Long Weekend – Time to catch up!

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Got a chance to catch my breath this weekend. The extra day off is much appreciated. Lots been going on here. I finally got my music ‘studio’ about 99% finished, work has gotten pretty busy for the first time in a couple years and the two courses I’m taking this term have been surprisingly time-consuming (but in a good way).

On the music room front, over the past several months, I managed to take our largely unused faux dining room (which used to be the TV room / den) and turn it into a serviceable office / music room. We went from this (that’s a close-up of the unfinished bookshelves I removed, stained, sealed and reinstalled):

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

Here’s a detail of the denim and striped fabric we used to cover the walls:

There are a few small spots left to fabric-cover and I need about 12′ of chair rail to go over the fabric seam. Other than that (and a good cleaning), it’s complete.

It’s a very lovely, breezy work environment with the big picture window (instead of staring into a corner with the old corner ‘cockpit‘ upstairs) and now there’s more than enough room for the sorely-needed two-monitor setup, with space to one side for my work laptop. Kudos to Patty for coming up with the idea!

Not much actual music composition going on, per se these days. This term I have Orchestration 2 and Keyboard Method (basic piano), so I’m essentially orchestrating and learning to play lots of OPM (other people’s music). That said, the term has yielded some interesting work, posted below. I also realized there were a few things from the Harmony class I never posted, … so here we go…

Cadence at a Gallop

After the ‘Battlestar‘ theme we worked on various types of progression cadences, and in a couple of assignments we (or, at least I) worked those cadences into a musical idea that ultimately became another theme. That theme worked its way into this term in Orchestration 2.

The first the assignment actually included five different cadences:

|| E | A E | A | Esus4 | E | – I IV I IV Isus4 I – Plagal

| C#m | F#m C#m | A | A | B | – VIm IIm VIm IV V – Half

| A | D A | B | C#m | – IV bVII IV V VIm – Deceptive (w/a touch of Mixed)

| A | A | B | E | E | – IV V I – Full

| C | C | D | E | E || – bVI bVII I – Mixed

Cadence Series – MP3 – 192kBps – 1MB – 0:45 min.

This grew into what turned out sounding like a nice little homage to the late Michael Kamen:

Horns and Strings – MP3 – 192kBps – 1.25MB – 0:55 min.

Fast forwarding to last week or so, I did a proper orchestration of this which came out quite fun:

Full Orchestra – MP3 – 192kBps – 1.25MB – 0:55 min.

Why Must You Love This Way

One of the last things done for the Harmony course was a nice rumba tune titled as above. Here’s the first two minutes:

Why Must You Love This Way – MP3 – 160kBps – 2.3MB – 1:59 min.

On to Orchestration 2

We’ve done a LOT of really cool and interesting stuff this term. Some of it has been a bit tedious, but even the activities involved in that have been a learning experience. Once again, Ben’s course provides more than I can absorb in one pass.

One of the first fun workshops we did was compose and orchestrate a short piece derived from a passage containing only accented rhythm (i.e., no melody, etc.). I took the Copland approach here (sorry about the low signal level):

Accent Workshop – MP3 – 160kBps – 900kB – 0:44 min.

During Week 3 we orchestrated the theme from Harry Potter. Since I’ve never seen the film(s) or listened to the music, this was an interesting exercise. We were given the basic melody / countermelody:

and we had to come up with two different orchestrations:

Potter #1 – MP3 – 160kBps – 650kB – 0:33 min.
Potter #2 – MP3 – 160kBps – 570kB – 0:29 min.

During Week 4 one of the things we covered was the different sample types in our sampling synthesizers (I use Native Instruments’ Kontakt 3.5). The following piece, which was written by Ben, I believe, required the combination of a number of different sample types for each instrument.

Combining Samples – MP3 – 160kBps – 341kB – 0:17 min.

That week we also were given a chord progression – no melody – and we came up with a composition / orchestration to match.

In the first, I experimented a little with the different sample types we’d just covered. Might’ve gotten a little heavy-handed with that. And in the second I tried to employ some of the stuff we’d done up to that point on crescendos.

Progression Orchestration #1 – MP3 – 160kBps – 1MB – 0:54 min.
Progression Orchestration #2 – MP3 – 160kBps – 828kB – 0:42 min.

Moving on to Week 5, we were introduced to The Flight of the Hornet Toad and asked to orchestrate it for a workshop. I think this is one of Ben’s, I’m not sure. It sounds like his sense of humor. Here’s what it looks like:

Here’s what it sounds like (on piano):

The Flight of the Hornet Toad (Piano) – MP3 – 192kBps – 539kB – 0:22 min.

Here’s what it sounds like (in my head):

The Flight of the Hornet Toad (Orch) – MP3 – 160kBps – 481kB – 0:24 min.

I’ve since found a better snare roll… 😉

The assignment for Week 5 was to orchestrate an excerpt from Frederic Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 in C minor – probably one of the most depressingly beautiful pieces of music out there. I hope I did it some level of justice:

Chopin – MP3 – 192kBps – 2.3MB – 1:35 min.

Jumping forward to Week 7, we started working on layers. In the following workshop, we were given a melody and harmony, and asked to add a middleground layer with the remaining instruments, as appropriate. Here’s the original, the added layer and the combined mock-ups:

Original – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.
Added Middleground – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.
Combined – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.

Week 8 was all about chaos – not really appealing to me. But we did do one cool workshop, which opened up an important door in terms of making better-quality recordings. This is a piece composed by Ben. He provided left and right channels for each of the instrument tracks (which includes a really nice-sounding cello sample) and we needed to produce them by setting the panning roughly the same as an orchestra would sound like to a listener in the audience:

Panning – MP3 – 192kBps – 2.3MB – 1:40 min.

While doing this workshop I discovered that my level settings for most of the stuff I’ve been doing is set quite a bit too high. Ultimately, this creates some distortion and muddies the overall sound before the signal gets to the (software) compressor, which I use as a last stage to kick up the signal level without going over 0dB. Lesson learned!

That brings us up pretty much to date except for this week’s stuff, which I’ve already done (gotta take advantage of those extra days when they come along). Last but not least, here’s an orchestration built form a basic piano sketch – an excerpt from a Beethoven piano sonata:

Here’s the piano version, followed by my orchestration:

Beethoven Sonata – Piano – MP3 – 192kBps – 711kB – 0:30 min.
Beethoven Sonata – Orchestra – MP3 – 192kBps -600kB – 0:25 min.

Yes – it’s been a BUSY few months!!

Crysis 2 – here’s hoping

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Great preview for Crysis 2 at Amazon. Reminiscent of some of the nice work done in advance of Halo 3 (uhm… Microsoft? remember the PC? the platform that made you global software overlord? any chance we’ll see H3 on that? ever?).

Click the full screen button – it’s hi-rez.

Let’s hope EA doesn’t screw the pooch on this great franchise like they did with Medal of Honor. Pre-order here if you’re an optimist.