Fiction books

Bookstore plunder

I had a bit of time over the weekend to browse a used bookstore. Not as much time as I would’ve liked (I can browse a used bookstore for many hours if allowed), but I did find some interesting stuff.

rhapsody

Didn’t have time to browse the film soundtracks, but I did snatch up some symphonic metal from the Italian band Rhapsody of Fire. Their album The Frozen Tears of Angels features narration from the late great Christopher Lee; his deep cinematic British voice compliments the fantastical metal very well. It’s a concept album that’s part of a larger saga of albums, none of which I have… yet.

lesmiserables

Also music related is the blu-ray of the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. I think it came on PBS or something once, but I missed it. But now I can watch it over and over!

hugo

Picked up a movie companion to one of my favorite films. Looking through it, it looked awfully familiar, but I double-checked my bookshelves and I don’t have it. I could swear I’ve browsed a copy of it somewhere else before though. Maybe there’s another copy somewhere else in the house? I have no idea…

elantris

I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson in a while, but I picked up Elantris for someday.

straub

I’ve been reading Peter Straub’s Shadowland recently and have been enjoying it very much, so I picked up pretty much all the Peter Straub I could find, which amounted to nine books. They’ll take me forever to read, but they all look interesting… I’ll probably dive into one after I finish Shadowland

mozart

Picked up some books on Mozart and classical music because I’m such a classy guy.

pdqbach

Finally, I happened upon a biography of one of the great classical composers who most music scholars, in their snooty snobbery, ignore completely.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music

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)

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
Computer games

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?

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