Ancient noises

Here’s another hit tune, this time a gymel from the thirteenth century, “Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene,” in a thoroughly historically-uninformed arrangement. All the sounds are u-he’s Hive.

The original sounded something like this:

“Edi Beo Thu” was originally a vocal piece. It might be interesting to hear how a pair of Mikus handle Middle English, but I expect that the results would be unintelligible.

Dracula and friends

Update: Never mind. The show has been cancelled.

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The local orchid organization is holding its annual show and sale this Saturday at Botanica in Wichita. There may well be some Dracula orchids for sale and possibly in bloom for the holiday. Here’s the flyer. (The orchid pictured is a Paphiopedilum.)

Here’s Don Ross with “Dracula and Friends, Part One.”

Ross, unfortunately, will not be at Botanica, though he turns up occasionally at Winfield.

The hits just keep on coming

More popular tunes from the fourteenth century: the dances “Tristan’s Lament” and “La Rotta,” composed by Anonymous’ great rival, Traditional. I used to hammer these out on my dulcimer at Renaissance Faires and SCA events. The harp and cimbalom are both instances of Modartt’s Pianoteq. The rest of the sounds are from various soft synths and samplers.

I’ve played around with this pair in my DAW once before, back around 2004. The morbidly curious can find that very synthetic version here. Judge for yourself whether I’ve learned anything in the past fifteen years.

Back together, finally, sorta

Gentle Giant, the best prog rock band of them all, split in 1980 and never reunited — until now. Here’s a fan video of one of their later tunes compiled earlier this year which features an enormous number of GG enthusiasts, plus the Giants themselves. At last they’re back together, albeit only on the same screen.

Stomping strings

I’ve been experimenting with the trial version of Reason Studios’ Friktion, a physical-modeling synthesizer that emulates bowed instruments such as the violin. All the voices in the “Estampie” above except the percussion are instances of Friktion.

Compared to the Applied Acoustics String Studio, the bowed sounds are more natural, and it’s easier to figure which knobs to twiddle to get the sound you want. However, String Studio handles plucked strings better and is more generally useful.

While Friktion does get closer to a proper fiddle sound than most synthesizers and cheap sample sets, it’s not really convincing. It might work with a bit of reverb in a busy arrangement, but I wouldn’t want to use it solo or with just piano accompaniment. I probably will let the trial lapse and get one of Embertone’s violins instead.

Strange sights

I recently hooked my old turntable up to the computer and have been industriously digitizing ancient vinyl, from Rare Air to P.D.Q. Bach to Allan Holdsworth. The most recent batch included a collection of medieval dance tunes, the cover of which deserves to be in any collection of classic album art.

Right-click on the image below and open the link in a new window to see all the little details in the drawing.

Wondering what it sounds like? Here is “Nota,” a thirteenth-century “danse anglaise.”

Cheap stuff, free stuff, silly stuff

Adobe has transitioned from innovation to rent-seeking. Fortunately, there is are practical alternatives to Photoshop and InDesign: Affinity’s Photo and Publisher. You can buy them, and actually own them, and for excellent prices, too. Currently they are $25 each. There’s also Affinity Designer, a counterpart to Illustrator, for the same price. I haven’t had time to give them thorough workouts, but I have verified that most of the Topaz plugins I use work in Affinity Photo. The Affinity site is here.

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Cherry Audio has made their Voltage Modular Nucleus free for the downloading for a while. I already have VCV Rack and Reaktor Blocks, so I’ll probably give it a pass, but if you have a yen to experiment with modular sound synthesis, it might be worth checking out.

If you have a digital audio workstation such as Logic or Cubase, here are some freebies you might find useful.

• Native Instruments’ Analog Dreams is an “instrument” emulating old-fashioned subtractive synthesizers. It’s in my armory, and it sounds convincing. I haven’t used it much, but that’s because I have more virtual noisemakers than I will ever use.

Standard Guitar is an extended-range electric guitar that works well with pedal and amp emulations. (The site is in Japanese, but it’s not hard to figure out where to click.)

Shiny Guitar is an arch-top guitar, suitable for jazz, of course, and quite a bit else.

Both the above guitars run in Plogue’s sampler Sforzando, which is also free.

If you have NI’s Kontakt, there are several other free guitars to consider here.

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I wonder sometimes just how authoritative AllMusic is. The above is from the entry on Canned Heat’s second album. Strange — I don’t recall hearing the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus on “Amphetamine Annie.”

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I recently received the above invitation. Um, yeah. Right. Just wondering: how many of these “women of excellence” need to shave?

Continue reading “Cheap stuff, free stuff, silly stuff”

Searching for further lost chords

zplane claims that its deCoda is “… the tool for music practicing, transcription and instrument practice. deCoda can decode any song so the user can learn to play it in minutes.” I thought I’d check it out.

It had little trouble with simple stuff harmonized with triads, e.g., plain arrangements of Celtic tunes. It seemed to recognize only four types of chords, though: major, minor, augmented and diminished. Sevenths were absent.

I gave it Masumi Itou’s “Soramimi Cake,” the opening of Azumanga Daioh1 and a memorable, quirky tune.

As deCoda sees it:

It looks reasonably close, catching the C / D♭ seesaw. However, there are still just four types of chords. I wonder just how sophisticated the “advanced chord and tempo detection algorithms” are. (Here’s a piano transcription of the tune for comparison, and a video with a cutesy animated score.)

Here’s a brief collection various types of chords.

In order, there is a basic G7 to C cadence; Scriabin’s “mystic chord,” first arpeggiated and then up an octave; C6/9, first with the notes spaced out and then condensed in a high octave; the “Tristan” chord, the second time as it appeared in a Beethoven piano sonata; the “Petroushka” chord[s], followed immediately by the “Symphony of Psalms” chord; the “Elektra” chord; the “μ” chord popularized by Steely Dan; and the four sus4 chords Ron Jarzombek based “Suspended on All Fours” on.

And deCoda flunks the test. Once again, all it sees are the four basic triads. It misses the seventh of G7. It calls the mystic chord (C, F♯, B♭, E, A, D) a “C” when it’s arpeggiated and an “F#” when it’s not. It gets partial credit for calling the C6/9 “C” or “Am,” since it contains both triads. Calling the Tristan chord (F, B, D♯, G♯) “Fdim” is close but not quite right. It’s at best a quarter-right on the Petroushka chord, first labeling it as “D#dim, then catching the C triad but ignoring the F# one. I was surprised that it got the Psalms chord wrong; it’s just an Em triad with the G’s emphasized, but Stravinsky’s eccentric voicing fooled the algorithm. It’s at best half-right on the Elektra chord (E, B, D♭, F, A♭), which does include the notes of D♭m, but there’s more to it than that. deCoda missed the added ninths of the Steely Dan2 chords and the suspensions of Jarzombek’s.

I was interested to learn that silence, as in the penultimate measure of the test, is a G diminished chord.

So, is deCoda worthwhile? If you have a well-trained ear, no. Otherwise, it might be a useful tool if sheet music for the tunes you are interested in is hard to find, and the music is not too complex.

For the birds

Here’s a medley of three traditional Spanish Christmas carols, “El Cant dels Ocells,”1 “Fum, Fum, Fum” and “Campana Sobre Campana,” done with a handful of sampled instruments and soft synths. The first two are from Catalonia, the third from Andalusia. As usual, I’m not entirely happy with it, but today is the deadline for posting holiday stuff. (It shouldn’t be — properly, one should sing the carols during the interval between Christmas and Epiphany — but by December 26 most people are sick of the songs.)

Tangentially related: Christmas cards from Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.