Music composition

Daily melodies

[display_podcast]

First of all, you might notice I added little picture of me in the corner there.  I made that with a website called befunky.com.  The site allows you to upload a picture and it tries making a cartoon out of it, though just how cartoony it looks is up to you.  It’s not nearly as good as a real artist doing to work, but it’s fun to play around with.  So that’s how I made my stylized picture up there.  Doesn’t it look great?

Second of all, I just launched a new site.  Do I really need yet another site?  Yes.  I started FreeDailyMelody.com, where I hope to release a new melody every day into public domain.  I have hundreds saved up right now, so I have no worries content-wise, I just hope I can keep up the energy posting them.  I hope it will be a good musical resource for someone out there; there’s no way I’d be able to use all the melodies I have saved up, yet I’d hate to see them go to waste.  If nothing else, the site will serve as a nice public archive.  And I’m releasing the melodies into public domain, so they’re really free for the taking.

Lastly, I finished composing that waltz this morning.  Woohoo!  First piece completed for my album!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Failed that test

[display_podcast]

Yesterday I took that C programming test I mentioned as part of my application for a job to a game development company… and failed!  *gasp*  The test basically consisted of writing two functions.  They said they hoped it would take three to four hours, five at the most.  I wrote the first function successfully, but it took me four hours.  I spent an hour on the second one, then just gave up.  I’m sure I could have done it if I spent a five to six more hours.  Designing the algorithms for the functions weren’t that hard (definitely a bit tricky, but not impossible… kind of fun actually), but doing the actual coding in C slowed me down a bit since I haven’t done it in a while.  I guess it was a good refresher though.  The functions used a lot of the “char” data type, which I just haven’t used much recently; I’ve been using Java lately (mostly because that’s what classes in college used, those traitors!) which I suppose has sort of spoiled me because it makes things like dealing with strings much much easier than the archaic way C deals with them.

My awesome desk

My awesome desk

So, I guess I can’t have a job with that company!  I wonder how often chars are used in the modern game development process?  I really can’t imagine it being used much… so it’s too bad I blame them for my downfall.  Anyway, I’m still keeping my eye open for game programming jobs that look interesting, and I hope they won’t test me too much on dealing with chars.

Anyway, I’m working on composing yet another waltz.  Not sure what to call it yet, but it’s sounding good.  I give a little excerpt in the podcast.  I’m hoping to make it a part of my upcoming album, coming sometime in 2009, at least an hour of all new music… I hope.

And… oh!  I joined TwitPic.  Kind of like my Twitter account, but with pictures.  In fact, I guess I should add links to those on the side.  A fun way to use my camera since I don’t really go anywhere.  I’m a hermit.  And I don’t have any money.  I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.  Somebody help me.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Driving home from work

[display_podcast]

I recorded this driving back from the place I drove to during the last podcast.  The sound quality is awful because I recorded this in the car again.  You don’t have to listen!!  In this episode I blather about:

– I orchestrated a tune called The Cornish Wassail for the free album A Garritan Community Christmas.  I put the piece at the end of the episode.  It’s my first orchestral piece to utilize the piano!  What do you think?

– Saw the book The Complete Guide to Blogging.  Looks interesting, I’d like to buy it, or get it for Christmas.

– I failed NaNoWriMo at 34K words, but continue to work on The Book of Harbringer.  I blather for a bit about my writing experiences.

Sorry for the horrible quality, my car made a lot of noise.  Zoom, zoom, zoom!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Programming

Driving to work

[display_podcast]

Here’s an awful sounding podcast because I recorded it while driving to work, and the car made a lot of noise.  Might be too annoying to even listen to.  But here’s what I talk about:

– I applied for some programming jobs and have been feeling quite nervous about taking programming tests.

– Water drop sounds.

– I don’t want to go to work.

– Got a camera for my birthday, took a picture, and made that illustration with it.

– New Compose Pile episode coming today, December 5th, 2008!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Writing

Happy birthday to me!

I turned 23 years old today, and WizardWalk.com turned 5 years old.  Yay.  Woohoo.  So begins my 24th year of life!

In my 23rd year of life, I didn’t get much music written.  Last year I somehow managed to write over ten pieces, but this year I think I only finished four more, Opuses 42 through 45.  I haven’t uploaded all of them to my MP3s page yet, but I think they’re all on YouTube.  Only four, that’s pretty dismal.  Oh, I also did a Christmas tune orchestration, I orchestrated the Cornish Wassail tune.  I’ll be releasing that soon; it’ll be part of a free Christmas album released by Garritan this holiday season.

Besides writing music, I did get graduate from college.  I suppose that’s the big thing.  No more school.

Oh, I also began my “melody project” … I haven’t been working on that at all this month, but I’ll definitely get back to it, there are a lot of things I’d love to experiment with it.

I’ve been having a bit of an Internet hiatus really this month, since I’m trying to do NaNoWriMo; that is, I’ve been trying to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month.  I’ve got five days left, and to be honest it really doesn’t look like I’ll win, I’m currently behind at about 33K words.  It would still be possible to catch up though, so who knows.  I will say that so far I’ve had the best progress I’ve ever had trying to write a novel.  Most importantly, perhaps, is that I actually planned out the entire plot so I know exactly where everything is going, and I’ve been sticking to it, not adding things that screw everything up like I did with The Game of Gynwig.  Anyweigh, my novel this month is called The Book of Harbringer.  I’ve made a little website about it here, which also contains the first few chapters.

I guess that’s pretty much it!  I think the rest of the week will be mostly dedicated to celebrating Thanksgiving.  We’ve got some relatives coming down so my family can’t cheat and go out to eat like we usually do.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer music

Programming and melodies

[display_podcast]

Been a while, huh?  I haven’t been up to much besides programming.  I did compose a wee bit of music for my album, but my programming has been too much of an obsession lately for me to get much else done.  (I’m also way behind on my email, a couple hundred messages still unread.  Of course, most of it is spam or newsletters I don’t care about, but I’m sure there are some people I need to get back to in there too… and a bunch of YouTube comments I want to respond to eventually.)

Anyway, hopefully you won’t mind it if I just blather a bit on what I’ve been working on.  I started out writing a book on melody, though I didn’t get much writing done at all; I mostly just planned out how I was going to analyze melodies.  Then I started writing a computer program that could be fed melody information and spit out an “analysis” of that melody (“analysis” being mostly a collection of statistics).  It was my intention to use these statistics in my book, but then I decided to try reversing the process.  So I made my program take a melodic analysis and create a melody for it.  That in and of itself isn’t special, it just gives you back the original melody you put in.  But if you change that analysis around a bit, based on similarities of other melodic analyses (and some randomness), you get … new melodies!  Or at least melodies that are variations of the original melodies.  In other words, the more similar two melodies are, the easier they will mix.  The more different they are, the more my program will just regurgitate one of them, after having been unable to mix them that well.

That said, I’ve so far only tried a very limited amount of melodies… probably only around ten at this point.  It’s kind of a tedious process because right now the program only takes text files as input and outputs another text file.  So every melody you want the program to use you have to convert into numbers, and then to hear the melody it comes up with, you have to convert numbers back to notes.  It’s an utter pain!

So right now I am trying to make some sort of a GUI (graphical interface).  I’m working with Java, and I know just about nothing about Java’s GUI, or how to program 2D graphics for it.  Sun Microsystem’s website has a lot of resources about it, but no real solid tutorials that I could find; they’re resources are kind of all over the place and I’m having a lot of difficulty figuring out how to do what I want.  So I might go to the bookstore here soon and see if there are any good books on programming 2D graphics with Java.

My eventual ambition is to create something worth selling, so I don’t really have any plans to share the code or the specifics of exactly how the program works yet, though I admit that I definitely do not think it’s something so incredibly complex and amazing that it will change the world of music… still, I think I personally would really enjoy creating melodies with it… if I can make an easy-to-use GUI.  The logic behind how the program works is pretty much all in place though, though there are some areas that could use improvement.  But I really think the program needs to be using more the 10 or so melodies I’ve given it, so I’d really like to have a nice GUI that would make feeding it melodies much easier, faster, and less tedious.

I’ve uploaded some melodies it came up with at:

http://www.wizardwalk.com/melodies/

… some of them sound awful, some of them have pretty good ideas I think, and some sound too much like one of the melodies fed in (especially that Beethoven’s Ninth one).

So, that’s what I’ve been up to!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

Don’t know much about marketing

[display_podcast]

I had a weird dream the other night in which I was in a used bookstore and was looking for some good books but I couldn’t find any. My siblings, on the other hand, were finding tons of books, some of them even finding books that I myself wanted, but they wouldn’t tell me where they found them. Finally I came upon the musical score for Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, only to open it up and find it was an arrangement for two tubas. What a horrible nightmare.

In other news, my parents came back from my uncle’s with a wonderful surprise: a foosball table! Yay! It’s what I’ve always wanted! So if you ever want to play foosball… get your own foosball table.

I am almost finished reading a boring book called The Marketing Gurus. It’s basically a summary of a bunch of other marketing books. Unfortunately most of the books it summarizes must be horrible. They’re repetitive and spend a lot of time making blatantly obvious points, “be honest in your advertising” and “know about your customers” … if you can’t figure that stuff out on your own, you’re a fool. I guess books on marketing are like books on writing fiction; there are some good ones out there, but most of them are just a waste of bundled paper. Some of the books it summarizes are a bit out-of-date as well, with little or no mention of the Internet.

Anyway, there’s one chapter that states that you should first find a niche, then create a product for that niche.

You don’t need passion … you don’t need a lot of creativity

I blogged about something similar in my Stuff I Found blog. This concept of finding a niche first and not needing passion seems backwards to me. I guess if you can pull it off, good for you, but I can easily imagine most people being unsuccessful at it; passion can be hard to fake. Although, now I kind of want to try it. But I don’t think I will, as it also seems much harder. Seems like you need even more creativity to find a worthy niche. It’d be easier to just think about what product I myself would want and then make that product, if I can afford it. For example, a blog in which I blather would be great. Oh look, here it is!

For a good and up-to-date resource on marketing, I highly suggest the podcast Marketing Over Coffee. Even if you know very little about marketing (like me), these hosts are quite thought provoking, and they don’t just state the blatantly obvious. The podcast also makes me want to eat donuts.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Generative systems, games, and music

[display_podcast]

This is the new blog! Hope you like this new WordPress version! As you may be able to see, I was able to import all my old posts so I’m not starting over completely from scratch.

Perhaps the most significant change to this new blog is that I’m now trying to make a little podcast out of it. Hearing a voice may be somewhat more interesting, or at least more fun for me to produce. That said, I’m sure I won’t be able to record something for every single post, just as I know I can’t post every single day, but I’ll see how it goes.

I got my 2nd rejection slip of ’08 earlier this week for my short story Oberon’s Paradise. I have three or four more magazines I want to try selling it to, then I don’t think I’ll be able to resist the urge to just podcast it with some incidental music, as I think that would be fun to create. I have a few other short stories I’m working on, but nothing near completion yet. And I should really get back to writing my other two novels as well sometime.

SporeAlso earlier this week, I found a very interesting video on YouTube with game designer Will Wright and some musician that I’ve never heard of. They were talking about generative systems, which Wikipedia calls “systems that use a few basic rules to yield extremely varied and unpredictable patterns.” So, they are basically systems which are good at producing emergent properties. The video from YouTube is just a clip from a much longer talk they gave (available to see here) which I could not resist sitting through. In the longer video, you get to see Will Wright talk about the role of generative systems in games and, more specifically, in the upcoming game Spore. He also touched briefly on the subject of applying generative systems to narrative stories, which I also thought was pretty fascinating.

Anyway, this is the YouTube clip.

One other thing that caught my attention in the longer video. Take a look at what they say about music:

Will Wright: Can you imagine any sort of even this past computational filter that would pre-listen to the music, analyze the structure, look for a pattern, whatever, that would at least prune out the 90% that you obviously don’t want to listen to and let you focus your efforts on the 10% that has some promise?

Brian Eno: Would you like to work on that for me?

Will Wright: Sure, I would love to. You just have to give me the algorithms, I’ll cut it right up for you.

Brian Eno: No, it’s, funnily enough there’s been a lot of research into that, because you know there are always people trying to figure out how you write a hit.

Will Wright: Oh, I see. Formalizing the–

Brian Eno: Something I wouldn’t mind knowing about.

Will Wright: The hit generator.

Brian Eno: So there’s been all sorts of attempts to do that, but they’ve been astoundingly unsuccessful so far.

I would agree that for the most part, most people exploring that area have been unsuccessful (though I honestly believe it’s only a matter of time) but I wonder if Mr. Eno is at all familiar with David Cope’s awesome work? His computer program doesn’t write music in exactly the way Will Wright describes, but I’d still say Cope’s program is, in a way, a form of a generative system.

So, as I have started writing a book on the art of melody (or started planning it, really), I think I will definitely explore the subject of a generative system for melody. I’m not sure I’ll do anything really new, but it must be a fascinating area of study.

Oooh, I just visited Mr. Cope’s site, and it looks like he’s got two free rough-draft books up temporarily, one on musical suggestions for beginning music students and one on … of all things, board games! Games, music, generative systems, it’s all related! I love it!

😀

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

High School Memories

One of my friends from high school uploaded a high school video project we made to YouTube. It really brought back a lot of hilarious memories… a lot of inside jokes though.

He also uploaded a lot of the PowerPoints we did in high school. Instead of doing boring text-based presentations, we often created primitive animations and recorded our voices so that we wouldn’t have to do much talking during our presentations. My friend wrote some great descriptions of the projects; I had forgotten a lot about them, so reading the descriptions almost had me in tears laughing.

Though I still don’t believe I gained much from going through high school and still believe high schools should be abolished, it was great remembering the more hilarious times.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Genius thoughts

My first proposition is that “genius” is like “greatness” … it is an abstract concept the comes from our human brains, it is a word that describes what we think of something.

That said, it’s subjective. It is not objective. Some people don’t seem to like the notion of subjective greatness or subjective genius. They ask “who was the greatest composer?” or “how can we know the greatest music when we hear it?” They don’t seem to understand the notion that “greatness” is a thought, a psychological factor. It is not like size or mass, properties that manifest themselves in the physical touchable world.

So … what or who is “genius” is completely subjective. However, I think we’re raised in a world that doesn’t like to admit that.

Secondly, everyone is pretty intelligent. I think we often think of math skills as being the biggest “genius” factor … how well someone can do calculations in their head or how well they can do in a math competition or on a math test become measurements of “genius.”

But if you learn anything from studying artificial intelligence, from trying to make a computer do some simple human tasks, you realize how hard some human feats are. Being able to see a picture and instantly recognize all kinds of objects and structures in milliseconds … pretty amazing. Being able to balance on one foot, being able to fall forward just enough to put enough weight on the other foot as when walking … pretty amazing. Being able to hear sounds and interpret meanings out of them quickly, being able to structure new sentences with new meanings in seconds, being able to think in images and to have ideas and to decide what to do one morning … all pretty amazing things.

But they don’t really seem that amazing in the real world. Why? Because everyone can do them. Even the dumbest idiot can walk and talk. But the smartest robot who can calculate faster than the human calculator, who can beat a grandmaster in chess, can’t walk or talk, not with the ease of a human.

So perhaps we like to think of a “genius” not necessarily as someone who’s “really smart” but as someone who’s just plain special, someone who can do things that most people can’t. (Especially if it involves math.)

Which brings me to my next proposition: anyone can do just about anything. Not everything, but anything, with dedication. That is, sometimes it’s dedication that we replace with “genius” … after all, dedication can be extremely hard. Have you tried writing a book lately? Yikes.

Or take piano playing. Often those who can play very well are deemed intelligent, smart, smarter than average at least. I wouldn’t disagree of course (least of all because I can’t play myself), but I do believe it’s something anyone can learn, anyone who’s willing to give it dedication.

That’s probably not much of a proposition … you probably knew that already, huh? I don’t know. Sometimes I meet people and they feel like it’s “too late” for them … or they feel like if they weren’t “born with the talent” then there’s no way to gain it, even though it seems to me that all talent is gained through dedication.

All that said, yes, I do agree that some people can learn certain things faster than others. Some people have certain subjects come to them more quickly. Is that perhaps the measure of genius?

It’s kind of sad how we all might have some instinctive need to feel special, yet at the same time we can recognize that we can’t really be, not how we’d like to be.

I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore, I’m just blathering. That’s what this blog is for. Reading back over this post, I already sort of disagree with myself in some parts. Oh well. What do you think? Truth is an emergent property, eh?

People like to suffer!

By S P Hannifin, ago