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The Seven Virtues EP [Jan. 4th, 2009|08:05 pm]
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"Imagine a wooden mallet. Imagine a crystal made by the company Orrefors. Imagine that mallet strikes crystal".



Today my wife turned up a bit under the weather--winter hay fever ("cedar fever") or the common cold appears to be the culprit. I stayed home from religious services as well, and rested. I did make a stop by the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, where the lovely cardinals and northern parula I saw did not fully compensate for the new burst of sheer, biting cold I experienced. Saturday our temperature was nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monday morning we have a material chance of freezing rain. Welcome to north Texas.

Let's not tarry on the weather. Let's talk music.

This weekend became the weekend of "The Seven Virtues". On Friday evening, I conceived the idea of creating songs using only a single audio wave file, an 8 second recording I made while hitting a small Orrefors crystal objet d'art with a tiny wooden mallet.

In order to create the songs from 8 seconds of the 'ping' of mallet upon glass, I used my favorite synthesizer in the whole wide world, a 25 dollar software synthesizer called Sawcutter 2.0.

In Sawcutter 2.0, I could take the wave file, import it into the synthesizer, and then write a "piano roll" melody for it. Here's a picture of the screen of the synthesizer as I work on it, taken a while back for a different project:

With inexpensive shareware I "sing" to the world..

The left-hand side is what is called a "piano roll" composer". In other words, I can click my mouse in individual musical notes to create a song, just as if I were creating a roll for a player piano.

The part on the bottom is called the "sequencer". Once I create a set of "patterns" using the piano roll composer, I can "sequence" the patterns into a song. A lot of synthesizers require one to select from pre-determined wave forms, or to draw or twiddle knobs to define the wave forms. Sawcutter 2.0 will do those things, but what makes it lovely to use is that it has a "sampler" feature. Sawcutter does not limit one to telling the machine "play the sound with xyz wave form" (sadly, it is never as easy as that, but usually requires twiddling of imaginary knobs on an imaginary interface or, in the case of one well-done freeware synth, choosing from among hundreds of pre-sets, none of which are quite what one would pre-set with if one were a pre-set creator).

In Sawcutter, one can import the wave file in. A thing that "voices" wave files (or .aiff files or other sound fonts) is called a "sampler" because it "samples" the sound and permits use of a section of the sound as the voice of the synthesizer. I have a little collection of samples I created myself, ranging from a nose flute to a dog bark on through the sound of a wooden mallet touching a crystal. They make a surprisingly rich array of different sounds. I also get sounds from the remix site ccmixter.org, where people generously upload sounds, or from the sites magnatune.com (through the mixter) or the Freesound project, where little sounds are also found.

So I "sequenced" (i.e., created a set of piano roll melody patterns and placed the patterns in the order I wished them to be played) the "sample" of a mallet hitting an Orrefors crystal, and then created seven quite different songs using this same "voice" in the synthesizer.

I decided to name each song after one of the seven traditional "cardinal" virtues: faith, hope, love,
fortitude, prudence, restraint and justice. I decided that each song would be relatively short--none over 3 1/2 minutes in length, and some under 3 minutes.

I notice in my own listening habits that I really enjoy classical guitar pieces that can clock in at 90 seconds to 2 minutes. I also am a huge fan of the electronica artist Cagey House, whose work enchants me and is almost always 90 seconds to 3 minutes. Although as an ambient (and also as a classical) fan, I can and do listen to (and once in a while create) pieces of 20 to 50 minutes, I find that short pieces work best for me. I find that people enjoy getting a taste of an idea through a short song. I don't think that anyone listens to me to obtain deep nuances in musical craftsmanship. Also, I apply the old punk band the Ramones as a kind of gold standard--if two minutes was good enough for the Ramones, it is good enough for me.

Early this evening I had finished my seven pieces, using exactly the same 8 seconds of tapped glass to create 7 rather disparate pieces. I avoided using pitch-shifting and time-stretching (the dark ambient artist's friend) to distort the sound, and I did not use the IXI-Software device Slicer with which I have turned many a blue sky aquamarine in past compositions (Slicer, for example, was used to make a rather faux-classical piano piece transform into a "quiet storm" arpeggio bit of jazz-electronica on "Gray Sky, Blue Sky" that I posted in a box earlier today. I merely applied a bit of reverb (translation: an effect that mimics the dynamics of a performance space) and a bit of delay (translation: a mild echo sound) to enhance the piece, and also adjusted sound levels here and there.

The website jamendo.com is in the business of facilitating Creative Commons artists' releases by providing artists with free album hosting on its website, so that listeners can download the albums for free. My observation is that the Jamendo community provides a way for a hobbyist to get more listeners for new material, with a downside risk that so much material is released there that a danger of "getting lost" exists. I decided to give Jamendo a try.

I exported the 7 songs into an 8GB flash drive I had on hand, saving them in the huge (and superior) wave file format jamendo prefers rather than the more compact mp3 format I commonly use. Then I uploaded the album to Jamendo. I had to download a software for this purpose, as Jamendo's interface was slow otherwise.

I thought it would take forever to upload the hundreds of megabytes of music into jamendo, but it happened pretty quickly. Then I wrote liner notes for the album and uploaded one of my logo art diagrams as an album cover.

For the liner notes, I decided to go to Project Gutenberg, to see if there were any public domain books about the Seven Virtues. I did not find any, but look what quote I did find, from the writer, critic and artist John Ruskin:

"I can tell you, you shall hear of the highest
crystalline merits that I can think of, to-day: and I wish there
were more of them; but crystals have a limited, though a stern,
code of morals; and their essential virtues are but two;--the
first is to be pure, and the second to be well shaped".

This passage gave me a quote and a central transition for my liner notes, and somehow tied in the virtue of mallets upon crystal with the virtues of human aspiration. Soon the deed was done--although, as in the early days of LiveJournal, I do not know how to make the paragraphs and lines line up correctly.

The album is now with Jamendo, being "moderated". I hope it clears moderation soon, so that it can be released.

Here are the liner notes which follow the Ruskin quote:

""The Seven Virtues" comprises seven melodic instrumental pieces, each titled with the name of a virtue. The pieces are minimalist by design and spirit, and each is comprised entirely of the sampled sound of wooden mallet upon Orrefors crystal, processed through the software synthesizer called Sawcutter 2.0. Processing of the sound reflects the facets of the crystal--with an aim to give the sound an atmosphere, and not to process the sound beyond recognition.

These virtues favor a sharing economy. They are offered for commercial or non-commercial use, under a Creative Commons BY license. You need not seek permission to make such a use, with attribution. You may sample, remix, or utilize the pieces in video, film or other projects, with attribution to gurdonark. Although the core sample is the same for each piece, the pieces vary in their approaches. Take and download those virtues you wish or lack, and feel no compunction about downloading only what you wish. These virtues are to be shared--and not to become burdens in their own right.

No donations are sought for this work. If you feel moved by virtues of your own, then donate funds to your local animal shelter. Over 300,000 pets in the United States alone await adoption. These pets can experience joy, and it is a virtue to help them. These virtues are to be enjoyed. Life is full enough of the reminders of error and sadness.

Those who do experimental electronica often find comfort from the cold climate of incomprehension through communication with one another. If you've enjoyed these pieces, then gurdonark will enjoy hearing from you.

Faith, hope, love--and the greatest, we are advised, is love. Let us hope for a world in which compassion takes hold and madness recedes".

I had great fun creating this album in a single weekend, and I can hardly wait until it is available for all to hear and download. I must think of ways to promote it, and I will.
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Comments:
From: thecatinside
2009-01-05 03:01 am (UTC)

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I look forward to listening to it.
[User Picture]From: gurdonark
2009-01-08 04:30 am (UTC)

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Thanks! I'm still waiting for it to clear moderation. I am glad they moderate to ensure that everything is copyright-okay, but I hope it clears soon.
[User Picture]From: vuzh
2009-01-05 03:05 am (UTC)

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I like music works with a concept, and specifically I like your concept.

Once you post a link I'll go see if I like the conceptualization.

Congratulations on completing a new work!

Edited at 2009-01-05 03:07 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: gurdonark
2009-01-08 04:31 am (UTC)

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thanks! Now if Jamendo will get it cleared for release, then I'm really feelin' good.
[User Picture]From: elainegrey
2009-01-05 03:39 am (UTC)

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Congratulations on having such a complete weekend project!
[User Picture]From: gurdonark
2009-01-08 04:31 am (UTC)

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It was fun!
[User Picture]From: mystified13
2009-01-05 01:35 pm (UTC)

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Most excellent!
[User Picture]From: gurdonark
2009-01-08 04:31 am (UTC)

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:). Thanks!
[User Picture]From: ensenchiridion
2009-01-06 02:02 am (UTC)

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this sounds amazing - great project

i still say you get too much done in a day. i still don't know how you do it.
[User Picture]From: gurdonark
2009-01-08 04:32 am (UTC)

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It was great fun! I'm glad I did it. I conceptualize myself out of doing things, sometimes, and have to do things like this to break out. I'm sure I get less done than most.