Haven’t done so much programming in the past week, but I did try rendering fonts with NanoVG (in lwjgl). Unfortunately it’s really not much better than just using OpenGL’s NV path rendering extension. Small fonts look slightly better, but not really good enough for me to want to use them. See the example below, a zoom-in of an 8-pixel high rendering of the font “Verdana”, NanoVG rendering it on top, NV path rendering below. NanoVG is better, but it’s still way too fuzzy to look any good.
So I might just use bitmap fonts for small text; I can’t see any alternative. (Bitmap fonts basically means loading in each letter as a pre-rendered picture and plopping it on the screen. The disadvantage is that they don’t look very good when resized or positioned between pixels, but they’ll at least be guaranteed to render small fonts clearly and crisply.) I’ll continue to use NV path rendering for larger fonts or fonts that need to be animated more dynamically or rendered with 3D perspective. I do want to try using oversampling with stb for small fonts before I move on from font rendering and further develop a GUI system; the demo doesn’t look too bad.
Kanopy film streaming service
I just realized our local library offers free access to the film streaming service Kanopy, and they’ve actually got a decent selection. Not the latest blockbusters, but some good foreign and classic cinema. (They’ve even got The Red Pill, the controversial anti-radical-feminist documentary which Netflix refuses to stream. (Though they did just recently finally add the DVD to their catalog.)) Since it’s free (for library card holders of participating library systems), we’re limited to 10 streams per month, but the streaming quality is decent. It’s not full HD (at least not on my PC), but it’s better than DVD quality. Interestingly they also allow you to embed videos. Here’s “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”, which I really enjoyed (which I guess you won’t be able to see without an account, haha):
Some metal music
Finally, I recently discovered the band Elvenking. I couldn’t quite get in to some of their older work, but their last album, released last year, is quite catchy. Disregarding the bizarre sense of fashion metal band members tend to share, this song is some power metal awesomeness:
I also came across the latest album from the symphonic metal band Leaves’ Eyes, and found it to be quite catchy as well. Love the use of choirs, the female lead’s operatic voice, and the cheesy fantasy lyrics. (I’m not a big fan of the growl singing, it sounds so gross and ugly and demonic, why is it so popular? It sounds so awful, so unmusical. Bah!)
I hope to release my second full-length album next Friday, December 2nd, 2016. A digital version will be available through my bandcamp page, and I also hope to try releasing an audio CD through Amazon’s CreateSpace. I’ve never tried their CD service before, so I’ll be interested in how it turns out. (That might take a little longer as I don’t know how long it will take for them to send a “proof” copy… we’ll see.)
STORYBOOK OVERTURE, the title of one of the tracks, seemed like an appropriate album title, as many of the tracks were inspired by my book series, Insane Fantasy. You’ll also see I’m reusing the artwork I did for the book on the album cover.
Here’s the track list:
The Storm Cometh
A Stargazer’s Lullaby
The Stormbringer’s Apprentice
Broken Wings and Distant Things
Journey by Moonlight
Lullaby of the Westwind Woods
Secrets of the Ancient Seas
Lullaby for a Quiet Village
As you can see, I’ve already released all but tracks 9 and 10 to YouTube (and track 10 will probably be my next YouTube upload). The total playtime of these tracks comes out to about 70 minutes, so it’s a pretty full album.
It’ll probably be a while before I get the album on iTunes, Spotify, etc., as it’s not really worth the cost with the amount of listens I get (less than 1,000), but I’d like it to be on iTunes and Spotify eventually. It’ll just have to wait for a bit.
Also, I’ll try to email free bandcamp download codes to any Patreon supporters I have at that time. (They can already download most of the tracks on Patreon anyway.)
I uploaded a new piece of music to YouTube earlier today called The Stormbringer’s Apprentice:
I write in the description:
This piece provides the themes for a villain called Stormov, from my book Insane Fantasy. He’s an apprentice for the mysterious “Stormbringer”, and helps to entice new recruits for his master’s evil plans. His themes are mostly dark, but there is a hint of adventure in there as well, as he lures potential helpers with temptations of worldly power.
Also, this is my first video to feature my own attempt at programming my own custom “music animation machine” programmed in Java with jMonkeyEngine. The frame rate is not as smooth as I’d like it to be (I’m still screen-capturing it), but it’s not horrible at least. Anyway, I think I’ll enjoy playing around with it. Obviously it’s inspired by Stephen Malinowski’s work, as I’ve been using his decade-old “Music Animation Machine” program for a long time now.
As mentioned above, this piece is animated with my own custom “music animation machine.” I may release the source code for it at some point for anyone who’s interested in it, but you’d have to download jMonkeyEngine to compile it and run it yourself; I’m not really interested in making into a standalone program right now, as I hope to continue fooling around with the code. The code is also sloppy and contains features I never finished programming, as it’s all part of an ongoing MIDI sequencer project. Also, it doesn’t actually even play MIDI files… it only makes the shapes and animations based on a MIDI file, which is all I need it to do as I sync videos with tracks recorded from Overture in Windows Movie Maker before adding titles and uploading to YouTube.
In case you missed it, last week I posted this track called Storybook Overture:
So that makes five tracks completed so for my upcoming album (which I have no idea what I’ll name yet): Lullaby of the Westwind Woods, The Storm Cometh, A Stargazer’s Lullaby, Storybook Overture, and The Stormbringer’s Apprentice. Together they amount to over 20 minutes, so I’m over 1/3rd finished the album!
In other news, I’ve had several people email me over the last few months asking about whatever happened to the melody generator. Well, I was contacted by a shady underground group that secretly controls the world, and they warned me that the world simply is not ready for something so powerful.
Actually, the project just got to be too frustrating. It was getting enough interest that people were thirsty to learn how it worked, yet not enough interest to fund a Kickstarter, and I just didn’t (and don’t) have the time to give it the attention it needs. I of course haven’t given up on it, but it’s on the back-burner for now until I can get my life sorted a bit more. In the meantime, I’d just rather spend my free time writing music and books and programming games, as those projects tend to actually generate some income. Not much, but something. So I have absolutely no idea when I’ll be able to get back to working on the melody generator. Could be later this year, could be two or three years down the road.
I have an email list here if you’d like to be updated when I actually return to the project: Melody Generator News.
About a year and a half ago, Nightwish was pretty much the only symphonic metal band I listened to, but after stumbling across Xandria last year (especially their album Neverworld’s End, which is perhaps my favorite symphonic metal album so far, or at least tied with Nightwish’s Imaginaerum), I have been steadily expanding my tastes for the genre. I have realized that their often fantastical themes, ridiculously cheesy as their lyrics may sometimes be, provide wonderful inspiration for my writing (perhaps equally cheesy) fantasy.
Just recently, some new singles have been released from some upcoming albums.
First up, there’s Battle of Arcane Might from Twilight Force’s upcoming album Heroes of Mighty Magic. (How’s that for a cheesy fantasy title?)
I’m not so sure about all the girly pink and purple color scheme, but, well, there’s a dragon! Anyway, I love the track; triumphant sound, and a nice cinematic melody.
Then there’s Hammer of the Gods from Freedom Call’s upcoming album, Master of Light:
They’ve got a pretty distinct style, often featuring very anthem-like choruses. I always find them pretty catchy, and this track is no exception.
Finally, there’s The Lost Battalion from Sabaton’s upcoming album The Last Stand:
I actually couldn’t get into Sabaton’s music at first; the main singer’s deeper, grungier voice is quite a difference from the more operatic female vocals featured in bands like Nightwish and Xandria. But they’re still actually singing here. I highly doubt I’ll ever get into those uglier types of heavy metal that feature singers just vomiting into the mic.
Rather than singing about fantasy, their albums are always war-based concept albums. They don’t glorify war for its own sake, but rather tell war stories, often honoring and paying musical tribute to real men who served. So one could certainly learn some history listening to their music. And their melodies, in a different context, could almost be folk songs. But they’re just as catchy in their bombastic epic metal form.
So three upcoming albums I’m looking forward to. Xandria’s also recording a new album at this very moment, which is awesome. Now I just want Ancient Bards to release a new album…
This week, at the expense of working on my next novel*, I’ve been getting back to studying Unity, the game development platform. My new computer handles it beautifully, nice and fast. And I found some great introductory tutorials to start with from a “gamesplusjames” from Ireland, land of me forefathers:
It’s still a lot to take in; I don’t know if it’s just my aging brain or that I haven’t been programming regularly for a long time now, but I’m definitely slower at learning this sort of stuff than I used to be. Anyway, Unity makes a lot of stuff pretty easy; wish something like this was out when I was in high school.
(* On a side note, my writing blog is down for the moment. It was getting inundated with bots, and just pointing the domain back to the registrar was my lazy way to try to get them to go away. It’ll be back at some point.)
With my powerful new computer, I’ve been able to record some “Let’s Plays” on my new YouTube gaming channel, SirDragonWizardMasterLord, the dorkiest name I could come up with.
Probably won’t make them regularly, but it was fun to try, and I was very impressed with how well my computer could handle them; capturing video didn’t slow the games down at all, even with the games’ graphics settings at their highest. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 is just awesome.
Inside Out’s blatant plagiarism!
I saw Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, earlier this week. It was a great film, but as I mentioned on Twitter:
I watched Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies on blu-ray over the weekend, his sequel to his famous Phantom of the Opera. Being a fan of the original, I was curious to see the sequel, though I didn’t really have high hopes. I actually bought the cast recording when it came out, but couldn’t really get into it for whatever reason. And the plot involves the Phantom working at Coney Island, which sounds laughably ridiculous. Finally, the title, Love Never Dies, seems rather a bit melodramatic.
But I actually really enjoyed Love Never Dies a lot. It features some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s better melodies, and the dark mysterious atmosphere they give Coney Island and the other sets complement the dark mysterious atmosphere of the original Phantom.
That said, I think one still has to approach this musical as sort of its own self-contained thing, merely based on the original, rather than a “definitive” continuation. (Especially as the original Phantom ends quite fine on its own, thank you very much; it doesn’t really leave anything to be said.) Though the main characters are back and musical references to the original are all over the place, Love Never Dies still feels a bit like fan-fiction. It has a different “spirit” to it. It’s not nearly as large in scope; rather, it’s a drama among a few characters. Gone is the mysterious and murderous Phantom lurking in the shadows, willing to kill to get what he wants. Now he’s the main character, trying to get back a piece of the love he knows he lost, without resorting to violence. Gone is the romantic and dependable Raoul willing to do anything for Christine; he now likes to drink and is a pretty much a jerk. And now there’s a child, Christine’s son, whom the Phantom quickly comes to realize has more in common with himself than his supposed father, Raoul. Could it be the Phantom has a son? If so, what does it mean for everyone?
So it’s a very different kind of story than the original Phantom of the Opera. But I think if you view it as “story variations on a group of characters” rather than a definitive sequel, it works very well. I enjoyed seeing the a-bit-too-romantic-Raoul turned into a jerk, I enjoyed seeing Christine still caring about the Phantom (though I suppose we must forget that he is a murderer who got away with even burning down an entire opera house), and I enjoyed seeing the Phantom facing the realization that he might be a father. After all, he’s been alone and rejected almost all his life; being able to pass on his interests in music and … dark brooding atmospheres? … seems a salvation. (And having just written a book called Son of a Dark Wizard, I suppose that dynamic appeals to me.)
Perhaps because I’ve been listening to quite a bit of symphonic metal lately, the song Beauty Underneath got stuck in my head the most. It’s a parallel to the title song of the original, only this time instead of leading his love interest to his lair under an opera house, he’s showing his lost-love’s son … a bunch of freaks trapped in glass or something. Anyway, it’s here that he’s realizing the child may share his interests because he shares his blood. Also, I think the singers on the blu-ray do a better job with the song than the cast on the album:
I started writing a book on melody back in 2008, I think it was. Maybe even a bit before then. But then I got sidetracked programming melody generators, namely my Android app and my online version. I learned quite a lot from these endeavors, so I’m glad I spent time with them before continuing my book; it made for fantastic research. I still plan on creating a desktop version of the melody generator, but there’s a lot of interface programming to learn. I really hate interface programming!
In the meantime, I’m returning to writing that book on melody. I’m starting it from scratch, though I have plenty of notes to work from that I made while programming the melody generators, so I have almost all the content I need. It’s just a matter of sorting it out and presenting it in an easy-to-follow way.
For now, I aim on having it done by the Fourth of July, and then releasing it as soon as I can after that. It will most likely be a self-published ebook, though I’m not yet sure how I’ll sell it. I’ll worry about that later.
And now I better turn off my computer… big storm above…
The annoying thing about creativity is that it changes its obsessions abruptly and uncontrollably. I’ve got only two scenes left to write for the novel I’ve been working on for a year and a half, and what does my mind want to do now? It wants to study Mozart’s work and write music. (At least it’s cultured, I guess.) So I spent the last few days working on this little “mini-concerto” for piano and orchestra, Piano Concerto No 0, Opus 67:
I number it ‘0’ because it is meant as more of an exercise than a “real” effort. As you might guess, it was written while studying Mozart’s harmony. In fact, the harmony and voice leading of the first section was almost completely blatantly plagiarized from one of Mozart’s piano concertos. (Figure out which one, if you dare.) But the point of the exercise wasn’t so much to be harmonically original as it was to try playing around with these classical sorts of cadences, inversions, secondary dominants, secondary leading-tone chords, and circle-of-fifth sequences. Most of my music is harmonically super simple, just root-position chords progressing through diatonic triads, such as I-iii-IV-V or I-vi-IV-V (my favorites). I hardly ever use sevenths or inversions or the ugly vii°. I’m not necessarily trying to change my “style”, but I would certainly like to expand it. Who wouldn’t? Plus, I love Mozart, so I’d like to try to understand how he and other master composers keep their chromaticism so beautifully tonic.
Structurally, the above piece is rather lazy. It begins in sonata form, then half-way through the development it section, it repeats and ends. I guess the repeat can count as recapitulation? No? Oh well. I was ready to move on. I’ve never been a sonata-form fan.
While I was working on this piece, I also got some ideas on how to expand my melody generator into a full-blown symphony generator. So I’ve got some programming experiments to try, but they will take a lot of work. So… the Mozart Symphony Generator, coming soon… (we can dream at least)