Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not A Happy Camper

Here are four things I guess you need to know about my piece entitled Not A Happy Camper.  Or not.

1) The title is misleading. Any notion of sadness or self-pity or uncomfortable overnight woodland sleepovers, things you might rationally expect from music entitled Not A Happy Camper, are totally missing from the music.  I chose the title the first time I saved the computer file.  That was way back, last December.  I must have had my reasons for calling it that - although I no longer can remember them.  It's possible I was in fact not a happy camper for some reason.  I certainly have been N.A.H.C. on occasion since, like when I lost all the hearing in my left ear (which is mostly back now).

Anyway - in December I wrote about three minutes of music and then I stopped.  Recently I decided to finish the piece.  No better title has suggested itself.  Or maybe I didn't bother to think about it enough.  And besides, there is a sort of tradition here at Mixed Meters of sticking with the original title/filename no matter what  happens (although usually that trick only applies to much shorter pieces).

2) After about two minutes the music is high-jacked by a famous 19th-Century French Spanish orchestral warhorse.   Everything starts off innocently enough, a cheap minimalist run-on sixteenth note feel - the kind of thing computers do really well but human performers can't keep up with.  Then all of a sudden, more or less, it veers into far left field with quote after quote from that famous piece, a wildly inappropriate sequitur to what I'd already written.

Some of you might recognize the high-jack music as a staple of symphonic pops concerts of your youth.  For the rest of you, not knowing what it is won't really matter much.   I will say that this: although most of 19th-century musical repertoire bores me to tears these days this particular piece still holds an ember of my interest.  There's a certain mysterious aura thanks to metrical ambiguity and surprising interruptions of the melodic flow.

3)  A wah-wah tuba often sounds like a bassoon.  I've used the same effect in other recent pieces, such as this one or this other one.  Basically, the sound of a tuba, as generated inside my computer (by a program called a sampler) is funneled through a band pass filter, which modifies the timbre of the sound.  Technical terms.  The filter is controlled directly from the music notation using MIDI commands.

Electric guitars are famous for having wah-wah sounds, often controlled by a foot pedal.  Unlike an electric guitar  you couldn't have an effective real-life wah-wah tuba because there's no way to suppress the actual acoustic sound of the instrument.  With a computer such bizarre things become possible.  You can decide for yourself if they're desirable.

4).  Not A Happy Camper is not my wackiest piece ever.  In my opinion that honor still belongs with this particular craziness.  Other nominees up for the award are here or there.   "There" has an even whackier sequel.

Click here to hear Not A Happy Camper, © 2013 by David Ocker - 413 seconds.

Not A Happy Tagger: . . . . . .

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