Snark Tuner

So I got a new toy to accompany my new ukulele. This is a Snark All-Instrument Tuner.

It’s a neat little gadget. There are two different options to tune your instrument: 1) microphone and 2) vibration. Most tuners have a mic that picks up the sounds, but this little guy can actually clip onto your instrument and tune according to the vibrations. The vibration setting is more precise than the mic option, as it does not have and interference. This feature is quite handing when tuning in a room full of musicians! Other features include a metronome, capo tuning option, and pitch calibration options. Awesome tool to have in your case, I’d recommend it to any musician.

Video Game Music Album (it’s about time)

Video Game cover

I recently found this CD in the “Classical” section of HMV. I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually purchased a CD, but this one seemed like a rare gem so I had to grab it. I find it interesting that video game music is becoming a reputable enough genre to be appreciated outside of actually gaming.  The Zelda Symphony of Goddesses have been very successful in their world wide tour. The concert experience must be heaven for Zelda enthusiasts. I’ve watched and read few reviews and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Though the CD doesn’t give you the same experience, it is still a great listen since it features many different video games. I listen to it in my car and it provides a pretty epic driving soundtrack.  It’s great to see this music reaching a new audience (attracting new listeners of classical music and attracting classical music listeners to a new genre). All in all, a nostalgic album, great arrangements, and interesting album art. Nothing like a soldier shredding a bleeding cello.

Algorithms can determine song’s success

I have recently come across a website that can determine if a song will become a hit simply through the application on an algorithm. Simply upload your song to www.uplaya.com and it will give you a report that determines (statistically of course) how successful your song will be. So how does this work? According to their website, their technology isolates “musical events” such as: melody, harmony, chord progression, brilliance, fullness of sound, beat, tempo, rhythm, octave, and pitch. These musical events of a submitted song are then compared to musical events of a hit song. I assume the closer the reports are the better. With this information the website claims to be “able to develop a highly accurate and scientific tool”. But is this a good thing?

Yes and no. Though this type of technology can bring artists closer to their fans and producers closer to retirement, my first reaction was not a positive one. By streamlining popular music genres, this technology is border-line plagiarism. Though there still remains room for creativity and subjectivity on the artists’ part, how would fan react knowing their favourite song is custom tailored to fit a genre, thereby demolishing the artists’ originality? The composition process seems to be becoming increasingly streamlined in order to provide the public with what they want (or at least what they are told to want). I feel as though it is in its early stage, where compositional creativity is still the basis of a composition, hopefully this type of technology doesn’t alter composition to the point where musicality plays only a small role in a songs’ success and the rest is left up to the stats.

Though this technology provides hard data analysis of pop music to determine its success, I think it could be put to another use. Plagiarism lawsuits are often cases where an expert is needed to assess the musical similarities (or dissimilarities) of musical events. This technology could be immensely helpful (or harmful, depending which way you look at it) to artists involved in plagiarism lawsuits.

Canadian-White Music Theorist

I am not entirely sure if these thoughts warrant a post, but I just watched several episodes of the Rick Mercer Report so I am in need of a little ranting myself.

I am a member of the Society for Music Theory…it’s not a cult I swear. While I was updating my personal information on my profile, I noticed a disturbing field – Ethnicity. I have never thought ethnicity should be a part of these kinds of forms or applications. Why should it matter? It shouldn’t, at least I don’t think it should matter, but maybe that’s the polite Canadian in me.

Take a look at the options SMT offers:

There are just so many things wrong with this drop down menu I don’t know where to start. I suppose if I had to categorize myself as a colour, it would be white. I don’t like to identify myself as a white person just as much as any other person doesn’t like identifying themselves as black, yellow, brown, or some other sort of superficial label. Ethnicity is not just about what colour you are, it’s about who you are and how you fit into your cultural niche. To simply say, “I’m white.”, doesn’t tell you anything, except that I am from planet earth.

The hybrid options (the fill-in-ethnicity-here American) made me raise my eyebrow a bit. It saddens me that Africans, Asians, Mexicans, and Natives who are not part American have to classify themselves under “Other”. No body wants to be an “Other”, it sounds so depressing. What’s worse, is that when you select “Other” you can’t even type in who you are…you’re just an “Other”. Also, did they have to alphabetize this list? It makes it look like “Other” is a better option than “White”. Usually the “Other” option is at the bottom when all other options are exhausted.

If terms like black, yellow, brown, etc. don’t appear in this menu, then why “White”? White is a colour people! Just use the term Caucasian, it’s less offensive.

So why does SMT need to know this information?

It appears that ethnicity is relevant in applying for the SMT’s travel grants. The SMT offers two types of travel grants, 1) minority travel grants and 2) international travel grants. I, unfortunately, am ineligible for both.

The minority travel grant is for “Individuals belonging to a non-Caucasian ethnic group (minority ethnic groups have been defined here on the basis that the majority of current SMT members are of Caucasian ethnic origin)”. Here’s an easy way to remember – if your White, you gotta pay for your own flight, if you’re a minority, you get priority.

The international travel grant is for “Individuals who reside outside the United States and Canada”. Um, last time I checked Canada is international. For more details on either of these grants click here.

So great, I am part of a majority as a Canadian-White music theorist. Lucky me.

Frederic – Resurrection of Music

Ok, so I splurged and bought Frederic – Resurrection of Music for $3.99. I’m a little disappointed I completed the game in less than 48 hours, but I guess that’s all money can buy. Electric Playground’s review doesn’t give you the full story, so here it is. Spoiler alert.

Chopin is resurrected from the dead in Paris by a mysterious hooded-man.

In order to find out why zombie Chopin has been resurrected, you must embark on a series a quests that take him around the globe.

He must duel with the so-called masters of that country to gather further information about why he’s been resurrected. Depending where in the world you are battling, Chopin themes from various Preludes, Nocturnes, and Etudes are “mashed-up” with popularly inspired music.

The way the game works is fairly self-explanatory – notes descend on a 7 string lay out connected to 7 keys on a piano.

If you beat the level with an exceptional score, you get a “Musicality”, kind of like in Killer Instinct where you would get a “Supreme Victory” for killing your opponent without being touched.

After traveling to the on a flying horse drawn carriage to the “cultural capitol of the world”, the Caribbean, Tokyo, Moscow, Ireland, and finally to his homeland Warsaw you finally meet the person who resurrected Chopin.

Master Mind X , the biggest music producer in the world, blames Chopin for destroying all the talented music artists around the world. But once you’ve defeated Master Mind X, Chopin turns from a zombie to a human and Master Mind X surrenders to him by freeing his artists by destroying their contracts. Master Mind X is then tortured by being forced to listen to the music he produces.

He then realizes that his music production is actually harmful to society and that music should not be custom-made for society. The game is closed by Chopin stating it doesn’t matter what kind of music you make, as long as it flows from the heart.

THE END

Overall, I would say this isn’t a bad game, minus the stereotypes. The “mash-ups” are not too bad either, though most of them are just techno versions of Chopin themes. The Narrative makes the game interesting and distinguishes it from other music-based rhythm games that only have a goal of reaching a high score. I really like the message the game is giving to it’s players – the resurrection of Chopin’s music is an attempt to resurrect classical music into popular culture and to show that music of all types should be heard.

Lastly, at the end of the credits a black silhouette appears…sequel? I think so…

Frederic – Resurrection of Music

Well it finally happened, Chopin has a video game.

Chopin – Resurrection of Music is a music-based rhythm game for iOS. Electric Playground has done a recent review of the game, here. I saw the review first and thought that this was a bad thing, but after playing through the game it was actually quite heart warming. There were a few suspicious comments in the review I don’t really agree with: 1) racial stereotypes seem to be ok because they “tie” into the music, 2) what does Steam Whistle have to do with Chopin?

Daniel Licht – Composer

Only recently have I been familiar with Daniel Licht’s work. He’s composed for TV series (mostly famously known for Dexter), movies, video games, and commercials.

I often wonder about the process of composing music for functional purposes rather than aesthetic value. I am particularly interested in Licht’s work because he writes for the purpose of function, unlike the sound tracks in many video games and films that feature popular music that is composed outside of the context it’s used in.

Take a look here at this interview from Electric Playground. Someday, I hope to get the chance and look at his scores or at least play the new Silent Hill. If he is inspired by atonal music of the 20th century, then I am definitely in for a treat (for those of you who don’t know me personally, I am not being sarcastic here).

Lastly, if you are interested in hearing some of his compositions check out his website here.