Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 6

Our last challenge was called Composer’s Choice. We had the fewest amount of restrictions,  and were only instructed to write a piece on an Olympic event of our choice.

Originally, I had this plan devised to represent the pentathlon. It involved writing 5 one minute pieces of varying styles within a 24 hour span. However, on the one day I had available to focus on executing this project, I got sick, so that put the Kabash on that.

As a backup, 48 hours from the deadline, I chose cycling as my event of choice.

 

For this event, I first drew up a sketch of the imaginary course in my notebook and came up with a melodic ostinato. The ostinato represents the speed of the pedals as the biker runs the course. I also tried to pick a circular series of notes that would cycle back logically. As the course changes, so does the rhythm of the bike pedals as they turn. The clarinet represents varying scenery and elevations.file-nov-27-1-39-43-pm

Though this course would probably take a little bit more time to complete if constructed to scale, I compressed it into a piece under 2 minutes to respect everyone’s time for voting.

The biggest hurdle for me was the lack of restrictions. Personally I like restrictions because too many choices  when starting can be overwhelming and the restrictions somehow help me be more creative, but I digress.  Regardless, this challenge was a lot of fun (and the rush to finish the piece left me on a runner’s…er Cycler’s high).

My fellow Composer Quest Olympians came up with some fantastic pieces as well. This was the most difficult for me to choose which one to vote on,mainly because there was such a variety and everyone who participated went all out. Please enjoy listening to them by clicking here.

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Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 5

 

 

Challenge Number 5 was the relay race . Charlie organized us into  teams of four, and we were to compose and pass off our chunk of music like a baton to each of our team mates. The result would be a 2 minute piece with each person having written 30 seconds of music.

Due to extenuating circumstances, two of our teammates were unable to participate, so Tom Snively and I “cloned” ourselves to make up for the missing teammates. This process began an email storm that was not unlike the one that Ryan and I had during the  Table Tennis Challenge. We also ran into many of the same file sharing problems as well.

I started with the first thirty seconds and decided on choosing flute, vibraphone, harp, piano and cello, mainly because these in instruments sound decent on my playback, tend to to be common sound options, and I was unsure how the other team member were going to go about composing. Though my choices were motivated by an attempt to pick instruments likely to be universal to both classical and electronic styles of composing , in retrospect, I was lucky to go first because of my current lack of experience composing outside of Finale, and routing new (non acoustic) sound fonts through the program may have delayed progress on the piece further.

Musically, I challenged myself to get outside of a comfort zone once again by composing something a little less melodically flowing than usual, and tried to make it feel frantic/ race like, while leaving the end of my section open for the next composer.

The most difficult part of this challenge was getting organized with team mates. Not everyone was able to respond promptly, so it turned into a waiting/ guessing game for a bit. After it became apparent that Tom and I were the only ones able to participate, it was much easier to coordinate. Admittedly, none of us attempted to contact the other until I sent an icebreaker email a week and a half before the deadline (in a panic I might add). If one of us had a bit earlier, it  may have solved a few problems in retrospect. However, life happens and I do not think anyone on the team should feel too guilty about this.

My favorite part was listening to what Tom came up with as a response to my submission. Working with composers who have a completely different composing style as you is a lot of fun, especially when you don’t know what to expect. What he sent was very imaginative and complimented the piece nicely.It gave me a bit of a rush because, as soon as I received his response, I wanted to begin composing mine. Unfortunately, I was at work and unable to get to it until the end of  the day. Due to differing schedules, that also created a bit of a delay, and it came close to the wire as far as getting it submitted in time.

All in all, I think the result sounds great. Tom does a fantastic job at sound engineering  and created the final rendering of our piece (thank you Tom). You can hear his music at http://tomsnively.com.

As always, please listen to the other team’s pieces for this event  by clicking here.

 

 

Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 4

For the fourth Challenge, Hurdles,  Charlie provided a lead sheet that we were to compose around. The chords represented the hurdles in this challenge.

When I first approached the lead sheet, I played the chords on my keyboard as best as I could. At first,I cringed because the first chords sounded like every popular cliche soft pop song that becomes an irritating ear worm (think Don’t Stop Believing, You’re Beautiful, ect). Being horrified at this realization,   I thought about how I could keep this piece from following these cliches and writing something that sounds like everything else.  Perhaps that was an unintended part of the  challenge.

First, I changed the time signature from 4/4 to 3/4 as most of those songs are in 4/4. After experimenting at the piano with the allowed chord extensions to color these chords, I put them into Finale. Originally I had the default instrumentation set to flute and piano. I listened to the playback over and over again until I came up with a flowing melody line that I could sing back.

After transcribing this melody, I listened to it and realized that it just did not sound right to me with the Midi playback. Just for fun, I went into the instrument list and experimented with the available instruments for playback. I settled for the Recorder with Music box accompaniment The piece, now sounding more lullaby like with these changes, was named Gently Obstructed Lullaby. The obstructions are the seemingly oddly placed chords (aka hurdles) that almost interrupt the predictability of the melody.

 

There was a  surprisingly large variety of treatments to this chord progression and I enjoyed listening to how others avoided the cliche as well. You can listen to the other Olympian’s  hurdles pieces by clicking here.

 

Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 3

Aah Weightlifting: aka Challenge number 3. This was an interesting one indeed.

It took awhile to decide just how to accomplish this task, mainly because I knew I wanted to create the piece as a scribble and doodle, as the 30 second* time limit  for unaccompanied tuba fit my already established guideline of no more than one page. Most of my scribbles and doodles seem to be food themed and I did not have any Tuba solos available, so why not combine the opportunity with the project? Also, I wanted to write something a little out of my comfort zone that would also challenge the Victim..er I mean professional Tuba Player, Eric Ebeling.

In the end, the piece ended up being an avant gard performance piece that I called Lifting a Sneezeburger.  It goes up to a High F..the usual but forbidden upper range  limit of most tuba players I’ve met, but I thought that, because it was  weightlifting challenge, the scalar/ intervalic passage would be befitting. Also, I call for the player to act out the scene  by huffing and puffing at this ludicrous attempt at lifting a 500 lb cheeseburger and even include a “tuba sneeze” at the end.   Sadly, because we could only be provided audio recordings, you can not see the performer acting out the instructions, but Eric did a fantastic job and it is easy to imagine what is going on.

Kudos to Eric for tackling this barrage of solos from us and for being a good sport with this particular Scribble.He definitely earned a medal after reading all of our pieces.

Good news for anyone Curious about these Creations and any Tuba Players who might want to try this particular Scribble out. I offer these pieces for Free (though I would appreciate any notifications if you choose to perform them in public)!!! Please visit the Scribbles and Doodles  page for more information.

 
 
*Most composer’s solos ended up taking more than 30 seconds upon real person playback..including mine. The tempo is marked “free” though it was just under 30 seconds when played back on the notation program.

 
As always, the other composer’s creativity has shone through, especially with the titles. If you want a some entertainment this afternoon, please read these titles and listen to the music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composer Quest Olympics Challenge Number 2

The Second challenge issued to us composers was titled Table Tennis. In this challenge, we were randomly  paired with another composer and we were instructed to pass the piece back and forth, ping pong style.I was paired with Ryan Udairam, a fellow Twin Cities based Composer.

Upon alternating emails to figure out what process would work best for us, we discovered that we don’t live that far from each other.  Our process ended up being that we would pass the piece via XML file as we both use different versions of Finale. Because of the way that we interpreted the directions (which may have been different from Charlie’s intent in retrospect), we agreed to pass the piece every 2 measures, allowing any random time signature change when it was our turn. We each picked two Instruments. Ryan picked Erhu and harp and I picked Alto flute and Crotales.

One of the main difficulties with this challenge was the fact that my current version of Finale is getting a bit ancient and was not interpreting the XML files properly.To remedy this we also began passing pdf files so that we could at least correct things visually to get a better representation. Also, I had to use my imagination a bit since my sound pallet unfortunately does not include the Erhu.

In the end, we almost ran out of time so we agreed to meet in person at an I hop in order to finish the piece. We still obeyed the rules (after all, Charlie did not specify that we could not meet in person to pull this off) by passing Ryan’s computer back and forth like a ping pong ball, making sure to use headphones. After 3 hours, gallons of coffee, and a lot of stares from people who probably had no idea what we were doing, we finished what we ended up naming Koi Fish’s Last Struggle.

Overall, it was a fun and interesting experience co creating a piece like this. Guessing at what direction another composer is hoping you will go and deciding if you will go with that or change direction is what was the most enjoyable aspect of the challenge.

This challenge resulted in some interesting pieces and I urge you to listen to the others works by following this link.

Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 1

In August, I decided to partake in the Composer Quest Olympics Challenge. For Awhile now, I have been listening to Charlie McCarron’s insightful podcast called Composer Quest, while I build printers as a way to educate myself while working a  day job .  Charlie sometimes releases challenges to his listeners to create projects that he calls Composer Quests. Until now, I had been too intimidated to submit anything . Sadly, he is wrapping up the podcast, but as a last hurrah (in addition to his World Tour), he has devised this multi challenge Composer Quest inspired by the Olympics and Bryan Schumann’s thing a week challenge. I  chose to push myself to partake in all of the challenges in part because it is the last one (and thus my last chance to try it in real time), because I am trying to break my introverted habits of finding every excuse to not share my music with strangers (and avert the anxiety that comes with it) and  as a chance to get to know/ collaborate with fellow composers (and again get over some anxiety that comes with talking to strangers).

The first challenge was to pick a national anthem and arrange it in any way you choose.

After hours of listening to find the right one for me, I settled on Nepal’s National Anthem,”Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka” (Made of Hundreds of Flowers).

It is one of the more recently composed National anthems and, according to my Fiance, it has a bit of a Pirate flair to the melody. I chose it in part because I liked the melody and because I find the country’s history intriguing.

The Instrumentation I chose is  Flute, Trombone and Piano. I wanted to make it playable by real people and to represent the diversity of people that live in Nepal by picking an instrument from each family.


Arranging this anthem inspired me to do  bit of research on Nepal, so here I will leave you with a link to this fun Infograpic with a few interesting facts about the country.

Also, Charlie has graciously organized all of the participant’s pieces into free downloadable albums. I encourage you to listen to all of the compositions created for this event (not jut mine). You can listen to and download the first album here.

Fading Into Shadows:A neat Experience with a Future Film Composer (from 2014)

DISCLAIMER* this is a past post from 2014 that failed to get published until now for various reasons. I am sharing this now because it was an awesome experience  and goes tho show that you don’t  necessarily need to go to a large school to do a project like this. Sometimes it just takes a little extra persistence and creativity.

For this blog Post I have invited  fellow YSU Alum, professional Sound Engineer and now Film Composer,  Ryan Cunningham to co author. Last January (2014), Ryan was looking for people to play for this awesome Sr. project Idea that, to my knowledge, had not been attempted at Dana until he had done it this past November. He and his brother, Barry Cunningham, had produced an independent film and he (Ryan) had written the music. Ryan was using the opportunity to combine all of his skills that he had learned as an Undergrad by having us perform the score live (as if we were at a professional scoring session), record it and balance it, then set it to the film for all to watch in the second half of the recital.

Now I will let Ryan  Take the stage  and Tell us a little bit about the process in creating this Project and all of the work that went into it.

Well, the capstone for the recording program at YSU is called the “Senior Project”.The only requirements that the instructor, Jack Ciarnello, puts forth for it is that it 1.) It be something that has not been done in the last 5 years or more and 2.) Be something that you’re extremely passionate about. The school of music requires that it pool all your knowledge of recording from your coursework and that it be presented in a recital setting.

Film, TV, and game music is something that I’m extremely passionate about. More than two-thirds of my iTunes library consist of score music from all 3 genres. I decided that I wanted to do something related to that because Music Recording and Sound Engineering aren’t that too far displaced from Screen Scoring. But, I had nothing original to score to. My brother Barry is a graduate assistant at the University of New Orleans and I decided we should film a short film to give us both experience and an addition to our work reel in our respective fields. Over the course of November and December 2013 we filmed a short film in the Youngstown area. It’s called “Fading Into Shadows”.

After Barry finally got done editing it, I wrote the score in about two to three weeks. During that time I listened to tracks from various TV, film, and video game sources to try and draw inspiration for the music. I didn’t want it to sound like those sources but, hey, it was my first scoring project and I needed to start somewhere. I also posted flyers and contacted people about playing in the ensemble. I would have liked to have a full chamber orchestra ensemble but sadly, that was not to be. Finally, when the music was completed and everyone recruited, the ensemble began having rehearsals in the spring ’14 semester.

We had to push the performance to November ’14 because of an oversight in scheduling for the recital. We lost some members due to this but we gained new members as eager to participate in such a rare and exciting project. the one thing i was excruciatingly frustrated by was how few string players volunteered for the project. That’s not to make any insinuations about the instrument or anything, but everyone seemed to busy or not willing to take a “gratis” gig. I obviously couldn’t pay them but was more than willing to offer my services as a recording engineer for any recitals they might want/need recorded. It was also extremely difficult to try and get some members to show up to rehearsal. I suppose I could’ve sent out reminder texts to remind people to show up. They’re not getting paid to play so it should have been on me to be responsible. At any of given time i could have just threw it all out the window and say “screw it” but I didn’t. I kept going because I am confidant that is what i want to do for the rest of my professional life.

I’ll admit that it was hard on my ego and my confidence. I wasn’t exactly happy when I had to put it off for a semester and replace some members. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head about it.:

“I have to do this over again. I’m gunna lose more people cuz they’ll see me as a schmuck that can’t hack it. I’m never gunna graduate. Why do I SUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK?! ”

But I persevered.

In the recital, I conducted the music for the scenes, pieced some together with the audio/video, and played it for the audience (after the intermission). Two months later, the video has been successfully completed and uploaded to YouTube.

All in all, it’s one of my fondest and proudest musical achievements. It proves to me that when the going gets tough and you feel like life’s beating you to your knees, that isn’t when you give up. It’s when you rise up and get the job done that you can finally see whether or not it was really worth it.

At this point I will take over and tell you a little bit about what it was like from the performance standpoint.:

Performing on this recital was a completely new experience for most of us involved. We received sheet music for cues.It was similar to the way that music is in musical pits in that you may have pieces with a long tacit and maybe a hit every once in awhile. However, instead of accompanying actors on a stage, you were accompanying actors on a screen and, being prerecorded, there was less flexibility for tempo fluctuations. We began the whole process by watching the film sans  live cues to get a picture of the final project. . Ryan conducted the cues wearing headphones and we took several takes to get it just right, being that this was such a new experience for all of us.

My first reaction to the music itself was that of amazement and intrigue. This was my first experience really hearing Ryan’s music and loved the darkness and neo-tonal aspects of his score. It was not quite what I expected given his mellow yet fun personality, but I nonetheless enjoyed it and felt that it accompanied Barry’s film quite well. I was also impressed at how well the film and project were put together, despite  the few difficulties that Ryan discussed prior.Also, it was awesome how the recital was similar to demoing a live recording session for a film to the public, as we played the cues (which were recorded on site) and Ryan then mixed them into the film. After the Intermission, we watched the final  result of the project.

I hope that reading about this project might inspire other composers to team with other musicians and people from other disciplines and think outside the box to come up with new types of projects. Overall, it was a great experience for all involved and one I won’t soon forget.

EDIT as of 11/2016: Ryan would like to note that he will be re-scoring the film in the future.  A few years have passed  since this project wrapped up and he has improved as a composer and feels, along with Barry, that the score could fit the film a bit better (especially since there is no longer a looming graduation deadline).

Additionally, If you are interested in seeing the film in its current incarnation, you can view it here.

Shameless Advertising Alert (but not 100% about me for once)

Hello all,

This is a short post to share something that is not about music  from some talented fellow humans.

I was recently asked to provide a theme song for them and I think what they are doing is kind of cool, so I am sharing this in hopes that they can get some more listeners and be able to keep doing this.

Without further adieu, here is  a link to the first episode  the Audio Armory Podcast.

http://www.podcasts.com/the-audio-armory-98864c284/episode/Episode-1-Broadsword-9199

If you are into  , , and   with the occasional reference to #fantasyblades (did I use enough Hashtags?) Then listen to the Audio Armory Podcast and please leave them a rating and or review on Itunes or your favorite podcasting app. It helps people with this interest area be able to find them.

They can also be found/stalked on twitter at @audioarmorycast.

Thank you! You are safe now from the shameless advertising at the end of this post.

My First Attempt at Multitrack Recording

Recently, I saved enough Swagbucks points to afford a decent starter microphone because I want to learn how to record at at least a basic level to get better audio examples of my pieces.

This is my first experiment in multi track recording. I chose my Alma Mater’s Alma Mater because of the familiarity and special connection with the melody and lyrics.

During the Process, I have learned 1)That I am simultaneously an awful and decent sounding chorus with myself 2)Getting used to the sound in headphones versus outside sound (especially when performing with yourself) is weird, 3)Timing live audio tracks together so that they don’t sound mushy or catch too much outside noise when layering tracks is very difficult for a beginner, and 4)I can see why they say reverb can become the novice’s best friend (and how you can easily use too much)

I have a lot more to learn but I am pretty proud of this first attempt.

The Melody is By Johannes Brahms and it is arranged for vocals by Shannah Kelly (2009).

Thank you for listening and this should be the start of more music to be shared!

World Premiere Announcement

Hello loyal listeners. Though it is relatively short notice, I would like to announce the premiere of a long awaited piece, the Mill Creek Trombone Concerto. This will happen this Friday, August 26,  at 7pm at Holy Family Church in Poland, OH (Live stream pending!) and will be played by Robert Violette (Trombone) and Mary Ann Bush(Piano).

Please enjoy a preview of the first movement with the orchestra midi mock up right here.

 

Disclaimer: Sadly, we could not afford an orchestra for the first time out of the box (budget cuts and the geese eating our savings and whatnot), but it is sure to sound great nonetheless!

Thank you for the listen and I hope you can attend the trombone recital (which also includes several other new pieces from fellow composers  receiving their premiers as well)