New Release: Dumeh

Dumeh album cover

Well, I finally released “Dumeh“. To those whom I’ve spoken to about this piece over the last decade, it may be a bit surprising that I’ve finally finished, but I think it’s time. I’ve written a bit on this piece on the blog, but the story of how the idea behind Dumeh began goes way back.

MEMORIES OF DUMEH

My initial memory of it was in 2003. I was sitting around in an apartment in my senior year of college, or soon after, messing around on the guitar. This was not an unusual thing for me at the time, as I spent a lot of time sitting around, watching TV, plinking around on the guitar. The main point is to amuse, like giving idle hands something to do, but I was also unconsciously trying to find new musical seeds to later blossom into actual projects. Dumeh was really just a neat, classical-ish riff I stumbled upon one day that I, thankfully, recorded in some fashion for safekeeping.

My DAW changed over the years, too, getting better and more professional, so the basic audio recordings eventually became a full-fledged Logic project (that spanned several versions of the software). Over the next few years I fleshed out the idea into a more orchestral instrumentation, changing the guitar into a piano, and creating a string section to support it. I’d never written a real sonata or symphony or anything. I took music classes in school, but never any actual music theory. I’ve never been deterred by that, though, and I just kind of go with what sounds right to me. There was something here that I’d never really tried to make before (I was most comfortable with writing 3-piece rock instrumentals), and I wanted to see it through.

TROUBLES

Progress on the piece obviously faltered at some point, however. A lot of time would go by as it languished in some half-done state. I’d work on other things, and then occasionally come back to pick at it some more. At some point, I spent a good deal of time trying to write it out as a proper score (in a book! with a pencil!), because that’s what real composers of orchestral music do, right? Of course, that project fell through due to OMG WTF AM I THINKING. The piece was the longest, possibly most complex, I’d ever written, and transcribing it was kind of insane.

I bounced it down to a final MP3 many times, but I was never quite happy with it. A lot of the playing is programmed, as I can’t play piano well enough, nor do I have the ability to play or record a string section or a drumkit. In the end, the final version still doesn’t feel “lively” enough to me, but after 11 years I was kind of done. A half-hearted attempt to use Logic’s auto-scoring to then give to a local orchestra to perform never materialized, and the whole project just became too unwieldy for both my attention span and ability, so I called it.

Regardless of the lack of complete realization of this project as I’ve envisioned it for years, I’m still really happy with the piece. I’ve written other orchestral things, but Dumeh is my favorite.

THE ACTUAL PIECE

The main progression (“chorus”-y part) is a pretty simple Cm Bb Gm F walkdown, but it feels epic. When it changes to the “verse”, there’s a shift to Fm Cm Fm Cm Bb, which gives it a languished (much like the progress on it most of the time) feel that I particularly like. I really enjoy the middle part with the repeating piano riff and the eventual crescendo into the piano solo. At the end, when the main progression is repeated, I wanted to just make it louder and louder and more climactic, but it’s already so busy that I didn’t want it to explode, so I held back a little.

Dumeh is a story piece. Not that it tells a specific one, but it has an ebb and flow of energy that can change your mood over the course of its duration, just like any good tale. I may never get it performed publicly with real instruments, but at least I finished it after all this time. Time to move on to the next huge, over-ambitious project, eh?

Coding Posts Have Moved

NebyooBlog has been fun to maintain and style, mainly due to the easiness of WordPress. However, the cycle of coding has swung around back to “I need to learn how to code in my free time” again. Thus, I’ve gotten more serious about personal development in many fashions, and created a new site to focus on that. If you’d like to continue reading about my own journey through codin’, be it Ruby or Xcode or C#, then check out Codana.me.

If I get ambitious enough, I may move any and all development-related posts to this new site. For now, there’s a few entries to read already, with more to come soon.

New coding interest (for now): Lita handlers

My friend Jimothy L. Quadratic made something pretty neat a while ago: Lita (a chat bot). He surpassed me in coding ability and interest a long time ago, and has been progressively making a name for himself on the Internet with all sorts of projects besides Lita, too, but his chat bottery seems to have garnered the most attention thus far.

Lita is written in Ruby, something I’ve tinkered with in the past (like many programming languages). I tried to get a working Ruby on Rails personal project beyond the simple boilerplate, but never followed completely through (Railsbridge, notwithstanding). I’ve written test scripts in Ruby, and I’ve played around in IRB for a while. But until now, I’ve never really made something in Ruby. It’s a small something, but it’s not nothing.

What am I talking about? First of all, check out lita-crazycaps. It’s a handler for Lita, which is basically a plugin that extends its behavior, giving it a new “command”, per se. Mine just takes a string of text and randomly alternates the capitalization of it, turning it into an illegible mess. Not super useful, but something to use as a foundation for any other ideas I come up with.

Thankfully for me, Lita has a great built-in template for new handlers that creates all the files you need to make it work (and test it). Even someone like me, who is not particularly experienced in Ruby, can make one that does some simple string manipulation. And so I did. And now I kinda want to make more :-D

New coding project: Utter

I’ve used say.app off and on for many years to play around with the OSX say command, and grab the occasional text-as-audio file for various projects. It’s the quickest and easiest way to get speech in digital audio form via a GUI on a Mac that I know of (awfully specific, but still useful!).

Unfortunately, say.app never got beyond beta status (still works fine) and hasn’t been maintained since 2006(!). Furthermore, I’ve wanted a coding project to tinker with and Xcode was looking lonely, so I thought to myself “I should make a better say.app!”.

Since there’s no source code available, I just dug into the Speech Synthesis API and built (most of) it from scratch. I call it Utter because it’s a synonym for “say”, it’s short, it’s memorable, and it’s kind of silly (and I couldn’t find anyone else using it in my short Google search). There is some functionality from the original application I haven’t sussed out yet, but the guts are there and functional. I even made a minor adjustment so that when you choose to save the audio to a file, it will still play through the speakers at the same time (say.app is silent when saving to a file). I plan to add additional functionality as I figure out how to harness the speech synthesis system better.

Furthermore, now there will be a modern, public repository for such an application that anyone can see and build upon. I’m still a pretty novice Objective-C programmer, so I’m sure my code can be improved, and putting it on Github seems to be the way you put yourself out there and get better nowadays.

A Short Story About a Piano

 

Piano

Steinberg & Sons upright piano, inherited from the in-laws

Due to the unexpected relocation of my wife’s parents from a house they’ve lived in for more than 38 years, a piano’s fate left hanging in the balance. Moving a piano is a pain, and they didn’t really play it much anymore, especially since my brother-in-law, the prime pianist of the household, was moving out into a small apartment where there was little space for such a large piece of playable furniture. I’d tinkered with it here and there on visits and knew it to be a nice little musical instrument, the kind I’d longed to have in my musical collection for over a decade, but didn’t want to spend the money or get into the hassle of getting one into our house.

However, this was a unique opportunity to get one for free (plus non-free moving costs), and keep a cherished artifact in the family. Thus, a deal was made: we figure out how to get it to our place, and it would be ours. A few phone calls later and another arrangement was cast with a local piano moving company who said they’d do the job. One fateful Saturday morning that very same company did just as they said they’d do. It only took a few hours, and the source and destination locations were pretty easy to maneuver around in (our place required tipping the piano vertically for a short period of time, though). And now we have an upright piano in our downstairs bedroom amongst the guitars and basses and violins.

I still can’t quite believe it when I look over from my desk. We have a piano! Now to actually learn to play it better than a novice.