Monday, June 30, 2014

Minuet - Spring 2014 short version

Back in 2006 I wrote a 30 Second Spot called Carpool.  You can still read the Mixed Meters post about Carpool.  It's dated March 12, 2006, a Sunday.  The Internet never forgets.  Usually never.

Better yet, if you read that post you'll discover that the link to listen to Carpool still works.  (Go ahead, listen.  I'll wait.  It's a short piece.)  I've had to update the link a couple times over the years in my efforts to keep my music from disappearing at the whim of some failing capitalist website entrepreneur.   Actually the Internet does forget.  Quite often.

Carpool, all 38 seconds of it, has a particular type of septuple meter which I discovered while listening to music on a streaming Internet radio station playing music of Afghanistan.  This particular song, whatever it was, divided the seven beats into three groups: three plus three plus one.  It was the kind of discovery that makes a composer's heart beat just a little more quickly.

This 3+3+1 meter, plus the hand drums, plus the semi-sinuous melody I cooked up give Carpool a kind of camel caravan feel.  I thought about calling it "Caravan" but reconsidered.  Hence my 2006-ish comment
I was going to call this spot "Caravan" but someone said the name had been used. I think "Carpool" gives that same sense of slow, long-distance travel via pollution-emitting beast.
The thing is, however, that you don't get a "sense of slow, long-distance travel" in 38 seconds.  Pollution control or not, a 30 Second Spot just isn't long enough for this particular music.

So, earlier this year, when I was beginning work on Spring 2014, yet another episode in my series The Seasons, I decided to use the music from Carpool as a source material.  For the next three months, ending last week, I wrote a bit of music every day.  For these bits I appropriated the melody, harmony, rhythm and most especially the meter of Carpool.

Spring 2014 turned out to be almost one and a quarter hours long.  Eighty percent of that time is pure unadulterated silence.  You can read all about Spring 2014 (and even listen to it) by reading the previous MM post Spring 2014 from The Seasons.

Grizzled, old time Mixed Meters readers know what's coming next.  For the rest of you, keep reading.

Once I'd finished Spring 2014, a.k.a. the long version of Carpool, all 72 minutes of it, I mercilessly removed all the silences, leaving only the music.  This revealed a piece of music nearly 14 minutes long.  I called this piece Minuet.  You'd be surprised how different it seems than the longer version.

Yes, I can hear what you're thinking, even over the Internet.  Minuet is a dull name.  Yup, I agree.  It is also a very musical name.  I especially like it because it's an antique.  It gives virtually no expectations to modern listeners.  No one, at least no one that I'm aware of, writes or dances minuets these days.   And if they do, they're probably professors or professors in training.  These days a composer has no problem living up to your expectations of what a modern minuet should be because you don't have any of those sorts of expectations.   Nor should you.

The musicologists amongst my readers will know that a minuet is usually in triple meter.  In my piece, the meter is also triple - if you ignore that extra beat crammed in there after every second measure.  Sometimes Minuet does have a kind of dance feel - a lopsided, bad-dancer, one-leg-shorter-than-the-other, Ministry-of-Silly-Dances dance feel, to be sure - but danceable nonetheless.  Go ahead, dance.  I'll wait.

Click here to hear Minuet (Spring 2014 - short version) by David Ocker  
© 2014 David Ocker, 833 seconds

You can listen to Spring 2014 (the long version of Minuet) here.
You can listen to Carpool (the short version of Minuet) here.
You can find links to all The Seasons, both long and short versions, and their associated Mixed Meters blog posts here.
You can't imagine what I'm talking about when I say "30 Second Spot".  Click here.

Addendum.  Here's a minuet by the great Slim Gaillard that's not in seven.  Nor is it in three.  It's in vout.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spring 2014 from The Seasons

Summer has begun.  Spring is done.  Yeah, I know that this happened like 10 days ago - news travels slowly on the Internet.

The join between Spring and Summer is called the Summer Solstice, longest day of the year on the top half of the planet.  There's enough sunshine for me to go to bed at sunrise and still enjoy hours of daylight once I struggle back to wakefulness.  Bad season for vampires.

I finished my most recent Season, called Spring 2014, just before the Solstice.  I began composing Spring 2014 back on the Spring Equinox, and it, like all my previous Seasons, consists of one music event for each day.

Many of these events were composed on the actual day.  In the score each segment is marked with a date.  I add an asterisk if I actually worked on the music on that very date.  On Mondays I add a double bar because of something called Garbage Day Periodicity.

Spring 2014 is one hour and twelve minutes long which is an average length for pieces in this series.  Annoyingly, 80% of Spring 2014 is silence.  That's only one minute of music for every 5 minutes of actual time.  Listening to it as if it were normal music could try your patience.

I offer two better ways to listen.  One is to remove the silence.  I would be silly to expect you to do that yourself, so I do it for you.  I call these shortened versions The Seasons (short version).  With the silences removed a real piece is revealed.   You could almost call it "normal music".  Yes, I compose The Seasons with that in mind.  Think of it as time sped up.

The other solution is to play Spring 2014 simultaneously with some other music.  The best choice is to combine multiple Seasons, just play several at the same time and let whatever is going to happen happen.  You can also combine The Seasons with normal music.  Baroque music is a good choice.  So is minimalism.  In fact The Seasons is a perfect addition to any music which could use an added element of surprise, some extra variety or a bit of aural spice.

Click here to hear Spring 2014 by David Ocker  © 2014 by David Ocker, 4357 seconds

Click here for links to all The Seasons and The Seasons (short versions) and their associated blog posts plus some other stuff that I think is related to this musical project.

Here, for no particular reason, is a picture I took because I always try to post at least one picture.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In which David considers Stuff while attempting to fall asleep

I should fall asleep now.  Close my eyes and wait.

If I try not to think of an elephant - or of anything else - eventually I"ll find myself, hours from now, twisting in this bed, slowly waking up, trying not to drool on the pillow or to kick the cat, thinking to myself that I could still get another hour if I just rolled over, kept my eyes closed and ignored the fact that I really need to pee.

As much as more sleep would be nice, more waking time would be nicer.  That is because I have "stuff" to do.  Every day (once I pee) I make a mental list called "things I'd like to accomplish today." Thankfully I'm not so anal that I actually write the list down.  Even so, the list is very real, always near by, in my brain.  Damn brain.

At the top of each and every day's list of "stuff" are my irreducible four double-ewes - "work, walk, wife and write".  These are the things my life is really about.  Unalliteratively you could think of these as "earn money, get exercise, devote time to my relationship with Leslie and do something creative". These are my essential daily goals.

I try to do some of each W every day.  This is not always easy.  The things one does everyday are the most important parts of life.  My Four Dubs are are important stuff.  Important stuff is still "stuff".  This stuff is always on my daily mental list.

And lots of other stuff ends up on my daily list as well.  That stuff is not so important in the long term. Sometimes it doesn't feel even the slightest bit important in the short term either.

Stuff can include taking out the garbage, shopping for pet food, gassing the car, mindlessly watching television in hopes of finding a good laugh, making "ice cream" out of over-ripe bananas, wondering why I'm not more successful than I am, washing the dishes, feeling lucky that I'm not a complete failure, browsing the net on my iPad, wondering if today would be a good day to make myself a martini, imagining what it would be like to be someone else, cleaning the cat box, dreaming about what a nice guy I'd be if I accidentally became a billionaire by winning the lottery.  It's all stuff.  It's the stuff of life.

Some stuff gets added to the mental list later in the day, on the spur of the moment.  Stuff erupts. Suddenly.  Sometimes unpredictably.  Spilling coffee on the floor and having to wipe it up immediately?  That's stuff.  Just sitting in a chair thinking "it's okay to just be sitting in this chair." becomes stuff.  Thinking "I could fall asleep in this chair." also becomes stuff.  Actually falling asleep? Yes, that too.

Stuff is all inclusive.  Everything is stuff.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  It's all stuff.  Life is filled with stuff.  Some stuff gets in the way of getting other stuff done.  Circular?  You betcha.  Would I wish for more time to do my stuff or for less stuff to do in the time I have.  Dunno.


Once again, I'm back in bed, poking at my iPad.   I could fall asleep right now.  I really should fall asleep, simply close my eyes and try to drift off while not thinking of an elephant.   It would be easy.

Exactly twenty-four hours have passed since I started this essay.  I've done yet another day of stuff including, on this day, all four W's plus a few unexpected bits of other stuff.  I killed a marauding ant colony in the kitchen and ran to the store for a carton of heavy cream because the one we had turned prematurely sour.  I spent a while trying to understand why Linux crashes so much.  I even found some time to edit this essay.

Now, however, I'm back in bed, finally lying between my wife and my cat, trying to convert the silly thoughts in my brain into conventional English.  Personally I'd much rather fall asleep.  Sleep would be better for me, but my brain is keeping me awake.   It's my brain that is the problem.  Damn brain.