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?