Introducing NoteForge Hammer 2.4

In 2007, I started putting my marginally-useful programming skills to use building a simple Content Management System (CMS) to manage my website, similar to Drury’s CMS (named, originally, DCMS). As my programming skills improved, the CMS grew, adding modules for composition management, event notification, invoicing, and something called “Opportunity Organization” (which is directly responsible for my increased performances in 2012) among others.

The original simple CMS has evolved into Hammer, which is both a Composer Management System and a platform for building similar applications such as Keys (for private studio management), DAVID (Document Management), and a few more starting in 2013.

Today, that system, just shy of its 5th birthday, was upgraded to version 2.4 in what is the largest cosmetic and backend upgrade of the system to date. Here’s a brief look at some of the new features.

Improved Navigation

One of the complaints about Hammer 2.3 was the static left-side navigation. On modules such as opportunity organization, the user was forced to scroll up to access the main menu. This has been completely rewritten in Hammer 2.4 with the change to the Twitter Bootstrap framework with CSS3 Microsoft Modern Buttons styling. The navigation stays at the top of the page, and divides modules by category.

Smart Buttons

Another complaint of 2.3 and previous versions was unstreamlined functions. After creating a new item, the user would have to scroll up to the menu, click the correct module, and then click a link to create a new item. While not annoying for a few items, this becomes tedious when inputting a month’s worth of invoices. This has been fixed with the addition of New and View All buttons when accessing a module that allows new items.

User Menu

Building different applications on the same platform (or at least, this same platform) means that all applications share a codebase and a user database, allowing one Hammer account to access all of the applications. The new user menu allows for fast switching between Hammer applications.

Account Management

The addition of multiple applications to Hammer necessitated a rewrite of the user and configuration modules, and the creation of a permissions database. These are all controlled via the new Account application in Hammer.

Improved Search

I finally rewrote all the code to make searching possible (and useful)

UI Improvements

Like these buttons:
And these forms:

Hammer now has a consistent look across all applications, and the CSS probably sucks less.

Completely Rewritten Code

Every module in Hammer has been recoded. All of them. Every single line. While developing DAVID (Digital Access to Vanderburg Internal Documents. Yeah, I know. It’s a fantastic name) I discovered a better way of coding the modules that use 25% of the code I was using before. As in, a module with 800 lines of code can be done in just 200 lines. It’s far more streamlined, and easier to add fields.

Proprietary Hashing Algorithms

Passwords and other hashed information (such as invoice access numbers) are calculated via a new proprietary hashing algorithm.

New Lemon Scent

This might be false.

So yeah. That’s what I’ve been doing with all my time when I’m not writing music. And now, off to build more things.

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Slovenia (finally)

I said I'd do this a couple of months ago, and I finally am. This is my account of the trip to Slovenia (finally).

So, I hadn't flown since like May of 2001. And I'd never left the country. Not to mention that I don't speak any foreign languages with any accuracy, so I was a bit, shall we say, apprehensive about the entire idea of getting on a plane (and then another plane, and then another) and going to a country that speaks a language that I don't. But nothing worth doing is ever easy (or, if this experience serves as an example, cheap), so fellow composer Dexter Ford (who was also presenting a work in Ljubljana) and I booked our flights, and left the country.

I am not convinced the plane that took us from Oklahoma City to Chicago was actually a plane at all, but rather a large bus with wings taped on. For starters, it took so long to taxi that I was convinced that the plane was going to attempt to drive to Chicago. But eventually we made it there, changed some money to Euros and Francs, and before long we were on a significantly larger plane, bound for Zurich. Eventually. As in, 14 hours eventually. I didn't get much sleep personally, thanks to the excitement of it all and the in-flight entertainment system. We finally Landed in Zurich around 10 am for a five hour layover before finally getting on a plane for Ljubljana, which was by far the best flight of the trip. Probably due to the fact we were flying over the Alps. Which are much larger close up.

2012-09-09 10.15.38

We landed in Ljubljana Sunday night, found a shuttle to take us to our hostel, and had our first experience with Slovenian drivers. I think I had a more accurate experience than Dexter, since I was riding shotgun and OMG DID WE ALMOST HIT A CYCLIST!?


(We didn't actually hit a cyclist. Though I'm not sure how). We made it to the hostel with no problems, other than we had to pay in cash for the entire stay (“Where's an ATM? And how much is that in real money?”) And then we tried to make it to the opening concert of the International Computer Music Conference 2012. I should probably mention at this point that the ICMC was all over Ljubljana. There were 3-4 venues all over town. None were particularly close to each other. So after roughly 30 hours of travel, we dropped our bags off at our hostel and armed only with a roadmap (in Slovene) we attempted to walk to Kino Šiška. I shouldn't say attempted, we found it…eventually.

2012-09-12 06.13.31

This is the same venue that would host my international debut the next day. But before that, we had to make our way back to our hostel. In the dark. Have I mentioned that the only map we had was in Slovene? “What street are we looking for?” “I wish I could tell you. I really do. It has a lot of consonants.”


The next morning we made our way to the Stara Elektrarna (the old power plant) which had been turned into a gallery/performance space, for registration and picking up the program/nametags and the opening paper talks. Luckily this place was far closer than Kino Šiška was.

2012-09-12 18.04.14

I'd have to check, but I think the fact that they listed my publishing company makes me totally legit now. Sweet. Anyway, after that collection of paper talks, we went to a Live Coding session at DDT, a seasonal hostel a few blocks from Starna Elektrarna. And after that, Dexter, Andrew (Lambert, whom we had met at the previous session), and I went for lunch at a place that I can only describe as part diner and part coffee shop that didn't sell food. I hope that is as complicated for you as it was for us. After that I headed to Kino Šiška to check out my piece, only to find out they didn't have a complete version somehow. So we postponed that for Wednesday, and I walked to Španski Borci in time for the keynote by Seth Kim-Cohen, who spoke on non-cochlear sound art. Dinner happened after (where I discovered what a kebab is), and then back to Kino Šiška for the evening concert. There were late-night concerts that happened later, but I went back to the hostel to work on Pipe Dreams and, you know, sleep.


Tuesday was the day that we discovered Ljubljana's bus system. I'm from the midwest, okay, I didn't realize that public transportation was a useful thing. Tuesday was a lot like Monday, only with less travel time since we were no longer walking. The morning started with a paper session on Analysis/Synthesis, which was pretty great and included a presentation by Richard Dudas (who is kind of a big name in the MaxMSP world). I roamed around part of the old town for a while and had lunch at–where else–McDonalds. Just to see if it was the same as back home (it was). That afternoon I attended an improvisation paper session at DDT again, and headed to Španski Borci for the evening's afternoon concert/lecture. Dinner that night was at an open-air traditional Serbian restaurant, Gostilna Dubočica. The evening concerts were once again at Kino Šiška, and once again I skipped the late-night concerts in order to work on homework.


Wednesday morning started with a session on computer interaction, where Andrew had his paper, “A Stigmergic Model for Oscillator Synchronization and its Application in Music Systems.” Then I hopped on a bus and went over to Kino Šiška for the performance of Creatures from the Black Bassoon in one of the listening rooms. The listening rooms are set up to where people can come and go as they please, but my piece was well-received I wish that I could say that I went to the afternoon's paper sessions, but instead I spent a good chunk of the afternoon exploring the old city. Ljubljana is an eclectic mix of traditional, old European buildings, and Cold-war era eastern-bloc style buildings. I mean, you'd be walking around and find squares like this:

2012-09-11 06.55.46

and then you'd cross the street and find all of these buildings from the 1960s (which I didn't take a picture of).

Oooh, also, there were dragons. Our hostel was just down the street from the Dragon Bridge.

2012-09-10 07.26.28

After exploring, I went to the afternoon concert at Kino Šiška, but left early so that I could make the 6pm tour of the Ljubljana castle. Which was pretty epic. It's built on top of a hill in the southern portion of the old city, so the views were spectacular.

2012-09-12 12.06.54

This is my desktop background at work. Note the big pink church in the left center of the picture. That's the same church which is on the left side of the picture above the dragon. Also, I'd happened to pick the castle tour that serves champagne at the top of the tower. Yeah. I drank champagne on top of a castle. And then I went back to the hostel and finished writing Pipe Dreams. Overall, a good day.


Thursday was a very long day. Dexter was to perform his piece for voice and live electronics, Wall, and so we went over to Španski Borci for a rehearsal. Which went on. And on. And on. Mostly due to there being some miscommunication about what equipment we had, or didn't have, or something. After working on a number of solutions for Dexter's piece, we found one that worked, and somehow in the process I convinced the soundguy that I knew how to do things. So whenever there were problems during the concert (and there are always technical problems during computer music concerts) he would come up to me and ask for help. I'm pretty sure he only woke me up once. (um, jet lag? Or boredom? You be the judge).

2012-09-13 09.50.22

This concert was probably my favorite from the entire conference. It was just full of good stuff. Also, lunch that day was at a place named Dok 19, which had a selection of burritos, pizzas, pasta, steaks and a full English breakfast. I had a Slovenian Quesadilla. This was by far the strangest thing I ate while in Slovenia. I vaguely remember going to the evening concert.


Friday was mostly travel. Get up early (or rather, don't go to sleep), catch the shuttle at 6am, arrive at the airport at 7, depart at 8, and then hit Zurich (again) and Washington DC before finally arriving in Oklahoma City at 8pm.

So overall, it was a blast. The conference was alright, but the travel and the getting to see new places was fantastic. The language barrier wasn't nearly the problem I feared it might be (the majority of people are bilingual, and Coca-cola is a word in any language). Perhaps the most interesting part was how…not abnormal it felt. I didn't feel out of place. (well, unless I was wearing my OU sweatshirt). It was a great time, and I look forward to going back someday.

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Creatures from the Black Bassoon selected for performance at EMUFest

Though I should probably write a post about my recent trip to Slovenia (it's coming, I promise), that post is preempted by the following announcement:

Creatures from the Black Bassoon (for fixed media) has been accepted for performance at the International Electroacoustic Music Festival of the Conservatorio S. Cecilia 2012 (EMUfest). The festival takes place from October 7th to 17th in Rome, Italy.

As much as I'd like to go, it's coming up pretty soon, and I did just get BACK from Europe after all. And I have to go to Ohio, which is not quite as old as Rome.

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Creatures from the Black Bassoon selected for 2012 SCI Student National Conference

Creatures from the Black Bassoon, which receives its European premiere Monday in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has been selected for performance at the 2012 Society of Composers Inc. Student National Conference at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

I guess this means I'm going to Ohio next month.

More Information:

Also, Woohoo!

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The Treehouse

One of my projects this summer (one that took way too long), was finally moving closer to campus. My old apartment was great, but it was a 3 bedroom/2 bath, and the rent kept going up and my income…didn’t, and I had to drive to campus every day, and it just stopped being a good deal about halfway through last year. So Steven and I decided to rent the second story of the house that he was living in. It’s this big old house built in the 30s, and the top floor used to be a boarding house of some sort. It’s up in the trees and it has plenty of windows, prompting our landlord to call it the “Treehouse”, a name that’s stuck. So let’s look around.

From the front porch, you immediately find this set of stairs, and if you climb those, you get to the bedrooms and music room. The music room is kind of this awkwardly-sized space with washer and dryer hookups, and we just kind of use it for storage…of harpsichords and pianos and clavichords.

Music Room

Around the corner, there’s my bedroom, complete with keyboards, and…a server cabinet.

 My Room

From there, we have this really cool hallway that stretches most of the length of the apartment. The checkerboard tile is pretty great. It’s also worth mentioning that the first time we looked at this place, I took off my shoes and slid down this hallway.


Since this house used to be a boarding house, it used to have residents with interesting names. Our landlord kept this nameplate (and blue door) when he remodeled, and our office has now become the Grundle.


Sharing a home office is something I’ve never had to get used to. While at Drury, my office was always my room. In the old apartment, I had a dedicated office and no one around. So fitting all of our combined musical and technological stuff has been fun. The desk(s) by the window are mine.

My Desk

And here’s Steven’s.

 Steven's Desk

The office has a butler’s pantry to the kitchen, which we use as a coffee/tea/espresso bar.

 Butler's Pantry

The kitchen also has that awesome checkerboard tile.


And two kitchen tables, because, why not?


And finally we make it to the living room, which is rather…eclectic. I think anything with a plaid couch is eclectic.

 Living Room

And here’s the view from that plaid couch.

 Living Room TV

So yeah. This is where I live now. And write music. And put off writing music.

Soon I’ll be updating y’all on the progress of Pipe Dreams—It’s coming along rather nicely!

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A few weeks ago, I went to Memphis for the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival. I hadn't spent much time in Memphis before, it's one of the closer medical centers to my hometown of Poplar Bluff so occasionally you would hear of someone being taken there, but other than that (and touring the Memphis Pyramid when I was in grade school), I'd never been. But since Luna Nova, the resident ensemble of the Belvedere festival, was playing Foi dans l'aleatoire (as part of their student composition contest (which I won)), I got invited (well, kind of required, not that they would have forced me to go. I'm a sucker for hearing my music live) to attend 4 days of musical awesomeness. The festival took place at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, which was beautiful.



What you can't tell from this picture is that the church extends back for about another block. Or two. It was a beautiful setting, with lots of history, and lots of

Tiffani stained glass, like this.


And this


So what did I do other than stare at stained glass? Well, there was music! (Selections of recordings: Luna Nova is a really fantastic and fun ensemble, and I was a little disappointed we only got to hang out for a half-week. Here’s Andrew and John rehearsing Foi dans l’aleatoire.


Those guys were absolutely great to work with. Both were phenomenal players. Andrew (the pianist) came out after my piece was finished and played Philip Glass’s Mad Rush.

In between the six concerts in four days, there were a variety of other events, such as open rehearsals, parties, composer roundtables, and masterclasses on writing for different instruments/media. There were several student composers in attendance, including several from Belmont, and fellow contest winner Joshua Fishbein from UCLA. The festival took care of all of our housing arrangements, so Josh and I got to live in this amazing house for a few days.


Carol Ann Mallory, our host for the week, took the two of us on a tour of Memphis, seeing such sights as the aforementioned pyramid


The Mississippi River


Streetcars (who knew that Memphis had them?) and streets with funny names (Remember Remember the Sixth of November?)


And since Josh had never been to Arkansas, we crossed the river momentarily.


So overall, it was a great time with great people and great food and great music, in a really cool town. I kind of want to go back.

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Website Redesign

Soooooo I'm still in Memphis for the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival (which will get a full write-up once I'm back in Norman, needless to say IT'S AWESOME), but I've had the spare time to put the finishing touches on a new design for my website at

The old version of the site (Version 12) was put together sometime shortly after I moved to Norman and I've been slowly upgrading it, but I think this new version is pretty cool, and it works similarly to (my newly-revised personal site).

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Composition Submission Tracking

As it turns out, there are quite a few composition contests, calls for scores, conferences, and other opportunities available to composers each year. And, following the advice of Eric Whitacre, I try to submit things as often as I can. But I kept falling into this pattern:

  1. Find a contest.
  2. Prepare everything for the contest.
  3. Let the paperwork sit on my desk until deadline has passed.
  4. Repeat.

This obviously didn’t work that well for me. So at the beginning of this academic year, I decided to try something new. I thought, if I can somehow automate (or nearly automate) the contest submission process, then I’ll be spending less time sending off compositions (or rather, less time not sending off compositions) and more time composing. Or watching police procedurals. Or both! So I built HOE.


The Hammer Opportunity Engine or HOE is essentially a composer’s to-do list on steroids. It tracks composition opportunities, which pieces to send, whether the deadlines are postmark or receipt, and it prints the mailing and return address labels, all coded with QR codes. It plugs into Hammer’s composition database (which drives so new compositions are added automatically. And it basically reminds me incessantly when submissions are coming due.

While I’m sure I could go on about how HOE works, it’s probably more interesting to talk about what I’ve learned by using it. Here’s a list of things in no particular order:

  1. The system actually works. Since using HOE, I’ve won the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival Student Composers Competition (BCMFSCC?) and was selected to have Creatures from the Black Bassoon performed at ICMC2012. (which means travel to Memphis and Slovenia, both of which are famous for their barbecue. Or I might have made part of that up.)
  2. Anything looks more legit with a well-placed QR code and a logo.
  3. I’ve sent out ~40 submissions this year, rather than the 2-4 I usually send.
  4. A good chunk of contests don’t respond when they’ve picked winners, which means they sit in a “submitted” state until you search for them.
  5. Contest fees range from the free to the astronomical. The reasonable amount I pay is somewhere between the two.
  6. EasyChair is kind of a ridiculous service, though it seems to work.

So there it is. My programming geekiness meets my composerlyness.

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Creatures from the Black Bassoon to be presented at the 2012 International Computer Music Conference

So I woke up to this email yesterday morning:

Dear Kyle Vanderburg,
The Program Committee worked very hard to thoroughly review all the submitted pieces, and we want to apologize for the late announcement.

On behalf of the ICMC 2012 Music Program Committee, we are delighted to inform you that your submission:

Creatures from the Black Bassoon

has been accepted to appear as part of this year Music Program.


-Please make sure to register and finish the payment by June 10th, at:

-For the works with multiple authors, at least one author of your work must be registered for the conference by the early registration deadline of June 10th. Please include all the authors bio in case these was not include in the application.

-If your work involve acoustic instrument(s), and you had request local performer(s), you most send all the scores and parts by June 1st, through e-mail. to

-All the Piece+Paper must be registered for the conference by the early registration deadline of June 10th, for the paper to be included in the proceedings. A paper without early registration will not be published.

Congratulations on your fine work. If you have any additional questions, please let us know.

Looking forward to see you in Ljubljana!
Best wishes,
Mauricio Valdés, Steven Loy, Gregor Pompe ICMC 2012 Music Chairs

———————– REVIEW 1 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 2 (accept)
Artistic Merit: 5 (high)
Technical Quality: 5 (high)
Feasibility of Performance: 5 (high)

There is a great balance between instrumental sounds, processed sounds and natural-like sounds, all within a frame of great structural coherence. Very nice work, I strongly recommend this piece.

———————– REVIEW 2 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 2 (accept)
Artistic Merit: 3 (medium)
Technical Quality: 3 (medium)
Feasibility of Performance: 5 (high)

The most obvious aspect of this piece is that the material's source is very localized: bassoon's sounds, processed and unprocessed. The space between very naturalist sounds and electronic transformations is very large and involves an interesting risk: presenting easily recognizable sounds that will share a context with dramatically transformed sounds.

In this piece, the most naturalist sounds are often presented relatively detached, from an spatial point of view: they are in many occasions almost not reverberated, keeping, naturally, a high presence and thus proximity feeling for the listener. Sometimes (I think for example on 07'15″) sounds (coming certainly from sounds made by the read alone) presents spatial trajectories accompanied by a very remarkable reverberation, too obvious in my opinion.

Those are examples showing that the problem of integrating natural sounds (that naturally carry their space's information, specially with sounds produced by a “double read” as the bassoon, should it be a similar issue with an oboe I can add) with dramatically transformed sounds is a complex question. The piece do not reach a global, coherent and homogeneous solution, and has some problems of balance concerning the global formal profile, but has the undeniable merit to show the problem, to approach it carrying by the way interesting materials.

———————– REVIEW 3 ———————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
AUTHORS: Kyle Vanderburg

OVERALL RATING: 3 (strong accept)
Artistic Merit: 4 (medium high)
Technical Quality: 4 (medium high)
Feasibility of Performance: 4 (medium high)

The composer shows as that he knows different techniques and resources of acousmatic composition. The artistic result is very interesting and suggestive.

————————- METAREVIEW ————————
TITLE: Creatures from the Black Bassoon
Please read the reviewers notes.

So apparently I'm going to Slovenia in September. Surprise!

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What this year has taught me.

So, I've survived my first year of being a DMA student. That part, not that tough. What was far more difficult was deciding to stop writing acoustic music cold turkey, switch to electronic music completely, and spend an academic year writing mainly electronic pieces. That was surprisingly rough in a lot of different ways, and I think I'm in the unique position to offer the advice to anyone wanting to try it: Don't.

Don't what? Don't write electronic music?

That's not what I'm saying. Learning Pro Tools and Max and GRM Tools and this and that have been FANTASTIC. It forces you to listen to and think about sound in a totally different way (like doing improvised music), it stretches your mind in different directions, and it's a great academic exercise. What you shouldn't do is completely jettison one of your emotional outlets like writing acoustic music. If you've spent seven+ years writing notes, and then you switch to not writing notes, the changes will be evident. Or at least they were in my case. It has been like switching languages entirely, and not having the vocabulary to express your thoughts. And that has resulted in me watching a lot of TV instead of writing music.

Luckily I'm rebounding from that, and I do hope to eventually finish my marimba and tape piece, and I'll likely use some electronic element in my dissertation. But I'm returning to the world of notes soon.

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Kyle Vanderburg