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.

Well, blah blah blah

I haven’t worked on any music since I finished Across the Kingdom.  My friend and I finished another O’Really animation here.

The other day, I bought some watercolor supplies so I could begin learning the art of watercolor painting.  Because, you know, I’m always trying something new, I’m such a renaissance man.  So far my efforts are horrible.  But I suppose that’s to be expected when one just starts.  There’s a lot one must get a feel for: how the colors mix, how much water to mix with it, how wet the paper should be before applying paint, how to apply the paint, etc.  Years on down the road, I think it’d be awesome to be able to paint (good looking) pictures of castles and dragons, blah blah blah, and be a millionaire too.

I’ve been receiving instruction from the late Bob Ross with this very instructional video:

Popularity is meaningless

I came across the following video from a blog post by Derek Sivers:

 

Firstly, I’m not really sure that’s at all a “new” way to think about creativity.  Secondly, there seems to be an unspoken assumption that she makes.  Not just her, actually, but I think the audience is making it too.  In fact, I think most people in general make it because it’s a natural way of thinking.  That assumption is: a good product will be met with praise, fame, and acclaim, while a bad product will fail.  In other words, if you write a book, or a piece of music, or whatever, you yourself don’t know how “good” it is until it either succeeds (by becoming popular) or fails.  If it succeeds, congrats!  You done good!  If it fails, you failed.

But I disagree with that assumption.  I believe how “good” something is (well, in the world of art at least) is entirely subjective.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s book may have been very popular, but to me that doesn’t imply that it’s any good.  I might think it’s terrible!  What does the success of her book mean?  Nothing!  And it really shouldn’t mean anything to anyone else either (except perhaps it means a good amount of money for her and the publisher).  And I believe there is a ton of brilliant work out there that’s not popular.  And I might love it if only I could find it.  I tend to find popular things the most because that’s what makes them easier to find.

In that way, popularity is an emergent property.  What makes something popular or not is a complex collection of millions of decisions by millions of people.  Should I read this?  Should I publish this?  Should I talk about this?  Should I invest in this?

I’ve heard that the first Harry Potter book was rejected by quite a few publishers before being accepted by one.  So now people say “wow, those publishers who rejected it sure must be sorry!”  Well, no.  Harry Potter’s eventual insane success was never a guarantee based entirely on the story.  If another publisher had published it, it might not have become a success.  If it was published a year later, it might not have become a success.  (For that matter, if one set of J. K. Rowling’s great great great great grandparents had not met, Harry Potter wouldn’t even exist.)

Movie producers are always making assumptions about why this or that movie succeeded or failed.  Shut up, you idiots!  You don’t know!  “Ah, this Disney animation film failed because people want computer animation now.”  “This film succeeded because Tom Hanks was in it.”  “This film failed because of the competing films that came out at the same time.”  “This film succeeded because it had a strong central hero character and a villain that represented the evils of our times very well.”  And blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever they can say to themselves to make their investments not seem so risky and more predictable.

And people apply this assumption to artists who have become insanely famous.  The Beatles are so famous because they were good.  Shakespeare was good.  Mozart was good.  But these aren’t objective facts just because they’ve happened to stand the test of time (at least, for now).  Their continued fame is still an emergent property based on millions of decisions by millions of people.  (Let’s stop forcing high-schoolers to read Shakespeare and see what happens to that market!)

“If it is popular, it is because it is really good!”  I completely reject the assumption.  When I experience or create a piece of art, I make up my own mind.

Not that I don’t care what other people think.  If I write a piece of music and someone on YouTube comments that they like it, I find it flattering and encouraging.  But it doesn’t change my initial thoughts about my own work.

In conclusion, what is “good” and what is popular are two completely different things.  You shouldn’t let what is popular influence your creative decisions too much, because you actually have no control over what becomes popular.  So stop thinking you do!

And read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, it’s a good book.

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.

A long blathery post

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

twotowerslive Last Friday my mom and I went to Wolftrap to see a Lord of the Rings concert.  They have an orchestra play all the film music (choirs and soloists included), while projecting the film The Two Towers in HD on a huge screen.  We went to the same concert last year for first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, and I blogged about the experience here.

I don’t have much else besides praise for the concert; watching a film like that is just fantastic.  I will say a few things though:

The brass was quite loud.  In the soundtrack recordings, I’m sure they can mix the orchestra sound a bit so the strings have more of a voice, and perhaps the acoustics of Wolftrap’s Filene center have an effect, but when it came to the brassy action parts, the brass was quite loud, drowning out a lot of the orchestra, and sometimes the character’s voices.  The percussion could be quite loud at times too, especially instruments like the bass drum.  But this is not complaint; I love the sound of a booming bass drum.

The speakers popped every now and then a little before and after intermission, which was really annoying.

The choirs were amazing.  I really loved the elvish choir music.  The strings and choirs sounded especially dynamic and full and rich when hearing them live.

There were many moments in the film in which the story was so engaging that I forgot that the music was live.  This is both a testament to how well the music was played and just what a good story it is.

As I mentioned last year, it was a lot of fun to watch the film with a huge audience that also loved the film.  Hearing them laugh and cheer at moments was kind of exciting (though I myself kept silent the whole time).

Actually, watching the crowds made me kind of want to be a film composer; there’s just such a huge audience out there.  It’s easy to forget how big the world is.

Lastly, I kind of wish the Filene Center allowed popcorn and soda inside.  It would of course make a mess that they’d have to clean, but I do quite enjoy munching on popcorn while watching a film.

Next year I hope to see The Return of the King in a similar manner!

LAPTOP FAILURE

firelaptop A few days ago, all the applications on my laptop, from Firefox to Microsoft Office programs, kept crashing.  Then I’d often get the bluescreen of death saying something about a physical memory dump and then restarting the computer.  I was sure it was a RAM issue, and thought one of my sticks of RAM was bad and needed to be replaced.  So I took out one of the laptop’s RAM modules and, voila, it worked!  Though I was out 2 GB of RAM.  I wanted to go buy some more RAM just for the quick fix of it, but my father insisted that I call Dell support.  So I did (well, actually, he did, and then handed me the phone) and, by switching the working RAM into the other slot as support told me to, I discovered the problem wasn’t with the RAM, but with the motherboard; it couldn’t communicate with that RAM port for some reason.

So sometime this week or next week or whenever, a Dell guy should come to my house and replace the motherboard, which will hopefully go smoothly.  In the meantime, I’ll only have 2 GB of RAM, but everything should at least run smoothly without crashing.  My music composing might be impaired a bit, since I often do use up a lot of RAM loading up virtual instruments, but 2 GB should still be manageable.

The laptop (an Alienware M17x) gets really hot when playing games.  Like, burning hot.  Like, you could fry an egg on it.  Okay, maybe not that hot, but, still, it gets really hot.  Which is fine with me because it plays games really really well; highest resolution (1920 x 1200) on highest settings and the frame rates stay high.  It’s just awesome.  But I’m wondering if it’s all the heat it produces that damaged the motherboard?  Eh… who knows…

READING

thelongtail Last week, I finished reading Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.  It was written in 2006, and in the computer world, that makes it outdated already.  (Though there is now an updated and revised edition that I haven’t read, but I’m linking to it anyway.)  YouTube wasn’t as big when the book was written, and it mentions Google Froogle every now and then.  But, overall, the ideas in the book are very good.

That said, I’m not sure reading an entire book on the subject was worth it.  It’s a short book, only around 230 pages, but it certainly seemed repetitive.  The idea of the “Long Tail” isn’t too hard to understand: there’s a definite market for niche products, so if you can offer a lot of choices to buyers (without, obviously, spending too much money yourself), you can definitely make a profit.  Great subject for a magazine article (which is what I believe it started as), but for a book it seems just a bit stretched.  Makes for easy reading at least.

PROJECTS

oreally3 I also recently started some projects with a friend.  The first idea was to create cartoony shorts, similar to PowerPoint presentations we used to give in high school.  You can see our first animation here on YouTube.

Some problems with this project are: the animation is very rough and the recent-event subject is time-sensitive.  I think such shorts could find an audience if we could keep them up, but with just two people creating them, neither of which are quick or experienced animators, it would probably be infeasible, unless we had a lot more time to dedicate to it each week.

What I’d like to do eventually is use this similar method of animation (creating animation frames in PowerPoint, since I know how to draw best in it) to create something longer, and non-political.  Two years or so ago, my sister and I planned out a kid-friendly comedy-fantasy story with the hope of one day turning into a series of cartoons.  At the time, I had just bought Flash and had high hopes of gaining awesome animation skills with it.  Using PowerPoint didn’t cross my mind, because I am stupid.  But now that I am reminded, maybe it will be something to try in the future.  I especially like the idea of writing music to it, and being able to take a long time polishing an animation.

Anyway, the other project we started was the writing of a novel.  But I can not yet say anything about it due to a non-disclosure agreement.

SCHOOL WORK

I don’t go to school anymore, so I don’t have any.

Hour by hour

I read this post which talks about how you have to do a lot of work to get good at something. It seems pretty obvious, though for someone just starting something, whether drawing or composing music or writing, it can be frustrating at first. You have to create a lot of terrible stuff before you start getting good. Before I became the most amazing brilliant composer the world has ever known (what? don’t you agree?), I wrote pieces such as The Toy and The Workshop. Not exactly the most thrilling pieces of music ever written. (And, of course, I’ve still got plenty more to learn about composing.)

Also, I don’t think that just doing something over and over will alone help you get much better. You must also have in your mind something you’re trying to achieve, some skill you’re purposefully working for and know you don’t have yet. You could doodle scribbles all day, but that won’t help you draw like Rembrandt; you must consciously pursue drawing what you know can not yet draw.

I can easily imagine meeting a person who says “oh man, I’ve been drawing for 10 years!” or “writing for several decades!” or “composing almost my entire life!” and their work still seems terrible to me. Of course, when it comes to art, it’s also a matter of taste, but merely putting in the time with no effort to get better is worthless. (And I can also easily imagine people just plain lying about how long they’ve spent doing something.)

Anyway, the post mentions working 10,000 hours to get good at something. That’s a lot of hours. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent composing. Maybe an average of 12 hours per piece (some more, some less) for 51 pieces. 51 * 12 = 612 hours. That’s about 6 percent of 10,000 hours. I got a long way to go.

But that’s just a very rough estimate. I haven’t been keeping track of how many hours it takes me to do anything. So I started a new project called The Hours Project. You’ll see a new link to it on the side of this blog. Basically the goal of the project is to keep track of how long I spend doing stuff. I’m sure I won’t be able to keep it up forever, though, but I think it would be really interesting if I could keep it up for at least a year. I’m guessing sleep and work will take up the most of my time. I’m also not keeping track of how long I spend chatting online, surfing the web, or blogging… or other random stuff.

This is also partially inspired by the game The Sims 3… but you’ll have to play it to realize why, because I don’t feel like explaining…

I’m ignoring you

I recently discovered the website called gapingvoid created my Hugh MacLeod.

(I discovered the site when this YouTuber commented on one of my videos. I in turn checked out his YouTube channel, then his tumblr, in which he mentions the site.)

More specifically, I discovered this page on Hugh MacLeod’s website, filled with advice on being creative. And it’s very good advice, says I. For example, here’s a random quote. MacLeod says:

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.Since the modern, scientifically-conceived corporation was invented in the early half of the Twentieth Century, creativity has been sacrificed in favor of forwarding the interests of the “Team Player”.

Fair enough. There was more money in doing it that way; that’s why they did it.

There’s only one problem. Team Players are not very good at creating value on their own. They are not autonomous; they need a team in order to exist.

So now corporations are awash with non-autonomous thinkers.

“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”

And so on.

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And that’s exactly what’s been happening.

The whole thing is really quotable. And it’s just a fragment of what’s in MacLeod’s new book Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.

I suppose much of it can seem like cliche self-help and marketing blither; certainly MacLeod’s thoughts are not unique or revolutionary. But at the same time I find them quite encouraging and inspiring. Even if you immediately agree with MacLeod’s writings, they might be easy to forget, because so many people in the world act as if they don’t agree.

I bought the book, which is an easy read; one could read through it in a hour or less. It’s so short, I’m not sure it’s worth paying list price for (list price is almost always overpriced, isn’t it?), but I thought it was worth having in tangible book form. I think it’s one of those books one can take and flip open to any page and reread when feeling bored or uninspired.

Good stuff.

Goals

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while… my thoughts are admittedly unorganized…

I’ve noticed that most humans, including myself, tend to never really live in the present; we’re always thinking about some event coming up or what we need to do tomorrow. We’re filled with plans. Everything we do is for some goal we’re trying to achieve. I think even at the millisecond level, our brains are focused on what to expect sensing milliseconds in the future. It’s extremely hard, perhaps impossible, to truly live in the present.

So my question is… is that good or bad?

Sometimes it seems good. If you had no plans, you’d just by lying there like a dog, staring at the world. Or maybe a couch potato. One might say it’s morally wrong to have no goals.

But then… what’s the point of goals? Or what’s the ultimate goal of goals? Sometimes it seems like some people don’t really know.

I think there are only two things that people want for their own sake: pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Everything else done is for the sake of one of those.

Or at least should be. But I think some people instead seek the idea of pleasure. They seek something they think will give them pleasure. But then they spend so much time on this idea that some certain thing will bring them pleasure that they make themselves suffer for it. It’s like this video

Some examples might be a wedding or a party or a vacation that people stress about and plan every detail of to the point of making themselves miserable because everything has to be perfect for it. What I think is especially dangerous is when people start daydreaming what the wedding or party of vacation will be like. They imagine scenes in their heads: “I’ll be smiling over there, and these people will be laughing over here, and we’ll all be happy” or “he’ll be driving and listening to good music and I’ll be half asleep reading my book, and we’ll be happy” … stop it! You have no idea what the future is going to be like! You really can’t plan happiness like that, and you’re most likely just setting yourself up for disappointment. (Not that such events can’t be fun; I just think it’s stupid when people obsess over their planned future happiness so much that they make themselves suffer in the present.)

Weddings and parties and vacations, though, are all things that could be planned and accomplished within a year. I think the process becomes even more dangerous and stupid when people start daydreaming huge life goals to the point where they’re subconsciously expecting them to come true. I will be rich. I will be famous. It seems to be obvious to way too many people.

Or there’s the parent or teacher having expectations for their children or students. They want them to be “successful” but they don’t really describe what exactly that means. Just as much $$$$ and power as possible? What should be the child’s ultimate goal? I guess what comes to my mind is to have a job you’re happy with and to make enough $$$$ to support yourself (and family if you choose to have one (and it is a choice… I hate when people who hardly have enough money to support themselves start raising a family and then kind of romanticize it as if they had no control over when babies would come along… “oh, we’re struggling with our five children, working so many jobs to make ends meet!” … that was a choice)).

But some parents I’ve met (and thankfully I don’t have these kinds of parents) seem to define success as something that can never really be achieved. You must just become as rich as possible, as successful as possible. You must get your foot in the door of some company and keep rising through the ranks until you own the company, and then own all the competition, and then eventually own the world I guess. Or you must become famous, and then more famous, and then more famous. And some parents believe their children are amazing geniuses and they firmly believe, or expect their children to be successful. Unfortunately, every day there are way too many children born for each one to become rich or famous. Only so many people can be rich and famous at a time. These parents’ definition of success depends on their comparing their children to other people, which has always been a stupid way to define success. (Part of me thinks some parents only want their children to succeed so they can brag about them to other parents. “My little Bobby is doing so well, he’s the vice-president of Boring Old Company X, and making a lot of money!” “Oh really? My little Billy still works at the grocery store, but he’s happy gosh darn it!”) And if their children don’t “succeed” then that means they are normal mediocrities…

It’s like your job and wealth determine whether or not you are mediocre. Rich = good, successful, better. Not rich = bad, normal, mediocre. That’s stupid. There are plenty of rich idiots and many brilliant non-rich folk. Shouldn’t the end goal be just to be happy?  (But some people say: “Being a poor struggling artist is not romantic!  It’s stupid!”  It’s not stupid to be poor, it’s stupid to be miserable.)

And then what if you are happy? What if you’re supporting yourself and you’re happy? Does that mean no more goals? You’re done? You’ve reached your life’s ambition? Is that bad? Is that morally wrong? Shouldn’t you always be dreaming some impossible dream?

This video comes to mind… You can have whatever goals you want! You don’t have to constantly want more. You don’t have to always be improving yourself to something you can’t even imagine. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m getting there!” How do you know?

Just make enough money to support yourself and try to find a job you’re happy with. Whether or not you want to give yourself any goals after that is up to you. You don’t have to be rich or famous or anything. So there.

(Disclosure: I do not yet make enough money to support myself yet, so I guess I’m a failure. But at least I don’t have a job I hate!)

Working

I’ve been working a bit more on my melody mixer creator thing; I’m working on expanding its abilities so that it will be compatible with any size melody in any time signature. I think I’ve finished planning out the necessary algorithms, now just programming awaits. And there will be quite a lot that will need to be reprogrammed, as there were quite a few shortcuts I was able to take when programming it to work with just one size melody. I’ve also been writing a book on my melody mixing algorithmic methods. It’s obviously not very long right now, but as I continue to program and explore this area of computer generated music it will hopefully chronicle all my explorations and algorithmic design decisions. It will probably be finished in 10 or 20 years. Or never.

Haven’t been up to much else lately… getting a bunch of hours at my part-time job, which is good for the money, but when I come home I tend to sit in front of the TV, surf the net, or play The Sims 3, which are all fun, but not very productive.  I can’t say I really want a full-time job…

The Sims 3 and stuff

We got The Sims 3 a few days ago, and it’s quite fun and addicting.  I’ll probably waste lots of time playing it.  My sister kept encouraging me to cheat and give my Sims millions of dollars, but I don’t want to cheat!  I want to slowly build my Sims into millionaires through lots of hard work.  I haven’t explored nearly all the possibilities of the game yet; my family is a small poor family in a little house with not much furniture.  But someday, generations later perhaps, they’ll be filthy rich!

Also, I’m steadily MP3-izing my Mozart box set, Mozart Edition: Complete Works (170 CD Box Set).  It takes a while, obviously, but it’s fun; it allows me to explore the CDs and go through them one by one, though I’m certainly not trying to listen to all of them quite yet.  Right now I’m just listening to random tracks, and the works I know I enjoy.  Unlike a huge collection of MP3s, having a tangible set of CDs is nice in that it allows you to really flip through the options, and perhaps get a sense of just how much music there is.  Eh… hard to explain I guess.  But I like the tangibility of it.  Which is why I still like buying CDs in general, instead of just MP3s.  Physical CDs are a lot more fun to collect and explore.

Oh well, who cares, that’s all for now… maybe I’ll go play The Sims 3 a little more before bed, eh?