News, Thoughts, Soapboxes, and/or Essays

Sibelius 7, OS X, and non-software updates

Before all of you get excited, the “OS X” in the title doesn't mean I'm finally becoming a mac user. I just happen to be working on a professor's computer, moving files from his old system to the new one. Since it's telling me that I still have OVER AN HOUR left and I'm not in the mood (or near enough to coffee) to compose, I thought, hey, blog posting time.

So my copy of Sibelius 7 (and the 800-page user manual) finally came in today, and I immediately installed it on my laptop. I played with the demo earlier, and knew what to expect, with most of the changes making sense. It's cleaner, the tabbed interface works better than control-tabbing through open scores, and I've been a fan of the Microsoft Office-style ribbon. However, it's slow. The 7.0.2 update fixes this somewhat, but loading the built-in Sibelius sounds takes forever. And at this time my Garritan sounds don't work (yet). And I think the program icon is silly. I'll be interested to see what my desktop does with it later. Overall, I think it's an improvement.

Sibelius 7 with Foi dans l'aleatoire

Meanwhile, composing continues to be adventuresome. The orchestra piece is “orchestrated” (which is to say, I think I know what everyone's going to play, but it's not in the computer yet), and hopefully that will be a project for this weekend. With electronic composing, I've started making a list of the things I want to accomplish by the end of this year (which will be greatly accelerated after this orchestra piece gets off my desk). They are, in no particular order:

  • The tape piece (working title: Creatures from the Black Bassoon)
  • Some sort of tape-and-instrument piece
  • Some sort of interactive piece with MaxMSP
  • Something for prepared piano

I think all of those would be fun, I'd learn a lot, and maybe I'd integrate some of those techniques into my own writing. We'll see.

Oh yeah. I also won my first ASCAPLUS Award this year. Yay!

Summer and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Music.

What's this? I haven't blogged since I waxed poetically about my automated music delivery engine!? This must change at once!

It is the nature of composing that I blog when I'm not composing, and I compose when I'm not blogging. Since I've not been blogging, I must have been composing, right? (pay no attention to the fact that I watched the first four seasons of NCIS in their entirety this summer). But, as it turns out, I HAVE been composing this summer, just not as much as (and weirder than) normal.

I spent the beginning of the summer recovering from The Thesis, and while looking through my folder of “things I haven't finished but probably should someday,” I discovered an orchestra piece that I'd tried to write back in 2008. The work, with the working titles of “Post Tenebras Lux” (after darkness, light) and (as I became more frustrated with it,) “Asinus ad Lyram” (an ass to the lyre), was intended to be my Opus 7, but the work never came together properly during undergrad.

So in June, I dust this piece off and try to shape it into something new. That is, after I spent several days wondering “what was I thinking?” Such is the norm for looking at old compositions I suppose. After a few weeks of doing some extensive musical renovation, I discovered what the piece needed to be. I needed to write a choose-your-own-adventure orchestra piece.

You read that right.

I've thought of applying the choose-your-own-adventure idea (normally seen in books) to music, but I've never discovered how I could make it work. I'm still not convinced that I'm staying true to the concept, but here's what I'm doing. I've taken the aforementioned orchestra piece (which currently clocks in at around six minutes), and doubled the instrumentation (For example, Flute I A and Flute I B). Most of the original music is given to the “A” instruments, and I've written new B material that both fits in with the A material and can stand alone. So really, I've written a 12-minute orchestra piece and folded it in half. Or I've written a six-minute work for double orchestra.

Of course, the plan is that an audience will only hear half the work at any performance. (I suppose if a large orchestra wanted to play the original double-orchestration work, they could). The idea is that a conductor will study the work, pick the sections that meet the aesthetic of the concert, and program it that way (For example, from the beginning to Reh. H, play A parts, from H to O, play B parts, from O to the end play A). Or, if a conductor wanted more fine tuning, the work could be programmed “At section H, everyone play A except for Oboe I, who will play the solo written in part B” Or, for something a little more indeterminate, the conductor could say “everyone play whatever part they want”.

I call it Some Assembly Required.

Of course, this produces a number of challenges. Like writing two different pieces that can stand alone and be combined with each other with no problems. Or convincing Sibelius that “yes, I really do want to do this.” Or explaining this all to an orchestra. (yeeeeah, I'm not looking forward to that part).

Meanwhile, I'm working on an acousmatic work titled “Creatures from the Black Bassoon”. Thank you Steven Eiler for that title.

Also meanwhile, I've done some upgrades to my home office/studio. I switched my old Wal-Mart surround sound system with a pair of Mackie MR5MK2's, bought a Zoom H2 for recording, picked up a copy of MaxMSP, and upgraded to Sibelius 7 (well, eventually. They're backordered on physical copies). I also think I was one of those people who bought an HP Touchpad. Because it's shiny.