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Month: February 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 trailer

Forgot to include this on my list of interesting films for 2013 (and I’m sure I forgot plenty of others), but the trailer for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was recently released by Sony Pictures Animation, and it looks interesting:

I wasn’t impressed by the trailer for the first one, but was pleasantly surprised by how hilarious it was when we bought it on blu-ray.  However, it looks like this sequel is written and directed by a different creative team, so we’ll see how well they can carry on the original’s unique brand of humor.

Females saving males in stories

I was thinking about this as I emptied the dishwasher.

Say you have a story like Star Wars, in which a male warrior main character fights the bad guys and saves the female. And gender-swap it. A female warrior main character fights the bad guys and saves the male. The second feels awkward to me. What guy wants a warrior woman to save them?

I’m not talking about the “female action hero” trope in general, I’m talking about female action heroines whose roles in their stories involve saving a male by physically defeating enemies that the male character is too physically weak to fight.

I think it feels awkward because, in the real world, males are generally naturally physically stronger than females. This is simply reflected in stories.

I think the problem with this silly talk and others who analyze gender roles in stories is that they look too much at the method of saving.

Can a female character save a male character?

Of course. And it happens all the time.

Only they usually don’t do it through superior physical strength. Because that’s awkward and unrealistic.

For example, look at Mary Poppins in the classic Disney film, and notice how she saves Mr. Banks. Look at the problem Mr. Banks has relating to his own family, what Mary Poppins teaches him, and what sort of man he becomes by the end of the film. And notice that Mary Poppins didn’t have to use any superior physical strength to do it. (Meanwhile, look at the sort of woman Mrs. Banks is, and notice why she can’t save her husband.)

Other examples are some of the films from Studio Ghibli, such as Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, or the more recent The Secret World of Arrietty. Notice how, at times, the male characters physically save the female main characters at certain parts of the story, but in the course of the overall story, the female saves the male without using superior physical strength, but with empathy and wisdom.

I think the mistake comes from looking at a male action hero, and guessing it’s his physical strength that makes him a strong character. But it’s the other way around. When a male action hero raises his sword on the morning of battle, we are not celebrating his physical strength, we are celebrating his moral principles through his physical strength. His physical strength becomes a symbol of his virtue. This makes sense for male characters, because males are naturally physically stronger. So it’s often pretty awkward to celebrate a female character’s virtues through her physical strength. Rather we do it through her physical beauty and nurturing empathy.

Neither physical strength nor beauty and nurturing empathy are “better” than one another. So even though they are “unequal” in that they are not exactly the same thing, they are not “unequal” in the sense that one is worth more than the other. So having these differences naturally reflected in our stories and art makes perfect sense; it is not some strange ignorant sexism to fight against or compensate for.  (Nor is it some arbitrary cultural phenomenon.)

The Iamus computer composer

According to this article:

“We have taught a computer to write musical scores,” says Gustavo Diaz-Jerez, software consultant and pianist.

“Now we can produce modern classical music at the touch of a button.”

Awesome! Let’s hear some examples!

Oh.

I’ll keep working on my own attempt for now. I want my Mozart Symphony Generator.

In the meantime, here’s Emily Howell creator David Cope performing some John Cage:

In Search of Mozart

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)