Saturday, June 11, 2011

Carbon Reflux, my first venture into Serialism

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Definition of Summertime

When I was younger, the season of summer was a carefree time for relaxation, when a kid could just screw around all day without having to worry about what might happen tomorrow. I remember losing all track of the time and date, and whether I was by myself or with friends, things like that never really seemed to matter. We would run around outside like giddy, rabid squirrels, at last free from the confines of grade school, if only for a few months. It was pure bliss. Sometimes I wish my summers could still be like that, but the life of a college student can be rough, especially when school costs 35,000 dollars every year! Whether or not I feel ready for "the real world" as it's called, time keeps moving and I am slowly being pushed into this world of adulthood, responsibility, and for me especially, increased worry. Summertime as I knew it when I was a younger kid is a thing of the past now, but the one thing I really do appreciate about this shift in definition is that a lot of the work I'm continually obligated to do is writing music. If I hadn't been able to set up my life this way, who knows what state of mental disarray I'd be in right now! So, let me tell you a bit about my summer, and what you can (hopefully) expect from me musically over the next few months.

First and foremost, a huge part of the reason why "carefree" is no longer a part of my definition of summertime is my current job. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, or 3M, is a vast and relatively successful company that designs and produces tens of thousands of different products worldwide. Since my dad has worked at the factory here in Hutch for over ten years, and since I am a college student, I am able to take part in 3M's summer temporary program. Last year, when I first started this blog, I wrote a bit about my experience at 3M that summer. I had my fair share of difficulty working that job, but it was fairly nice overall, since I only worked 40 hours per week and I was able to sit down and move around a little every day. The tough part was the fact that it consumed my entire summer. This year, however, I'm only working until the end of July. While that may sound like it creates a nice month-long vacation for me, in reality, I've sectioned off all of August to compose, practice, and listen to a ton of music in preparation for the coming school year. Last summer, I could keep up with my music on the weekends. This summer, however, I work an average of over 60 hours per week, often more. The pay is fantastic, the copious amounts of overtime pay even better, and in a period of only ten weeks I could earn well over 6000 dollars. My coworkers are some of the nicest people I've ever met; I don't think I could make it through these weeks if it wasn't for that. Good things aside, the hours really eat up my energy and my time!

Despite my job, which leaves me really short on time for my music, I try to make what room I can to compose and practice. The funny thing about my job at 3M is that there is just enough white noise and mindless repetition that I can literally compose several minutes of music in my head over the course of a shift. Because of this, I've actually accomplished quite a bit more than I thought I would be able to. The project for my roommate Steve is nearly finished, and in total I've been working on it for about three weeks so far. It is titled "Metal and Water," and it is an exciting, colorful saxophone quartet composition for Steve's Junior Recital this coming fall. Slow sections that twist in unusual harmonic loops contrast with faster sections, where syncopated rhythms and tango-esque patterns are plentiful. Once I'm done with this piece, I plan to move on as quickly as possible to the symphonic band project, which needs to be complete by November. As I've said in previous posts, this is going to be a monstrous project, and I'm going to need to set aside a great deal of composing time for it. I'm already planning on brainstorming for ideas during my shifts this coming week at 3M! Since I'm starting such a major project, I figured it would be fitting to upgrade my Finale notation software after five years! That's right, I'm getting Finale 2012 :)

I have several new Youtube videos on the way, as well! Remember my mentioning of "Carbon Reflux," my serial composition for Music Theory, in my last post? I decided to upload a video of it, and you can watch it HERE. The twelve-tone rows I used to construct the melodic and harmonic content of the piece are shown at the beginning of the video, but the many ways in which I manipulated these rows to create different musical shapes is left buried in the notes. Although it makes me anxious, I included the sheet music as the video display itself. In addition to this recent video, I have several more new videos on the way, and I think they're going to turn out exceptionally well, given how unique they are. My sister, who has been a dancer for several years now, recently danced to an edited version of Flight, one of my piano solos, and I had the opportunity to play it live onstage with her at the dance academy's performance. It was tons of fun, and provided I'm not infringing on any copyrights, the video of the event should make it to my channel eventually. "Trance," a rather jazzy and ethnic flavored piece I composed for a large chamber ensemble, will also be made into a video soon. Like some of my other videos, this one will use the enhanced MIDI recording from the Finale 2007 file, with a simple slideshow to go along with it. A pretty cool guy from my church who doesn't afraid of anything agreed to play violin with me on "Forever Sunshine," the duet I wrote for violin and piano last semester. It's a tough piece, but we've been practicing it together for a few weeks now and I think it will turn out well. My good ol' friend Bryan agreed to video tape the live performance of it, which will most likely take place in August, and you can count on seeing it on Youtube! He also agreed to record me performing "Sea Refractions," a gorgeous four-mallet marimba solo by composer and percussion instructor Mitchell Peters. I've begun preparing for a possible Junior composition recital next spring, which would be a great way for me to collaborate with my classmates at Concordia to prepare and perform quite a few of my original compositions. Obviously, recordings from this concert will be made into videos for Youtube, as well.

Last and certainly not least is the recording project I'm currently working on, "Nothingness," which is quite possibly the darkest piece of music and poetry I've ever written. It's a choral song for a four-voice male choir, giving it a deep, dark texture. When I wrote it way back in December, I was super excited about recording it using nothing but my own voice. By singing each part four times and layering everything together, I could turn my vocal chords into my own personal choir! Unfortunately, using headphones to record didn't work out so well for this particular song. Recording audio with headphones is an easy way to get a decent quality recording, but headphones aren't really designed to be used as microphones (obviously), and they do pick up some background noise. While this isn't even noticeable on a one-track recording, with many simultaneous tracks (sixteen in this case), this noise compounds upon itself and becomes extremely overbearing. However, Bryan recently discovered that the USB microphone packaged with the latest Guitar Hero game doubles in function as a decent recording microphone, nullifying most background noise and even condensing slightly. This was a wonderful surprise for me! What started as a six-month setback ended with an abrupt and simple solution. I've started the process of recording and tracking my voice for "Nothingness," and you can expect to see its video on Youtube... Whenever I find the time to finish it. Darn 3M!

My search for a decent microphone isn't the only thing that ended abruptly recently. Video games have been a huge part of my life, as a hobby and often as an obsession, for many years. However, all that has come to an abrupt end this summer, just another one of the many things that has made this summer a period of change for me. About a week ago, all of my GameCube memory cards suddenly bricked. ALL of them. The data became corrupt, possibly from a corrupted Paper Mario save file that I had on three separate cards, and not only was my data erased, the memory cards themselves were rendered useless. In about ten minutes, I lost probably 500 solid hours of gaming from more than seven years of my life. Because of this, I promptly decided to discontinue being a customer of Nintendo, and sell all of my games. Perhaps I'm making the whole ordeal sound nonchalant in this post; I was really quite upset about losing all of the hard work I put into my GameCube games. On the plus side, I'm earning some money for video games I haven't touched in years! By the way, if you want to know what games I have to sell, just contact me at my email or on Facebook - nothing but Nintendo products, sorry Sony/Microsoft fans! I've decided that one positive thing needs to result from this. So, I've decided to put together a second tutorial video for some of the music from one of my all-time favorite games, Golden Sun: The Lost Age for the Game Boy Advance. If you know the game, chances are you also know about the memorable, emotionally stirring soundtrack composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who is also responsible for the glorious Tales of Symphonia soundtrack. I really wish I had a job like his, composing music for video games! Anyway, the music I've transcribed for keyboard is the background music from the town of Garoh, as I mentioned in my last post. It's a sad, somber little piece that can be played fairly easily on the piano, and I really feel that many people would appreciate an instructional video for it, like the one I made for the Salad Fingers music.

I have no doubts that certain parts of this summer will be difficult and tedious for me. As I continue through the painful transition into adulthood, I need to learn to deal with and work through situations like these. As a musician and composer, I need to be prepared for financial and emotional hardship in the future, and do what I can to avoid it now, even if that means rethinking my youthful expectations of the summer season. While I doubt I'll ever really "grow up," it's times like these that help to make me even more thankful for the time I am able to spend with my music. I look forward to finishing all of the projects I've set out to complete and more, and I hope you can be patient, since my schedule will be more than a little bit rough for the next few months! Still, keep an eye out for new posts, new videos, and updated news about my composing. So long for now!

My Youtube Channel!!!