Saturday, June 29, 2013

More work on Sibelius with my "short pieces"; a glitch in the Sibelius export?

I experimented with my “composition process” on Sibelius 7 yesterday.  I took a chorale hymn, rather self-contained, in B Major, sixteen measures, slow tempo, mostly 4/4 (a little 6/4), very chromatic with unusual passing tones and quick modulations.  It appears as a quiet moment in the middle of the third movement of the Third Sonata, and this passage was composed around March 1962, after I had returned home from my William and Mary “expulsion” and was going to George Washington University in Washington by bus (remember DC Transit then?) while living at home.  My father was recovering from a stress-produced  “heart attack” and couldn’t  stand loud music from the basement, or from the living room piano.

I found I could get a reasonable recording at the metronome speed of 100 if I allowed a quarter note to be two beats, and then did the “renotation” process with the score afterword.  The effect is a resemblance to a Liszt Consolation.

To copy it to iTunes on the MacBook, it seems that if I go into the directory in Finder and click on the aiff element (after exporting the “sib” file” to audio in Sibelius), Apple copies it to the appropriate directory, which turns out to be “unknown artists”, drilled down as deep as you can go under “iTunes” and “Music”.   iTunes has changed where it puts the “create new format” to convert to mp3 (which takes much less disk space). 

I had a glitch yesterday. The first time  I exported the score to audio and played it back,  Sibelius would play back only the bass clef.  I re-exported, made sure it said “all Sibelius sounds” and gave the aiff element a slightly different name.  The second time the whole process, going from aiff to mp3, worked correctly.
I see that I talked about the process before here on April 1, 2013.  See the directory link there. The new files are called “ExcSon33ChralePiano2.mp3” and “ExcSon3ChoraleTake2.pdf”. 
I have the basic Sibelius 7.  It looks like the upgrade process is time consuming and huge, from the link that I find, here
I’ll try some more “miniatures” from my paper copies of large-scale works conceived in the 1960s and 1970s soon.  I hope to get them to the point that other pianists (or organists) could play them, maybe even in church services. 

To do work on a more ambitious scale, to get my Sonatas recorded and scored with the assistance of others, I'll probably have to go through Sibelius and even Apple operating system upgrades first. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Baptist Church of Washington DC: new organ installed, in use in services; I get to try it

Today, I finally heard the new Austin organ at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.
Organist Lawrence P. Schreiber chose works by Dale Wood.  The Prelude was a setting of Slane's “Be Thou My Vision”, and the Postlude (excerpted below to demo the sound) was the piece “Pisgah”, a somewhat impressionistic piece sounding like Vaughn Williams, loud and virile toward the end, with a repeating note theme.
The anthem was “Go Out Into the World in Peace”, by K. Lee Scott, with a clarinet solo part played by Ron Aldridge, as well as choir and organ.

After the service, I got to try the organ.  I started out by playing from memory the opening theme of the last slow movement from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #3.  I had actually played this during Army Basic Training on a Sunday morning chapel service in May 1968, toward the end of my training (after the spell in Special Training Company).  It works on the organ, if you can get the shifting harmonies (centering around D Major) right.  I’ve  heard the whole symphony once in performance, in 2002 by the Minnesota Orchestra.
I then experimented.  I froze on trying to play the opening of “How Can I Live in Your World of Ideas?” from Timo Andres’s “Shy and Mighty” (May 20, 2010), but could have tried “Antennae”.  Instead, I pieced together “In the Moonlight” from “Modern Family” by Reid Ewing.  It sounds solemn on a church organ, although I stumbled on the “Do Me” part.  If done right, this amazing little piece works on an organ.  I had a little fun with the opening of  “Imagine Me Naked”.  (Ok, for people who know the words and video – is the double entendre inappropriate for “after church?”)   The I turned to my own music, the opening piano clatter theme (C Major) from my third Sonata (1962).  I should have tried the “Applause” theme from the finale, which moves from F#-Major back to C in minor-third steps. 

As for Jaron Lanier – I’m not a gadget – but, sorry, I couldn’t remember any of your “Consciousness” themes or motifs (June 19) except maybe the Ives Concord setting. 

The church service order preparation had an interesting quote: “Fear of God is that reverence for God which leads to obedience because of the realization of His power as well as His live.”   I remember this came up in Sunday school about two years ago, sort of out of place.  I’m not to much for “obedience’ (I remember Arvin Vohra’s comments about that in his recent book on education – Books blog  April 19, 2013.  Debra Cochrane preached an unusually dark sermon, “Faith and Fear”, based on some passages (1 Kings 19:1-15; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39).  She mentioned demons, and although there was no explicit mention of Holmes and Lanza and similar others, there seemed to be a political context that people who amass weapons gratuitously may be led by evil.  This can obviously feed the political debate so familiar with Piers Morgan.  It actually sounds relevant also to the NSA metadata snooping scandal, which is erupting in the news again today.   

There is some history, by the way, of the the old Moeller organ.  It had been built in 1929 for the old Church, before the new sanctuary building opened on Christmas Day, 1955.  Because of budget reasons, a new organ was not bought, but the old one was moved.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jaron Lanier: "Proof of Consciousness"

Jaron Lanier  (site)  is controversial for his critique of our attitudes toward the Internet in his books (like the Manifesto  “You Are not a Gadget”, reviewed on the Books blog Feb. 22, 2010).  In general, the thinks people are na├»ve in believing technology can solve all their problems and free them.  Instead, he warns now that the “free stuff” mentality may destroy middle class employment and social media can lead to new demands for social conformity.
Lanier also composers, and I today tried one of his works, “Proof of Consciousness”, an 18-movement suite, lasting 71 minutes, for a variety of stringed instruments , percussion and piano (and harp), with many movements definitely having the flavor of India.  Amazon notes that Mark Deutsch shared in the composition.
Some of the movements indeed have interesting titles.  It starts with an “Appassionata” which does not invoke Beethoven or Schumann for my ear.  But soon there is a movement called “Goodbye Scriabin”, strings with piano playing dense chords, moving up, along a twelve-tone scale, rather like Alban Berg (or a similar passage in Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety”).  Later, Lanier offers a solo piano movement called “Ives Sonata 2: Concord””, with a hymn tune, tender despite the dissonance.  I don’t know the Ives work well enough to determine whether this is a movement from the Sonata literally, or whether Lanier has reworked it (the dreaded “recomposition” process).  Later movements have titles that invoke questions about what happens to the “conscious soul” at the end of life.  "Rapid Descent" has imaginative harp effects (like Britten?)  There are references to the abyss (or core) and “upper atmosphere” – the last piece, the longest (8 minutes) and rather eclectic, centering around the tonality of D, before ending quietly. 

Some of the music does sound self-consciously “new age”; but other movements build on little motives, somewhat the way Timo Andres does. 

The title of the opus is intriguing enough.  What happens to the soul -- which evolves out of nothing as a babt grows to adulthood -- at the end?  Physics tells me it can't just disappear.  I won't argue over religious ideas of Heaven and the afterlife, but it seems likely to me that some souls merge into common entities and then live again on other worlds. maybe in other universes.  To transcend the speed of light barrier, we will have to learn how to experience this.  
I “paid” a fair price for this 70-minute in-home concert, buying (for $8.99) the MP3 on Amazon, and playing it from the Cloud, although it would have allowed me to download a copy.  I did not see a PDF with program notes – or did I just miss it?   

Amazon mentioned an “Autorip CD” and said I had rights to listen to certain other music online free, based on past purchases.  This included Andres and Josh Groban.  I does seem I am “tracked”.

I do think that some items now free on YouTube really should earn their artists something $1 for a single video or audio purchase from Amazon or iTunes (purchase is preferred to rental).  For example, I would think that a few of Reid Ewing’s songs (including those for Modern Family), after licensing workouts with ABC, would lend themselves to this approach – yet Reid is so dedicated to making comic videos on the “It’s free” model.  But as Jaron Lanier warns (it’s an “n” at the end of his first name), we can’t sustain “free” forever and sustain an economy. 

Having bought an MP3 copy, do I now “have” the work, the way I “have” (a CD and an older LP) Mahler’s Sixth?  I think so. Is a Cloud copy more secure?  In Object-Oriented Programming, what I have is an “instance” of a class defined as a performance of a musical work.  But it is the “instance” that is controlled by copyright law.

Just think: All those years of collecting records, I could have lost it all so easily in a tornado.   

Friday, June 07, 2013

John Adams: Violin Concerto and "Shaker Loops"

I followed up on the May 22 Library of Congress concert honoring composer John Adams by purchasing a Nonesuch CD of two of his important works.  The main course is the 1993 Violin Concerto, with Giddon Kreme as violinist, and the London Symphony conducted by Kent Nagano.  The other work  is “Shaker Loops,” originally composed in 1977m transcribed for string orchestra in 1983.

The Violin Concerto (34 minutes) starts with a rhapsodic firs t movement marked merely as quarter-note at 78.  Code that into Sibelius!  The slow movement is a Chaconne, “Body through which the dream flows”, and a Toccare (toccata) for the finale.

The music is built in cycles and little motives, and the finale reminds one a bit of the finale of the Barber Violin Concerto (which I have heard on a plane in in-flight entertainment).  The violin pretty much carries the show; there is no sense of back-and-forth with the orchestra as in more classical violin concertos.


Adams describes the four movements of his “Shaker Loops” (24 minutes) as an expansion of minimalism.  The movements are called “Shaking and Trembling”, “Hymning Slews”, :Loops and Verses”, and “A Final Shaking”.  The effects are definitely replicated in the string playing. The loop idea is tied to the idea of "I-ness" and identity, as in the book "I Am a Strange Loop" (Books blog. June 1).  

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Duke Ellington School presents string concert at FBC in Washington (Shostakovich Quartet #8)

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC sponsored a concert by the Guitar Ensemble and the String Ensemble form the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC (link).  The group will play in Harlem in New York City on Father’s Day.
The Guitar group played the opening movement of Mozart’s Serenade, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusk”, a movement from the Vivaldi Concerto Grosso Op 3 #2, a Mozart. Quartet (I think #11) movement (not named) that sounded like an Allegretto in common time, and a Scherzo by Gitaski.  The group comprised seven players.  The Mozart sounded a little out of place to my ear on guitar.
The String  Orchestra had twelve players, doubling up on several instruments, that included two double basses.  The group played an unspecified movement from an unspecified Mozart Serenade, than a piece from the Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg, and then the main attraction, the String Quartet #8 in C Minor, Op. 110 by Dmitri Shostakovich. The 20-minute work has 5 short interconnected movements, built around a four-note theme, with sound effects resembling war, and a morose ending.  The music has quotes form some of earlier music by the composer, and has some of the eclectic style of the Fourth Symphony. The composer wrote the piece after diagnosis with a form of polio and when under political pressure from Communism.
The playing was passionate, and much more focused than in the first two pieces, where there were some pitch issues. 

The Church did not use the new Austin organ in the service today, as it is still being tuned, but it was reportedly tested in the previous two services.  Dr. Scrheiber did play the E-flat Fugue from the Well-Tempered Klavier (BWV 876) by J. S. Bach on the Steinway Piano.  

The Church plans organ concerts later in 2013: Lawrence P. Schreiber on Sept. 15, Ken Cowan on Oct. 20, and Christopher Houlihan on Nov. 24, in “Pipes Spectacular XIV”. 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

"School of Rock" concert by high school kids in Silver Spring MD, outdoor mall

One June 1, 2013, I encountered an outdoor rock concert in the main outdoor pedestrian downtown of Silver Spring, MD called “School of Rock”.

The concert players all seemed to be high school or possibly middle school students.

The music was very “hard rock” – heavy rhythms and jive, with guitar and percussion, relatively little melody.  This was not the music of “The Blend”. 

It seemed to continue all afternoon and was still going on when I left the area at 7:30 PM (I had been to the AFI Silver theater).

“The kids” can start out with piano and wind up here.  There’s nothing wrong – all modes of music seem to merge in the modern world, anyway.  Just ask John Adams.  

I don't know what the licensing rules are for performing current rock in an outdoor community like this, especially when "it's free".

Update: June 22

Apparently Silver Spring hosts this every Saturday.  Today, a female rock bank was performing behind the AFI Silver Theater (AFI Docs).