Yesterday, March 4, was Antonio Vivaldi’s birthday. Vivaldi was a great violin virtuoso and composer. He wrote over 500 concertos! His four interconnected violin concertos, known as The Four Seasons, is one of the most popular pieces of classical music of all times. People love it. And for good reason – it is wonderful!
OK, major shift of focus here!!
So I have a YouTube channel. For the most part, people ignore it. When I post a new video, I will get a flurry of hits for that video. After that, it quickly dies down. There maybe some sporadic hits, but not much.
Even though I haven’t posted a new video since early December, I have received far more than the usual of views over the last 30 days. This extended flurry came from nowhere; it was overnight. 90% of this new traffic are views of three videos.
A few days ago, I came across a blog post by Dale that was about Joni Mitchell. She had chosen Joni as one of four female artists that she’d place on a “Mt. Rushmore” type monument to female musical artists. I can see that – she would deserve such a spot! I looked at Dales other posts and saw Carole King (great song writer and performer), Madonna (helped revolutionize pop music – several times) and Dolly Parton (a very talented lady and all-around good person and giving person).
Chatting with Dale in the comments, I wondered out loud who I’d chose for a female musical artist Mt. Rushmore.
It’s not an easy question!
How do you rank artists? By ones that are my personal favorites? By those with the biggest impact? Those who had/have the greatest talent? The most original? Those who charted over a period of decades? Some combination?
I picked up a Sequential (DSI) Prophet Rev 2 polyphonic analog synthesizer a couple of weeks ago. After two weeks of playing, I decided to make a recording and talk about it.
First a few terms. “Analog” means that the sound is created by electronics as a continuous electrical signal which is then manipulated by other electronics. I know,obtuse, but that definition is a contrast with “digital”, which means the sound is created and manipulated by a computer. Most of the first commercial synthesizers were analog.
I said it was a polyphonic synthesizer (poly-synth). In this case “polyphonic” means more than one note can be played at once, sort of like a piano, with each note being distinct. The distinct note is called a “voice” – my Prophet Rev 2 is an 8 voice synthesizer (16 voice Rev 2s exist – more about this later). The way this works is that each voice is played by a completely different synthesizer! In the late 1970s, Dave Smith perfected a way for a computer to store values for a synthesizer so that all of the different voices (synthesizers) could have the same sound though the user only has to set up the sound once (one set of controls). It also let the user save sounds. This instrument was the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. It helped to revolutionist the music industry and, actually, music itself.
Years ago I studied classical composition. After fiddling about for a year or so, I took lessons with an established composer. As part of my lessons I wrote a little “classical sonata”. It was more or less in a Mozart style, though perhaps it was closer to Clementi. If you don’t know Clementi, look him up! Although there are shining moments on this “sonatina”, I wasn’t satisfied. Continue reading →
Years ago I followed a music forum. One thing we did was a “Composition Challenge“. The winner of the last challenge would present a theme and people would create a composition based on that theme. Most of the themes had been difficult and produced more “modern” music, but the winner of Challenge 13 put up a very simple phrase.
OK, I decided to play a bit of a joke. I wrote a ground bass or passacaglia (think Pachelbel’s (misnamed) Canon in D minor) done with strings in 4-4 time, a Sousa style march done in brass and percussion – in “cut time” and a simple country dance (almost waltz) done with a small woodwind ensemble (I think flute, clarinet, english horn and bassoon) in 3-4 time. I then had them all playing simultaneously but ending together on a huge C major chord. Continue reading →
I took two of the miniatures from my composition “Child’s Play” and rearranged them a little. Actually the biggest rearrangement is making the super simple starting piece, “Happy Feet”, a little more complex by having it modulate from the key of G to the key of D. When you hear it again at the end, that is how it is in “Child’s Play, Book 1”. Actually, that piece, “Happy Feet”, is based on one of the first things I ever wrote, back when I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college. I broke a few counterpoint rules at the time, which were fixed when I added it to “Child’s Play, Book 1”. Continue reading →
Last weekend I was just playing around, improvising on some electronics. I decided to make a quick recording. The big thing is that I was using two different echoes set at different times to create a rhythm. This created the backbone of the ditty. I then improvised over it. Not great, and very rough, but I like it… (hope to do a better recording later, but…)
I just picked up an Echoplex effects pedal. A what? OK, I know, something only hard core music geeks have heard of. I will give a quick explanation, but I won’t blame you if you skip down to the video ;)
(start of technical part…)
An “echo” (AKA, “delay”) is just what the name implies – you put in a sound and you get a repeat of the sound. You hear it all of the time in “modern” music (post-1950s) without hearing it. In the late 60s and 70s a lot of artists pushed it so you did hear it – it became part of their sound (Pink Floyd) or was used on special occasions (the weird synth solo in the Styx song “Come Sail Away” starting about 3:15 in). Continue reading →
One of the reasons I have been off line for the last few days is that I have been working on some music. I now have something to share with you :)
Quick background – I studied classical music composition in the mid naughts (00s). To hear the music I was composing, I used a product called GPO. You can hear this on some of the videos on my video page. Sounds pretty realistic, if not exactly like a live orchestra.
As some of you may have seen, lately I have been playing with old-school analog modular synthesizers. What? OK, that sounds odd, but this is the type of synthesizer they used in “the old days”, synths that sounded like synths. The “modular” part means that I pretty much create a new instrument using patch cords every time I make a sound.
Lately I have had the idea to recreate some of my old music using this even older technology. It won’t sound as realistic, but perhaps it will add something. Continue reading →