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
Philosophy

Ten thousand hours might mean nothing

At this point I’m fairly sure I will indeed do NaNoWriMo … sort of.  I’m going to start writing, that is, but I’m not really going to try to win, I’m not going to strive for 50,000 words in a month.  I’m just going to see how much I can get done, but I’m not going to push myself.  That way, I can’t lose!

I spent an hour today finally continuing work on my fantasy novelette, The Cliffs of Oakenrah.  I’m on scene 5 of 21, so there’s a ways to go.  If I finish, it might become longer than Dreamgiver, making it the longest work of fiction I’ve ever completed.  Which, I suppose, is pretty lame compared to most writers, but very superior compared to people who never write anything.

TEN THOUSAND HOURS

I was listening to a writing podcast the other day, and I heard the concept of the “ten thousand hours to expert” come up once again.  I think some writers and artists in general are interpreting the concept in a ridiculous way, taking it to mean that an artist’s art won’t be any good until the artist has ten thousand hours of experience, and that artists who do have ten thousand of experience are objectively better because of it.  But I think the arts are a bit too subjective for that, and I think people forget that there’s a difference between experience and practice, as I mention on the Book Quotes Blog.  Even I have used the terms synonymously, when they’re not exactly synonymous.  Getting more experience doing something you already know how to do well might not help you much, might not make you that much better.

Really, though, it just comes down to the subjectivity of an art like writing.  It’s hard to argue that you’re a better chess player if you keep losing games, or a better piano player when you can’t play anything by Chopin.  But there are no games or rules in writing.  And we don’t have “author’s experience hours” stamped on the back of books to help us decide whether or not it’s something we’ll like.

So please please just stop applying the ten thousand hour rule to something as subjective as writing fiction.  It actually doesn’t mean quite so much in such a context.  I’m sure there are plenty of inexperienced writers whose first works I would find brilliant, and plenty twenty-thousand-hours experienced writers who might make me want to jump of cliff to end the torture of knowing their work was deemed by someone else to be publishable.

Nor does the ten thousand hour concept apply to walking, eating, sleeping, daydreaming, etc.

I still think about this post by writer John Scalzi (especially since it was brought up in the podcast I mentioned as being a “painfully honest post”).

While I agree with a lot of what he says, I also think he is making the mistake of thinking his own experience counts for a bit too much.  Experience does not make your opinions more valid, not in the subjective art world, as he (and many others) seem to think.  I believe that that is a snobby way to think.  Sometimes people compare writing to fields in which opinions aren’t subjective, like medicine.  (“I want my doctor to have experience!”)  Well, duh.  There is right and wrong in medicine.  Writing, not so much.  Yes, there is some, but not nearly as much.  Writing is based on our desires, the rules come from our opinions.  Medicine doesn’t work that way.  Experience writing also does not automatically make you a better writer.  You have to practice … you have to work to understand the conventions of our time, understand how you as a reader respond to other people’s works, understand how the authors you enjoy write the way they do.  So, yes, I do agree that inexperienced authors (including me) tend to not be as good.  I still don’t have any sense of how a plot should arc over the course of something novel size, as I have never finished writing a novel.  But that opinion comes from me, not some scientific objective rule about novel plot arcs, and not from writers who are more experienced looking down upon me judging my work.  And I’m not going to get better (which is also subjective) without getting feedback from others, including publishers who reject my work.

It’s not science (well, technically it is; it’s psychology, but it’s nothing we can currently objectively study).  It’s definitely not medicine.  And authors are not doctors.

And that’s all I have to say today.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

Read a book, write a book

READ A BOOK

Why Don't Students Like School? The other day I finished reading the book Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom and I put up some quotes from the book on my Book Quotes blog.  It was a short read, only 165 pages.  It’s really meant for teachers, but as someone who is interested in our terrible American education system, I quite wanted to read it.  It takes a psychological perspective on education, which would probably interest anyone interested in the basic psychology of learning.

That’s only 8th book I’ve finished this year.  I probably could’ve read more by now, but I’m reading about 8 more books simultaneously at the moment, so finishing one takes a lot longer.  And of course sometimes I just give up on a book.  I realized yesterday that I only finished reading one fiction book this year, the other seven were all non-fiction.

WRITE A BOOK

I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo next month.  I have some fun new ideas floating around in my head, so it’s quite tempting, but I do want to finish my album, obviously.  I keep going back and forth.  One day I’ll think to myself “oh, I’ve gotta at least try NaNoWriMo; this idea is just too exciting to resist,” and then the next day I’ll think, “I can’t do it, I’ve gotta finish this album.  I don’t want to have to worry about writing fiction too.”

So I still don’t know what I’ll do.  It will all depend on how I feel in November I guess.

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