Fiction books

Deadline failure and other such things

I was hoping to compose 5 minutes of music a week, starting last Tuesday, but unfortunately I was only able to compose 2 minutes and 46 seconds by this past Sunday.  So I fail!  Shocking, no?

I blame a few things:

deadlineclock1)  My job. It’s a part-time job, so I can’t blame it for taking up too much time, but it does take up time.  So I must blame it.

2)  Fatigue. This is also job related.  When I have to work at 9 AM, that means I am pretty much tired throughout the day.  Which isn’t a problem for doing most things.  But I think a lot while I’m composing; it’s a very mind-intensive activity; it takes a lot of focus for me.  And when I’m fatigued, music has a way of lulling me off to the land of pleasant dreams, especially the incredibly fantastic music I compose.  So it is extremely difficult to compose while fatigued.  I did try taking some caffeine tablets, but alas, no effect.  I must have high caffeine tolerance.  I could feel it make my heart beat faster, but nothing else.  Of course, caffeine really isn’t supposed to be used to counter sleep-deprivation, so maybe it has nothing to with tolerance.  But that’s what some people seem to use it for and they swear by it.  It doesn’t help me though.

3)  Not being able to stay up all night. Again, job related.  Since I have to be at work at certain hours, I am not free to simply stay up as late as I want composing and then just sleep until I am not tired anymore.  (Not that this problem doesn’t plague most people.)  I sometimes seem to think more actively at night, perhaps because there are fewer distractions; the TVs and radios are off, no one’s on the phone and no one calls, etc.  But I can’t use the time to my advantage if I need to get some sleep in before going to work.

4)  Perfectionism. Or pickiness.  I spent 2.5 hours a few nights ago composing and orchestrating 4 bars.  I think that’s the longest 4 bars ever took me.  But I’m very pleased with the result.  Though I suppose I could fiddle around and tweak orchestration for many many hours, it always eventually has to come to a point in which I am pleased enough and must move on.

5)  Other stuff. For example, on Tuesday, I had to spend time tidying the house for guests.  Chores are evil and must be blamed.

That said, I must say I’m extremely pleased with the progress I’ve been making with my latest piece so far.  I went to bed yesterday with the melodies I composed annoyingly humming through my mind uncontrollably.

A big disadvantage of giving myself a deadline has emerged: I get angry. And stressed.  And a bit depressed.  And what fun is that?  I blame all the other stuff I must do, like go to work, which just makes going to work that much more painful and annoying.  So I’m very much considering throwing away the deadline and just composing as often as I can.  I don’t want to be angry by having goals and then not reaching them due to things like having to go to work that I can do little about.  Or I could just blame my undisciplined self for not being more disciplined and getting more done when I do have chances, but that won’t make me any happier either.

FEDERATIONS

federationsSince I don’t have much time for composing, I have even less time to read, but in what short moments I can spare, I’ve been reading a collection of science fiction short stories in a book called Federations.  Here are my very short reviews of the few stories from the book I’ve read so far.  They are only my subjective opinions, and I am perhaps more picky than most (ratings are on a scale of 0-5 stars):

Mazer in Prison by Orson Scott Card:  4 stars.  I actually read this in another book before, so I skipped reading it again, but I almost always enjoy Orson Scott Card.  Very good story from the Ender’s Game universe.

Carthago Delenda Est by Genevieve Valentine:  2 stars.  Though the premise was very interesting, the author didn’t seem to do much with it.  It was more of an idea story, as nothing much really happened.  A world was presented, some unimportant things took place, and that was it.

Life-Suspension by L. E. Modesitt:  0 stars.  Interesting characters with interesting dynamics.  But nothing very interesting happened.  And there were these battle scenes that were too cryptic for me with all their pilot-in-battle speak.

Terra-Exulta by S. L. Gilbow:  3.5 stars.  Not really a story, but a very fun fictional letter.  I enjoyed it.

Aftermaths by Lois McMaster Bujold:  1.5 stars.  Again, an interesting premise, but an uninteresting story.

Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy by Harry Turtledove:  2 stars.  Had it’s funny moments, but most of it’s humor was just stale and annoying, as if the author just wrote the story off the top of his head, writing down every stupid joke he thought of.  Didn’t really work for me.

Prisons by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason:  3.5 stars.  Started off a bit confusing, but once the story started rolling, it was actually quite good.

Different Day by K. Tempest Bradford:  0 stars.  Yikes.  While I like the idea of not portraying an alien race as a clichéd “monoculture” (as we humans certainly aren’t), this not-really-a-story didn’t really do much with it.  It’s just a three page ramble.

And that’s all for today, methinks.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Deadline

As you may have noticed, I am no longer concerning myself with the Hours project.  Took too long, obviously.

cds I really want to finish my album before the end of the year; before Christmas if possible.  So I’m going to try giving myself a deadline of October 31st to finish all the music for the album.  October 31st 2011 that is!  No, no, the end of this October.  Part of me hates to give myself a deadline because I would much rather work at my own leisure, composing when I feel like it.  On the other hand, I really want to finish the album.  And I want to get working on other albums.  I’ve got so much music flowing through my head lately that I really want to get out.

Fortunately I only have about 15 more minutes of music to write for the album to be at least 60 minutes long.  So if I can write at least 5 minutes of music a week, I should be set to go.  So for now I’m giving myself until Sunday, October 4th, to write 5 more minutes of music.  I’ll let you know if I succeed or fail.

Then when (or if) I finish the music at the end of October, November will involve getting everything else ready to go, ordering the CD replication, and getting it out there (mostly to CD Baby and Amazon).  I am hoping it will also be the first album of The Worlds Inside series I’m starting.

For a little while, I became a bit interested in trying to replicate some mini CDs.  I thought they might be cheaper since they’re smaller.  After researching around and asking for some quotes (since it seems not that many companies want to publish prices for mini CD replication), it seems it’s actually more expensive, I suppose because it’s just less popular.  It would save on postage though, but not quite enough to make it worthwhile, at least not for a first album.

When you ask for price quotes from a bunch of different companies, some will just email you back a price, others will email your three times before they give you a price letting you know that you will soon be receiving a price, some fill their quotes with guarantees and promises and statistics of how many customers they’ve pleased, and some treat you as if you’ve already signed a deal with them.

Anyway, I haven’t really been up to much [that is not super top secret] lately.  So I won’t write anything else in this post.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Across the Kingdom

Just a quick post here to mention that I’ve uploaded another YouTube video of my latest piece, Opus 52, an orchestral piece called Across the Kingdom.  For some reason, I ended not using the harp at all.  Amazing, huh?  Much of the piece consists of the chord progression I-vi-IV-V (or sometimes vi-iii-IV-V).  In fact, the second half was almost entirely about seeing how many melodies I could compose to the progression, while not completely overdoing it or making the melodies sound too distant from each other.  Kind of makes the bass line a bit boring, but the focus doesn’t always need to be on you, you bassists!

So that makes 6 pieces for my upcoming album: White Castle Waltz, On the Edge of a Dream, The Dragon King, Voyage of the Dream Maker, Dance of Fools, and now Across the Kingdom.

I have at least 4 other pieces started that need finishing, some of which will surely be on the album as well.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

A whole lot of Mozart

Mozart!

Yesterday I got my Mozart Edition: Complete Works (170 CD Box Set)
in the mail, a nice box set containing all of Mozart’s work (not including his lost or incomplete works, for contrary to a popular myth, he did not completely compose entire pieces in his head and later write them out).  I’m really excited to have such a collection at my fingertips.  And since most of Mozart’s scores are also available for free at this website, studying his music will now be extremely convenient.  I have to admit, a part of me was expecting this box set to include poor recordings, thus allowing it to be the bargain it is, but the recordings are actually very good quality.  Avid classical music collectors might argue that there are certainly better albums out there with better performances, but such albums can cost $10 to $18 for a single CD, whereas with this box set, each CD is less than $1.  Awesome value!

They also have Bach Edition: Complete Works (155 CD Box Set) and Beethoven Edition: Complete Works (85CD Box Set) and such, and hopefully someday I’ll buy them too, but I had to start out with Mozart.

My first album progress

I also recently finished composing a new piece for my album called Voyage of the Dream Maker.  I uploaded a YouTube video featuring the piece here. It’s my Opus 50!  (By my opus counting at least.)  That brings my album to about 35 minutes of finished music so far (White Castle Waltz, On the Edge of a Dream, The Dragon King, Voyage of the Dream Maker, and an unfinished 15-minute piece), so I’ve got about 25 minutes of music left to compose… and I’ve got some more great melodies I look forward to working with.

The new CD Baby is now up and running, which looks, eh… like it wasn’t worth the trouble of changing (in my opinion).  But their new features might be convenient in the future.  Last I checked, however, their accounting database still isn’t up yet, which is annoying… not that I really need it very soon anyway, as I’m only selling one download…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

CD Baby changes coming?

Still really enjoying my new laptop.  I recently finally got my music software installed, and have been working on a new piece, which I think is turning out really well.  It is great to be able to compose in high-def, 1920×1200 resolution.  Less scrolling!  And this laptop has 4 GB of RAM, which is great for loading up a bunch of virtual instruments.

Now on to some other news.  As you may know, I have my CD single, White Castle Waltz, for sale on CD Baby.  I’ve recently been notified by CD Baby that my music stinks and they will no longer sell it.  No, just kidding, actually they sent out an email about changes they plan on making to the site very soon.  Like, either tonight or tomorrow.  One of the new features they’re adding is “the ability to sell single-song downloads” with a “music uploader, so you don’t need to send in a CD for your download-only titles.” I’m a bit excited a bit these new features. I’m still working on my album and will definitely sell it as a CD when I have an hour’s worth of new material, but in the meantime I think I’ll soon be able to sell the songs as I finish them, instead of just sitting on them. (Right now I’ve got White Castle, which I’ve already made about $5 off selling the download, On the Edge of a Dream, which isn’t available anywhere, but at least it’s on YouTube, so I suppose one could rip it from there, and The Dragon King, which I don’t have anywhere yet.)

What I might be able to do is offer a discount on my album once it comes out to anybody who had downloaded the MP3s… otherwise it seems a bit silly to buy MP3s only to re-buy the music on a completed album.  Anyway, I’d have to work out the $$$ side of it, since CDs obviously cost money to manufacture…

And hopefully all this attempt at making some $$$ from my music won’t displease anyone too much, since I already give away so much for free… (though I do believe these tracks for my album are among the best I’ve ever composed… though I guess I’m always a bit biased towards my latest composition)

Ok, that’s all.  There is no more.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Programming

Blagh … and java programming

I’m tired.  My sleep schedule is just terrible.  That holiday weekend wasn’t good for me.

I don’t have much to say right now anyway.  I’m not sure I’ll have my first album ready by August anymore; my interests have once again shifted to something else.  Over the past week, I’ve been working on my melody project again, something I started quite a few months ago (August 2008), but it’s just been sitting there for a while.  I made some minor improvements to the algorithm (to be more specific, I took the recursive inverse directional beta loops and strongly conjoined them with the dysfunctional relative note sequence data curves coupled with reticulating splines, and programmed in the consciousness of a monkey. (More seriously, I changed the algorithm so that the output melody would be guaranteed to not be any of the input melodies, which had been a threat in the previous version if you were mixing only a few melodies that didn’t sound very much alike.  With the modified algorithm, the program forces the melodies you’re using to mix.  Overall, I think it gives better results, but it depends on the melodies you input and how similar they already sound (and your own melodic tastes, of course).)), and I also made this spiffy javascript page which aids in the formatting of the text files the program uses as input.

What I’d like to do this summer is release the melody project in it’s current form so that others can fool around with it.  I’m hoping to turn it into a Java applet that will run on a web page.  It shouldn’t be too hard; it’s already Java after all.  I mainly need to program a good input-output system, since it can’t so easily load and save text files from a visitor’s computer, since it will be on a web page.  I can load the text files from my server easily enough, then I suppose the output could just be text in a text box.  That would be the easiest, and will probably be what I end up doing to start off with.  But that is a pretty annoying burden for the site visitors; they’ll have to interpret the output text by themselves (it’s not really hard, it’s just extra labor).  So I’ll have to program a text-to-MIDI converter so visitors can easily and quickly hear what the output melodies sound like.  And then there are a thousand other improvements I could blather on and on about, but those are my first ambitions.

So that’s what I’ve been working on…

Oh, and remember to vote for a note!  (That whole experiment is going to take forever…)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Summer and time

It will soon be (or is today) a year since I’ve been out of school, completely free from formal education. It’s strange because time passes much more quickly when you’re not really waiting for summer to come. When I was in school, I was always thinking about future due dates, and I always had the next break or three-day weekend lingering in my mind, looking forward to it so I could sleep in. My mental schedule was always full; I was always anticipating something. Without all that schedule aniticipation, the days have really flown by. I once read somewhere than one reason time may seem to fly by as you get older is because you don’t experience new things as often, where as when you’re young, the days are often filled with new experiences. I think not anticipating anything, not consciously waiting for anything also makes time fly. I can vividly remember sitting there in a classroom listening to a boring teacher blather on and on and looking at the clock, realizing school wouldn’t be over for another three or six hours, and just suffering. Watching the clock makes it tick very slowly. Better to spend time doodling in the notebook if you can get away with it.

That said, I don’t mind at all how fast time is flying by! It sure beats going to school.

What I admit I don’t like is hearing about around this season is other people’s vacations; it makes me want to retire. My last real vacation was 8 or 9 years ago to Disney World. But these days it seems like a pain to go on vacation. You have to secure time off work, do all this packing, take a long trip, and sleep on a dirty hotel bed (they don’t wash the mattresses), and the fellow vacationers might be annoying to share a hotel room with. And you have to spend a bunch of money. And then there’s the trouble of a vacation coming to an end. I think it’d be better to retire first, and then go on vacation . . . and never come back. Or have a job that requires travel so you don’t have to pay for it.

Anyway, I’m still spending my free time composing music for my album (or watching Hulu). I have around 6 pieces started, not sure which one I’ll finish first, but whichever one it is will be Opus 50.  Bwahahaha! (I’m really already over 50 pieces if you count all my work, but I’m only counting the ones I have listed on my MP3s page, and the three I’ve already finished for my album). So far the plan of having the album complete in two or three months is looking good! Hope you don’t mind my constant blathering about it, I’m really not up to much else. I’d probably get a bit more done if I didn’t sleep in at every opportunity though. My body still naturally wants to stay up all night and sleep until 1 PM.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Why e-books stink

Technology opinion

I keep hearing mention of the kindle and other e-readers, and I see them at book stores on display. They do look nice, definitely better than reading from a computer screen. They’re small and look easier to carry around. They look pretty darn convenient; I’d like to have one. Unfortunately, they stink.

The main reason I think they stink is because, to read a book, I would be paying for a digital file. So . . . what if I don’t like the book? Can I return it? How much control do the e-reader makers have over my collection of digital files? Can I copy them to a new e-reader if I get one from a different manufacturer? Can I copy them to my computer and copy and paste text I like? I can re-sell my old books, but what about some old digital book file I don’t care about anymore? I wouldn’t be able to get a penny for it, would I?

I currently have a part time job at the local library, and I’d say about 66 to 75 percent of the books I read are from the library. Because they’re free. If I really like a book and want to keep it, I’ll buy it, but I’m very hesitant to pay money for a book from an author I’m unfamiliar with. I use the library to “demo” books. And, as long as no one else has the book on hold, I can demo it for however long I want. Unless a similar structure could be set up for e-books, where I can freely “check-out” books for an unlimited amount of time, I won’t be buying an e-reader anytime soon. The costly monetary disadvantages outweigh the spacial ergonomic advantages.

Also, another thing I would love to have with an e-reader is the ability to underline or highlight text, and then view the writing with or without the highlighting. When reading traditional books, I always have the urge to highlight certain sentences. But I don’t highlight, either because the book is from the library, or because I simply don’t want to create distractions for my future self if and when I ever go back and look into the book again. The ability to view my books with or without my own highlighting would be a major selling point. (But I’d still want the ability to have complete control over my files, no DRM crap.)

My first album news

In other news, I finished composing my third piece for my album, and I’m calling it The Dragon King (Opus 49) … bum bum bum! But, like Dragon of the Mist, it doesn’t sound threatening; it’s not an evil dragon. (I also subtly slipped in the melody from Dragon of the Mist for a couple measures, bwahahaha!) So, about 16 minutes of music is now finished for my album (White Castle Waltz, On the Edge of a Dream, and The Dragon King). I’ve got quite a few other pieces started that I’m still working on (one is over 12 minutes long and will most likely become the longest piece I’ve ever written). I’m hoping to have the album out by mid-August. Right now I’m focusing all my creative energy on it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

Logic is illogical

It’s been very busy here.  In addition to having house guests (who left near the end of last week), someone quit at the place I work (a part-time job, still don’t have a full-time, and not really anxious for one), and I picked up a lot of additional hours that I’m still not quite used to.  My hours just about tripled.  I don’t mind at all the extra money this will bring in, but I have to get used to the new schedule.  This week it’s been a bit exhaustive, but hopefully I’ll get used to it and get into the groove of things.

I finished reading Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique last week, and posted some quotes on my Book Quotes blog.  ‘Twas a good book, I recommend it… I’d like to buy it in paperback if/when it comes out.

I’m now reading Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht.  I read somewhere (maybe on the author’s website?) that the author originally wanted to call the book “A History of Atheism” or something.  That’s basically what it is, the history of the questioning of religion, or doubting it.  That said, it’s not a book of “why atheism is correct” or “why religion is correct” … it doesn’t really seem to make any religious judgments itself, it’s more a “history of religious philosophy” book.  For someone like me who doesn’t know much about history, or religious history for that matter, it’s very educational.

So far, I’ve only read the first two chapters (which are the first 85 pages), and there seem to be qutie a few philosophers of old who questioned how we can really know anything or what the point is of questioning things is when answers cannot be obtained.

But maybe how we humans understand logic in the first place is fundamentally flawed in a way we can do nothing about.

So often we think in terms of cause and effect, an event and a reason for it, a “why?” for everything.

For many things, this seems logical.  Something happens, we ask “why?”, we come up with a reason, and that’s that.  The trouble is, we can always keep asking “why?” again.  And again.  Ad infinitum.  This usually leads us to some point where we can go no further, a point where we have to say “I don’t know” and that’s that.  But even if we could come up with answer, what would be the point?  We would just ask “why?” again, and it would have to go on forever.  Every event would have to have an infinite number of causes, going backwards for eternity.  If it goes on forever, then isn’t that the same as there being no answer at all?  There can be no end point.

One could cheat, and go in circles.  “Why are you the boss?”  “Because I tell people what to do!”  “Why?”  “Because I’m the boss!”  Of course, such circular logic is considered a logical fallacy.  But real logic isn’t always much more helpful, even though it seems to make more sense to the mind.  But if logic isn’t circular, is it linear?  A line that goes on forever?  That’s just as useless as a circle!  In fact, just about every shape logic could be in is useless.  (Well, depending on what you’re using it for.)  The whole cause and effect, one thing from another, dominoes of logic . . . ultimately I think it’s a flawed way of looking at the universe, of trying to discover truth.  But right now I have no earthly (or heavenly or hellish) idea of what it could be replaced with.

I’m sure these are not new thoughts for the world, but . . . well, there it is.  Logic is illogical!  Don’t ask me why!  Let me know if you have heard of any philosophers who have had similar thoughts, as I should very much like to read about them.  There’s gotta be someone out there, some form of thought I haven’t heard of yet…

On an unphilosophical note, I had a weird dream a few nights ago.  Near the end of it, a bunch of people gave me a bunch of presents, and it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas or anything.  Being quite astounded at my good fortune, I thought “this must be a dream!  I’m going to wake myself up!” and with some strange mysterious semi-lucid mental process, I awoke myself.  It was like my uncontrollable subconscious willingly giving control back to the my real conscious self.  It was a really strange strange experience.

I call the blog “Blather” so I can blather ya know!

That’s all for now.  Oh, in case you missed it, I posted a YouTube video a few days ago right here.  It’s a piece I’m hoping will be on my first album, which I’m hoping will be finished this year.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Whining about composing woes

It’s been quite a busy week.  I don’t have a full-time job yet, but I have a part time job at our local library, and I’ve had to work pretty much every day this week.  Plus we have company in the house, some family members in for a visit, which is nice!  But it does make the non-working hours busier than usual.  (And I’m trying to be quieter at night, instead of popping popcorn and watching TV at 2 AM as I often do.)

I’m finally working on some new music, which is of course really fun.  Not sure what I’ll call the piece yet, but I’ll think of something.  It’s about 3 minutes so far.  I hope to put it on my album.  The weather has been really hot here (in the 90s), and my parents don’t use the air conditioning enough in my opinion, and I have found it’s hard to compose when I feel too hot.  Quite annoying.  So I turn my desk fan on, but it’s noisy, so I can’t orchestrate things quite right unless I turn it off, and then I get too hot again.  Isn’t that just terrible?!  Also, I need new headphones.  I have some nice Sennheiser wireless headphones, which are awesome for just about everything, except composing.  The bass is too loud with them, and when your computer plays really loud or soft sounds, it automatically lowers or raises their volume.  I think that’s great for movies and games; there’s nothing I hate worse than a loud noise suddenly piercing the ears (and most of the time you don’t even notice it).  But it’s not good at all for orchestrating.  It also almost sounds like they add a tiny small amount of reverb to everything, which is also annoying.  Lastly, they’re wireless, so they’re never really completely noise free, which, again, is really only a problem when composing.  So I need even better, more expensive headphones for composing.  (The reason I love the wireless headphones so much though is that normally I always break headphones by messing up their wires.  I roll the chair over them, yank them, twist them, tangle them… for most purposes, the wireless headphones are the best solution.)

Haven’t been up to much else lately.  I still won’t have much free time this week either.  Boo-hoo.

By S P Hannifin, ago