Musical AI

May. 21st, 2010 01:04 pm
telerib: (sca)
Computer-generated music is getting pretty dang good.

I don't want to get into "the last 1%" or the "innate human factor," but overall? I think this article is bang on the money. There's a reason musical genres sound distinct; they have certain patterns and techniques that distinguish them.

This is also why, IMO, if you have any pretensions to historicity as a bard, you need to listen to reconstructions of actual medieval music. You need to get the right patterns into your ear before you can recombine them as original works. Otherwise, you're writing modern music, using the modern patterns you've ingested your whole life.
telerib: (Default)
I got an email today from a professor teaching a class on medieval warfare. He uses Bertran de Born's "Well do I love the cheerful spring" as a source, and he also likes to play period music before his classes. He's asked for a recording of my version for this purpose. How neat!
telerib: (Default)
So I hear through an email list that a clandestinely-recorded video of Ann and Charlie Heymann performing on their horsehair harp has been posted to YouTube. And several people on the email list mention that the Heymanns are usually pretty vigilant about having that kind of thing yanked. And, predictably: "Speaking as someone who has snuck his videocam into performances, my feeling is if you're a performer performing publicly then it's just more public exposure."

Well, spiffy. I'm glad that's your feeling. You should totally let people post YouTube videos of your performances.

But that is pretty obviously not the Heymanns' feelings (and I question whether or not a private, ticketed concert is "performing publicly").

Worse, these are people in the same community, people who allegedly look up to and respect Ann's scholarship and the work she's done in reviving the wire harp. People who ought to know how hard it is to make a living as a musician, and how important intellectual property rights are. In short, the people I'd have most expected to say, "Not cool, that's not allowed."

Because, although it isn't any more right, it's easier to wrap your head around "well it's a big rock band and they're swimming in money" or "they've jacked their prices up so high, the true fans will never get to see it except this way" or whatever the rationale du jour is. You don't know a big rock band or a famous movie director.

But a lot of wire harpers have met Ann and Charlie. Personally. They may not be bosom friends, but they're real people who we know. And the disrespect just staggers me.
telerib: (sca)
This'll surely be cross-posted to Mi Contra Fa in the near future, but it's too neat not to share right away:

Oral Tradition Journal.

I'm finding an easy half-dozen Anglo-Saxon articles just with a quick browse through the most recent issues, and there's just tons of stuff. Medieval Spanish stuff. Lithuanian oral tradition stuff for [ profile] luscious_purple! Arabic stuff, African stuff, time periods from Homer to slam poets. I haven't had a chance to actually read any of the articles yet, but my fingers are crossed that this will be a valuable resource for anyone doing bardic (oral) performance.
telerib: (Default)
Improvising on early music melodies, Constance Whiteside: Loved, loved it. She did cover Medieval Music 101 (Pythagorean tuning, modes, etc.) but you kind of have to. We learned a really simple and catchy Dorian tune (Short are the days of man, I think) and then improvised around it. I got a few guidelines on tones to highlight and tones to use only in passing, and advice on good cadences to use for ending an improv, and was generally a happy camper.

Bunting and ap Huw Figures, Ann Heymann: Wanted to argue with Heymann on her history and assumptions at times, but her analysis and reconstruction of the ap Huw ornaments, and comparisons to Bunting's graces, seemed spot-on. On first acquaintance, I'm not sure how I'd use most of these fingerings, but they might be interesting to practice.

Very interestingly, what Dr. Whiteside had to say about medieval fingering technique (15th cen. Spanish harp treatises, apparently!) was quite at odds with the ap Huw stuff as reconstructed.

Telyn rawn, the horsehair harp, Heymann: Urges to argue increased, as she started dipping into Anglo-Saxon iconography and I was on ground I knew. Kept my mouth generally shut, as it was not my class and there was a lot to cover. I was wrong yesterday about Giraldus Cambrensis mentioning the horsehair/skin harp; it's later, in the 14th-16th cen. that it gets mentioned, mostly in poems. She reconstructed it as a wood frame (loosely based on the Winchcombe psalter harp) with a horsehide "sock" that serves as a resonator, brays, horsehair strings and bone tuning pegs. (She thinks the Winchcombe shows brays. It's not impossible, but it's also not obvious. Mostly, she wanted brays.)

It was very quiet with a definite buzzy bray sound. Very exotic and different.

Concerts: I'm just losing my taste for modernly-arranged, harpistic Celtic music, apparently. There are some artists I still really enjoy, but so many just start to sound the same to me.

Purchased: Debra Friou's Early Music for Harp book, because I have somehow owned a harp in the SCA for thirteen years and don't have it.

Reflections: I'm chasing a lot of musical and performance goals right now. Some of that comes from my Poeta duties and can't be helped until after September (after which I retire from the SCA to be very very pregnant for a couple of months). Some of that is the (bad) habit of using SCA contests to motivate work; it's hard to keep on-theme when you're flitting from period to period based on this month's A&S contest theme. And some of that is my varied interests: Do I put the next $60 I save towards gut strings for improving my solo early period performance, or do I spend it on a lesson with Constance Whiteside to learn about arranging early music for ensemble? I need to sort these kinds of things out.
telerib: (Default)
Arranging Pipe and Fiddle Tunes for Harp with William Jackson: Jackson is very personable. Most of the 90 min class was spent learning two tunes by ear. We learned two basic ornaments, and he mentioned how he was building the intro. Song 1: A-E intervals for tonic, G-A-E for "away," which is how pipes do it. I wouldn't have thought of that. Song 2: Similarly, bass hand played "home" interval/chord while other hand alternated home, away and random intervals. We got a one-page handout with 4-5 ornaments to practice at home.

Wire Harp 'Masterclass' with Ann Heymann: Heymann herself wasn't sure what the right title for the class was. By far, I got the most crunchy bits here. How Ann does hand position, harp position (she likes the smaller harps held lower, not on the lap), striking technique. Only 3 in the class, so we got personal attention, and she stuck mostly with the things she has to show, not tell. That is: I can learn the idea of Combination Technique from her book, but those black and white pictures do not convey hand position as well as someone taking your hand and putting it where it needed to be.

Scandinavian Ensemble with Beth Kolle: I'm better at playing in an ensemble within my limitations, but that wasn't taught. I realized my harp learning is very visual: I need to see my fingers on the strings playing the song before it "sticks," which is not conducive to jamming. (Also not taught.) The information on ensemble playing could be summed up as "Look at and listen to each other. Mind your tempo. A strong ensemble leader is good." I was hoping for some more details. Still, heard some nifty music, played some nifty music, and learned some good things to know (even if they weren't on the syllabus).

Dealer's Room: I learned that my Ardival Rosemarkie harp that I got on eBay is an early model that is not solid-body construction and was meant to by nylon-strung. (Rosemarkies now are solid-body and they're gut-strung.) It is, in fact, the 47th harp Ardival ever made. (They are up past 800 now.) So that's pretty cool.

I spoke to the leading proponent of South American harp in the folk harp community and bought one of his CDs. Latin music is awesome on harp, and the techniques they use with their lower-tensioned harps are varied and neat. If I had infinite time, I would love to learn that way. As it is, I have enough trouble keeping up with my early music performance goals, so I will table learning an entire other genre.

Other: I am spoiled by the sheer amount of information typically conveyed in an SCA class/workshop. I know people learn in different ways, but... two ornaments and two techniques to build an intro? In 90 minutes? There are no widely-known folk tunes in Mixolydian mode that switch between tonic and a note below? That's the bagpipe tune structure, apparently, and if we could have started with something like "Twinkle, Twinkle"...

Sigh. Different priorities. Because the workshop was also stealth-teaching learning by ear and suchlike, which is an important skill, but... it was not what I wanted to get from the workshop. I wanted to learn about arranging. And there was not much content on arranging. Ditto on ensemble playing.

I asked the event organizer what one had to do to become an instructor, because I've got some nice classes on harp improv and early medieval music theory I could teach... maybe next year, depending on where it's being held...
telerib: (Default)
The Somerset Folk Harp Festival actually starts today, but I *am* saving leave for maternity leave. So I'll be attending tomorrow and Saturday.

My tentative schedule:

Arranging Pipe and Fiddle Tunes for Harp: not so much because I want to arrange pipe and fiddle tunes, but because I expect the information on intros, bridging and arrangement may apply to other melody-only pieces, like medieval monophony. Otherwise, I'll take The Art of Relaxed Performing.

Wire Harp Master Class with Ann Heymann, the premier reconstructor of ancient wire technique. (There's a class on "Authentic-sounding medieval music" at the same time, but I'm afraid it will rehash a lot of what I already know about modes and simple interval accompaniment.)

Scandinavian Harp Ensemble, to explore the modern folk music of the descendants of the Vikings.

Improvising on early music melodies. It's medieval, it's improv, I'm there.

Wire Harp Fingerings: Bunting and ap Huw figures, another Heymann class. There's a historical harp show and tell at the same time, but again... I figure I know half the material, and am not in a position to make use of (read: buy another harp using) the other half.

Telyn Rawn: the horsehair harp, yet more Heymann. Gerald of Wales gives a singularly odd description of a Welsh harp made from horsehide and strung with horsehair, and most everyone has always thought Gerald just didn't know what he was talking about. Some folks actually tried building a harp as he described it, and this is a show and tell of the result. Way cool!

I attended my first Somerset back in... 2000?, and this is only my third. (They're expensive.) But I always come away with some new musical insights and a lot more excitement and energy. The follow-up can be... lacking (I have two or three books on Norwegian and Finnish music purchased in 2003 or so, largely untouched, and Ann Heymann's "Coupled Hands" technique book, read but not practiced...) but it's all good. I feel sometimes like I'm storing up nuts and, when the right season comes, I'll have the materials on-hand to do the work I'm finally ready to do.
telerib: (captain)
So, I participate in an online 7th Sea game. And when things are going slowly, I get bored and tend to do things like write random filk songs about the game.

I will spare you the narrative about a ship battle. Two ships almost hit each other but didn't. The End.

I will, however, inflict the two more clever ones on you all. Behind a cut, because I'm not totally inconsiderate in my displays of raging ego.

'Toss the Dwarf,' tune of 'Strike the Bell' )

'Chef Maurice,' tune of 'Richard Cory' )
telerib: (captain)
We're having a big foofy event in June - Storvik's Novice Tournament combined with Dun Carraig's pas de armes, Challenge of the Heart. There will be heraldry and banners and all manner of spiff.

And I thought, Hey, we should have some verbal spiff, and volunteered to provide some to the barony.

Then I thought, Hey, I'm Poeta Atlantiae and should at least have some spiff to offer their Majesties' herald, even if she or he would rather not use it.

And then I thought, Hey, what if we just had one anthem or something that could be used to sing in the entire procession: the royals and the two host baronages and whatever other barons come and hold courts?

Yeah, yeah... something simple... something like "all rise for their [honorifics]" but, you know, different... something that tells the populace to get ready for court...

Prepare ye the way of our lords?
telerib: (uhh)
What's with some people?

I don't mean people carrying buckets of cold water. Sometimes, idea people need a little cold water thrown on them when they start to go a little crazy.

I mean people who feel the need to tear down an idea or project that doesn't affect them, involve them, suck resources away from them, or impact them, but that other people would like to see.

Enter: The Lyre Book.

I was cleaning out my email, going through three years' worth of letters from a lyre mailing list. And I was struck by the repeated requests for sheet music for this six-stringed instrument.

I've always privately poo-pooh'ed the idea. I like to improvise on my lyre. Who needs sheet music? But there it was, several times a year, new players who really wanted some sheet music.

I have music typesetting software. I know a handful of songs you can play on lyre. Why shouldn't I knock out a little booklet of lyre sheet music? And many people were enthusiastic about the idea.

Except for the people who felt compelled to point out that not everyone learns well from sheet music, or that they think video is really a better way.

Well, sure. I was pretty clear that this is just a little tunebook, written for melodic and not chordal playing (because I have no experience with that) and is not meant to be all things to all people. It's for the people asking for the sheet music. I'm not going to come into your home and make you play "O When the Saints" if that's not your thing.

You want a booklet on chordal playing, or a YouTube series on playing by ear? That sounds awesome! Y'all go out and do that. But why is it necessary to talk down the tunebook?
telerib: (Default)
I mentioned the SCA event I was looking forward to yesterday. Here is my event report of the same, in gory, explicit detail.

Okay, nothing gory happened, although some of the fabliaux were a bit explicit. :) Short version: I had a great time. The fabliau performance was great. The songs... well, three out of four ain't bad. (I strained my voice on Song 3.) General artsy geek-out day.


Mar. 6th, 2009 07:34 am
telerib: (Default)
This weekend is Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival. I have been working on my exhibit, which is 90% things I have done in the last year over on Mi Contra Fa.

Holy cow. I actually did a lot this year. And it's good stuff.

And it's been so much fun pulling it all together. The deadline has gotten me to rediscover a few "almost dones" and put them to bed. And to standardize the appearance of my sheet music. And to reorganize my web pages into something more navigable and flexible. And even to print up cute l'il business cards! It's very satisfying to put a polish on things; it may not exactly be pro quality, but it's better than it was.

And I've had the chance to do this work old-school style, the Old School being grad school. Moe and Spud are visiting Nana this week. I can come home from work, eat a quick supper and do nothing but my projects all night until bedtime. While I am missing my boys already, there is something selfishly wonderful about being able to do that.

Tomorrow should be tons of fun! In addition to my display, I'm putting on a 15-minute performance at 2:20pm, and will be participating in the "Fistful of Fabliaux" poetry challenge. Here is my entry, To Put the Devil Into Hell, based on the 3rd day, 10th tale of The Decameron. "Devil" and "hell" are euphemisms. You can probably guess what for. I think it's a fun piece. :)
telerib: (Default)
And by WRONG, I mean 'fatuously glossing over classical mechanics in a cutesy poetic fashion that is inaccurate and wrong.'

If you are going to write about music and physics, be sure you thoroughly understand both. Half-assed platitudes you vaguely recollect from high school are insufficient.

Okay. Okay. I no longer need to douse a poor unsuspecting email list in flame. Much better now.


Jan. 8th, 2009 07:59 am
telerib: (Default)

(I do not need two lyres; I do not need two lyres; I do not need two lyres...)
telerib: (Default)
My proposed two-hour extravaganza, "Anglo-Saxon Poetry and Performance," was accepted for the next Atlantian University! And - to my pleasant shock - two people have registered for it already. Woo!

And look out world - I have a chat cam, basic video editing software, and a YouTube channel. Look for such gripping hits as "How to use a wrist strap on a lyre", coming soon!
telerib: (Default)
It's an indulgence, but money well-spent, I feel.

Last weekend, Moe and I caught The DC Christmas Revels, a celebration of traditional folkways and community art. [ profile] giddysinger had a role that had pretty girls flirting with him and let him declaim some impressively dramatic lines, so I'm betting he had a blast. :) I liked it - I always like the Revels - and the Quebecois step-dancing was superb, and I loved the Flight of the Canoe - but... there was a lot of French. Which is totally reasonable, given the French-Canadian theme. But I felt more disconnected from it than usual.

Last night, I changed it up to something more 'high art.' I went to the Folger Consort's "Spanish Christmas" concert. First, the entire process of "going out" was actually fun to do. We saw the Revels at matinee, so while I dressed up, we're talking skirt and blouse. For an evening performance in the city, I pulled out the little black dress, the fancy feathered hat, and the major gold jewelry. Look, y'all, just like a real grown-up lady! The hat was a huge hit; I got many compliments. One woman wanted to know where I got it and couldn't believe me when I told her it was just Burlington Coat Factory.

The instrumentals were very fine, and I felt like I earned my early music geek cred when I recognized one of the pieces. Not, alas, by name, but I'm pretty sure I know which CD I have that it's on.

I'm finding that I'm just not a big fan of polyphony. The motets were well-done and the singers had excellent voices, but my attention wandered quickly.

The highlight of the concert was, for me, the villancicos, or Christmas songs. They tend to have that jaunty complex meter of Spanish music and a lot of vigor and good-humor. One featured word-play revolving around a conceit of a cave making echoes; another is the only Christmas song I've heard that features onomatopoeia of artillery and muskets. Chu! Chu! Chu! Tira, tira, tira la musqueteria!


Dec. 1st, 2008 11:47 am
telerib: (Default)
A Spanish Christmas at the Folger, featuring Spanish music of the 16th and 17th centuries.


Nov. 26th, 2008 04:22 pm
telerib: (uhh)
So that's what a fake book is. I've always kind of wondered.

This is actually how my brain processes music. Give me a melody, and I will have something arranged on the harp in short order. Probably just boringly obvious chords, but you know, that's been good enough for government work. It's not like I'm trying to sell my arrangements or wow my family with my shockingly novel settings of Christmas carols. Same ol', same ol', usually does just fine for 85% of what I do.

I always figured fake books were some kind of magic tablature, or were guitar-specific, or something. It seems too obvious that they're melody + chords + lyrics.
telerib: (Default)
I'm editing the scansion and rhyme on Robin Hood and the Potter by trying to fit each stanza into that well-known 8-6-8-6 tune, "The Theme to Gilligan's Island."

There are thirty stanzas in the first section of the poem.

That's a lot of Gilligan's Island.

("[ profile] telerib," you might ask, "why not just use the standard ballad form and meter without a tune? Surely you know an iamb when you see one?" Yes, but boy howdy this ballad is rough, and I am not above using Ye Olde Ballade Trickes to stuff in or stretch out the extra syllable here or there. But you have to see if it really works with the music for that, so...)
telerib: (Default)
From the SCA Feast Survey:

13 - Do you like entertainment during feast? If so, what kinds do you like or dislike?

One thing that was mentioned over and over was that everyone (who stated an opinion) disliked performances directed to JUST the High Table. The overwhelming majority preferred background music, strolling musicians, or just one or two bards during the whole dinner. Another comment made by most people was they did not mind entertainment as long as they were not expected to be quiet during it. Most people actually enjoyed and looked forward to the dinner table conversation and resented being told to be silent.

I have suspected this for five or more years now.

I think there's a tendency to assume - on the part of the performer and listener - that there should be silence for vocalists, because the words convey meaning, and the meaning is destroyed if half the words go unheard. Also, it's rude to ignore someone who is speaking to you. Instrumentalists have an easier time of doing feast music because the same assumptions do not apply.

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