Eyes That Can See in the Dark

a music journal

August 24, 2003 (link)

6:36 PM

Jello Biafra on Wesley's passing.

Thinking about this is gettin' me misty-eyed.

6:17 PM

Wesley Willis (May 31, 1963 - August 21, 2003)

Damn. This is terribly sad news to return to (I've been away since Thursday). I hadn't heard he was ill, though apparently the word was out...40 is way too young.

I don't really know what else to say, except to echo this post from the outsider music mailing list:

"Rock over London, rock on Chicago...Rest in peace."

Rest in peace, Wesley.

Current music: none.

(Comments for August 24, 2003)

August 18, 2003 (link)

10:16 PM

So let's work on that next Holy Grail (first seen here, and subsequently here):

Here [MP3, 540KB] is an MP3 excerpt, taken from the recording of my senior concert, that has the melodies to both of those two Sesame Street songs I'm looking for. As I wrote on another site, these are two pieces of incidental music that were used in episodes of Sesame Street during the 1980s (and probably earlier). They were both used as background music for live-action clips filmed outdoors; both are instrumentals; and to the best of my recollection, neither involved any Sesame Street characters, which makes them tricky to locate and identify.

As you'll hear, the first one is a slow, lyrical tune in B-flat minor that I believe was originally used for some sort of nature scene; the melody was played by a bassoon, accompanied by a glockenspiel, among other instruments. The second song, by contrast, is an upbeat one in C major that accompanied footage of a man riding a kayak through whitewater. (I'm betting more than a few people out there will remember that one, since they used to show it all the time and it was pretty memorable -- the guy kept flipping upside-down and ending up underwater, as I recall.)

I'd love to get copies of either or both of these. Anyone out there got it on videotape or MP3, and willing to share? Any Sesame Street tape traders (they exist!) who want to add to their collection of Pink Floyd live shows, or trade for some quality mix CDs? If so, you know what to do!

Current music: Morton Feldman - Violin and Orchestra

(Comments for August 18, 2003)

August 17, 2003 (link)

8:36 PM

When I was in college, like many composition students, I prepared most of my pieces with Finale notation software. It's a great program in many ways, but has a bit of a learning curve, and there are more than a few things in the program that ought to be intuitive, but aren't. (In fairness, it'd be pretty hard to have the program be as powerful as it is -- it needs to be all things to all people, so to speak -- without requiring the user to "work under the hood" a bit. Still, there are lots of interface design problems -- for instance, the ridiculous hassle involved in moving large numbers of optimized staves at once -- that should never have happened, and that can have a major impact on one's workflow.)

So, from about 1995 (shortly after I started college) to sometime around 1997 or 1998, our main notation lab at college consisted an older Macintosh -- was it a IIci? -- hitched up to an UltraProteus, and running Finale 3.2. The UltraProteus had a fair number of good sounds, but when you set up your instruments in Finale, it would only let you select the first 128 patches on the Proteus -- anything higher, and you have to dial in your sounds manually, from the front panel of the synth. The reason for this is a MIDI issue; since MIDI is a 7-bit protocol, you can't specify numbers outside the range of 0 to 127, so synths organize their patches into 128-sound "banks", but Finale has no easy way to access any bank but the first (Bank 0). It's not so much of a problem to do it manually when you're just writing a piano piece, but if you're writing a piece for full orchestra, it can be very time-consuming to both remember and dial in all the sounds you need (up to 16 channels' worth).

Eventually I grew frustrated enough with this to sit down, do a little research on MIDI and Finale, and after a couple hours' work, come up with a solution to it. It was kludgy at best, but using the trick I came up with, Finale was able to automatically configure both the bank and patch, sparing me the task of having to manually select every single sound I wanted for every single piece I worked on. And since one of my campus jobs at the time was to be something of a supervisor for the notation lab, I wrote up a sheet with step-by-step instructions, describing the solution I'd found and telling everyone how to duplicate it, and posted it in the lab. Hopefully, it helped someone.

Anyway, to make a long story short, today a friend of mine was using Finale and ran into the same problem, which gave me occasion to dig through my archives and find the instructions I'd written up, nearly a decade ago now. Having sent them to him, I thought to myself, "Maybe I should put this on my website, since there are probably other people out there who have this problem too?"

So, if you've come here in need of instructions on how to make Finale do a Bank Select for you, and thereby get it to select your patches properly before it plays one of your compositions, click here for the solution that worked for me. These were originally written for Finale 3.2, but I think they should work with newer releases too, though I myself haven't tried it with any versions more recent than Finale 98.

I hope this is helpful to someone out there! If it proves useful to you, it'd be great if you could leave me a comment at the link below.

Current music: Piero Milesi and Daniel Bacalov - La Camera Astratta

(Comments for August 17, 2003)

August 16, 2003 (link)

8:35 PM

Like J. said, for those of you who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like: click here for my review of his mix CD set, How'd They Do That?, and enjoy!

Current music: How'd They Do That?

(Comments for August 16, 2003)

August 14, 2003 (link)

11:07 PM

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in quite a while. (The file is hosted by Chalkmark Studios, but it was Spherey J. who turned me on to it.)

Current music: Mick Audsley - "Dark and Devil Waters"

(Comments for August 14, 2003) (2 comments so far)

August 11, 2003 (link)

9:07 PM

Awesome. "I dare ye enter the Dungeons of Daggorath!!" Or: "P L T, P R SW, U L, M, M, M..." When did I finally beat that game -- 1995, I think? So it took about a decade. For my money, it may well be the creepiest game ever made -- I still get nightmares about it every once in a while.

Also awesome, even though I can't get it to work properly on my emulator (Stella). I'd actually been thinking they should do something like this, so it's as if they read my mind! If they can fulfill their stated ambitions for the game, it'll be a remarkable technical achievement, given the limitations of the platform (128 bytes of RAM!).

Current music: Muslimgauze - Al-Zulfiquar Shaheed

(Comments for August 11, 2003) (6 comments so far)

August 10, 2003 (link)

2:13 AM

Or, this:

Take a look at the Fellowship trailers... The landscapes...have that digitally enhanced hyper-real quality more sumptuous than Technicolor, more magical than cartoons: super-icy mountains, mega-scary forests, stormier than the stormiest of skies. The effect, in current parlance, is usually called 'achingly beautiful': a deep, mysterious mixture of pain and pleasure, a yearning towards the impossible, with something delirious in it and something sublime.

Of course, the next line --

A deep, mysterious feeling which yet can be commodified and evoked with great efficiency by the entertainment industry, like a confection of pink sugar, like a drug.

-- is a bit too cynical for my tastes. Not to mention that for me, Fellowship of the Ring was the exception that proves the rule -- inasmuch as most mainstream media's attempts to evoke that feeling have little effect on me -- unless she's not restricting herself to mainstream media, in which case we're in "stop the presses, art is fictive" territory.

(But nevertheless, that's exactly what I was getting at: mourning at an imaginary funeral, as it were. But in 1500, the glamour -- couldn't they spell it "glamer"? I guess not -- was I think far more to be found, behind every wild bush and unknown mountain, than it is now! Or is the glamour more a preoccupation of the well-fed and well-lit? Would completely dark fields, like those on 309 in northern Maryland [was that really almost two years ago!], have the same profundity in a world without electric light, or would they just be a reminder of one's own vulnerability?)

1:54 AM

One Holy Grail achieved: thanks to the kindness of Joan F., I now have a copy of "What Einstein Never Knew", complete with the blues that plays over the closing credits, which I got to hear for the first time in ten years. The funny thing is, it sounds remarkably like the performance of mine it inspired -- which in one sense might seem thoroughly unsurprising, I guess -- but it really is uncanny how much it sounds like me and Dave B. playing in Greenwall.

Now for the Sesame Street songs!

12:52 AM

Lots of stuff I want to write about, including reviewing John's How'd They Do That? set (among others) and writing up a new song-poem. For the moment, some scattered notes:

Two very different chess-related stories. First, the incredible saga of this man:

SP: So how did you get to safety?

PT: During the fifth attack, the pirates could not find any valuables because the previous four groups took everything. They were angry so they sunk our boat. We were in the middle of nowhere in shark infested waters. Many people could not swim and drowned. Other died of exhaustion. And some died from you know...

SP: You mean from shark attacks?

PT: Unfortunately, yes. My father and I were lucky enough to live through this. An American oil tanker happened to go by, saw us and rescued us. We then were brought to Malaysia.

SP: So you were safe after this?

PT: No. After being in a small enclosed abandoned soccer field with no roof over our head, little food and unbearable living conditions for 30 days, we were thrown out of Malaysia because the locals could no longer to help us. They put us on a boat taken from previous refugees, threw in another 350+ refugees from different boats (now we had about 700 people total), gave us 20 gallons of fuel and 20 gallons of water (no food), then towed us out to international waters. Could you imagine, 20 gallons of fuel? Where do you go with 20 gallons? And 20 gallons of water for 700 people? How long can anyone last under 120-degree heat directly under the tropical sun with no food or water?

Not only that, while the towed us out, they purposely tried to sink us. They towed us in a zigzag formation to tear apart the front of the boat. They did but we were lucky that the boat did not break in half. After they got us to the point where they thought we could never survive, they left us to die. Again, we had to drift to nowhere for weeks without food, water or fuel. Many people died of hunger and thirst. Dead bodies were everywhere. There was nothing you could do. All you could do was pray.

Then, on a wildly different note, this story, in which a notorious spammer (allegedly) turns out to be the vice-president of...well, you'll see. (If you don't understand why I'd be astonished to find this out, read halfway down this entry.)

The other day I was thinking about the music that interests me, and the music that doesn't, and trying to come up with ways to talk about the difference between the two. A friend of mine likes to say that great composers "lend us their ears" (in the same way that, looking at a great visual artist's work, we borrow his or her eyes, i.e. the way they look at the world). The word I was using the other day -- "insight" -- felt revelatory at the time, but perhaps it's just a different name for the same thing. Or: if music is a way of talking about the world, then just as good conversation offers insights, so too does good music. It unequivocally has done so for me, at least; my conception of compassion, for instance, has been nurtured by -- and is intimately bound up with -- certain kinds of musical sound. That, in turn, is because a big part of compassion is the awareness of loss -- that's why love hurts, right? (i.e. "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig...")

And music, especially quiet and ambient music (or music that approaches silence, to put it differently), can evoke that feeling of loss so intensely that it becomes almost unbearably painful. Of course, there's a danger there, and perhaps those Renaissance-era texts warning us to guard against excessive reflection -- as it leads to melancholy -- are in fact more wise than they appear: perhaps at heart they're saying, "Beware the glamour, lest you spend all your days in pursuit of it" -- and, presumably, waste away. Anyone who really loves fairy stories and legends knows this particular, peculiar pain, the feeling of having lost that which never was...

(...or was it?)

Current music: Albert Ayler - The Ayler Tree, Disc Three: "Untitled Improvisation" (live at Slug's, NYC, Dec. 1965)

(Comments for August 10, 2003)


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