Friday, February 24, 2012

Graduate Preliminary Exams

For my doctoral program, all the incoming students had to take preliminary exams to see where they could 'pass out' of, and which areas of study might need remediation. Post-tonal music was a sure sign for remediation for me, but I'm really enjoying learning things about music that I never learned (or at least never internalized) before. But I still worried about other areas that I thought were fairly solid. It had been over three years since I had even looked at music theory. Almost five years since I took a test on aural skills or ear training. It kind of felt like this (click on the image to make it all big-like):

Everyone is sitting quietly in their chairs, scribbling away, while I'm sweating like a pig and either staring at the page blankly, or writing so furiously that I'm breaking several pencil leads, repeating 'Oh God Oh God Oh God' as if the world's going to end if I don't pass my ethnomusicology test.

Luckily the world didn't end upon completion of all the exams. I didn't need a divine intervention from the Big Man Upstairs, and things worked out okay. And hopefully it will be the last entrance exam I ever have to take- from now on I'm only interested in tests that get you out of things (like comps or dissertations) and not into them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Big Accomplishments for Nerds

It's a big day when normally quiet, academic folk get up the guts to be social and attempt a little flirtation. But sooner or later they return to their comforts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

From Meteorology to Music

A scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research wrote about my work 'Chinook', which is being premiered on Wednesday! His blog entry is here; it's a fun read. One of the things I love most about being a composer is an opportunity to collaborate, and this piece definitely a fun collaboration. I spoke with Jeff Weber, a meteorologist, about weather patterns in Boulder, and his graphs helped me plot out a lot of the musical structures in the piece. It was also a pleasure to film the piece up at the NCAR site, in their gorgeous 'backyard' of the science facilities!

Perhaps in the future I'll be writing a string quartet based on real-time data of hurricanes, the arms of the storm turned into varying pitches and timbres based on wind speed, rain, and pressure. Scientists have developed a program (originally for the sight-impaired but curiously useful in other ways), that turns weather data into musical tones! Right now it sounds like crude MIDI but I think I could elaborate this into a fully-formed work. The perfect string quartet for this would of course be Tesla Quartet, with its scientific and electrical connections. Commencing brainstorming: now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chinook premiere, gym bag

The video for 'Chinook' is finished and ready for its grand debut. And thanks to the help of Anna Vreiling, who spent hours putting in footage and editing four separate videos, we'll have a great premiere on the 22nd (in the ATLAS black box in Boulder, CO, if you're available). Here are a couple basic screen shots from the four-panel video. Eventually I'd like to have each square have its own separate television, and play all in a row simultaneously, but this is a good first step. The sound is beautifully edited by Will Dyar, and I think it will come across nicely over projector.
Also, those bird whistles I bought are being put to good use, fo' real.

I made my sister a gym bag for Christmas out of my dad's old raincoat from the 70's that didn't fit him anymore. It was the first project I've made like it and I had to make a mockup of it first. I even managed to use the raincoat's original snap closures as the closure to the bag. It's very 80's and fun. The only thing is not being breathable my sister's gym clothes might get a little moist in there. Let's hope she washes them regularly. But she liked it as a gift nevertheless.

In other news, I'm taking a Post-Tonal Theory class as part of my doctorate (essentially, learning about how music as made after 1900 until about 1945ish-1960). Many sentences in our textbook/assignments make me think I was back in high school calculus class or college physics. "Each of these sums is an index number. For each sum there will be two common tones under TnI for that value of n" and "because of its internal symmetries and redundancies, the hexatonic collection has a limited subset structure: see the inclusion lattice provided in example 3.11." But as I've always lacked this area of musical knowledge, and really need to posses it to be more well-rounded, each class is very illuminating and a new challenge. Being more and more able to recognize atonal groups of pitches is kind of awesome. "That is such an '014'." "Oh, that is totally part of Octatonic 1,2" and All. That. Jazz.