched the latest videos by Adam Neely and Sideways and Vox. Finally around midnight I started to perk up, and did the dishes (while listening to educational videos) because we are starting to get a mouse problem again and the best way to fight them is to get rid of mouse snacks in the kitchen.

Why didn’t I do homework?

Hmm…Well, I was just sort of burned out by the day; I didn’t want to deal with schoolwork yet. I wanted to rinse out my brain with something different. Adam Neely talks about taking a break from music everyday — ex. he doesn’t listen to music while driving, he puts on NPR — because otherwise he gets burned out on it.

I think my friend asked some great questions. I hope over Christmas break I can break my cycle of late night creative / work binges and then afternoon grogginess. It would be wonderful to put in 4 hrs a day of music, just for practice

Also I sure need practice with 4-part writing, because I suck at it. Whatever choices I make for the 2 inner voices, they are inevitably wrong (when we go over them in class). Even when I try to psych myself out and pick the opposite of what I think the answer is, my answer is still wrong.

How can I have aspirations of being a composer, and fail at 4-part writing?!?! It’s actually kind of interesting. I hope some sort of miracle occurs between now and the final because otherwise I will bomb it. We’re not talking Penderecki’s Threnody bomb it, more like Dark Souls “…YOU DIED”.

Birdbrain Musician #2 — “Please, Kind Sir”

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a video. I really missed it! It takes hours, but probably because I go on wild goose chases (ex. finding the perfect picture of Helen of Troy). Coordinating the visual with the soundtrack is my favorite part. If I were going to do this one over again, I would make sure that the background was the right size (so there’s no black border), and that the background didn’t have a pattern that’s slanted! I could have gone back and cropped all the black out, but that would have meant re-doing the captions, and it was 3 am, so…

This semester I have found out that I have health issues that have become chronic. I’m on a new medication, which may help, but it takes a long time to act. In the meantime, I can work on lifestyle changes that minimize symptoms. Getting good sleep is very important. Does that mean no more artists’ life for me? But…there’s already so many things I’ve had to eliminate. Coffee, tea, dairy, tomatoes (no pizza! no lasagna!). Do I have to give up my late night sessions, too? Working on a creative project — riding out the wave of inspiration til 3 am — is one of the great pleasures in my life. I hope my body will let me get away with it… once a week?