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Monday, 22 September 2003

My Copious Free Time

I'm ashamed to admit that I don't know what "copious" means. I just know this phrase means that one is unlikely to get to whatever project is being proposed. "I'll get to that in my copious free time." Is it ironic? I'm so ignorant.

You may be wondering what I do with myself when I'm not reading hundreds of pages about composers, writing homework assignments in Super Collider, and sitting in 27.5 hours of lecture and 3 hours of Gamelan playing per week. Well, sometimes I walk Xena. sometimes I got the store to buy produce (alas the produce store is closed on mondays). sometimes I sleep.

I went to a party at Sumarsam's house yesterday. He's the professor in charge of the Gamelan. He's also director of the grad program. He had a party for faculty, grads and gamelan players yesterday. Only a few grads came because it was not well publicized before thursday night. there are not classes on friday, so many folks go to a nearby big city for the threeday weekend and thus didn't hear about it until it was too late. Anyway, it was groovy. there was a lot of food, all of which was really, really good. Alvin Lucier came (THE Alvin Lucier) and I heard a student comment "this is the first time that I've seen Alvin at a party." I haven't really talked to Alvin since arriving, since I didn't think he remembered meeting me from before and he's kind of intimidating. Well, he's not intimidating but the famous composer thing is intimidating. Anyway, he sat down next to me and said he was "mixing" at the party and asked who I was. when I told him that I met him in the spring, he remembered that, which is good, as I was initally alarmed thinking that perhaps I had been entirely forgettable. Anyway, he asked what I was writing and I explained that I was in three seminar classes and he said that I shouldn't spend all my time on papers or I would give composers a bad name, since we're supossed to be lazy. He told me to bring by my latests composition project on wednesday.

So right now, I'm writing a paper about RCS (see previous post) due wednesday morning. I'm preparing a lesson plan for teaching analog synthesis to grad students and undergrads (this is a half hypothetical pedagogy exercise. I actually will be presenting synthesis to undergrads) due tuesday night. God knows what due for for the Supercollider class on tuesday. Periodically I email code to Ron (the teacher. My advisor.) that is somehow related to what we did in class, but often only barely. The class is covering SuperCollider 2.x. the latest version is 3.0bx, out for OSX instead of OS9. [You can skip the geeky stuff] My OS9 system is pretty much ded, and I like being cutting edge, so because I want the class to be useful six months from now and when I go home, i keep trying to do stuff with SC3. The main difference between 2 and 3 is kind of an obscure thing (OSC is some UCB thing that's very popular these days and is important in SC3 and absent in SC2, so there's a semi-major redesign), which causes many of the methods of creating a "synth" and getting it to play to be completely different. As you can imagine, getting something to play in a computer music is pretty important. the help files in SC3 contain broken code. After all, it's only beta. Christi thinks I'm being stupid (that's not her exact words) and I should just do what the rest of the class is doing. she has a point. OTOH, why am I taking a class to learn something that I can't use? It's not like I need more experience taking CS classes. Especially one taught by a music professor. Ye gods.

anyway, ron seems happy about what I'm up to. Right this very second, I'm compiling the latests CVS version of SuperCollider 3 on the computer in the recording studio. I have root passwords to all department lab machines. Go me

Perfect Lives

the geeky portion is over. skip down to here

Blue Gene Tyranny is coming here on wednesday. It has something to do with the Bechstein piano in Russel house, I think. This school is swimming in pianos. From where I'm sitting I can see four of them (and three harpsichords) in just two classrooms. But some alum decided the school needed another one and so donated a turn of the century german baby grand made by Bechstein. It has been lovingly restored and put in Russel House, an admin building. They shoudl ahve stuck it India House. India House only has an upright and something traumatic happened to it and so it sounds like it's been possed by demons. Deborah tried tuning it, but suceeded only in lowering some of the tuning and making it sound more weird. Anyway, there's a new (old) Bechstein and the piano-type people (which seem to be lurking around in disturbing numbers) and very excited. A concert series is going on. Angela and I went on saturday to see Neely Bruce play Debussy and Chopin on the piano. It was a house concert and we showed up when it was supossed to start and ended up sitting three rooms away from the piano, althought I was line-of-sight to the keyboard. Loud motorcycles periodically went roaring past on the main drag, and the School is conviently located right in the middle of all the emergency services, so some sirens went by, and it's next to the Italian Catholic Church, so some bells rung. It reminded my of John Cage's story in Interdeterminancy about Christain Wolff playing the piano. Wolff was playing next to an open window and outside noises were sometimes drowning him out. someone asked him to repeat playing the piece with the window shut. He said that he would, but the sounds coming in through the window had in no way interrrupted or interfered with the music.

I dunno what Chopin or Debussy would have thought about mid 20th century experimentalist ideas, but I was ok with it. Actually, the bells provided some unexpected nice sonorities.

Anyway, Blue Gene Tyranny is coming, so I checked Perfect Lives out of the library. This is Robert Ashley's opera for television. BGT is in it as Buddy, the World's Greatest Piano Player. He improved all his parts and was (i think) a mjor collaborator in the compositional process. It's organized in seven half hour long segments. It's "some songs about the Corn Belt and the people living in it. Or on it." It aired on BBC 4 about 20 years ago. Despite it's intensely American theme and that the visual FX were very similar to what would have been in a music video of that era, and thus it's relative accessibility, it was too weird for even PBS, I guess. Anyway, Angela and I watched all of it. Deborah watched a section or two and was disturbed about the oddness of it and went to do other work, so maybe PBS was right. Actually, I'm copletely ignorant of it's broadcat history outside of it's BBC premiere, maybe PBS aired it. I dunno.

One of the main charecters in it, who is going to Indiana to get married is a vegetarian theosophist. Ruth Crawford Seeger was a theosophist, something I'd never even heard of before wednesday. It's weird how things intersect like that. Dane Rudhyar and a bunch of midwestern composers in the 1920's were also into theosophy. It got it's start in the US at the Chicago world's Faire in the 1890's. I'm sure that it's inclusion in an opera about the Corn Belt is no coincidence. (there is no coincidence.) (I'm surprised to see it classified under "occult" in dmoz. It ought to be moved. And someone ought to add @links to the theosophist composers. ok, i just emailed the editor.)

writing music

I'm writing a piece for hammer duclimer, for Deborah. It's going to be based on the fibbonacci series. One part will be 8 - 5 - 3- 2 - 1 and the other will be 2 - 3 - 5 - 8- 5. I'm using half rests as seperators. So for 8, there will be 8 beats of information (including quarter rests) and then two beats of rest. for five, there will be five beats of information and two beats of rest. For three, there will be three beats of information and two beats of rest. I say "information" because I haven't yet decided whether I will use solresol for musical material or a pentatonic mode (don't worry, i don't know what a pentatonic mode is either.) If I use solresol, I only have acess to words that are four notes long, so I will have to use rests between words, and the rests are needed to keep the words seperated, so they count as information. So one part has 29 beats and the other has 33 beats. So, if the go ostinato (that means repeating over and over again), there will be 957 beats until they line back up. If it goes at one beat per second, that's a very repetitve 16 minute piece. I just have to get some of that down by Wednesday

That is all

I have now squandered my class time. I could have returned my overdue Perfect Lives tapes to the library. I could have downloaded the solresol dictionary. I could have gone back to sleep. My alarm clock has tweaked out. It now rings within about 15 or 20 minutes (either direction) of when I set it. the alarm thignee is analog, so it wasn't all the precise to start out with. It and my cell phone are in danger of being flung from open windows. If I went to bed earlier, it wouldn't bother me to wake up half an hour earlier in the morning. yeah. zzzzzzzzz

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