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November 7, 2010

thirty-nine dance

by sven at 11:21 am

click on image to play film (5sec - 1.7 MB)
or view on YouTube

For my birthday, I took a "staycation" in the studio. For a few days, I got to eat, breath, and sleep stopmo.

I've been wanting to try choreographing a puppet dance. I managed to build a new puppet, compose a song, and work out some steps. Time ran short, though, so I only got five seconds on film.

If you want to hear the complete "thirty-nine" song, you can listen to the mp3 here.

(Note: The song has a very low bass line, which might not be audible on some computer speakers.)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music, stopmo

December 8, 2009

biplane through history

by sven at 10:20 pm

click on image to play clip (54sec - 1.2 MB)

I dreamt there was a bully on the school bus picking on a girl I knew back in grade school. So I stood up to him, put myself between he and her. And then when the bus stopped, I took him to his parents to tell them to do something, to talk to him about what he was doing. But they didn't want to get involved.

And so somehow this beginning lead to me being the hero years later, who stopped an enemy pilot from taking off, thus preventing the war.

As I got older, I rose in the ranks of the air force. Until finally there was a provocation from Cuba. And I decided that we couldn't let this pass, couldn't back down, needed to meet threats with outright aggression.

As I boarded my biplane to go bomb that nation, black and white movies of all the wars from history were projected upon my face and across the hanger walls. It was clear that I myself was becoming the bully… That the hand of history moved in me as I seized the throttle, blood in my eyes.

This is the music that I heard.

(Later, same sitting, I came up with this little tailspin, too.)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

September 17, 2009

piano improv: moroccan nights

by sven at 11:59 pm

Here's a little tune I just came up with called "Moroccan Nights"… Listen to the mp3 by clicking here. (4.66 MB)

It's repetitive and clumsy -- but it was only about 15 minutes from inspiration to recording -- so you can't ask for much.

I really like being able to just put the laptop on the piano bench beside me to capture impromptu stuff like this.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

August 12, 2007

new music: "el capitan" & "don't eat the worm"

by sven at 11:59 pm

I was working on the music for Act 1 of Let Sleeping Gods Lie today... And got sucked into recording some unrelated compositions.

For the first one, "El Capitan," imagine that Big Blue the chess computer is practicing a little ragtime jazz all by himself, deep in the darkest heart of IBM, when suddenly the cryogenically frozen ghost of Ritchie Valenz ("La Bamba") falls through the ceiling with a big translucent guitar in hand... Jam session ensues.

Listen to the mp3 by clicking here. (1.72 MB)

For the second composition, "Don't Eat The Worm," imagine that you've got a big bottle of tequila in front of you. It's a dark sweaty night, moths flitting around a single bare lightbulb. And then the tequila worm starts swimming a little figure-eight dance in the bottle. And then you realize it has your face.

Listen to the mp3 by clicking here. (2.22 MB)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

August 8, 2007

piano repair

by sven at 2:47 pm

piano guts

I've had a broken F on my electric piano since about January... With the soundtrack work that I've been doing for Let Sleeping Gods Lie, it was finally time to make the repair.

I've got an HP 2800G Roland digital piano. It has weighted keys; one of the counterbalances broke and needed to be replaced. This was my second time making this kind of repair on the instrument.

keys removed to dig out the broken part

I found replacement parts at Keyboard Engineering, Inc./The Master's Touch Music Store @ 3213 NE Sandy Blvd. They could special order a replacement counterweight for $15, or sell me a used one on the spot for $5. (Thank you, Gretchin, for doing the initial research!)

I bought five used counterweights, expecting that I'll probably need to make this repair again at some point. I'd probably be wise to even get a few more (including counterweights for the black keys, which are shaped differently) -- there's no telling when Roland may stop producing these parts.

I'm known for playing loudly, but I don't think that the break is entirely my fault. The counterbalances inherently take a lot of stress... I could see, rumaging though a bag of used parts at the store, that stress cracks are common.

the broken counterweight

There are hinges at the back of the piano so the whole top can swing up and back. To open it up, you need to remove the 8 screws on the bottom of the instrument that are recessed, and 6 small screws on the back (the ones that aren't associated with the hinges).

Once the top of the piano is off, you also need to remove the front guard in order to access the keys. There are 6 screws underneath the guard to remove, and then 2 (on either side) which are located inside the piano itself.

The keys come off at their hinge point. Putting them on and taking them off depends on the flexibility of the plastic: just slightly expand the key with your finger, and it pops off the hinge easily. The lubrication appears to be a dark gray teflon grease -- so be aware that you'll probably get some on your hands.

Everything else should be self-apparent when you get to this point.

Mostly I'm writing out these notes for myself, so it'll go faster the next time I have to do this.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie, music

August 6, 2007

lsgl: stampede music

by sven at 11:59 pm

click on image to play clip (1 MB)

Here's a clip of the stampede that I finished... Gosh, almost 2 weeks ago now.

I've been thinking that the musical score for a stampede ought to involve lots of overlapping drums... Like a cacophany of feet, eh? So I spent a chunk of the day putting together a test track. Listen to the mp3 by clicking here. (642 KB)

(If it were an option to use someone else's music, I'd use "Jungle Dance" from the 1933 King Kong soundtrack by Max Steiner.)

Another chunk of the day was spent refining the Elder Things' city. I like the idea of there being lots of tiers to the place... I'm thinking in the next version I may try doing a bunch of bridges over chasms.

Trivia: Lovecraft had a bona fide passion for arches, and specifically mentions that the Elders made good use of them in their architecture.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie, music

November 27, 2006

piano: strangers in our bodies

by sven at 11:13 am

A song popped into my head this morning. Listen to the mp3 of "strangers in our bodies" by clicking here. (4.3 MB)

I'm lousy at making recordings of my songs, so the main idea today was to just get the tune captured. I made the recording using GarageBand and the Mac PowerBook G4's internal microphone. From first laying hands on the piano to getting the new composition uploaded took maybe an hour and a half -- and things probably could have gone even faster, were I more familiar with the workflow.

It's a first take. The structure is repetitive. There are flubs. There's tape hiss. I didn't play with any dynamics... But something is better than nothing. Warts and all. Just think of it as a musical sketch.

I can hear the beginnings of lyrics in my head for this one... But past experience suggests that if I'm not writing lyrics as I compose, they probably won't come later on.

Edit: SNOW! It just snowed! (Which is very rare in Portland.) Gretchin says this tune is a good "snowflake song"; I played it and made the sky snow. ...So be it! I redub this "the snowflake song"!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

September 16, 2006

because who doesn't like monkeys?

by gl. at 8:21 pm

i went to the opening for the 100th monkey studio tonight. it looks like they have similar values about encouraging creativity & art. i won a gift certificate for 2 hours of art studio time + $10 worth of art materials.

i also picked up a cd called passages from the cellist they hired: adam hurst is so sonorous and langorous he's almost hypnotic. i was compelled to pick up his cd because i knew he would make good studio music, for artist's way or calligraphy.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, music

August 22, 2005

the song is "suave squirty"

by sven at 10:35 pm

I put together another GarageBand improv tune tonight: suave squirty

The structure is not my best... But there's some neat stuff happening in the rhythm section. Unfortunately, I'm seeing a trend with GB songs where I've put work into the drums: the bass line doesn't move around, it just repeats ad nauseum.


posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

June 29, 2005

the song is "hatching"

by sven at 3:49 pm

Another new song this afternoon: hatching

This one took just a hair over 2 hours to put together. No pre-packaged loops, mind you -- that's me on the keyboard making the drum track. I'm playing fast'n'loose with the melody, I know... I find it rather endearing. Human.

P.S. The reason the last song was titled "egg" was because I saw some eggs in our compost bowl by the sink and thought: "I think I'll go write a song titled 'egg'."

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

mac music makers central

by sven at 11:09 am

Did some surfing around this morning, seeing if I could find free software instruments for GarageBand. No luck there -- (let me know if you know a source!) -- but I discovered the online community of mac musicians.

It's new to me, at least: Kinda exciting -- jillions of original, amateur songs, all available to listen to without even having to become a member. Makes me want to try submitting something.

Ah, but the fantasy of making art always outstrips the pace of actual production...

posted by sven | permalink | categories: music

June 28, 2005

the song is "egg"

by sven at 9:56 pm

I just put this song together this evening: egg

After several years of playing around a busted A-flat, I finally got a new counter-weight for my electric piano's key and got the thing fixed up. Seizing the moment, I installed the MIDI adapter I've had lying around for a few months, and got the keyboard conversing with GarageBand. This is good news for "Let Sleeping Gods Lie" -- I expect to be doing the soundtrack for the teaser trailer with this software. ...Though not quite in this style.

6/29 Note: "egg" is heavy on bass. Listening to it on my laptop, the lovely resonating drum is turned into a small, dull, mechanical click. Ew. ...Beware.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie, music