Music composition

Album update

We got about a foot of snow on Saturday, so I got off work all weekend and Monday.  Woohoo!  That was awesome.  Loved it.

It also gave me some time to work a bit more an my album, so here’s a little update on that as I get closer and closer to finishing this thing…

Some hours ago, I finished composing the last measures of a piece called A New Journey Begins which will be the last track on the album.  I have one more track to finish composing called Castle Sky.  That’s the one that’s over 15 minutes long.  I’m almost done; I just have to reorchestrate some things and compose an ending.

The album will be called Voyage of the Dream Maker, named after one of the tracks, and I think the name fits the spirit of the entire album.  It will have 12 tracks, over an hour of original music, most likely in the following order (you’ll recognize some of them from my YouTube channel, if you’re familiar with my YouTube channel):

1. Across the Kingdom
2. I Will Not Go Home Again
3. Voyage of the Dream Maker
4. The Secret Lullaby
5. Awaken
6. White Castle Waltz
7. The Dragon King
8. On the Edge of a Dream
9. Clockwork
10. Seeing Infinity
11. Castle Sky
12. A New Journey Begins

I can say with 90% certainty that the album will be available in May.  That might seem like a while (around 3 months), but that’s being gracious with myself; it might be out sooner.  I of course want it to be out as soon as possible, but I also want to be pleased with it.  Even after I finish composing, I want to go back through all the track recordings and tidy up everything as best I can, mixing/mastering, blah blah blah, whatever.  There’s the graphics for the jewel case and CD.  Then there’s the actual physical manufacturing and CD Baby processing.

And… that’s it, I guess.  So if you have to mark your calendars, I think May is a very safe bet.  Again, might be sooner.  Some of the process is of course out of my hands.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

My good friend snow

My dreams and wishes came true today as we got over 8 inches of snow, allowing me to sleep in and stay home from my usual weekend job. And I get to stay home again on Sunday too. Woohoo! Thank you snow, I appreciate your kindness.

I spent the free time wisely. I slept (as I already said) and I worked on some music. I finished a 7-minute piece I call Seeing Infinity (Opus 58). It is the 10th piece completed for my upcoming album. I have two more pieces to finish up, so I’m hoping I will be able to have all the songs completed some time in February. One is over 15 minutes long, and it needs some (maybe a lot of) orchestrational editing and an ending. The other is much shorter, only 2 or 3 minutes long. It needs just a dash of orchestrational editing and an ending as well. So the melodies and structures and whatnot are all there, they just need a good polish. Then my album will be done, over an hour long with 12 pieces of music, some short, some longer, some in the middle.

Of course, then it will take another month or so to actually get the thing manufactured and processed by CD Baby. But that will be the easy part for me.

I guess that’s it for now.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Birthday presents and whatever

We celebrated my birthday on Saturday, and I must say, it was a happp birthday!  I got some hand-made bunny pajamas from my great aunt.  (I didn’t get the BB gun I wanted, though, because apparently I’d shoot my eye out.)  I also got this blu-ray and these books.  So, ’twas good.  And the cake’s already gone.

I also finished playing the game Portal the other day.  It’s a short game; only takes about 6-8 hours (though I’m sure one could get good at getting through the thing in less than an hour with some practice).  It’s a puzzle/action game, and is very addicting.  You basically use a “portal gun” (or whatever it’s called) and create portals in the walls that then connect to each other.  For examples, you could create a portal right in front of you and one right behind you to create an infinite hallway.  Or create one right above you and right below you to create a bottomless pit.  To win the game, however, you must create portals to solve puzzles, getting yourself and boxes and weird energy balls from one place to another, over and around obstacles.  And, at the end, it plays this really catchy song.  I haven’t played the bonus levels yet.

I still haven’t done any more programming for my Android game, but I did compose another short 2-minute piece of music called “Clockwork.”  It’s not really as bombastic as my other pieces; it’s kind of light-hearted background music.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Happy birthday to me and such

On Wednesday, I turned 24, twice as old as I was when I was 12!  It’s like I’ve lived to be 12 years old twice.  So I now enter my 25th year of life, and this website enters it’s 7th year of existence, if I’m doing that math right.

During my 24th year of life, I completed 9 pieces of music, opuses 46 through 54.  That’s not too bad, is it?  Opus 53 and 54 I just wrote in the past week, and they are pretty short pieces.  One is called “Awaken” and is only 1’30”, the other is called “I Will Not Go Home Again” and is only 2’12”.  I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll put them on the album.

And I’ve already finished opus 55 yesterday, on Thanksgiving.  It’s a 4 minute lullaby I call “The Secret Lullaby.”  Why I call it a “secret” lullaby is a secret, I’m afraid, because it is a secret, and thus, a “secret” lullaby.  It is a very big secret, though, and you can’t handle the truth!  I think I will definitely put it on the album.  I cannot stop listening to it; I have severe “pleased composer syndrome” with it.

We haven’t celebrated my birthday yet, so I can’t tell you what presents I got.  Is 24 too old to be getting presents?  Of course not, you should get presents forever!

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.  We went out to eat, and I didn’t eat much, but I was stuffed.  My appetite is about a third of what it was during high school.  Of course, my backwards sleeping schedule could also be partly to blame; at the time of eating my body wanted to sleep, not digest.

Now it’s early Friday morning (about 2 AM).  I do hope to get some cheap blu-rays or something on sale today, but I’m not going anywhere early to stand in lines.  If they run out of the good stuff, so be it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

No NaNo and other stuff instead

I guess NaNoWriMo has officially started!  And … I don’t care.  I’ve once again changed my mind, and will probably not participate this year.  I have a bunch of other stuff I want to do, including finishing my album that I’ve been working on for over a year now.  I’m still about 10 minutes of music away from completing the thing.  I’m currently working on the last section of an unnamed orchestral piece.  I’m orchestrating / composing the climax and end, so it’s almost done.  Then I have four other pieces started that need finishing, though I don’t believe all of them will make it onto the album.  One will probably be called “The Journey Ahead” and I am fairly sure that it will indeed appear on the album as I think it really fits with the spirit of the other pieces.  And one will probably be called “Castle Sky” … that’s my long 15-minute orchestral piece (and still unfinished, but I don’t think it will be much longer).

Oh, I started a new project, one that I know I’ll finish eventually because it requires hardly any work at all from me.  I call it: The Mozart Listening Project.  The objective: to listen to the complete works of Mozart while following along with the scores.  As you can see on the side, I made a page about it.  Because it is just so important.  I just started working through his symphonies.  Got a long way to go.

Android Lastly, I was chatting on a music forum on Friday, and someone mentioned the new Verizon phone coming out called Droid, which will compete with the iPhone (though, of course, that’s some very tough competition).  Looking at the Droid rekindled my interest in creating an app.  It was something I looked into in college, when Google’s Android OS first came out, but somehow lost interest.  (And as far as I can tell, one must have a Mac to use the iPhone SDK, so I don’t think I’ll be trying to develop for the iPhone anytime soon … though, from a business perspective, that’s currently where most of the phone app market is, methinks.)

Anyway, I’m downloading the newest Android SDK and will perhaps try creating something with it.  Having long been interested in game development, two things excite me about the phone app market: 1) It’s rather new, and is still at a stage where a single developer can develop a sellable app by himself.  In most of the video game industry (except perhaps online Flash games), those days are long gone, never to return.  And perhaps one day the phone app industry will be like that too, but it isn’t now.  And 2) it can be very lucrative.  Actually, I’m not sure how lucrative it is.  I’ve heard that some iPhone apps are making millions.  But that’s only a very select few out of tens of thousands, so I suppose it’s like saying that the music industry can be very lucrative.  Well, yes, it can be, but only few a very select few.  Still, I’m guessing the phone app industry is more lucrative than the indie artist industry.  Unfortunately, I’m sure it’s even less lucrative for non-iPhone developers at this time, but who know?  With Google’s more open platform, Android or some similar OS might come to dominate the phone industry, just like Windows now dominate Macs, despite Apple’s oh-so-witty ads.  In fact, I predict that will happen in the next decade or so … Apple may still dominate the iTunes / iPod industry, but the iPhone might meet its demise with a collection of other phones that run the same OS and are thus compatible with the same programs…

And… I guess that’s all I have to say.

By S P Hannifin, ago
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
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
Music composition

A melody experiment and stuff

A melody experiment

I posted this melody experiment yesterday.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while; I’ll be very interested in the results.  Basically, the experiment consists of creating a melody by people voting for the next note.  I simplified it as much as I could; the rhythm, time signature, key, starting note, etc., are already determined, accompanying harmony is not being considered, and there are only 15 choices spanning two octaves; no accidentals.  There could of course be many more choices, and I’ll definitely be interested in exploring them in the future, but for this first try I wanted to make it as simple and direct as possible.  Such simplification will, I hope, also get the final melody written much sooner!

I don’t know whether the final melody will be strange and random, very generic, or perhaps pretty good; I am eager to find out!  It will have to sound like something after all.  I think it will get much more interesting a few more notes or bars into the melody, when the first notes begin to actually influence our expectations of what note should come next.  Oh yes, then it will be very interesting I think.  In fact, I considered going ahead and writing the first couple measures just to get to that point right off the bat, but then decided against it.  After all, maybe the beginning will be interesting too?

So, if you get a chance to visit this page and vote, I’d really be interested in everyone’s choices!

Stuff – WolframAlpha

Somebody on a forum mentioned this website: WolframAlpha (and this impressive video about it, maybe better to watch this first).  I really encourage all geeks to check it out, it’s a lot of fun to play around with.  Here’s a graph comparing the popularity of different spellings of my name, Sean, Shaun, and Shawn.  WolframAlpha created it by me typing “sean shawn shaun“.  One can see the popularity in the name sort of exploded in the 1970’s, and seems to be slowly becoming unpopular again, but is still quite popular right now.  (By the way, “Sean” is the correct spelling, the other ways are wrong!)

It has a huge wealth of info, and is (of course being from Wolfram) especially good at math questions.  I typed in “What is the 5000000th prime number?” and it told me: 86028121.  Of course!  I typed in “What is the 5000000th digit of pi?” and it told me: computation timed out.  Of course!  I typed in “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?” and it told me: 42.  I typed in “What is the derivative of 6x^x^x?” and it gave me some long equation.  I typed in “1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 19, 28, …” and it gave me a possible generating function for the sequence. I typed in “How old was Martin Gardner in 11/25/1985?” to find out Martin Gardner was 71 years old when I was born (and he’s still alive).

And all that’s just touching the surface.  So it’s fun to play around with.  Lots of stuff there, and it should improve with time.

By S P Hannifin, ago